Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 14, 2018

Dog Parks Are Dangerous!

Posted at 03:10PM - Comments: (25)

Use extreme caution when taking your dogs to a dog park. Or better yet - don't visit public dog parks at all.

I’ve never owned a dog who HAD to exercise at a fenced dog park, but I’ve fostered a number of them. I’ve been able to train all of my dogs to perform a solid recall, even when faced with tempting distractions (deer, rabbits, other hikers with dogs, etc.), and have always lived in places where I had access to off-leash trails. But when I’ve fostered wayward adolescent dogs, there have been times when I thought the dog would benefit greatly from a long period of exercising hard, but I needed the security of a fenced area, because we hadn’t yet had enough time together to build a solid recall. At those times, I’ve turned to a dog park – but only with extreme caution, because I think the hazards and risks of dog parks, in very many cases, outweigh the benefits.

dog park fighting

Would you bring your timid preschooler to a park where you knew the chances are good he would be assaulted and scared to death? Then why would you bring your timid dog to a dog park?

The most extreme risk is also the most common at dog parks: that of other dogs hurting (either physically or by intimidation) or even killing your dog.

I’m writing this today because I just read this chilling, very abbreviated account of a completely avoidable dog park fatality. A woman was at the park with her small, middle-aged dog. This particular park doesn’t have a separate area for small dogs, so in my mind, that’s strike one. I would never take a small dog to a big park where there are big dogs running around! Even if they don’t get attacked or harassed by bigger dogs, small dogs can be seriously injured or killed if they accidentally collide with a big dog who is running fast.

Plus, a few-seconds-long video clip of the dog playfully rolling around on the grass was enough to show me that this was not a dog who *needed* to be exercised at an off-leash park! She looked like her exercise needs could easily have been met on a long line in any small open space. This little dog was attacked by two large dogs who were at the park with a dog walker who had been hired through a popular app – in other words, someone who didn’t necessarily know the dogs, and (probably) did not have the experience or education to know that the dogs were dangerous to other dogs.

small dog area at dog park

Don't ever bring small dogs into a park where large dogs are playing; the only relatively safe space for them is a separate area for smaller dogs.

I don’t ever go to a dog park blindly. I won’t take a dog with me the first time I go to ANY dog park; I want to see it first, walk its fence line, locate any potential hazards or things that might be dangerous or challenging for my dog. I’ll never forget the time I was at Point Isabel, a famous open-space off-leash area in Richmond, California (near Berkeley, on the east side of the San Francisco Bay), and there were a number of people trying to help a woman capture her dog, who was swimming in the bay, and kept swimming farther and farther from shore in pursuit of seagulls and other birds he saw. She was sobbing and kept crying out, “I didn’t know they could just get in the water! I thought there was a fence! I didn’t KNOW!” She apparently had never been to the shoreline park, but had taken her water-loving dog there and unclipped his leash anyway. Oops.

It also helps to know the best time to visit any given park. Perhaps it doesn’t matter so much if you have a big, super gregarious, playful dog, who loves all other dogs and doesn’t mind being bossed around by more assertive individuals, but if you have a dog whose social grace depends on NOT having other dogs in his face, you might want to figure out when very few other people and dogs are at that particular park. If there is literally no time when the park is empty, I would find a non-dog-park fenced space where no other dogs are present to exercise that dog off-leash. I just wouldn’t risk worsening that dog’s social skills by setting him up to fail!

dog park bullies

There are dog bullies at every park. Their owners seem to think the dogs are "just having fun." In reality, they are practicing socially inappropriate behaviors (and yes, having fun doing it). Not ok.

In my opinion, very few of the dogs who are taken to dog parks need that sort of space; most of the dogs who are there really shouldn’t be there. Even if they are in no way aggressive, dogs who don’t enjoy other dogs shouldn’t be there, because they WILL be approached by other dogs; that’s a given. For example, my 10-year-old dog Otto can get along with any other dog – as long as they pretty much leave him alone. He doesn’t want to play with other dogs, he doesn’t want to go sniff them, and he certainly isn’t going to put up with any other dogs sniffing HIS butt. So there is no earthly reason to take him to a dog park, where he will undoubtedly be forced to suffer all sorts of fools approaching him and trying to smell him. In no time at all, he’d snap at some dog, and some younger, bigger dog may just take offense and – ugh, I can’t even think about it.

Puppies and young adolescent dogs certainly benefit from the opportunity to run, socialize, and play with other playful dogs. But taking an inexperienced adolescent to a dog park is something else I would never recommend. There are too many playground bullies at dog parks – dogs who get a little charge out of creaming “new kids” at the park. Think about it: You do your pup no favors to take him to a place where, in the middle of the most fun he can have, he’s going to get violently assaulted and/or pee-his-pants scared. It might work if there is a separate area where he can play with the small dogs – and poses no risk to the small dogs himself. Otherwise, I’d suggest sticking with organized puppy socials offered by your trainer or private play dates set up with other local puppy owners.

Same goes for timid dogs. I would never bring a socially fearful dog to any dog park. Period.

Private dog parks are a concept with a lot of promise. You’d pay for the safety and cleanliness of the park, and because all the park-goers would be pre-screened for friendliness. Park attendants would enforce the rules and educate users about appropriate and inappropriate dog behavior.

But public dog parks? I’d avoid them unless you HAD to use them, and then, only with extreme caution.

Comments (25)

All you can do is your best. Sometimes it doesn't work out anyway. I was trying to socialize my puppy the "right" way by putting him in a VERY well regarded and expensive puppy class. The first day they said "okay let the puppies play" and my small pup was seriously attacked by a bigger dog!

I caught and pulled off the other dog as my puppy fled in terror but since then he has been very wary of other dogs and probably always will be.
I have seen some improvement by taking him to a dog park and just letting him watch the other dogs play and using my own judgement on which other dogs I allow near him. It is scary but I have no other real choices for socialization in my area and believe me I have looked.

At a puppy class you are kind of at the mercy of the judgement of whoever is in charge and that might not turn out to be as good as your own. I remember having a feeling about that puppy before the incident above and I shrugged it off.
After that, I'm afraid was not so cooperative and trusting and I questioned everything until I am certain they thought I was a nut-job but this is my puppy and at the end of the day it is me who is responsible for what happens to him and my judgement that is his best protection.

Posted by: sidhe | July 15, 2018 8:40 AM    Report this comment

I take my girl everywhere everyday. Sometimes off leash since she knows me and our spots. She does not like dog parks but she is an old lady who 99.95 of the time scares pesky dogs away, big or small. I live by bay in San Diego so it's no problem with off-leash area, but we sometimes push it since she's so good. The other .05% of times she's gotten into trouble with aggressive dogs I've had to intervene. DOGS ARE LIKE THEIR OWNERS. And some owners are assholes.

Posted by: Jim O | March 25, 2018 6:36 PM    Report this comment

I live near what I thought was an ideal off-leash dog park. But over the years, the cycle of owners and dogs have changed dramatically. Owners unleash their dogs, get on their phones and basically ignore what their dogs are up to. They feel they've done their job, allowing their out-of-control pooch some playtime, while the playground bully is terrorizing everyone he/she comes across.
Small dogs have been killed. I always blame the owners, for not keeping on top of their dogs and what they do; for not understanding their dog and knowing that bared fangs/humping and biting is not play; for leaving it to other owners to break up altercations because they're too scared to take responsibility for their own dog who is causing all the problems. I won't go near the park anymore. My Gracie's breeder wanted me to promise I would never take her to a dog park, but she really didn't need to. I've learned my lesson. The off-leash park was a great idea, but it requires responsibility and consideration from those who want to partake in these parks.
Until owners collectively take responsibility for the behaviour of their dogs, dog parks will always be risky.

Posted by: LoveGSDs | March 20, 2018 9:05 PM    Report this comment

Dog parks have been a mixed bag for me. We travel a lot (RVers), and when I'm in a new area for over 2 weeks, I will seek out dog parks. If there is not a separate area for small dogs, we don't go - my mini poodle is afraid of big dogs. Tried it once; never again. For the parks with small dog areas, I have had good luck. First of all, I am one of those people who appoint myself Park Ranger. Sorry if anyone thinks that is obnoxious. I do not sit and yak with people, rather I am always standing out with the dogs, keeping an eye on all of them, not just my own. I am not afraid to confront any owner over bad behavior, either on the part of the dog or the owner. My dog is 17" and 20lbs, so lightweight but taller than most of the small dogs. She is an "omega" personality - neither alpha nor submissive, just easy going She LOVES dog parks! She flies like the wind, chases balls with other dogs, and follows scents around the perimeter. The one we go to mostly is in the Palm Springs area. It is huge, grassy, separate sections, and cleaned by the city almost every day. The people are mostly nice, and responsive to what's going on with their dogs. This park is an exception - many others I have seen across the country are dirt pits with no separate size areas. Yes, there is the chance of picking up disease. But my dog needs the offleash exercise and loves other dogs. Even in new areas, she knows when we arrive at a dog park and lights up like you wouldn't believe. As someone who does not have a fenced yard or easy access to offleash hiking areas on a regular basis, I am grateful for their existence - I know my dog is!

Posted by: Specie | March 16, 2018 12:43 PM    Report this comment

We’ve had several dogs killed in our dog parks over the years. Many years ago a lady brought husky that was gutted at the dog park for training. Unbelievably the dog was saved. The physical damage was healed but emotionally? She was terrified of other dogs.
Why take a chance?
I ask people who don’t have yards to find somebody with an empty fenced yard they can borrow to let their dogs run free. Between friends, co-workers, strangers at the supermarket, there’s a fenced yard somewhere. Anything is safer than dog parks.

Posted by: Jean | March 16, 2018 7:39 AM    Report this comment

Stopped going to The Dog park as my Lab had a bacterial infection and almost died, sick for approximately 6 mos. & cost me a fortune which my Vet said most likely she picked up from the park as not all people vaccinate their dogs! People need to be responsible,they sit on their lawn chairs & socialiize not even paying attention to their dogs & never clean up after their dog, or better yet pull up in their SUV’s let the dog out to take a crap, jump back in & take off!

Posted by: Luvador | March 16, 2018 2:37 AM    Report this comment

In reply to "Gus's Mom"'s post above, it's not always possible to monitor everyone coming in to a dog park. It would be nice if every city had park monitors but that's the exception. After my dog was attacked at the park by an unneutered pit bull (comment above and no offense to pits-I've had 3 and loved them all-only one didn't get along with other dogs and was kept away from them), I returned with him early one morning when just a few people I trust were there with friendly dogs. I wanted to reintroduce my dog to dogs he trusted to help him get over the trauma of the attack. All were getting along fine when another man came in with an unneutered dog. One of the women and I informed him that this was against city rules, but he became extremely abusive with us to the point of near violence. There is a mentality of certain dog owners that ruins dog parks for everyone else and when this happens, you're better off avoiding them unless there are park volunteers on duty who have been given authority by the city. I'm finding that most park users don't care to enforce the rules or support those who try to do so.

Posted by: Lauriel | March 15, 2018 10:38 PM    Report this comment

Good article. I just went through a serious dog park issue.
I adopted a new dog 9 months ago who loves to run and be with other dogs. I began by taking him for long walks on leash in our foothills, teaching him good manners when we'd encounter other dogs and people. When he seemed ready we visited a local dog park that is separated by size. Here he loves to play and run after the ball, and is by far the fastest dog who just never stops running. At first whenever he exhibited any negative behavior, we'd leave to work on more training before returning. I was so pleased that he gets along well with every dog there, basically ignores the humpers and sniffers and rough-house players, and comes when it's time to go, sitting quietly as I put the leash on.

Unfortunately it is true that there are people at every dog park who shouldn't have dogs, are unaware of dog behavior, park rules or don't care. There are people who bring in tiny little yappy dogs that lunge at the bigger ones or squeal like an injured rabbit which triggers the other dogs, or let their small children run around. These are very dangerous situations posted against in city rules on the gate. Then there are those who bring in unneutered male dogs and females in heat (wearing underpants was the clue). Also so many dogs sharing the same water is a real potential for spreading diseases. I found out recently that our dog park is known to be a place where parvo is spread.

3 weeks ago we were standing away from the gate waiting to leave with Blackjack leashed, when a man came in with an unneutered pitbull, which is clearly against posted city ordinances. Within seconds this dog was in front of us in attack mode and a very serious fight ensued as everyone tried to intervene. Luckily Blackjack's injuries are almost healed but the trauma to both of us and the $800 vet bill has me seriously wondering what our options are now. It's not enough to say, you need to think about the dog you choose to live with or where you live with the dog. My last dogs lived with me in the country with a huge fenced area and were older when I bought this home in town with its rocked back yard, so their playing was more subdued. When they both passed last summer I thought carefully about the kind of dog I wanted and chose one the shelter described as a good hiking buddy. Who would've guessed his DNA would reveal Sighthound ancestry?

Still trying to resolve our dilemma and find an appropriate place where he can 'let loose'. It's not my preference to get another dog right now and finding people with dogs for play dates has been difficult. Future agility training is an option but includes a lot of standing around waiting for your turn. We may only return to the dog park early before other dogs arrive.

Regarding the little cairn terrier who could really give it out to the big dogs, my sister had a large dog who burst out the screen door and grabbed a little dog by the neck and shook it badly. It only takes one such incident to have a dead or severely injured dog. We will not return to the dog park unless it's early before the others arrive.

Posted by: Lauriel | March 15, 2018 10:11 PM    Report this comment

You are 101% On Target. Dog parks are bad news. Period. Steve Robinson

Posted by: Steve R | March 15, 2018 8:01 PM    Report this comment

I wish my city required dog and human to pass the Canine Good Citizenship Test in order to be off leash at a city dog park, and indeed anywhere in public.

Posted by: susan in sf | March 15, 2018 4:05 PM    Report this comment

I remember when dog parks first started. I was excited...finally, somewhere I could let my dogs off leash to play. I did go once or twice and nothing bad happened, but it was obvious how easily it could have and that wasn't a risk i wanted to take. I was sitting in a vet's office once and a well-dressed gentleman came in, his white shirt drenched in blood. He was carrying his Boxer whose chest had been torn open at a dog park. So sad that the owner had to learn the hard way and that the dog had to suffer for it. It's against the law to have dogs off leash anywhere in Los Angeles and it's something I would never do anyway. One of our local parks has several huge, fenced soccer fields. No one there during the day...my dogs run on 100-foot custom leashes. Even so, I'm always on the alert, both there and walking in my quiet neighborhood, where I've twice Twice had a large dog come charging across the street at us. The first time, the owner just watched while I screamed at him to come get his dog as I tried to shield my own. The second time, different dog, coming fast and the owner standing on the far side of the street yelling "Don't worry, he's friendly!" Some people are idiots. I've always said I love my house..it's got a big back yard, but if only it could be surrounded by a couple of fenced acres...

Posted by: GiftofGalway | March 15, 2018 3:13 PM    Report this comment

I always observe the dogs and owners in the dog park before deciding to enter. Also I never assume everything is fine even if I already know the dogs. Dogs’ situations, recent experiences, health, or just plain moods change and can result in unexpected interactions. I try to be constantly observant and not get overly distracted by conversation. Although, the dog park is a great place to network with other dog owners about all things dog connected. Most importantly, I am able to recall my dog immediately and have no reservations about promptly leaving or not even entering if I observe anything I feel is inappropriate for my dog.
This applies to trainer supervised puppy playgroups. I once took my pup to a puppy playgroup at a pet store where she was attacked by the other puppy. The trainer who was familiar with the other pup let it occur twice. The second time my pup was bite and the puppy was growling & snarling even more intensely. Needless to say, it was a free Playgroup so I guess you get what you pay for.
I think Playgroups & Dog Parks can be fun for both dogs and owners when the owners know their dog, are proactive, and attentive.
Perhaps the Community Parks & Recreation Depts. can offer classes by certified behaviorist or trainers in closed sessions at the local dog park. I think it would be popular & owners would be willing to pay a fee. It would b a good way to educate owners.

Posted by: NorCal | March 15, 2018 1:26 PM    Report this comment

I volunteered at my local dog park for the last 15 years until my dog passed away. It is a private park. As the author of the article pointed out there are good points and bad points. My dog was a hound and went to the park to chase rabbits, birds, hot air balloons, yes I said hot air balloons.....and always had his nose to the ground. He Seldom played with other dogs but had his circle of friends. I found the worst dog park people to be 1. the ones who thought that “pack mentality ruled...you know the person who said leave them alone, they are just establishing pecking order....”. They always had the super aggressive dogs that started the fights and would not call their dogs off. 2. The people who brought their dogs to the park to get them “socialized”. The off leash dog park is not the place to “socialize” a nervous or fearful dog. You need a controlled environment, not the dog park. 3. The super anxious owner who brings their dog to the park but freaks out when another dog even approaches their dog. Their hysteria transmits to their dog and any others in the area. 4. The people who bring their young wild children to the dog park because they wanted a place where “ their kids and dog can play together”. Sorry not the “dog park” people. Called a “dog park” for a reason. Then they complain when some other dog either chases their kid that they do not have control of or gets ramped up because of the kid noise and starts a fight. And finally 5. The people to come into the park, let their dogs loose and do not monitor them - either because they are on their phones, reading a book, talking to other people, or just sacked out in a chair or bench. It is your dog, you need to have control of the dog not leave it up to the volunteers, if your park has them, to dog sit your dog. Final words and then I will be quiet. A. No food in the dog park, you could cause a fight. This includes dog treats. If you bring drinks no straws left on the ground or bottle caps. B. Be careful of dog toys as well. Some dogs are possessive of toys and balls....plus some dogs eat the squeakers, rubber from tennis balls, plastic from frisbees, etc. causing a blockage and a costly vet visit. C. No small or infant children. D. No smoking and dropping cigarette butts in the park or in the parking lot, some dogs will eat them and get sick. E. Pick up after your dog. Some dogs eat poop or roll in it. Do you want poop tracked into your car from your dog’s paws? F. No pinch collars or choke collars. If your dog plays with other dogs or gets in a fight they could get caught in another dogs collar. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to break up fights and found the dogs could not get loose because their teeth were caught in a pinch collar or choke collar. G. Never let your dog loose without some type of harness or collar so that the dog can be caught and held if needed. H. Know who is in the park. Establish a relationship with the dogs and the owners. Hold the owners accountable for their dogs behavior and be sure and report incidents of bad behavior to park volunteers giving them any info you have like - dogs name, description of the dog/owner, tag number, time of day and date, make and model of owners car. Anything that will give the volunteer enough info to identify the dog. We talk to each other and track “bad dogs or owners”. In private parks, we all usually have a policy like 3 times and you are out, or 3 times and you can’t come back without a certificate where you took your dog to training and passed. Don’t assume your dog is the only one being impacted by an aggressive dog/owner. If you don’t report it we can’t get the dog training or get them permanently removed from the park.

Posted by: Gus's mom | March 15, 2018 1:11 PM    Report this comment

I wish everyone would have to read this article before visiting a dog park. Our city just opened one a few months ago. I have plenty of room for my dogs to exercise so I have no need to visit a dog park. Within the first week of our local dog park opening, a tragedy had already occurred. A family was visiting for the first time...the children took their small dog into the area designated for big dogs, and he was promptly attacked by two larger dogs and brutally killed. The mother of the children...and owner of the dog... was busy unbuckling her toddler's car seat and her dog was dead before she even entered the park. The poor children had to witness the death of their beloved pet. While there are some good dog owners who know the temperament of their dogs and how to conduct themselves, the risks far outweigh the benefits of dog parks. I can understand the need for dog parks in urban areas, but only if the rules are enforced and they are monitored.

Posted by: Debi K | March 15, 2018 12:31 PM    Report this comment

We had our trainer come with us to the dog park once to help us learn how to read dog body language (ours and the others), and it was extremely helpful. We were shocked by how many potentially dangerous interactions were going on. It left me wondering if most of the dogs actually wanted to be there. It seems rare to come across a dog that has the social skills to do well that environment — and even rarer to see an "owner" who understands what's actually going on.

Posted by: north0603 | March 15, 2018 11:52 AM    Report this comment

You are so correct! We made this mistake by taking our sweet adolescent lab mix (rescue) to a well known local dog park. We'd been there with our two dogs previously, and they both loved running, playing, chasing and being chased by the other happy dogs there. Knowing how important socializing is, we thought we were doing the right thing. But on our third or fourth visit, our happy, playful lab mix came across a dog who didn't like her goofy adolescent antics, and she was more than reprimanded by the other dog. She was taken down viciously, and my girl came away with a torn ear. Of course the owner of the other dog claimed "He's never done that before!"

Unfortunately, the worst result of this encounter is that our dog is no longer other-dog-friendy. She no longer waits to see if another dog is friendly or not, but rather goes directly on the offensive when in proximity to an unknown dog. It just makes us sick that she learned aggression toward other dogs thru that experience. Totally the opposite of what we were going for.

Posted by: jae | March 15, 2018 11:46 AM    Report this comment

Dog parks can be bad, but they can also be a wonderful place to socialize your dog and yourself. I have been going to a dog park in San Francisco for many years and love it. My dogs have friends that they play with night and night after I get off work. I too have friends there I enjoy seeing and talking to and walking with...
I walk the parks perimeter of the park and usually know most of the dogs and their behaviors. My dogs are very socialized and dog savy and stay away from "bullies" and there are a few, for sure. I love going to this particular park as my dogs are safe away from city hazards (cars particularly) and they can run around freely and play without fear of their safety. They rarely are more than a few hundred yards away from me. Also I too can get some exercise. I enjoy my dog park very much, so not ALL dog parks are bad. Just use your common sense...if your dog doesn't look like they are having a good time, they probably aren't and move on. Don't stand and let multiple dogs run and pick on one dog, and don't let your dog "play" too rough, that's how dogs truly get hurt.

Posted by: Margaret Mc | March 15, 2018 11:39 AM    Report this comment

I don't agree with all of the above. Yes some dog parks are not well cared for and many people just take their dogs there and ignore them. BUT NOT all of the same are like this. I belong to two dog parks and yes one is similar to the above but the other one is not. It is well maintained and has a staff that is there watching the dogs and also most of the people that come here are retired and elderly and I have met many very nice people that are regulars and come all the time. The few incidents I have seen are people that are younger and end up ignoring their dogs and playing on their cell phones. Not to say it is just younger people but there are very few incidents and if a dog is aggressive the person is told to leave and it is also posted on the gate. The park people care deeply for their park and we have many people who supply bags and bowls for water. My two dogs (small) have never had an incident and I watch them all the time as the park has a large circle pathway that every walks around and the dogs follow us. It is a great park and I don't think people should avoid them because of a few.

Posted by: gailmary | March 15, 2018 11:28 AM    Report this comment

This is a thoughtful and informative article. Having lived in the mountains of Colorado for the past twelve years, my wife and I have no need for dog parks, public or otherwise, but I can certainly imagine circumstances where some dog owners, especially city-dwellers, might consider using them. The cautions that Nancy Kerns describes should make any dog owner think twice about this. In fact, having read her article, I'm not sure what would make me comfortable about taking any of our dogs to an unregulated public park. Most dogs, even those big enough and tough enough to take care of themselves against the kind of aggressive "bullies" that Ms. Kerns mentions, are still vulnerable in other ways. Our NAIDs (naively, wolf hybrids of a sort) would have little to fear physically, but I'd be concerned they might become "desocialized" by a bad interaction. Our irish wolfhounds are huge, but emotionally vulnerable and could only be hurt by a dog trying to pick a fight. Finally, our feisty little Jack Russells, who never back down from anything, would be at serious risk for physical injury. All things considered, I agree with the author that the only type of dog park worth considering is an appropriately screened and managed private park - and perhaps not all of those. Thank you, Ms. Kerns, for some very valuable advice!

Posted by: ajhil | March 15, 2018 11:06 AM    Report this comment

I used to take our dogs to a dog park. It had separate areas for small dogs and large dogs. However, there are so many drawbacks that I quit taking them. Fleas, ticks, possible sick dogs or aggressive dogs. There have been some horrible incidents of someone putting anti freeze in the water bowls at a dog park. I just can't see taking the chance anymore. We have a large fenced yard where they play. I can also take them for walks.

Posted by: greyfel | March 15, 2018 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I wish everyone would read this. I don't take my dogs to dog parks anymore. It's shocking how many owners don't even pay attention to what their dog is doing. My dogs mean too much to me to take a chance there.

Posted by: Staceysimi | March 15, 2018 10:59 AM    Report this comment

Your comments are well placed. While the concept of a place where dogs can run and play is terrific, the facts are that the patrons of the park are frequently people who really have no business having a dog. Some feel that it is “funny” when their aggressive dog attacks another dog. It is far safer to exercise dogs in an area where other dogs are on a leash or have been screened for their social abilities.

Posted by: Corgi Fan | March 15, 2018 10:19 AM    Report this comment

Absolutely! Sue Sternberg has hours of video footage from dog parks around the country - so very frightening to watch. Owners are often socializing rather than watching their dogs. It appears that no one present has any knowledge of K9 body language so that dangerous situations can occur without people even realizing it. I've never taken any of my dogs to a dog park, and I never would. My 8 month old puppy has only had play experiences with dogs I know are safe, and sound. Once an adolescent is traumatized, it can take a lifetime to reverse the damage!

Posted by: mcjean | March 15, 2018 10:09 AM    Report this comment

I used to live in Fort Collins, CO and there is a fabulous mixed size dog park that my schnauzer and I would visit every day. He was a standard size and took the role of referee quite seriously. I was sad when we had to relocate to Kansas where our town didn't have a dog park, although we walked all the time. Dexter and I moved to northern MN and then close to Fargo, ND. They have a few dog parks that are separated by size, however it's 30 minutes away AND they are just fenced in areas without any natural or man-made landscaping. Very unappealing. Dexter got a Westie puppy sibling (and a kitten) back in Kansas. Anyhow, when she was 3, we were at the Fargo dog park and she was semi-attacked by another little dog. She wasn't bitten, but the other dog gave her a "serious" warning. After that, she did NOT want to run around. She'd run to any human sitting down and she'd climb on their lap. She was okay if there weren't any other dogs in the small dog area. We quit going because she did not enjoy it at all anymore. Dexter passed way at the age of 14 and Abby passed away at the age of 13. Now we have two other small dogs and we walk ALL over town (my husband calls it a "death walk").

Posted by: KimberlyO | March 15, 2018 10:07 AM    Report this comment

Thank you for a smart and serious article!

I've never been a fan of dog parks, mostly because the fences are never tall enough to contain my Afghan hounds, but also because I don't trust others' judgements in relation to their dogs. Things can get ugly so quickly. Too many owners/pet sitters never see it coming (and consequently can't nip things in the bud) because they are busy chatting and if it does hit the fan, are clueless about how to break up a dog fight. An acquaintance used to brag about letting his cairn terrier in with the big dogs because the little guy "could really give it out". He was just one munch away from being a statistic.

Frankly, the ability to properly exercise a dog should be a major factor in deciding who you choose to share your life with. Only once did we place an Afghan hound in an apartment situation. The guy was a marathon runner and shared his morning runs with his new rescued friend (on leash of course!). One very happy & fit hound!!

Posted by: noahsapothecary@mindspring.com | March 15, 2018 10:02 AM    Report this comment

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