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I could watch my dogs run and play and have fun for hours. There is this pure freedom and childlike quality that just puts a smile on anybody’s face watching them. That being said, I strongly dislike dog parks and advise our clients against going to them.

Yes, you heard me correctly…

Dog parks are definitely a well-intended idea…but that doesn’t make it a GOOD idea. Living in San Francisco, not many people have large enough backyards (or backyards at all), so many people use them as a place to exercise dogs. The other reason…socialization with other dogs.

Socialization is hammered into a dog owner’s brain from the time they get the dog. You MUST socialize your dog with other dogs. Well then, isn’t a dog park a perfect place to do just that?

In my other post about Socialization, we discussed PROPER socialization and establishing solid leadership with your dog. The unfortunate truth and fact of the matter is that the majority of dog owners at the dog park don’t understand the concept of pack structure, nor have they taken the time to establish it within their own home. Resulting in a park full of dogs that are, quite frankly, out of control.

As humans we love to watch dogs play and have fun. But the fact of the matter is that it’s not about us…it’s about your dog. You are responsible for them and their safety and well being. If your dog displays signs of fear or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, dominance, then it is up to you to protect them or correct them.

Here’s the gig, I understand that we are all busy people and, sometimes, the dog park is necessary. One of the things I DO like about places like Fort Funston or Ocean Beach is that they are large enough that you can keep moving or, even better, find an isolated area to play with your dog one-on-one. As a matter of fact, I take our dogs to Ocean Beach often. We go during off hours and when we are there, it’s play time for us as a pack.

If you must go to the dog park, here are some rules to live by:

  1. Be aware, alert and responsible. You are there for your dog, not to drink coffee, talk on the phone and catch up on the latest episode of whatever show you were watching last night.
  2. If at all possible, go when the parks are lightly traveled.
  3. Go to the park and play with your dog. Make them realize that you are more fun than all those other dogs around. It’s GOOD for your dog to only want to play with you vs. other dogs.
  4. Unless you plan on playing one-on-one with your dog, DO NOT bring a toy. Allowing your dog to have a toy and not all the other dogs is a good way to start a fight.

The bottom line is that you have to be honest and ask yourself:

  • Do you have control of your dog in the home or on your regular walk?
  • Is your dog’s recall 100%?
  • Do you know how to read a dog’s body language and look for signs of aggression or fear?
  • Do you know how to break up a dog fight properly?
  • If the answer is no to any of those…if you can’t control your dog in those basic environments, or read what your dog or other dogs are “saying,” then how can you expect to control them or keep them safe in a dog park with a lot of other dogs?

For more questions or if you need help training your dog, please contact us.