The Pros and Cons of Dog Parks

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I'm a dog training, nutrition, and science fanatic that believes in ethical breeders, responsible rescue practices, veterinarians, and modern balanced LIMA dog training. Love the dog in front of you.

Dog parks can be great places for your pet to get some exercise, sniff around, and be with other dogs. However, there are some pros and cons of dog parks to consider before you go!

Should you take your dog to a dog park?

What are the rules of a dog park? Are dog parks safe? Will your dog run away at a dog park?

We will answer all of these questions and more!

Table of Contents

Dog Park Pros and Cons

The Pros and Cons of Dog Parks

A bark park is an off-leash dog area where dogs can play and exercise. These parks have become increasingly popular in recent years, as dog owners look for ways to socialize and exercise their pets.

Bark parks usually have a fenced-in area with plenty of room to run around. Many of them also have agility equipment, such as ramps and tunnels to play on. Some even have pools or ponds to cool off in during summer!

If your dog enjoys being off-leash and is fine being around other dogs, a local dog park may be a great amenity for you!

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What happens if my dog gets into a fight at the dog park?

Unfortunately, fighting is more likely to happen at dog parks.

Even the most responsible and diligent Great Dane owner may find their dog in the middle of a fight. How you react to it matters.

If your dog caused the problem, apologize to the other owners and be willing to compensate them if veterinary care is required. Then, immediately leave the park and consult with a dog trainer, asap.

If your dog was attacked, think about what led up to the attack. Was there anything you could have done to prevent it? Did somebody bring toys or treats that caused a disagreement?

Remember, dog parks are not supervised and you are responsible for your dog’s actions. If your dog is aggressive or will respond aggressively when challenged, it’s best to find other ways to socialize (even if your dog is fine 90% of the time).

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Can my dog get sick from the dog park?

Yes, your dog can absolutely become ill with parvo, distemper, kennel cough, parasites, ringworm, or otherwise.

Not all dogs will be up to date on their vaccinations, and exposure to them could be bad for your dog’s health.

It is important to make sure that your dog has all of its vaccinations and booster shots, as well as flea and tick preventatives, in order to stay safe and healthy.

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When Can I Take my Great Dane Puppy to the Dog Park?

It’s not a bad idea to expose a young puppy to the idea of a dog park long before you actually go into one.

This could mean spending time on a very long, loose leash outside of the park learning to ignore people and pets walking by or playing.

When your puppy is 5-6 months old and has demonstrated healthy play signals with others, good obedience, and a mild, calm, friendly temperament, you might consider the dog park for your pet.

Should I Take my Dog to the Dog Park?

Unfortunately, not all dogs are good candidates to visit the dog park.

Animals that show fear or aggression should not be allowed off-leash around strange dogs. This is a recipe for disaster and could be the dog park experience of your nightmares!

If your pup runs away from you, tries to jump fences, or humps pets or humans often, the local dog park may not be the best place for him either. Dogs that do not have a good recall or are not well-socialized can be a danger to themselves and to other pups at the dog park.

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Spay & Neuter Considerations

With Great Danes, we recommend keeping them intact until maturity (18-24 months), and in some cases, indefinitely.

However, this may mean that your intact pup cannot visit a bark park or socialize with other dogs.

A female dog in heat should never visit the dog park.

It’s important to note that intact males may attract negative attention from dogs who don’t like intact males; watch out for these interactions and step in before they escalate.

If you have an intact male at the dog park, his behavior is your responsibility. Intact males can become territorial about their space when faced with other intact males or pushy neutered males.

A well-tempered intact male should, however, be able to walk away from negative interactions and will not engage in aggressive behaviors of any kind, especially when asked to move on.

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How Do I Keep My Dog From Running Away Off-Leash?

Truth time. If your dog is likely to run away from you and not listen to obedience commands while inside the park, your dog isn’t ready to be off-leash. This is especially true if you have an intact giant breed dog.

Coming when called is a skill that requires a fair amount of training for most dogs. However, it’s fun and easy if you are willing to put a little time into it!

We recommend enrolling in an obedience class with a reputable trainer before taking your pup to the park. This way you can learn how to train your dog to come when called and work on any other behavior issues he may have.

Obedience classes are a great investment for any dog. Once your dog has a solid obedience foundation, you can layer in a modern E-Collar!

For more information on E-Collar training, go HERE.

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Dog Park Manners 101

Good dog park manners are how you and your dog will avoid scuffles and stay safe!

The most important rule of thumb is to never leave your dog unsupervised, no matter how well you think he gets along with other dogs.

You are responsible for your dog’s behavior at all times, and even the best-behaved dog can have an off day.

Humping

Humping is often mistaken as a sign of dominance.

There is nothing mature or dominant about humping. Humping is a sign of insecurity, frustration, and over-excitement. If it’s happening, it’s not cute and chances are it can lead to fighting.

NEVER allow your dog to hump another dog at a dog park. This behavior should result in an immediate correction and removal from the park.

It amazes me how many times I see this behavior and owners laugh about it. It’s not funny, especially when they might physically hurt others by doing it, or with puppies who are learning bad habits!

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Aggression

Aggression is never acceptable at a dog park. Exposing an aggressive pet to other dogs in this environment will not socialize them or reduce aggression: as a matter of fact, it will likely make the behavior worse!

If your dog is growling, snapping, or trying to bite other dogs, remove him from the park immediately. This behavior puts other dogs and people in danger.

Don’t bring dog toys or treats, which can trigger reactivity.

It’s one thing if your dog growls or air snaps at another dog for being rude (for example, humping them). It’s a different story, however, if your dog is being aggressive and intends to harm other dogs.

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Dominance

The concept of dominance is in dogs is greatly misunderstood.

Truly dominant/alpha dogs are calm, benevolent, and stable. True alpha dogs are natural leaders and have exceptional social skills.

Dogs or puppies that are snappy, rude, pushy, humpy, or out of control are not being dominant. They are showing that they are immature, lack impulse control, have poor social skills, and need more training.

Stop labeling poorly tempered and poorly trained dogs as ‘dominant’.

Rude Play Behaviors

This brings us to rude and pushy behaviors at the dog park! Many dogs labeled as ‘dominant’ are actually just rude and socially inept. This behavior can lead to a dog fight.

Immediately stop your dog if you notice rude behavior. This includes humping, pinning dogs down, chasing dogs that don’t want to be chased, cornering dogs under benches, nipping, hovering over another dog’s neck and growling, or just generally being ‘wild’.

If the other dog doesn’t want to play, your dog should immediately stop.

These are not cute, even in puppies, and should not be allowed. Your pup is not making friends this way.

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Dog Park Etiquette 101

Ready to hit the dog park? Here are a few things to keep in mind!

Be sure to bring water and a bowl for your dog, as well as clean-up bags. It’s always courteous to leave the park cleaner than you found it.

Use your leash, the right way!

Don’t let your dog off-lead until you are securely in the enclosed area.

Many dogs who are great around others when let free will be reactive toward other dogs while on the leash. If your dog is running freely outside of the enclosed park and runs up to a leashed dog trying to enter or exit, this could result in a scuffle.

While it’s important to keep a leash on your dog as you enter or exit the park, inside of the fenced area it’s better to let your dog free!

Dogs on leashes have no way to escape and often feel threatened by other animals who are not. This can make attending a dog park scary, turning what should be a fun day into a bad experience.

As before, if you are concerned that your pup may run away, your dog needs more training!

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Pick up your poop!

We shouldn’t have to say this one, but seriously.

Pick up your dog’s poop! Leaving it is gross and it’s disrespectful to other park users. Most parks provide bags and garbage cans for this purpose.

If you see someone not picking up their dog’s poop, politely offer a poop bag (or, be a good person and pick it up yourself).

Healthy play & fun

Healthy play signals are a must!

When two dogs want to engage in play, you will see play bows, loose waving tails, relaxed lips and ears, and super silly body language.

A play bow is when one or both dogs bow down and stick their bum in the air. This is a sure sign that the dogs are being friendly!

Healthy play between dogs can be very noisy! They may growl and bark at each other, body slam, chase, and pretend to bite each other. However, these will all be good fun.

You should see the playing dogs stop occasionally, shake off, and communicate with each other if the play should continue (with another play bow). If they don’t take breaks, you need to break it up before things escalate.

Stiffness, low growls, pinning, stiff bodies, hovering, tucked tails, and one dog trying to get away are signs that the play session is NOT healthy.

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Leave when things aren’t right

If there are too many dogs, if a fight breaks out, or if you or your dog are feeling uncomfortable for any reason, it’s time to leave.

The dog park should be a fun experience, not a stressful one.

Here are some reasons to leave the dog park, immediately:

  • Your dog is overwhelmed
  • There is too much excitement or a large dog fight breaks out
  • You notice that your dog is being pushy, rude, or overstimulated
  • Other pet parents are not paying attention to their pets
  • Other dogs are behaving poorly, out of control, or becoming snappy
  • Your dog is starting to act aggressively or is fearful, cowering, or trying to hide

CONCLUSION:

Be a responsible, educated owner, and have fun with your best friend!

For more dog park etiquette, read HERE.

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