I am a dog mom who likes to travel with her dog. I am not alone: Many of us take our dog with us when traveling, and part of our travels used to include dog parks.
My cross country travels have taken us from sea to shining sea, where many towns have rolled out the grassy welcome mat with dog parks. My dog, Dexter, has been socialized, is in possession of his Canine Good Citizen title, and yet on more than one occasion dog parks have completely left us both in knots. Here are six reasons why and the reasons I stopped frequenting dog parks:
What I Want: A place to let my dog play, off leash, with other well-behaved dogs about his size.
What I Tend To Find: Pet parents who bring unruly and/or ill-mannered/less than properly socialized dogs to the dog park. I often wonder why an “enter at your own risk” sign is not clearly posted at the entrance to many dog parks. Some of the pet parents I’ve encountered at dog parks are clueless when it comes to dog park etiquette, behavior, and keeping their dog from inuring another.
“Oh look, they’re just playing,” may not be the case, especially at the dog park. Dog parks often have areas separate for larger dogs to play together, with small dogs having their own domain. Proceed with caution when larger dogs may hone in on a smaller dog as its prey. As a lover of all sizes and pedigrees of dogs, smaller dogs can bite just as much as larger ones. Know your dog’s body language and what is and is not “play.”
What I Want: A clean park
What I Tend To Find: Despite proper Bordatella (kennel cough) vaccination, my dog acquired kennel cough at the dog park. Upon further investigation and using a little common sense, it occurred to me that dog parks are pretty much open urinals. The earth is one big pee-mail for dogs (after all, where else can they go)? I just no longer want my dog exposed to disease and bacteria that lurks beneath.
What I Want: A gated environment
What I Tend to Find: How hard is it to close at least one of the two dog gates secure entry to many dog parks across the country? Apparently, this is a difficult task for some. Most dog parks I’ve visited are equipped with a double gate. If Fido roams into one area, he can’t get very far. However, people who leave the gates open can be a dog’s biggest danger. I kid you not: The last time I frequented a dog park, at least three times in one hour did someone have to remind a dog parent to close the gate behind them. I no longer am willing to take the bolting risk.
What I Want: A kid-free zone
What I Tend to Find: Not always, but there have been many instances where small children came to the dog park with their parents. Why oh why would someone bring an infant to the dog park? I know that busy moms have their hands full and that giving Fluffy play time at the dog park is a noble gesture. Bringing a crying baby to a dog park is not in the best interest of anyone.
There are ways to acclimate dogs to babies, but in their space, at their domain and in an environment designed for frolic, freedom , and letting the dogs out, a baby does not belong.
What I Want: My dog to live
What I Fear: Note that I have not encountered this situation when at the dog park, but it has happened enough to run chills up my spine. Several years ago when a dog park opened in my area, imagine my glee: I felt like a dog mom in doggie Disneyland—the whole “finally, at last” feeling immersed me. That feeling is gone.
While playing at the dog park last year, a year-old Chihuahua was fatally attached by three mixed-breed huskies (whom I encountered repeatedly by said owner who called them “part wolf”). The three dogs invaded the small dog area of the park when left unattended by their owner. Though his mom tried to free him, she too, was bitten almost two dozen times in trying to stop the attack. This is a risk of going to a dog park and I one in which I will not partake.
This is not an isolated or exclusive tragedy: Google dog park mauling or dog park fight; astounding.
Want I Want: To play ball with my dog off leash without fear of issues.
What I Tend To Find: Bringing a toy of any sort to a dog park is a big no no. He who has the toy tends to be the one most dogs want to get to know—and from which they swipe the toy. My dog will give a ball away; many dogs will not. Bringing toys or treats to the dog park can cause problems.
As a compromise, my dog plays off leash in back yards I trust, are fenced in, and at get togethers and meet ups with other dogs we know. While the socialization at a dog park is wonderful and a fun, integral part of a dog’s life and well being, for me it just is not worth the risk. So we walk the path less traveled, meet up with dogs in other pre-arranged ways, and I can breathe a lot easier for it.
I am not anti dog park and if your experiences have been good ones, I applaud you. It tends to be a people problem and not a dog problem in the first place. What I really want are rules followed, a fun environment, and fellow pet parents who feel the same way. I know I am not alone.
Are you a fan of dog parks? Ever have a problem at a dog park? Bark at us below in the comments.