Dogs are very receptive creatures. Dopamine excretes within their brain when they see their owner, the same as when two people who are in love see each other. They become excited at the sound of the car door opening because that means “park time!” However, there is a negative side to this as well. Some may cower in fear at things that have hurt them in the past, or even become aggressive when that fear strikes. We have to be extremely careful of the situations that we place our dogs in, especially when they are out of our control. It only takes one millisecond for a dog to make a negative connection that can cause years of physical, mental or emotional damage.
The dog park can be a blessing and a curse. It is a wonderful place for dogs to play and engage, but also a place where terrible socialization skills could be formed. A dog park is similar to a nightlife club. Nothing that happens is within your control and it’s usually not good. A young woman ay have to fend off aggressive attention from an intoxicated man, or a fist fight could break out — there are multiple possibilities, and each one of them could taint your night, or completely ruin it. The puppy playground is the same way. Your dogs could have a blast, or they could have a terrible experience.
Some dogs are wonderful in exciting and stimulating situations, whereas others are very sensitive. Let’s say for a moment that you take your 75 pound doberman to a dog park, and she is terrified of anything and everything. Now picture this: 3 other dogs run up to your own and she cannot get away. What is she going to do? There are two options. She will either work through the stress and wind up having a wonderful time, or she will lash out and maybe even attempt to bite one of the other pups. If she chooses the second option, nothing good will come of it. We must pay careful attention to our dog’s temperament before bringing them into this kind of situation.
There are many signs that should be paid careful attention to before giving the “OK” for a dog park play day. If your dog exhibits these, have a professional give specific advice or training before going into an uncontrolled place such as the park.
- Fear of other dogs: tail tucked, ears back, body lowered slightly to the ground, fur standing up on hind quarters and neck, teeth baring, and an intense stare
- Aggression towards other dogs: Biting, barking, lunging, baring/clacking of teeth, and obvious intent to attack
- Uncertainty of new things: Dog sticks tightly to you, tail down, and ears back
- Dominant behavior: Knocks other dogs down, humping, climbing on other dogs
There are also many signs that your dog could be ready for a fantastic play day at the park, but always make sure that your dog has been previously socialized before heading over!
- Insensitive to others touch: Does not mind yanking/pulling of tail or rough play
- Not fearful of new places: Explores with passion and vigor
- Does not exhibit bad behaviors: No biting (unless deemed playful), no humping, not knocking others over
- Listens to owners commands: Comes when called
However, keep in mind that troubles may still arise with other peoples’ pets. You never know what will happen until it’s too late. It only takes one dog to attack your own.
There is also the valid concern of irresponsible dog owners. You never know what dogs have had their vaccinations, what their temperament could be, how they respond to new situations, and if they are aggressive or not. Just because your dog is ready, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is. It is highly recommended to only ever let your pet play with dogs that you know in a controlled environment. Friends are a great source of a super-fantastical fun play day, and it tends to create routine. There is much reward in that for you and your pup!