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Dogs park are a dangerous place to take your dog

Taking your dog to the dog park is like leaving your child unattended in a juvenile detention centre for a day and not expecting them to develop some sort of behavioural problem’.

To the untrained eye, dog parks represent an ideal opportunity for dogs to be dogs; to run around and socialise in a safe environment while at the time also providing their owners with the chance to mix with other like-minded dog owners. However, as a professional dog trainer you couldn’t pay me to take my dogs to the dog park.

Dog parks are a breeding ground for bad behaviour from both the dogs and their owners! Your dog can learn bad behaviour from other dogs like ignoring re-call, rough play, and aggressive tendencies. I have also seen owners encourage their dogs to be aggressive towards other dogs. For example, I once saw a fist fight erupt between the owner of a German Shephard (Owner 1) and the owner of two Huskies (Owner 2). Owner 2 was allowing his Huskies to harass the German Shephard. Owner 1 asked Owner 2 to get his dogs under control, to which Owner 2 became defensive, and a fist fight soon followed.

A good point to remember is that dogs have not evolved to be randomly social. Rather, this is part of the domestication process. Dogs can also be extremely territorial, and several breeds have been bred for strong aggression and working abilities. Combine these traits with a complete lack of training and socialisation and it’s not going to end well. For example, some dogs can be confrontational to stop confrontation from happening because previous experience has taught these dogs that being confrontational will keep it safe. You can see how an incident would occur if these dogs were forced to interactive with a dog that is unable to read social signals and just wants to play all the time.

Dogs can be very subtle in their body language and to the untrained eye this can be problematic. However, once you begin to understand what body language means, you are a step closer to understanding what your dog is communicating.

There is an endless list of scenarios that will lead to some sort of attack or fight at the dog park, including:

• Toys

• Food

• A bitch coming into or in season.

• The owner

• Perceived territory

• Any type of growling or aggressive posturing

• Fear: dogs will bare their teeth and growl. This behaviour can then bring on an attack or fight.

• Some dogs just like to fight.

I couldn’t find any statistics on dog fights/attacks in dog parks in Australia. However, it was cited online by another dog trainer in the USA that one dog a day dies in the US due to a fight/attack in a local dog park.

It is up to the dog owner to teach their dog good social behaviour. Socialising your dog does not come from throwing your dog into a dog park without a lead and proper obedience. Instead,

socialisation comes from exposing your dog to a variety of well controlled situations that are going to be positive for both you and the dog. If you have someone telling you that the local dog park is a safe place for your dog, at that point completely disregard any further information coming from them as they clearly have no idea what they are talking about and they are dangerous.

So, what’s the answer?

Obvious, isn’t it? Take your dog to a reputable dog school where it can learn general obedience and healthy and functional behaviour. As an owner, it will also provide you with the opportunity to socialise with other like-minded people.

I could go on and on about this issue because as a dog trainer we all too often see the aftermath of it, which is often physical and emotional trauma for both the dog and their owner. Especially if an owner has had to watch their beloved pet get mauled or even killed by another dog.

What a way to die.

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