Dog Parks are Dangerous! Here’s why
Dog parks are a relatively recent phenomenon, and they are now the fastest growing type of municipal parks. There were 571 dog parks in the largest 100 cities in the United States in 2011, which is a 33% increase over a 5 year period. But are dog parks safe? The ASPCA has endorsed the idea of dog parks, saying that it gives owners an opportunity to provide much needed exercise for dogs, which has a positive impact on decreasing dog behavior problems. True, but at what cost? Lots of people love taking their dogs to dog parks. But are they safe?
Fights are common at dog parks, and because of the large number of dogs in a relatively small area, so are diseases. In my opinion, dog parks are a bad idea. More harm than good is done in dog parks – too many fights, and too many illnesses. Socialization should be done carefully, with dogs you know – not with strangers’ dogs. Just one fight can change a dog’s attitude about other dogs for the rest of her life – it’s just not worth it.
If you absolutely must take your dog to a dog park, at least follow these common sense guidelines:
1) Be alert. Watch your dog and the others around him. You’re not there to have coffee and chat with your neighbors – you’re there to supervise your dog.
2) Keep weight ranges similar. Small dogs should not be matched with big dogs.
3) Be extra aware of bully breeds at the park. Their play styles are more “in your face” than other breeds, and this can be frightening to more laid back dogs.
4) Watch for avoidance behavior in your dog. For example, if your dog comes running back to you and stands behind you, put a leash on him and take him home! He’ll recognize that you did your job and protected him from whatever was frightening him.
5) Bring an air horn – the loud noise can break up a fight (not always – but sometimes).
6) If you have to break up a fight, do not reach in between the fighting dogs – this is a sure recipe for a dog bite. Instead, grab the back legs and pull the dogs apart.
Bottom line: It’s easier and safer to AVOID dog parks completely. For young dogs who need socialization, it makes more sense to have them play with friendly dogs owned by friends and neighbors.