Oh yes. The famous dog park. The ideal place to “socialize” our dogs as soon as they are able to open their eyes. A dog's paradise. Where friends gather.
Sorry to burst your bubble and this beautiful image but in my opinion, it's quite the opposite. For me, the dog park is: dogs of all ages, small or large, different personalities and unfortunately several owners who use punishment on their dog, or owners who laugh and sit when they see their dog jump on others. They also don't notice when the dog is giving warning signals, trying to run away to the fire escape, hiding under a bench, or snubbing all the dogs in the park.
Well, that's not always the case, but no thanks. And yet, I was one of the first to make this mistake with my Golden Retriever Lio when he was only 4 months old. For his first experience at the dog park, a group of dogs gathered around him to sniff him and chase him for about fifteen minutes. For his second experience, he experienced a bite in the face caused by a Shiba Inu. His owner was trying to convince me that this was normal behavior and he said his dog was growling at everyone. At the age of 5, at a different dog park, a dog approached Lio to zigzag him, and Lio was so annoyed that in the end, he was growling at him. I then had to interrupt a conversation that the owner of this dog was having with other people on the famous picnic table, and she answered me then that "it was nothing" and that it was of "normal" behavior.
⁃ But my dog needs to play and socialize!
Warning! “Socializing” does not mean “putting your dog in any situation”. You can do more harm than good if the socialization is badly done, and the puppy only experiences bad situations in contexts that are too stressful.
⁃ But my dog needs a lot of energy!
It's not just the dog park as an option! You can stimulate him with a complex training session, use a likimat, a sniffer mat, a jogging or canicross session, play tug-of-war, feed him in interactive toys, make your house a huge dig room and hide treats everywhere, or sign up for activities with your dog (agility sessions, scent detection, etc.).
⁃ But my dog will no longer have friends and will no longer have fun!
As for humans, it is better to choose your entourage. The behaviors of his friends will affect your dog's behavior. What has the biggest impact on your dog's behavior is his environment and his genetics! It is better to organize play sessions with the parents of dogs of the same size, the same age and the same personality. Otherwise, opt for periods of play with neighboring dogs, family dogs or your friends' dogs.
- But my dog is afraid of other dogs and I want him to get used to it and see that it's okay!
⚠️⛔️ Bringing a dog that is afraid of dogs to a dog park is one of the worst things you can do. You put the dog in immersion and in a situation of total failure. The dog will have no choice but to experience his fear up close and be controlled by this emotion. It will make his case worse and damage your relationship for putting him in this situation. Be sure to get information from canine behavior specialists trained and certified for this problem!
⁃Is there a good time to use the dog park?
Yes absolutely! When there is no one in the park to throw the ball to your dog and give him a taste of freedom. There are also dog parks that separate the little ones from the big ones, groups of accustomed people who take the trouble to react if there is a problem and who treat the animals with respect. Check out the dog park Facebook groups or take a good look at the dogs and people in the park before heading inside.
We often have good intentions for our dogs, but our goals are not always what our dog needs. The most important thing is to get informed and get informed from the right sources 🤓🐶