Dog parks are wildly popular, but they get a bad rap. The idea is great: an off-leash space for a dog to run, play and explore! In practice, however dog parks can be a hotbed of fear, aggression and poor training.
I’m going to preface this today by mentioning that I take 2 of my three dogs to dog parks (both of my Danes). Our favorite is a local 70 acre fenced open space, however we have ‘normal’ dog parks here too.
I’ve seen a LOT of sketchy behavior and ideas, so I want to put this out there in the hopes that the right people will read it.
Here are 7 dogs that do NOT belong at a dog park!
THE FLIGHT RISK
This dog RUNS.
He may easily consider following another family home, would walk out of the gate with people coming in and out, can and will jump the fence, and largely ignores you while in the dog park.
If you have no control over your dog and the time spent at the dog park includes chasing, yelling, and getting frustrated when he ultimately makes his escape, consider working on those basic obedience skills (sit, down, come, leave it) with a long leash before going to the dog park.
It’s also important to recognize that the desire to escape may actually be the result of anxiety, proving that for this dog the dog park may not be the best fit.
This really goes without saying, but it constantly amazes me how many people bring truly aggressive, short-tempered dogs to the dog park.
This is the dog that is out for blood, who may full-on attack a dog just for being nearby. This dog snarls, lunges and goes beyond a quick warning or quick snap.
Just like any other behavior, aggression can worsen as the behavior is repeatedly practiced.
This idea that you socialize an aggressive dog by bringing it around other dogs is both dangerous and wildly misguided.
If you are struggling with aggression, find a trainer. Don’t come to the dog park with your dog on a leash and scold and correct him for being reactive. This practice isn’t fair, safe or appropriate.
THE NEWLY RESCUED
We know you want to take your new rescue Dane out to socialize and meet the world, but hold off!
The newly rescued or adopted dog is still developing a sense of its new life. She doesn’t know who you are, and you don’t know who she is, either!
It’s very important to allow your new rescue dog to decompress, prove their temperament, and develop a strong relationship with you.
This process can take as long as 3 months, but be patient. Go for walks and start a training class instead, then consider a dog park once you know your new dog better.
This is the dog that seems generally ok most of the time, but not always.
He is triggered by something, you are never quite sure what, and his extreme reactions come out of the blue.
A little show of teeth or an appropriate correction from one dog to a rude dog is one thing, but if your dog tends to go after another dog in attack mode with very little warning, and especially if they do so with intent to harm, it’s time to ditch the dog park.
This dog is perhaps one of the most unsafe dogs to have at a dog park. They might skip some of the signs that they are about to attack, and while their body language may be tense or fearful overall, many people may misread or misunderstand it.
If your dog DOES attack another dog (more than just a snap or simple appropriate communication, which is different), leave the dog park. No questions asked. You and your dog need to get out.
Despite this, when I see this kind of thing happen it’s surprising that people scold their unpredictable dog and then STAY in the dog park. It is this kind of ownership that makes dog parks such a dangerous and unfair place.
Young puppies don’t belong in dog parks. See the ‘aggressive’ and ‘unpredictable’ dogs above? One experience with those dogs can ruin a puppy for life.
Not to mention, disease! Yuck!
If you wish to bring a puppy, wait until she is fully vaccinated and has also shown signs of an excellent and stable temperament: confidence, engagement with you, the ability to walk away from tense situations (not towards them), and a friendly (not rude) attitude towards people and dogs.
A well-run puppy social class with a highly-qualified trainer is a much safer bet.
This dog appears enthusiastic, exuberant, excited, and as if he just LOVES dogs.
By loving dogs, we mean…humping them.
This behavior is NOT DOMINANCE. It is related to over-excitement or anxiety and quickly becomes the activity of choice for some dogs to release built up tension.
The problem is that it is an extremely rude social behavior that can hurt other dogs, scare some dogs, and trigger fights. Humping is not cute or friendly.
Immediately step in and correct humping.
A warning ‘Uh-oh’ followed by a time out can help temper and reduce the behavior. Of if you use modern, positive E-Collar training, you can use dynamic pressure to communicate to your dog that the behavior is inappropriate.
As with aggression, practice makes perfect. The more your dog practices this behavior, the harder it’s going to be to eliminate. So avoid situations where it tends to happen (this includes the dog park, if he or she cannot remain calm and polite in that setting).
This is the dog that is trembling, drooling, shaking, cowering, and trying to run away.
While this reaction may happen for a moment in an overwhelming situation, the dog park is NOT a healthy place for a dog that consistently reacts this way. Scary situations can breed more fear.
If you have a scared dog and want to properly socialize him or her, you don’t have to visit a dog park and ‘flood’ your dog with scary things.
Instead, go somewhere where your Dane isn’t scared and work on tricks, basic obedience, and calm behavior in a place where dogs and people are nearby but not threatening.
There are so many things you can do with an anxious, scared or unpredictable dog that don’t include dog parks. Here is a list of some of our favorites!
- Take a scent work class
- Take an obedience class
- Work with a private trainer
- Work on the Canine Good Citizen test items
- Get trick training titles
- Learn about Dock Diving (yes, Danes can do this!)
- Go hiking with a long leash and explore in areas with few people and dogs