Dog parks have a mixed reputation. Some people feel that dog parks are a wonderful place for dogs and owners to go and socialize with others. Dogs can sniff and play in a safe, fenced in environment and become well socialized with other dogs. Owners can give their dog exercise and friends, while also meeting and interacting with other dog owners. Off leash dog parks can provide the only true freedom that apartment dogs have, and can give a dog that lives in a house without other canine companions the opportunity to socialize with his or her own kind.
However, there are also stories of dogs being attacked or hurt at dog parks. There are numerous incidents of dog fights and even a few horrific news stories about dogs being killed at dog parks by other dogs. For this reason, many citizens speak out against dog parks, or alternatively insist on having segregated small dog areas or banning certain breeds of dogs from parks.
Taking a dog to a dog park can be a wonderful activity, but there are certain guidelines you should follow before taking your pet to the park, in order to make sure that you are and your dog are not a hindrance to other responsible dog owners who wish to enjoy the park as well.
Only balanced, non-aggressive dogs should be let off leash at dog parks. You should be reasonably aware of your dog's temperament and his or her propensity towards fighting with other animals. Socialization in a structured form, such as in a training class, while on leash, or with other dogs that you know, is important to ensuring that your dog behaves properly in a group. Until you know that your dog is not likely to attack another dog over a territorial dispute, and that your dog will play well with others, you should not allow your dog off leash at a dog park.
A dog park should also not be a dog's only source of exercise. A dog who goes to a dog park should already be in a healthy and balanced state, not overwhelmed with energy and excitement. Walking your dog or exercising your dog before a visit to a dog park can be very beneficial in ensuring that your dog plays well with others and is not too high energy or the rest of the dogs at the park. A dog that is aggressive about wanting to play can inspire growls from older, calmer, or snippier dogs if that dog comes on too strongly.
You should also be very careful about introducing food or treats at a dog park. Dogs who are not generally aggressive may become very territorial or dominant when there is food or a treat at stake. Even if your dog does not tend to be aggressive when a treat is offered, other dogs might be provoked by food, and you want to minimize the chances of a fight or dispute taking place. It is these types of disputes that can pose risks of deaths at dog parks, and all pet owners want to put off the day when they will have to bury their pets and buy pet urns or pet gravestones, for as long as possible.
Finally, you want to ensure that you clean up after your dog if your dog uses the bathroom at the park, and that your dog will come to you when called. You do not want to spoil the park for others, so it is essential that any messes your dog makes me cleaned up promptly. Furthermore, you don't wish to be chasing your dog around the park endlessly if your dog will not come when called.
Watching dogs interact and play with others is one of the many joys of being a pet owner. Years from now, when you are looking back on your dog's life, writing pet memorials or thinking back on the good times, you will be able to remember giving your dog this chance to play and frolic with other pups. However, you want to make sure you do so safely and responsibly.