Just dont go to dog parks and live happily ever after!
If you dont have time to read this whole write-up, here is a summery: Don't go to dog parks, ever! Your dog will be fine if you dont ever go there; your dog can become really messed up if you do. I dont go to dog parks, and l always try my best to advice others to never ever go there. Why? I can go on and on for days (and so can many other trainers) but here are a few points. Your dog does not need and will not get the socialization he/she needs from a dog park. Socialization is not really about playing with other dogs anyway. In my line of work, l have met so many dogs with serious problems and many of these poorly socialized, highly anxious, and extremely reactive/aggressive dogs practically grew up in dog parks. In case any of you dont know, it can take as little as one negative incident to change a dog. A dog can get killed in under 20 seconds. There are so many virus and bacterias in a dog park. Many sick dogs visit such places and poop there. Many many dogs have been attacked, bullied, and picked up very poor social manner and learned inappropriate behaviours in such places. Many dogs have become so stressed and anxious around dogs due to the negative experience they had in these dog parks. To have a solid relationship with your dog, you should show your dog that he can trust you. For him to trust you, naturally, he should always feel safe around you. How can he trust you if he experiences negative incidents with other dogs under your watch repeatedly at dog parks? Why would you put yourself in a position where your dog will suffer and distrust you? What is the benefit of taking your dog to such a filthy, highly infested enclosure full of untrained, uncontrolled, and highly stimulated dogs that usually lack proper social manners and could be aggressive to your dog? What is so great about this place for anyone to take all these risks including getting their dogs seriously injured or killed? Let's talk about what a dog can learn in a dog park. What do all well trained dogs have in common? They are all very engaged (always focus on their owners/handlers), they all have great impulse control, and they can be very calm and are great at ignoring distractions. In a nutshell, these dogs all know how to focus, and how to ignore. Which one of these skills can a dog learn from a dog park full of unruly overstimulated dogs with poor social skills? The answer is none. But they can very easily and quickly learn the opposite of these desirable traits. They can learn to become reactive, hyperactive, impolite, rude, easily stimulated, anxious, aggressive, and last but not least, they are usually reinforced to ignore their owners and can become very dog obsessive. It is highly unlikely to find a well behaved dog in a dog park. What we see are usually dogs that have been pant up all day, who cannot walk half decent on leash, who have no reliable recall, who are relentlessly hyper and do not know how to take no for an answer. We see dogs humping, pawing, along with other really pushy behaviours. It is like watching a live demo of how dogs should not interact with each other. The dog interaction often seen in dog parks are not natural. Dogs do not interact like that naturally. Dogs will not learn proper social manner running wild among a bunch of hyper untrained dogs. Why would anyone want to take their precious dog to such a terrible place and subject their precious dogs to such terrible influence and negative experience? Dogs that used to go to dog park often came to me for behavioural rehabilitation.
Over 90% of my clients had allowed on leash greeting and visited dog parks religiously - until their dogs started to show some problems. After they were done with their training, l asked them never ever set foot in a dog park again. When they listened, they usually succeed.
Some owners just could not stay away from dog parks, they decided not to follow instructions and went anyway.
They always came back and asked me for help when things did not work out. Eventually, they would stop going after learning their lessons the hard way. That is a fact. That is something l keep seeing over and over again. Please dont make decision for your dog with your heart. Please do what is best for your dog with your head. Just dont go to dog parks.