A simple search on the internet will bring up a variety of opinions on dog parks. Some claim they are dangerous and unnatural for dogs. While I agree that there are inherent risks involved these can be minimized with education and awareness. As for the argument that they are unnatural, I would argue that most of what we ask of our dogs is unnatural. It is unnatural for them to walk on a leash, to be left alone for hours, to eat out of a bowl, to only go to the bathroom when allowed or any of the other things we ask of our dogs in order for them to live with us. Our responsibility as dog guardians is to give them the most enriched life we can. If our dogs enjoy the company of other dogs a good dog park is a great option for play, freedom of movement and freedom to sniff around and just be a dog.
Not all dogs will enjoy the dog park and it is up to us as their guardians to discern whether the dog park is a good environment for our dog or not and this may change for our dogs while they age. For example, puppies no matter how friendly do not belong at the dog park. We want to ensure our puppies have positive experiences during their development. Going into a park of unknown dogs off leash leaves us very little environmental control or control over their experiences. Even a friendly dog can overwhelm and frighten our puppies. These are experiences you want to avoid when your dog is young. Our puppies are just learning what they think about everything. At the park, they have a new environment, all the dogs, people, smells, sounds and it is easy for them to become overwhelmed and flooded. Find puppy playgroups or set up play dates until your puppy is older and more confident.
If you've just rescued a dog, skip the dog park for a few weeks so you can concentrate on forming a bond with your new dog and getting to know your dog's likes and dislikes. Also it is good to know what our dog looks like when scared or stressed so we can help support them and get them through any negative experiences.
Ensuring our dog enjoys the dog park requires our attention and knowledge of how our dog experiences the world. Understanding body language is key to knowing what types of play and dogs are dog enjoys. Not sure if you know how to read your dog? All our training programs include lessons on body language and understanding how our dog experiences the world.