At our dog training center in Northern Virginia, we always tell people to stay away from dog parks.
Many people wrongly assume that dogs parks are great for socializing, letting their dog burn off energy, and playing; however, more often than not it will eventually end badly.
Do not take your puppy to dog parks for socialization. Yes, you read this correctly, dog parks are a bad idea in my opinion. Again, we receive many e-mails from people whose dogs are now aggressive toward other dogs after being bitten at a dog park. People do not realize that this happens all the time, and they just do not hear about it. Only attacks on people make the news, not attacks on other dogs. The dogs at dog parks come from a wide variety of backgrounds and their owners often know very little about their own dog. Unlike a doggy day-care, in a dog-park environment, there are no trained supervisors walking around, ensuring the play is safe. Also, no evaluations are done in order to accept the dogs into the dog park. Essentially, you are taking a big gamble by exposing your dog to other dogs you know nothing about.
Usually, the dogs in dog parks are of various sizes, backgrounds, and levels of training. Essentially, they are a pack of dogs. Dogs usually consider themselves a pack when there are four or more dogs present. As you know, any time there is a pack, there has to be a pack leader. In order for a dog to become the pack leader, he has to assert his force onto other dogs to show them he is in charge of the pack. The end result is a dog getting bitten. Now, your dog that you have done so great with is now dog-aggressive because he was bitten by another dog at a dog park, and now he associates dogs with being harmed. You can read my blog post on dealing with a dog aggressive dog here.
There are numerous other ways to socialize your dog without the use of a dog park, such as taking them to a doggy day-care. As I mentioned above, doggy day-cares evaluate dogs before admitting them into their facility, drastically reducing the chances of a dominant dog being there. Additionally, they have trained personnel constantly monitoring the dogs’ behaviors. In the event that a dog does start displaying any dominant characteristics, they are immediately corrected or separated from the group. Another good way to socialize is one-on-one with other known dog-friendly dogs. Or take them to a pet store on the weekends so they can interact with other dogs and people in a controlled environment.
So, my best advice is to avoid dog parks with your dogs, you and your dog will be glad you did.
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