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No More Dog Parks_ Here is Why (1)

Dogs are social creatures, and taking them to a dog park is a great way to provide them with social interactions, right? Not so fast. Technically, this is the reason dog parks were created, but in practice, they are problematic. Maybe your dog has had lovely days at the dog park, expending excess energy and coming home happy and ready for bed. This is not a guarantee, though, and dog parks are full of hazards for dogs and dog parents. If you want to provide your dog with a rich social life, there are better options than dog parks.

Consider this: There is no way to know what kind of experience your dog will have at a dog park. Because of this, there is no way to ensure that the social interactions will be positive. Dog parks are extremely unpredictable, and traumatic experiences at the dog park can cause your dog to lose confidence, which is the opposite of what you want from social interaction. What’s more, because you don’t know what the other dogs at the park have experienced, you have no way of knowing how they will react to your dog. If one of the dogs is afraid of your dog, for example, the entire of group of dogs can go from playing to becoming stressed out and dangerous within just a few minutes. Often, dog parents don’t know how to recognize signs of stress, so situations go too far before they step in to redirect.

Even if all the dogs at the dog park are friendly and do well playing in groups, there are many different styles of play, arousal levels, likes and dislikes among dogs. Some dogs are herders, while some dogs hate being herded. It’s not necessarily a matter of playstyles being inappropriate, but some styles of play are not compatible with others. It’s important for dogs to have positive experiences with each other, which makes the unpredictability of a dog park less than ideal. Working dogs, in particular, need to have only positive experiences, because if they lose confidence, they may not be able to do their jobs happily. Service dogs are generally not allowed in dog parks, because a single traumatic confrontation with another dog could alter a dog’s life. People with service dogs know better than to take that risk.

It is also important to think about your dog’s personality. Extroverted dogs may love playing with new dogs, but some dogs find it difficult and stressful to assess the playstyle of each new dog. In fact, most dogs, like humans, prefer to make specific friends and primarily play with those dogs.

Even without all the behavioral challenges a dog park presents, there are many health risks to consider. Dog feces can be full of pathogens and parasites, and not everyone is good about cleaning up after their dogs. You have no way of knowing whether other dogs in the park are up to date on their vaccinations, and even if they are vaccinated, they could be carrying diseases. It’s one thing to interact with a regular play group, but when you open your dog’s social circle to strange dogs, you increase the likelihood of exposure to a sick dog.

So, does this mean your dog can’t play with other dogs? Not at all! There are plenty of other great options for allowing your dog to socialize. You could form a playgroup with some of your friends’ and neighbors’ dogs, making sure you know enough about the dog breeds, playstyles, and health histories to ensure they’re good candidates for playmates. When you introduce your dog to a potential new friend, do it slowly, without forcing it. If the dogs enjoy playing together, great! If not, move on to another candidate and don’t try to coerce a friendship. Once you’ve formed a core group, look for a place for the dogs to play, either a large, fenced yard or the dog park when it’s empty.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of arranging a doggy play group, consider putting your dog into doggy daycare. Carefully assess your daycare options, looking for one that has playgroups made of mostly the same dogs every time, requires vaccines, uses a lot of toys, and has a knowledgeable human overseeing play and redirecting any tense situations. If your dog is not actually very social and you’ve just been using the dog park for exercise, look for a way to exercise your dog that doesn’t involve other dogs. Jog or run with your dog, play frisbee, or just take your dog and some toys to the dog park when no other dogs are there.

Wherever you decide to take your dog to play, inspect the environment beforehand. Look for safety hazards like obstructions, feces, toxic plants, anthills, and so on. Look for a park equipped for positive experiences, with shady spots, a sturdy fence, plenty of space, access to fresh water, poop bags, and small pools.

If you decide daycare is the best option for your dog, you owe it to yourself to check out Dr. Dave’s Doggy Daycare, Boarding, and Grooming! Our staff full of pet lovers has extensive experience in the pet care industry, and we understand that your pets deserve the best of everything. If you don’t want your dog to be lonely while you’re away from home, our daycare services will provide socialization with other dogs and a staff that will pay special attention to your pet’s needs. If you need to go out of town, we will keep your dog safe and happy, and we have a certified veterinarian available 24/7 in case of health care issues. Does your dog need grooming? We’ll provide your pet with a spa day worthy of royalty. For more information about all the services we offer to dog lovers and their dogs, call 408-647-2774 in Saratoga or 408-520-4902 in Campbell.