Should I Take My Dog to the Dog Park?


With two new dog parks in the area, I am asked weekly about whether or not the dog park is a good idea for socialization or exercise - my answer is almost always "no".

When at the dog park, you don't know the education level of the other owners, whether or not a dog is friendly, or even if every dog has been vetted properly. Usually people have no idea what is happening and assume scared or aggressing dogs are really just playing until teeth come out.

I classify dog parks as high risk and I don't take my own dogs to dog parks. I have gone to many dog parks throughout the country to view dog behavior and have found that no dog park is safe from dog fights or inappropriate dog-to-dog interactions.

To further this point, I am emailed almost weekly by people with dogs with bite histories whose main training goal is to return to the dog park with that dog at some point. This is not behavior we condone or encourage. Dogs with bite histories do not belong at the dog park for their safety and the safety of others.

However, there are even dogs who do not have bite histories, who should not be going to dog parks, but their owners are missing cues from the dog that they are uncomfortable. I have linked two videos by Sue Sternberg on dog behaviors that show how to be active in your dog's dog park experience and prevent dog fights.

I encourage those going to the dog parks to brush up on their ability to tell when a dog is uncomfortable so, they can step in before things get ugly.