Can't disagree with anything you wrote. Fact is, there are plenty of dogs that thrive well in that environment and they should be allowed to have that time. That's all.Very good article. I think it makes an excellent point about the possibility that dog parks may be contributing to aggression problems in dogs, in large aprt due to misunderstandings of animal communication. I actually think that pictures accurately represent the majority of dog parks I have been too with owners who are not actively involved with their dogs, socliazing with other people and not paying attention to what is happening. I also absolutely agree that the entrance to a dog park is one of the most dangerous places. Heck even among my own dogs at the door to my back yard I can see craziness when I open the door to let another dog out with the others.
I also would not consider a growling dog aggressive. You ahve to look at the whole body picture and assume that maybe if the dog is growling at your dog...it might be your dog that is the problem. To my mind if you don't know why a dog is growling and jsut make a blanket statement of "That dog's aggressive" You probably shouldn't be at a dog park because you don't have a clue.
From what I have seen dogs that exist well at dog parks are either totally dog neutral dogs that spend their entire time at the park retirveing things thrown by their owners and basically ignoring the other dogs or Beta animals by nature that generally have no strong drives. Dogs with very strong drives tend to cause problems with other dogs that do not share their play style. A dog with strong herding instinct can make other dogs uncomfortable. A dog with strong toy drive will take a Pinecone or a stick and turn it into a toy to be guarded. A dog with strong prey drive will chase down other dogs. Argos was always great with other dogs until someone would bring in some crazy dog with the hyper erratic zoomies...and then if I didn't grab Argos he would give chase and plow the other dog. Poorly socialized? No. But strong natural instinct to give chase and catch prey. (There's a reason you will rarely see retired racing Greyhounds in dog parks...I've only seen 2 and they were both muzzled) I've seen dogs with strong pack drives establish their own temporary packs among the dogs from the social group their person plays with and guard and defend the pack from new dogs entering the park. I've seen dogs with even moderate protective instincts very clearly warn off other dogs that jump on their owners.
I think what people are missing is that a dog park is NOT about socialization. You don't take your dog to the dog park to socialize it. A dog park is only for dogs that are already well socialized and dog neutral and have a very neutral laid back easy going personality. Overly friendly rude dogs can be just as problematic as aggressive dogs. I do occasionally take my dogs still to offlead parks at the beach so I can swim them and give them exercise (the primary purpose of those parks to my mind) but we try to go at off times, I keep my dogs with me and under my control and usually choose a spot away from the "action" to play with my dogs.
I agree. Tests should be given...but ask anyone who works at a doggy day camp if there are ever any squabbles...cause even tests don't predict every behavior. I guess until you have a problem, people just don't realize...but I've seen too many dog fights, too many injured dogs, too many wrongly accused dogs to ever want to take the chance with one of my kids.