Disneyland or Disaster?

Dog parks–are they a Disneyland or a disaster waiting to happen? People tend to have strong feelings on this topic. Personally I’ve only taken Sam to our neighborhood dog park once and he stayed right next to me the entire time. Ok, truth be told there were those few minutes he went sniffing around and found someone who he must have thought was me and began to lean against them, but other than that, he really didn’t seem interested in everyone running hither and yon chasing after balls, Frisbees and other dogs racing by. Sam’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, he doesn’t do ball chasing and doesn’t seem to get it at all. His reaction suggests he doesn’t understand why you threw that thing in the first place and maybe wonders if you threw it, maybe YOU should go get it, not him.

Not sure if it’s the dog park’s frenetic energy or if it’s more like that 2009 movie He’s just Not Into You, because he’s just not into dog parks. Don’t get me wrong, Sam loves dogs, but he loves people so much more and he’d just rather lean stand next to someone who was willing to pet him. I recall a rally near the house a couple of years ago and we were getting ready to cross the street along with 50 or so other people and he leaned against the guy standing next to me while we were waiting to cross. The guy looked down at Sam, smiled, then said “Guess he kind of likes me.” Eek, talk about embarrassing!  This guy was a complete stranger; we had never seen him before that day and my dog was leaning like he had a major crush on him. I mean, what the hey dog…?!

The dog park in my neighborhood is your classic urban dog park-large enough for dogs to run themselves silly around on a few acres and just uncomfortable enough for the humans standing on the periphery near the gate chatting up neighbors waiting for the dog to “be finished.” It’s mostly flat at the far edge of a decent public park and bordered by a busy major street (read noisy). There’s no grass, only pea gravel and dirt, a couple of benches and one small awning. There might be maybe 3 trees in the entire area but they are small ones at that providing almost no shade. There is no running water tap so you need to bring your own H2O. Lots of people arrive after work so the place gets super crowded and there are more than a few aggressive dogs that show up. Hel-lo, stupid owners…don’t bring big, bad Brutus to the dog park. Instead get your sorry tush out and walk him on a leash and don’t let him terrorize that 6 pound Yorkie that is freaking out seeing your 90 lb. fur-gorilla come racing toward it. And even if you say “he’s friendly,” that gigantic ox is scaring the be-Jesus out of little Muffy. Course a fair number of purse sized dogs are terrorizing big dogs as well. Just saying.

No matter which side of the coin you’re on, here are some issues that come to mind where dog parks are concerned.

  • People think they don’t have to pick up after their dog. Unless you mother follows you around and is willing to pick up after you, YOU NEED TO PICK UP YOUR DOG’S POOP!  It’s bad enough when dogs aren’t vaccinated and go to dog parks, but there are all kinds of diseases and parasites living in dog poop. For dogs who suffer from Coprophagia (the polite code word for stool eating), this has all kinds of implications. ‘Nuff said there.
  • Pre-exercising your dog (which seems counter-intuitive, I know) helps keep any overstimulation under control. Dog parks should be a supplement to daily activity, not the only activity.
  • Dogs with socialization issues should not come to a dog park. Dogs need to introduce themselves appropriately and politely. Just like people, not every dog appreciates being charged by a loud, boorish critter who gets up close and personal into everyone’s face.
  • Leave the gangster collar in the low-rider. Pronged/spiked collars and harnesses should not make their way inside a dog park while they are playing. Rough-housing with them on can lead to broken teeth, jaws, paws and legs.
  • Keeping your dog leashed inside the off-leash area is…well just plain dumb. It’s too easy to trip or snap a leg that gets tangles while a dog is running close to the speed of sound after a tennis ball. Retractable leashes are an even worse idea. See this if you really want to know how I feel about that topic. 🙂 There’s no need to clothesline a dog or rip your dog’s head off once they reach the end of the cord at warp speed.
  • I can’t believe I even have to mention this one. DO NOT BRING YOUR FEMALE WHO IS EITHER IN HEAT OR PREGNANT!! Why isn’t there a law against this kind of stupidity-can anyone explain that to me?
  • Puppies less than 12 weeks old or dogs with incomplete vaccinations should not go to dog parks. Unvaccinated dogs could be dangerous to young puppies who haven’t had the opportunity to build up immunity for certain conditions like mature dogs have. Nasty stuff like Giardia or worms can play major havoc on those tiny bodies. Yes, they are adorable and EVERYONE loves seeing puppies play, but the dog park is not that place.
  • You need to be careful about having small dogs and big dogs in the same area. Some large dogs view little dogs more like squirrels than small dogs. That big galut is probably not vicious, just overstimulated yet the result can be the same.
  • Don’t pick up your little dog and carry it to “safety.” Some dogs view the pickup-ee as fleeing the scene which translates into “chase!” in some dog’s brains and which can trigger a treeing instinct. Picking up a small panicked dog could get you knocked over or possibly bitten.
  • Make sure your dog has recall skills. Being able to disengage a dog from escalating bad behavior is critical for everyone’s safety.
  • Dogs should not be allowed to bully other dogs. Bouncing all over a dog is not cute, it’s obnoxious and rude. Tag and run is cute, but non-stop nipping and pouncing with already overstimulated dogs…yeah, not so much.
  • Dogs shouldn’t ‘have to work it out’ at the dog park. First time introductions in a super stimulating environment probably isn’t the time for resolving potential canine drama.
  • Dogs that cannot share toys probably shouldn’t be at a dog park. That’s an invitation bound to go badly. No one needs to see varying levels of aggressiveness accelerate because of a resource guarding dog that can’t take cues to back off.
  • While it’s always nice to run into a neighbor or make new friends, owners need to stay engaged with their dogs at dog parks, not catching or hooking up. Dog parks are for dogs, coffee shops or bars are for chit-chatting.
  • Finally, just like chatting up people at the dog park is a no-no, people need to get off their smartphones and pay attention to their’s as well as other people’s dogs. If you’re texting or tweeting, you’re not supervising your dog. I don’t know what it is about millennials but they just can’t seem to put their phones down. I know, I’m starting to sound like the crabby old geezer who shakes their fist in the air and yells, “get off my lawn!” But it makes me crazy when these social cretins nearly walk into Sam and me when we’re out walking early in the morning because they are reading or texting something on their phone and then give me the stink eye like we did something wrong (true story, but that’s for another rant, er I mean, post). Sheesh, Sam has far better social skills and he’s a millennial, too. 😉

Sure I’m passionate about this topic but hopefully haven’t come across like a jerk. I realize it’s a thin line between the two and if I have, please accept my apology. So tell me, where do you weigh in on the issue of dog parks…Disneyland or disaster?

Live, love, bark! <3

34 thoughts on “Disneyland or Disaster?

  1. We walked our Ray around the perimeter fence (on the outside!) of a dog park while we gauged his reaction to other dogs coming over to check him out (as best they could). It was also a great opportunity for us to see the dynamics of a leash free fenced area. The conclusion? I have to quote Albert Einstein “Only two things are believed to be infinite. The universe and human stupidity, although I am not too sure about the universe!” Need I say any more? Ray will never be taken to a leash free dog park.

  2. Not a huge fan. “Regulars” are of two varieties, welcome and it’s my park. Our three and a half year intact male met his first bitch in heat at a dog park. The little Yorkie was also in the “big” dog park because there were no little dogs in the little dog park. To add to the excitement, ours was not the only intact male. Ever try to rescue a tiny in heat dog from a scrum of males? “Adventure” takes on a whole new meaning.

    We live in Florida and so have a lot of visitors from up north. Last time at the park one of the snowbirds shared with me that she was so glad to be able to bring her dog to a park where most of the dogs where she took her dog are sick including hers. AAARGH!

    I will conclude this mini-rant with my favorite quote from the funnies by POGO “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

  3. Oh. My. Dog!!! I could not have said any of this any better! I hate dog parks. Not because of the dogs, but because of the humans. The dogs seem to have more common sense than their dumbass owners!! And poop? There’s probably more of it in the dog park itself than in the trash bins that are located at each end of our dog park! I absolutely refuse to bring my dogs inside the enclosure. I’ll walk them on the people/bicycle trails — and clean up after Callie when necessary (Shadow refuses to poop in public) — but forget the dog park!

  4. Disaster. Mostly due to the owners though, I find that most of them have their heads up their a$$e$. We did it one year, and I got tired of it. The park had a big dog/small dog area and yet some people would still bring their small dogs into the big dog section. It got so I was so anxious about what might take place, that we stopped going.

    Not to mention the dastardly duo. Sampson is just like Sam (I wonder if it’s the name?) He prefers to find the sucker most likely to pet him and that is where he plants himself. Delilah just runs around, does give to barks about what anyone else is doing (I think she’s looking for food) and I tend to wander along behind her making sure she doesn’t get into trouble. I’d much rather deal with the DADO’s in my wooded park.

    IF the park was HUGE, like with walking trails and ponds, etc…I might consider it.

  5. Max hates dog parks. In general, he takes a long time to get friendly with other dogs and frankly prefers to hang with the bi-peds. Eventually he will mellow but the time and effort isn’t worth it for a Fluffnugget that thinks exercise is walking all the way to his food bowl. We’ve given up. He has his small coterie of good buds who he sees on walks around the block and that seems to provide all the canine stimulation and socialization he requires.

  6. Cole absolutely hates dog parks. He likes to play with one or two dogs at a time only. He is calm and polite and doesn’t enjoy being knocked sideways by some wild dog. Kind of similar to dh and myself, who like to meet with smart funny people. Cole will chase a ball maybe three times, then the poodle in him says, look you threw it away, that’s your problem. He likes chasing games. Bet Cole and your dog would like the same games. LeeAnna

  7. We do not do dog parks at all…..my Vet is anti them and so am I……………..according to my Vet they are hotbeds of disease because many pets that frequent them are NOT vaccinated.

  8. Excellent post! My advice about dog parks is Enter At Your Own Risk. I used to love taking Klaus to the dog park but soon realized that, while he loves to socialize and clown around with all the dogs, it wasn’t very reliable exercise (like Sam, he’s not a ball chaser either). He wouldn’t always pair up for a game of chase and to my dismay he’d often try to mount other dogs. So that was embarrassing. When another dog relieved himself on me (I must have been impersonating a tree) and a week later Klaus uncharacteristically peed on some poor stranger/tree impersonator, that was it for us and dog parks! We switched to walking/running him every day, which turned out to be better for all of us. Then we adopted Lulu as playmate and there’s NO WAY we’d take her to a dog park – she’d go straight into assassination mode!

      1. Usually the park was fine because most people are conscientious about their dogs … but it’s a public space so you just never know who will show up that day. One day when we arrived a group of owners were trying to figure out who had dropped their dogs off there FOR THE DAY. I’m not even kidding, someone actually did that!

        1. No wonder the neighborhood is so whacked! LOL The dog park up in Evergreen is very nice, wish the city had something comparable (though I still think Sam would sit next to me and watch all the commotion).

  9. Have never heard of a dog park. It’s a new concept and so cool. Never realized that there could be so many dos and donts. Very well written.

    1. It’s kind of controlled chaos enclosed in a fenced area where people let their dogs run crazy. Good for those breeds that need intense exercise but the owners can sometimes be clueless about their responsibilities. 🙂

  10. Great tips! If only everyone followed them!

    Chase is not strange-dog friendly at all so he will never go to a dog park 😉 A dog park is like a nightmare for Chase!

  11. My dogs are spoiled because I live on three acres and they roam around freely, including the neighbours’ properties. I have tried the dog park a few times but they don’t seem to love it that much, probably overwhelmed by all the dogs. They run around for a bit, sniff here and there, and then come back to me with that “can we go home now?” face. Also, I find it stressful to oversee two dogs, one of whom has a strong dislike to very small dogs. I agree with you: some people just treat the park as some sort of day care, letting their dogs loose and engaging in their own (phone) business. And don’t get me started on dog poop…

  12. We are lucky to have a state university campus near our house that we take as our personal dog park after the students go home. It has an amphitheatre and a track, everything a dog could want. But we agree with what you wrote.

  13. I always love a good discussion/review of dog park etiquette. This is a great rundown of all the major issues at play. My two dogs absolutely need to run off leash, and the dog beach is the perfect place to do it. As you mention, it does come with a number of potential risks/annoyances/hazards, but I’ve found that by visiting the beach during off-peak hours it really eliminates most of them.

    1. Funny how those off peak hours do seem to have a monopoly of the smart dog owners there. Watching your pups on the dog beach is pure joy, both for them and those of us lucky to see them enjoying themselves. 🙂

  14. We love our doggie park because it’s a hilly area next to the river with trails snaking up and down and all around through prairie grasses and along the river with places for Eugene and Lily Belle to take a dip. Eugene runs at full speed from “beach to beach” to splash.

    Yes, there are the vastly misinformed who bring pups in that have not been socialized properly. We started with our dogs on leashes so that we could control them and they could play with better supervision.

    I think a park like ours is amazing because you can almost get lost in it, and it’s such great exercise for me, too. At dawn, before the heat of the day, it’s so peaceful, until the yellow lab we see every morning comes running and jumps up and greets me with muddy paws.

    Being at the doggie park requires an open mind and to be mindful. We wouldn’t trade it for the world and are missing it greatly because our area is still plagued by the canine flu. 🙁

    1. You are quite fortunate. There’s one up in the foothills outside of town similar to yours. Acres of mountain terrain, gobs of Ponderosa trees, boulders and scrub oak(with actual running water tap-what a concept) where Sam has enjoyed chasing after my daughter’s 2 Irish Wolfhounds. He still stays fairly close but sure loves running with the ‘big dogs.’ I constantly am flabbergasted that people allow their dogs to run up to people and jump up on them without any correction or whatever. Sheesh, what is wrong with people?! Paws crossed the flu epidemic is soon a distant memory. 🙂

  15. At least you have no problem to meet new people when Sam is on your side. We have no dog parks in our area… and as much as Easy likes to meet other dogs, I probably would avoid that places. There are too much “ifs” and “buts” :o) The “ignorers” who think they haven’t to pick up after their dogs are a pain in the neck… or on the shoe…. I spent 50 minutes to remove recycled food from my running shoe….it was extra-disgusting this time… I wonder why we all got a free roll of poop-bags at the show and even free gloves… I was probably the only one who really used this equipment :o(

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