Taking your dog to a dog park sounds like a good idea until you think about it…
A group of dogs will form a pack and there are aspects of pack mentality that you won’t want to foster in your dog or among a group of domesticated dogs. Why? Because pack mentality can bring out the feral nature of dogs and can lead to heightened prey drive, making a weaker, submissive dog – or even a child – into a likely target.
Who’s in Control?
Many less confident dogs become fearful in dog parks and run to their owners for help and protection. But, unless you have very good control of your own dog and can pull them out of a potentially bad situation, you don’t have any real control over what happens to your pet. You are relying on other dog owners to control their dogs! And they are relying on you to control yours. However, likely no one is in control at all.
At the Mercy of the Pack
I have seen dog owners completely ignore their pet’s plea for help and leave their dog at the mercy of the pack. The poor mutt ends up running in desperate circles with its tail between its legs, repeatedly trying to insinuate itself between its owner’s feet to avoid the relentless pursuit of the other dogs. People laugh and say, “Oh, they’re just playing. They’re having fun. It’s good exercise.” And any number of other stupid comments! People don’t acquire common sense just because they become dog owners.
The owners are more interested in chatting with one another than keeping an eye on their dog. Most people have no idea how to read their own dog’s signals, let alone the signals given off by a whole pack of dogs. That’s how disasters happen: serious dog fights, injuries, and even attacks on humans. All avoidable, all caused by inattentive humans and dogs left to their own devices, instead of being under control at all times.
Even when Lucy plays one-on-one with another dog, she gets wound up very quickly and often I can see that she’s had enough or that things are getting overly wild. At that point I immediately use the e-collar to pull her out of that situation and bring her to me for protection or to simply calm her down.
Mastering “The Walk”
If your dog has one or two dog friends, that’s great, but your dog doesn’t need a whole pack of friends. As a matter of fact, your dog only needs you! Your dog would actually rather play with you than with another dog. And what your dog wants isn’t to go to the dog park, it’s to go on a long walk… with you! Cesar Millan is certainly right about that.
Have you ever noticed how dogs that belong to homeless people just follow their owner obediently… without ever receiving any formal obedience training? The person and their dog are a pack. Pack members don’t run away from the pack; they keep the pack in sight at all times. Lucy always keeps me in sight when we go for a walk off leash. She has a certain distance within which she feels comfortable, but as soon as I pass that point, she tears after me. If she’s in front of me, she constantly turns her head to make sure I’m still in sight.
My conclusion… dog parks are not good places to socialize my dog! Lucy and I don’t go to dog parks… we walk twice a day (an hour in the morning and 30-40 minutes in the evening). We go to dog class once a week. We go to visit friends and family, we take car rides together and generally spend as much time in each others company as possible. Lucy is not even that interested in other dogs on our walks. She just wants to travel and run around and sniff everything!
Other people’s opinions:
http://leerburg.com/dogparks.htm – “Dog Parks: Why They Are a Bad Idea” by Ed Frawley
http://www.greytdogs.org/2012/08/20/dog-parks-ffgr-inc-position/ – high prey drive dogs
http://www.cooperativedog.com/articles/dog_parks.htm – dog park behaviour requirements
http://www.petsit.com/content353424 – if your dog knocks someone over or bites someone, you’d better be heavily insured!
http://www.helium.com/items/693683-dog-park-etiquette-tips – dog park etiquette
http://leerburg.com/pitbull.htm – pit bulls require proper pack training!