Right off the bat, I must confess I have reservations about most dog parks.
Group together a bunch of under-exercised and over-stimulated dogs, with people who have overly optimistic assumptions, ("all dogs enjoy the dog park!") and events can quickly spill out of control!
So, then, what was I doing at the dog park this weekend?
The short answer; because I still believe in the concept of dog parks.
Far too few modern dogs have the opportunity to roam off leash and explore. I really believe that dogs benefit from this sort of activity, but only if done in the right environment. I know that somewhere, there are good dog parks.
Which brings us to: What makes a good dog park?
In my opinion, these three things must be present:
1. The people using the park appreciate that dogs have varying levels of tolerance and respect that fact. The trend in dog parks is moving towards paid membership, with pre-screened participants. I have not been to this type of park, but it certainly sounds promising.
If your dog has never been to the dog park, and you are unsure if he is ready, check out these tips, first.
2. The people present are continually alert for signs that their dog is becoming overly aroused or anxious.
Those of us who love dogs and who live with dogs were never taught to "speak" dog. Even those we turn to for help more often than not are usually are using their own interpretation of what their dog's body language means, or they are relying upon handed-down anecdotal interpretations.
Why is this?
The answer given most often is that dogs are all around us-we take their presence for granted so no one has really taken the time to study them! Fortunately, this is beginning to change and the discoveries being made about our canine friend is nothing short of fascinating.
This video illustrates what we know so far, of the language of dogs. I have included some great examples of canine play language here
3. The main reason the people are present at the dog park is their dog, rather than for socializing. Socializing is great-it just should not be the main motivation for being at the dog park-it is called the Dog Park, after all!
If those three things are in place, the dog park should easily function as it was intended- a place for dogs to be...dogs!
"Visiting the Dog Park" by Cheryl S. Smith
''The Other End of The Leash" by Patricia McConnell
"On Talking Terms With Dogs" by Turid Rugaas