What You Need To Know About Dog Parks

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

dog park aggressionThere are a lot of Dog Parks in Los Angeles and on the Westside. With strict leash laws there are few places besides your back yard where dogs have the opportunity to get off leash and have free play outside.  People are surprised to hear that I don’t frequent these parks that often even though I work with dogs every day. I’m not opposed to giving a dog the opportunity to socialize off leash with other dogs, but if you are planning a dog park visit, be sure to learn about the potential hazards before you go.



Dog Parks Expose Your Pet to Health Risks

Dog parks are a breeding ground for diseases, kennel cough, or worms.  If your dog has a weakened immune system or has not yet been vaccinated, skip the dog park for this reason alone.  There is no way of knowing how healthy other dogs are that are coming to the park or if they are vaccinated.   If you do bring your dog, be prepared for possible vet bills.



Agressive Dogs and Dog Fights

When a big group of dogs are thrown together and don’t know each other there can be problems. Some dogs may be attempting to dominate others and all the dogs are left to figure out where they fit in the group hierarchy.  That can lead to aggressive behavior and dog fights.  In nature dogs live in families and it is not natural for large groups of unfamiliar dogs to socialize together. There are different theories on this but many studies show this to be the case. When you do have the unnatural situation of large hoards of dogs being put together, there needs to be some strong leadership which is usually lacking at a dog park.



Inattentive dog owners cause problems in the park.

Being your dogs leaderWhen you come to a dog park you often see owners sitting around chatting, or on their cell phones completely ignoring their dogs.  They think the dog park is a place they can bring their pets to get activity and burn off excess energy with little effort on their part.  Their dogs may be acting aggressively or running from aggressors and the owners are totally unaware.  Unengaged, inattentive owners cause serious problems in the park. Pay attention to what your dog is doing and how they are coping with other dogs.



Dealing With Aggression

It is your job as an owner to take the role of leader with your dog and to protect your dog.  If you haven’t established this protector/parent/leadership role, it’s not too late to start but may require some changes in the way you interact with your dog.  If you need some help, find a good trainer who can observe you and advise you on how to change old habits. Be aware of dogs whose owners are not in control of their overly dominant or aggressive dogs.  Dogs being chased will go to their owner for protection.  The owner either expects their dog to stand up for himself or just thinks the dogs are playing.  This can be very stressful for your dog and lead to behavior problems and dog intolerance issues. I’ve met many people who tell me their dogs were friendly and loved meeting other dogs until a bad experience in a dog park so be aware and protect your pet.



Characteristics of an Aggressive Dog

dogAggressive (1)

Characteristics of an aggressive dog are important to know. He will take a stiff body stance.  His body will be rigid or stiff and he will show steady, direct eye contact.  His tail will be straight up in the air, or straight out, not down or between his legs which is a sign of submission.  He may or may not snarl or show his teeth.  A dog displaying dominance at a park will try to consistently put his muzzle over the shoulders of another dog.  He will also constantly be coming at the dog he is trying to dominate.  This is a display of dominance and not play.

If you see this is happening step in.  Find the owner of the dog and say “Look, you need to get control of your dog.  He is being aggressive and trying to dominate the other dogs.”  If that doesn’t work, leave the park.  Irresponsible dog owners are not about to change just because you call them on it.  Your first responsibility is the safety of your dog.


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