Dog Parks – Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?

1A new dog park just opened in our town!  After watching it being built for months (it was built inside our local park - where we already spend a lot of time), of course we had to check it out once it was finished.  I think both Kitsune and I are still on the fence (ha) about what we think of dog parks.  I know they can be great places for dogs to play and socialize - especially for city dogs, like Kitsune, who might not have yards of their own to run around in.  However, I've heard plenty of dog park horror stories and can understand why some owners would want to stay away from them.  What do you think?  Do you (and your dog) love dog parks, hate them, or do your opinions fall somewhere in between?

Kitsune used to love all other dogs, but due to a few unfortunate events he's now very weary around big dogs.  Long story short, he was attacked by large dogs on three separate occasions and while, thankfully, he was never seriously injured, the encounters left him understandably nervous around dogs who are larger than he is.  I know some dog parks have different sections for large and small dogs, but the new dog park near us doesn't.  On the days we decide to forgo the dog park, it's usually to avoid crowds of large dogs.

There are other reasons why responsible dog owners may choose to forgo allowing their furry friends to play in dog parks.  Here are some of them...

Dog Park Cons:

  • Potential for injury: Accidents happen - even to the most well intentioned dog owners.   Especially when you have large groups of dogs, there is always the possibility that someone (dog or human) could get hurt.
  • Spread of disease: Unfortunately not all dog owners are as responsible as most Paw Print readers are.  When you have large groups of dogs all together in one place, you increase the chance that one (or more) of them may be sick, have parasites, etc.  It would be a shame for an afternoon of playing to result in your dog getting sick, or infested with parasites.
  •  Uneducated owners: Not everyone is an expert on dog behavior.  Some owners may not know what type of play is appropriate for a dog park, and what is not.  Some owners may not be able to read their dogs well, to know if they are getting anxious or if their dog is upsetting others.
  • Stress: While dog parks are meant to be fun, they can sometimes cause undo stress to dogs who may not be 100% comfortable around groups of other dogs.  It's important to watch out for signs that your dog may be stressed.

SundogBut of course, there are also some awesome reasons why some dog owners love frequenting dog parks.  Here are some of them...

Dog Park Pros:

  • Exercise: No matter how energetic you might be, I think all dog owners experience days when they just can't seem to keep up with their pup.  Bringing your dog to a dog park can be a great way to allow your dog to burn off some energy without having to necessarily work up a sweat yourself.
  • Mental stimulation: Being able to explore a new area and interact with other dogs can be a great way to stimulate your dog's mind.  Don't forget, keeping your dog mentally engaged is just as important as making sure he/she gets enough physical exercise!
  • Socialization:  Dogs are pack animals, and thrive on socializing with not only other dogs, but with people as well.  Dogs who are well socialized are less likely to act aggressively when they encounter other dogs in their everyday lives.  Dog parks can be great places for people to socialize as well!
  • Fun: For dogs and their owners, as long as owners are responsible and dogs well behaved, dog parks can be a lot of fun!   It can be a great place to unwind after a long day, spend time outdoors, and bond with not only your own pet but with other like minded people and their pets as well.

If you decide to frequent dog parks with your dog, always make sure to supervise them closely.  Let them enjoy interacting with other dogs, but be prepared to leave early if the situation warrants it.

What do you think?  Do you (and your dog/s) enjoy the dog park, or do you generally avoid them?  Did I miss any important pros or cons?  Comment below!