Dog Parks - Good Socialization? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2011, 11:48 PM Thread Starter
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Dog Parks - Good Socialization?

We are strapped for dog socialization opportunities for our puppy. Currently, puppy class is on hold while our trainer deals with some medical issues and all of the neighbors have extremely problematic dogs. While I am looking for other opportunities, none are coming up.

I am seriously considering taking her to a dog park, because I am concerned that she is not getting the socialization that she needs. However, I am concerned about how a sixteen week old puppy will respond to the dog park environment. Our puppy is a little shy with other dogs, but comes out of her shell quickly to play. I think going to the park would really help her continue to be more outgoing with other animals.

However, I have my concerns. I have never been to a dog park and I am not sure how to best introduce our puppy to it and make sure that everything is positive. I would love to hear from people with experience and how they take their dogs to the park. Which days/times are best? What should I watch for? Avoid? What should I encourage? I would greatly appreciate any information on this.

Last edited by Gracie's My Girl; 08-20-2011 at 11:50 PM.
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post #2 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-20-2011, 11:52 PM
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What about starting a puppy play group? That would be my choice for a 4 month old puppy. If possible, I would wait until she's a little older and bigger and more confident before taking her to the dog park. And I would always check out the park by yourself first.

A lot of people on this board hate dog parks but my experience has been that some are great and others are not so great (because of the irresponsible people who frequent them). I skip the not so great one and still visit the great ones but I am hyper-vigilant for problems both with my own dog(s) and other dog's behavior.

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post #3 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 12:00 AM
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All it takes is one bad experience for an already shy puppy to be scarred for life. With the amount of idiots that take their dogs to dog parks.. I wouldn't risk it.
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post #4 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 12:14 AM
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I have taken mine to the dog park every day since she was 3 months old. When they are young just make sure they are with dogs that are not agressive at all. You can ask before you take your dog out. I think it is a great way to socialize them. Although in the end it was my dog that became agressive. But we still go every day and she is good with the big dominant dogs, not little dogs. I wish I didn't have this problem especially because I have gone every day since she was 3 months. But there are a lot of other GS's there that are great with all dogs. Believe it or not I can see my dog smiling when we are there, she just loves playing with other dogs.


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post #5 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 12:31 AM
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My vote would be against them due to the high risks of idiot owners is too big esp. with a young puppy. If you can be sure that the other dogs are friendly to small puppies then i might give it a try.

Could your trainer recommend some other trainer or perhaps a few friendly dogs and owners that you could get together with for a little training and a LOT of friendly socialization perhaps?
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post #6 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 01:49 AM
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Although our dog park isn't very "busy", I have had overall positive experiences so far. I also took him to a nice big 1 when we went to CO, there were a few problems between other dogs, but if you have basic knowledge of dog behavior/body language, it's not too hard to avoid the "problem" dogs. A pretty nasty fight resulted from an owner reading a book, paying no attention to his dog, who was annoying an obviously aggressive Akita...the Akita "took action" and attacked the brittany mix pretty harshly.

With a small pup, you could easily keep control of the situation, keep him leashed, and with you until you know the situation is safe. I think most of the dog park problems result from owners just not paying attention. If there is a dog causing problems, then just leave. Don't let him be bullied...Axel enjoyed this ALOT

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post #7 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 02:23 AM
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I used to take my older dogs to the dog park all the time and never had a bad experience. My dogs did tend to shy away from aggression or when they all pack up... but mostly we were avoiding those areas and doing our own thing.

Since those times, tho, I'm increasingly nervous about dog parks. I've heard too many bad stories. There were a few times that I felt I had to take charge when a certain dog would exhibit overly strong aggressiveness and the owner seemed clueless. I never touched anothers' dog, but I've certainly stepped in just using my own height and voice. (To me, when my dog is sitting at my heel and another won't back off, I AM going to ensure they back off and I don't care where the owner is, what they're doing nor what they think.)

Thankfully we have many dogs in our family and friends, so many great socialization opportunities. I wouldn't rule out dog parks, just be on your guard!
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post #8 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 02:28 AM
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To the OP, unless you are sure that you can identify and control any overly aggressive dogs in the dog park, I would be VERY cautious to take a puppy to a dog park.

Think, for example, how comfortable would you be in breaking up a dog fight when an aggressive dog latches on to your puppy.

Could you recognize an aggressive dog BEFORE he causes problems for you and your dog?

And realize that sometimes (infrequently true!, but it does happens) dogs in the park may also bite humans. Esp. when you need to protect your puppy.
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post #9 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 07:19 AM
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OP, I second looking for puppies her age to play with outside of the park. Can you contact the other owners in the class? You can also try meetup.com, there are lots of dog groups in my area.

Dog parks are a risk as far as the types of dog and germs that can be there. I took Raven a lot when she was a young dog (starting around 5 months) and we had good success but we went every night at the same time and saw the same dogs there every day. Going Sat mornings was out of the question because the park was a mad house. We had to stop going as Raven matured because she didn't like playing with strange dogs anymore and we had a problem with other dogs singling her out.

If you do go to the dog park, you need to really pay attention to your dog and watch for signs of discomfort or stress and leave if she isn't happy there. You need to be your dogs advocate at the park and make sure other dogs are being fair to her.

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Raven (GSD) - December 8, 2007
Kaiser (GSD) - November 2009
Holly (GSD) - March 24, 2011

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post #10 of 25 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 07:52 AM
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If you have any dog parks that are more like hiking trails through the woods (that's what ours is) then I would say go for it and keep him on leash so that you can control the situation and any approaching dogs. I like this type of park better because owner and dogs are always moving forward. We do have a big open area before entering the woods on the trails and typically this is where the fights will occur although this seldom happens.

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