The dog park is a very hot steaming topic here, and probably with many dog forums. I understand that. I'm fond of saying it is a CRAPSHOOT because that's just what it is. You never know what you're going to get from day to day.
I'm not declaring myself as the dog park expert
, I truly am not, but I've sure spent a good amount of time in them, and didn't waste that time. I watch, listen and pay attention every second I'm there. As in, pay attention to the dogs, not the picnic table holder-downers.
So herein I am going to *try* to cover everything I have learned about dog parks.!
Sure, you are supposed to have a permit or license to go into most parks. Many people break this.
You are supposed to abide by the rules. Many people break them.
You are supposed to control your dogs, and be in control of them at all times. MANY people break this.
Many humans see the dog park as a combined opportunity. Bring the dog, let the dog run and play and the humans sit around and discuss.. whatever. Social hour. Their dogs are too often well across the park and they don't know where and don't care much.
Said afforementioned humans will occasionally be snide about new folks coming in. "Gee, that woman was so jumpy - doesn't she know how dogs are supposed to play?" This type of statement usually
comes from the worst-behaved of the "established" crew.
Every dog park has the regulars. This is good and bad. With the regulars, you get to know their dogs. You know exactly what things will get them going. If you pay enough attention, you can probably understand their dogs better than they do, simply because they're sitting at the picnic table discussing politics, the latest news story, etc.
And then you have those who are new. They come in, not knowing what to expect. Their experiences vary greatly. If the regulars' dogs descend on that dog and no one controls the dogs, the newcomer is often upset. Some newcomers are strong in their own right, and step in to control it, and some are so offput, they pick up their dog, leave and don't return. Every dog park "pack" *will* sniff on the newcomer. You must be ready for that in a new park. It will happen and you cannot depend on the owners to control this. If the owners *are* in charge and paying attention, that's a bonus.
Then you have those who bring in their dog aggressive dogs during off hours, because they think they can avoid the "crowd." Be aware of this if you also use the reasoning of the "off-peak" hours.
Many, many, many people bring dogs into the dog park that shouldn't be there. These dogs hate being sniffed, have no desire to play with other dogs but their owners have some belief that it is best for the dog to "play" with other dogs. Maybe they do so out of guilt. Maybe they do so believing it is a good socialization opportunity. It is not. It is overkill, it is too much for these dogs. They simply do not like it and spend their time there avoiding contact with the other dogs.
Taking the above a bit further... granted, not everyone has large, safe places to take their dog(s). So they go to the dog park. Ok. But everyone in a dog park must understand.. their dog *will* be approached by other dogs. It is just going to happen. You don't have a "right" to be left alone. It's a DOG PARK. In a perfect world, you have the "right" for your dog to not be "assaulted," but it is not a perfect world. Other dogs will approach your dog. I don't know how many times I've heard people say, "My dog just doesn't like other dogs." Ok then don't bring your dog to a dog park. It really is that simple. If you want to socialize your non-socialized dog, for goodness sakes, do not bring it to a dog park. There are simply too many dogs. Again, overkill.
During your time at the dog park, if you frequent it often enough, you will see many things that are probably completely against the rules. Aggressive dogs. Very young children. Treats handed out to entice the dogs. Toys thrown around to bring about guarding problems. Tiny puppies.
Yet another issue I see over and over and over.... small, but very aggressive dogs. They instigate and entice. Terrier types. My dog loves these nutty terriers, but they're often a step away from honest injury. If that's YOUR dog, you need to understand it really isn't "cute." It's an accident -- an attack -- just waiting to happen.
Ok, so I want to summarize:
--If your dog is aggressive to other dogs, don't go to the dog park unless you feel very secure in your handling of your own dog and any that might approach.
--Don't take your itty bitty pup to the dog park for socialization/exposure. You're more likely to scare the snot out of the dog than anything.
--Don't park your behind on a picnic table.
--If your dog is a jerk, shut your dog down. (What is a "jerk" ? Pestering another dog. Humping. Dominance behavior. You can know it when you see it, the other dog will show clear signs that your dog's behavior is not acceptable.)
--If another dog is a jerk, shut it down, but if the owner is as much of a jerk as the dog -- LEAVE.
--Pay attention. At all times. Be where your dog is.
--Be smart about toys and treats. Don't use them if you're within the "pack."
So all of that was pretty negative, but it is very important to understand all the aspects! My dog likes the park A LOT, but there may be a day we no longer go. It depends on him and his behavior. My dog has benefited in many ways. It has helped his *human* socialization more than I ever expected. So there are definitely positives.
Just be careful.