Advice & Information · Training · Uncategorized

Dog Park Dangers + Socialization Tips

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There are dog owners who either swear by dog parks or swear off dog parks. Our last trip to the local dog park (our favorite, most spacious one) was an unpleasant experience.

My Experience

While I do believe that dog parks serve many useful purposes of offering enclosed off-leash exercise, socialization and stimulation, training, etc it is unfortunate that I too often see irresponsible dog owners bringing their reactive and/or aggressive dogs to the park as a solve-all way to release their unstable energy.

Long story short, Alaska was attacked by 2 German Shepherds. An owner brought his 2 hyperactive dogs to the park and as soon as their leashes came off, they raced through the park as if they’ve never seen freedom before. Simultaneously they encircled and pounced on other dogs nearby, making both dogs and owners uneasy. Knowing this was a potentially troubling situation, I ushered Alaska to the farther end of the park. She was standing by my side when one dog, with ball in mouth, approached Alaska. They made brief eye contact and the next second, the Shepherd was on top of Alaska. The next few seconds passed so quickly; it was almost a complete blur. I heard Alaska give a warning growl of her own as she put up a fight and ran towards the park gate. The dogs’ owner just stood there calling his dog’s name to no avail. The second I thought it was over, the second Shepherd ran over and grazed Alaska by the neck. Not only was Alaska traumatized, but I was extremely upset over this, and we immediately left the park. Luckily, she was physically unharmed.

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While I do not swear off going to dog parks in the future, I will certainly take more precautions to prevent an incident like this from happening again. Go with your gut; you are your dog’s ultimate leader, so if you sense a potentially risky situation, it is best to remove yourself and your dog before something escalates.

Why is socialization so important?

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Socialization is crucial to puppy development, and it is a continual process from puppyhood to old age. Meeting other dogs can be trickier than you think, especially if your dog is not too comfortable or even if he is way too confident.

There are dogs I’ve come across that are unstable and somewhat puppy-intolerant. If you introduce your puppy to a dog for the first time, and you sense tension and instability in the dog (aggressive, fearful, or too rough), your pup might associate meeting other dogs to be a negative or uncomfortable experience.

Start early in a controlled environment and have an introduction with a dog you know very well and is a calm, tolerant, and balanced dog that will guide your pup and be a role model.

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Tips for the Human

  • be calm, confident, and assertive at all times – this is important to show your dog that you are the leader and are trustworthy in making good decisions, leading him/her in safe situations, and are able to protect your pack
  • do not act like a nervous wreck if you encounter an uncomfortable situation with another dog – your energy will pass to your pup and set him/her off
  • do not baby your dog such as picking up your dog when another dog is walking towards you. Just simply walk calmly in another direction away from the other dog (picking up your dog may cause him/her to feel more empowered by you holding him/her up and he/she will feel more defensive or dominant)
  • if you visit the dog park to socialize your dog, do not bring any toys that your dog is territorial over. Playing fetch is a great activity, but if your dog is prone to attacking other dogs who might also want to play fetch, this could be a potentially dangerous situation.

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Meeting People

This is fairly simple! Expose your pup early on to different people of all ages and sizes. Let them pet and interact with your puppy. Obviously supervise and make sure your dog is being treated well/gently. Invite guests to your home regularly to teach your dog that invited guests are welcome in the house and it can be a fun, pleasant experience. This will help your puppy in the long run, especially if he/she is exhibiting territorial behavior.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a professional dog trainer, nor do I claim to be one. All opinions stated in this post are of my personal experience training my dog. What works for me may not work for you, and all dogs are different in disposition and training. 

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11 thoughts on “Dog Park Dangers + Socialization Tips

  1. These are great tips! Sometimes we all meet irresponsible dog owners or dog owners who know nothing about dog behaviour and expect everything to work out fine with their dog and they don’t need to worry or do something about it even when their dog has shown multiple times that he/she is not reliable yet in certain overstimulating environments. It’s hard to stay calm when your dog is attacked by two German Shepherds but as you explained, the worst thing you can do is get scared or tense. If a situation feels unsure or unsafe calmly walking away is the best option. I believe your reaction as the pack leader was the best approach at that moment!
    I think Alaska has already forgotten about it. 🙂 Unfortunately, for us humans it’s not as easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words! Unfortunately there are irresponsible dog owners who do not want to invest the time and energy into proper training and instead take their reactive dogs to dog parks to ‘socialize’ when in reality, they pose a threat to the non-reactive dogs and give dog parks a bad rap..

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your concern, Jessica. Alaska is thankfully unharmed although she was shaken up by the unexpected attack. I didn’t even have time to react, but I will know what to do in the future! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jordy is such a great player! Socializing is SO important. When we adopted Jordy, she had kennel cough, and I couldn’t get her in a dog park for 2 weeks! I was so afraid she wouldn’t socialize well after that. But she patiently sat at the window and watched other dogs until she was cured!

    I also recommend playing with all sized dogs! Jordy has her social cues down! She knows to play gentler with small dogs and that she can really play hard with big dogs! This even carried over to older dogs. She has learned not everyone has the energy or desire to play like a puppy! So important.

    Liked by 1 person

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