We had just moved to a new city, Denver, a couple of months prior. Denver is a famously dog friendly city with plenty of green space and multiple dog parks.
The apartment we chose was only a couple of blocks from a little dog park downtown.
What could be more perfect?
I made it part of my regular routine to take our dog (also named Denver, haha) to the dog park and let him run around and socialize.
Denver loved the dog park. He loved the opportunity to stretch his legs; otherwise he was cooped up in a tiny one bedroom apartment.
This dog park was an interesting place. People of all walks of life would bring their dogs. Denver would play with dogs belonging to the wealthy residents of the downtown neighborhood as well as dogs belonging to local homeless people.
But I had to stop taking Denver to the dog park.
Follow the rules!
One day, a woman brought her intact lab to the park. I didn’t think anything of it at first. (The sign to the park says no dogs that haven’t been spayed or neutered.)
This dog tried to mount Denver.
“Typical dog park behavior,” I thought to myself. “Denver can handle himself and there will be no problems.”
Denver gave him a warning snarl and jogged away.
The lab followed him and tried to mount him again.
Denver gave him another warning snarl and jogged away again.
The lab followed him and tried to mount him, yet again.
Denver snapped at the dog (warning, no bite) and jogged away, yet again.
This time the two of them entered a crowd of dogs and I pulled Denver away so we could leave (because obviously this dog was not going to leave him alone).
With Denver on his way out of the park, the frustrated lab turned and attacked a little white dog that was standing close by.
The dogs and their owners got into a scuffle and the dogs were separated- both were fine.
However, the lady had the gall to blame Denver, pointing her finger at the two of us as if WE were the problem and Denver’s snipping caused her lab to attack the little white dog!
I was livid, but considering there was ultimately no damage I left.
Anyway, since this episode I avoid dog parks.
Many dog owners just don’t follow the rules. They don’t clean up after their dogs. They let little dogs play in the big dog play area. A dog that’s been cooped up inside all day is not a dog that can handle the excitement of playing in a dog park.
Dog Parks are dirty.
Unfortunately, the few dog owners that don’t clean up after their dogs ruin the dog parks for the rest of us. The park districts just can’t keep up, either.
Dog parks become overrun with excrement that becomes a breeding ground for various diseases- and rats!
Your pup shouldn’t be exposed to all this bacteria!
Most of these dogs at dog parks are poorly socialized.
Not all dogs.
But, enough dogs are badly behaved (whether due to lack of training, separation from their mother too early as puppies, past trauma, simple lack of stimulation during their days, or not being spayed or neutered) that it’s just not worth the risk of bringing your dog to the dog park.
(Want your dog to play with another dog? Here’s a post I wrote about how I introduce dogs.)
What should you do instead of going to dog parks?
A good ten minute training session is worth 30 minutes of boundary-free, dog park romping time. If you live close to a dog park, training your dog outside of the dog park serves as an excellent distraction to test your dog’s mastery of commands.
We have a 30 foot leash; get one of these and let your dog roam around a park. Or use the leash to train commands at a distance.
Take your dog for a run (bring water).
Anyway, that’s why I avoid dog parks.
A lot of dog owners like dog parks because their dogs are anxious and letting them run around relieves a bit of that anxiety. If your dog is anxious, I highly recommend CBD treats from fomo bones. Check them out their post here about calming an anxious dog.
So that’s why I avoid dog parks with my dogs.
That said, I would consider going to a dog park for a few reasons. Mainly, dog parks are an excellent training location with a ton of distractions. If your dog is really well trained taking them to a dog park is an ultra challenge. Practicing off-leash heel and recall in a dog park with a ton of dogs is a great way to “proof” these commands.
Let me know what you think about dog parks in the comments below!
All the best!