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A Common Sense Approach to Dog Parks
What do Dog Parks Teach Our Dogs?
One of the most common places where dogs find conflict with other dogs is at the dog park, where adrenalin runs high and excitement is the name of the game. The concentrated chaos of an ever changing pack can tempt even the most passive dogs past their limits. Scuffles and fights happen with ALL types of dogs at parks, and if one occurs, your maturing pit bull might just find himself smak dab in the middle of it. However it goes, you can bet that you and your dog will be labeled the bad guy. Protecting our dogs involves avoiding situations - like dog parks - where dogs are so often set up to fail.
These two play buddies are actually having a great time together. The young male on the right is submitting nicely to the pushy play style of the female on the left, but as he continues to mature, this kind of challenge and excitement could be enough to trigger an argument. This is especially true if it comes from a dog he doesn't know well. Remember, our dogs are essentially large terriers and terriers as a group are known for not backing down from a challenge.
But LOTS of people bring pit bulls to dog parks with no problems whatsoever. What's up with that?
Easy answer: Dogs that do well in rowdy play sessions with larger groups of unknown dogs are typically youngsters. Parks can be great places for them to blow off steam and socialize, but as dogs begin to feel their adult bravado, it's normal for them to lose patience with other dogs' rude behavior.
No matter how much good socializing and training you've done, your dog's tolerance can still disappear if he's triggered into conflict by another dog's challenge, a tussle over a toy, a tug-o-war game or even a friendly wrestling match that gets a little "too exciting."
Because we dog people love to be optimists, many of us let ourselves get lulled into a false sense of confidence after months or even years of success in the parks. Common misperceptions: "Dog parks are the best place for socializing" or "I can call him out of trouble if it shows up - He listens to me."
Here's why you REALLY don't want your dog to fight at the Dog Park:
Because dogs of all sizes visit dog parks, larger dogs have the potential to hurt smaller dogs, bringing large vet bills, problems with your local animal control, liability concerns, and, in the some instances, you could lose your dog for good. In addition, setting your dog up to fail can negatively affect his future interactions with other dogs. Want to increase his odds of staying dog tolerant? Never let him get into his first fight. For real. Whether or not your dog starts it, many a dog is forever changed by his first fight and may never be the same around other dogs again. And finally, during this time of breed prejudice, even the smallest display of bravado involving pit bull type dogs will set off alarm bells in onlookers and ding the reputation of the breed yet again. It's not fair, but it's the reality we're facing right now.
How do I keep my dog socialized?
Creating fun socializing opportunities for your dog starts with finding other conscientious dog owners. Find them by signing up for obedience classes, meetup groups or dog sports like Rally or dock diving to meet potential play partners for your pet. Another way to socialize your dog is to sign up as a foster home for a local rescue group.
Some maintain small play groups for their neighborhoods dogs in backyards, fenced in ball fields and small, low traffic parks. If yours does not, see if you can't find one or two dog owners in your area who might be willing to start a small social group.
Honestly? Some of most well socialized dogs in BADRAP are able to stay that way simply because we've chosen to avoid setting them up to fail in situations like dog parks. Our dogs benefit from building up a large list of 'dog friendships,' much in the same way parents seek out good playmates for their small children.
If your dog just isn't fond of other dogs - No sweat. He gets the fun of enjoying play time with you all to himself. Dogs don't have to have other dog friends in order to be happy.
- Understanding Dog-Tolerance Levels: Dog/Dog
- Living well with: Multi Dogs
- Socializing your pit bull: Socializing
- Your role: Keeping the Peace
If you see people in the dog park who seem especially novice and/or overwhelmed by their dog's play style, please kindly point them towards breed education resources so they can make safe, wise decisions for their dog.