Do you take your dog to dog parks? I get a lot of questions about whether I think dog parks are a good idea.
In general, no -- they're not usually a good idea. Most dog parks are an uncontrolled environment with no strict requirements on which dogs enter. There are usually signs posted -- no females in heat, no aggressive dogs, but sometimes these signs are either ignored, or owners don't recognize signs from their dog that a fight is about to break out.
At a recent training trip to a very popular dog park, I heard three distinct fights over a period of only 20 minutes! No way would I subject my dog to an environment like that.
I only witnessed one of the fights (the others I just heard.) For this one, it was a nice husky-type dog who was trying to play Chuck-It with the owner. The Chuck-it gave kept being interrupted by an over-enthusiastic younger dog who body-slammed, over and over, the husky dog. The dog put up with it for way longer than I would have! Finally I heard a growl coming from him; the owner told him "No." The husky stopped growling. The younger dog considered to body-slam and harrass. The husky finally gave a big snarl and "attacked." Immediately ALL the owners surrounded and the husky's owner responded angrily, stopped the game, and drug the dog out of the park.
How unfair! The husky was putting up with WAY more than most dogs will tolerate, it "asked" the younger dog to stop by growling, and when it finally insisted on being left alone, it got in trouble for it! I guess the husky was supposed to just tolerate this rude behavior from the other dog? How would this help improve the younger dog's manners or help with "socialization," which is one of the biggest reasons many owners bring their dogs to dog parks. All this younger dog was learning was that it was fun and acceptable to harass and bully other dogs. This is like if teenagers poke and jeer at you on the bus, you try to ignore them but they escalate, you finally speak sharply to them and YOU get in trouble for it! Totally not fair. I hope the husky found a better place to play Chuck-It.
Obviously, there are two sides to every "issue" in the dog world. In future posts I'll talk about reasons you may want to consider a dog park, what to avoid, how to keep yourself safe, how to maintain your dog's training in what can be an overstimulating environment, and dog park alternatives.