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Discussion Starter #1
I understand that dog owners and german shepherd owners, in particular, have definite opinions on dog parks. I agree that there are pros and cons to both sides.

For, me I think dog parks will play a role in our lives. We have a pretty good park. The owners are passionate about keeping it clean. If a dog poops, several people helpfully point it out until the owner picks it up. :) The dogs are pretty good. We live in a subdivision of a small town where most of the people work in health care. Most of the dogs have spent time in daycare. In general, the dogs seem to have a relatively good understanding of appropriate dog behavior. If a dog acts up, everyone just quietly leaves and comes back later. As people drive into the park, if they see an unruly dog, they turn around and leave.

I am not saying parks are for everyone, but if you chose to make parks part of you and your dog's life, here are a couple of strategies I have been using to increase our chances of success.
1. Work on recall and engagement within proximity to the park. This happened as part of our reactivity work. Being able to get Ole's attention and recall him with 95% success has helped us much.
2. Try to go when the park is empty or has a couple of 'green book' dogs. During our reactivity work, we identified a couple of well-behaved dogs that looked like good candidates for a meeting.
3. Find safe places. Before we met any other dogs, we looked around and practiced going into safe spaces. We went over, under, and through all the tables, benches, and obstacles. That way, if pup got stressed, he could find a quiet den-like place to watch the action before going out and interacting. Everyone is pretty good that if a dog goes under a table, he should be left alone by both people and dogs. Several times this week, Ole has scooted off on his own to a safe space to observe when things got overwhelming. It is pretty funny to watch a 70 lbs shepherd pup scoot under a table. Each time he hung out for 5-10 seconds and then reentered the pack.
4. Exercise before going to the park. We have tried to do about 20 minutes of off-leash work before we get to the park. This seems to knock off the top 20% of Ole energy. He is still ready to go, but the chances of him catching the zombies is reduced.
5. While in the park, keep moving. Most of the scuffles in our park seem to happen among dogs who have to entertain themselves while their owners talk on the phone or amongst themselves. We walk laps around the park to keep moving. A couple of pup exploring together seems to set them all at ease.
6. Reward engagement. Every time Ole looks at me, I mark and reward.
7. Recall and reward constantly. I want to ensure that no matter what is happening, Ole's knows to come back to me to regroup as necessary. Ole sniffs and plays for 30 seconds to a minute, then I recall, reward and immediately let him return to what he was doing. Interestingly a couple of other dogs will come when I call Ole:) After talking to their owners, I have them all sit politely while everyone gets a treat. I ignore jumpy or rude dogs until they settle down.
8. Set up a sequence of 'training stations' around the park. We found five nicely spaced picnic tables and obstacles around the park. As we walk around the park, we practiced 'hop-up' followed by a big reward and some lovin' followed by a release of 'go play.' After a few laps, Ole got in the habit of hopping up on the next 'training station' as I approached it. Over time we added a couple of seconds of simple commands like 'look,' 'sit,' 'down,' and 'stand.' I tried to keep each secession short enough that as I approached the next station, Ole would be waiting for me. (and my bait pouch full of 1 cup of roast chicken and 2 cups of kibble :)

Our only challenge has been a husky who likes to sit and look around. He is totally calm and under control, but his intense staring gave Ole the shivers. Overall the week has been a success.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
We are for now. It is still hat, mittens and scarf weather in the early mornings in western Wisconsin. Everyone is bundled up against the weather and viruses.

During off-hours, we have not seen more than 4 people and 6 dogs spread around the 2-acre park. That level of social distancing seems reasonable.

I don't think we will be going at 3 o'clock in the afternoon when it is a balmy 45 degrees....
 

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I think it's time to put off dog park visits considering the spreading virus. They're off the table at my place. Dogs may not get the virus but they can certainly help spread it on their fur. And I've stopped letting other people pet my dog these days. These are not normal times.
Stay Home, Save Lives.
 

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Closures of schools and businesses have coincided with crap-tastic weather here. Or great weather, if you prefer people stay indoors. It rained literally all day yesterday, and about half the day so far today. Hence, I have not even done a drive-by of the local dog park this week. But I'd bet, based on other social distancing in these parts, that it has pretty much become an empty enclosure.
 

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Even assuming warmer weather bakes the virus into perdition, or a vaccine comes on line, or we otherwise get back to normal, I'm re-thinking dog parks.
The recent reappearance of a 2018 thread that went about 12 pages kind of makes me say, "Hmmmm." My pup does love them, and as I've posted, would vote to go in the one with the most dogs, every time. But on the above referenced thread, one poster likened it to tap dancing in a minefield. Confronted with the number of cautionary tales one sees on this forum, I find it hard to disagree. Maybe sometimes there is only one mine in the whole park. Other times it may be liberally strewn. But to avoid them all, each and every time, you'd have to be not just good, in your instincts and socialization of your dog, but exceedingly lucky on all the variables you can't control. My girl has never been truly jumped since she left the whelping box. I want to keep it that way.

If I were to reconsider, the Green Book concept is the most appealing. But as I've also posted, I rarely ever see the same dogs and owners twice, at least not the ones in my Green Book . . .
 
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