So yet another close friend’s dog has been attacked at a dog park. So what are the risks associated with going to a dog park?
1. Only a small percentage of dogs are well trained. When was the last time you observed someone recalling their dog when distracted at the park? Would your/their dog recall if other dogs were aroused and an incident was about to break out?
2. There are a large percentage of dogs that haven’t been well socialised as pups and as a result these dogs have social anxieties and fear based issues. How many of these dogs attend the dog park? Dog parks are not an appropriate environment to socialise a dog with anxiety or fear based issues given the uncontrollability of the other dogs in the park. To improve social based anxieties you must expose the fear gradually and reward a dog’s favourable response, which is not possible at a dog park.
3. Very few people at the dog park have the skills to recognise the behavioural precursors to aggression and know how to successfully defuse a situation. Defusing a dog with a thought versus a dog with a commitment to act is extremely different yet can only be a difference of 1-2 seconds of decision making. Can you react appropriately and in time?
4. Very few people at the park have the handling ability to safely separate dogs once an incident breaks out. At this point you may be looking at vet bills and your own medical bills.
1. There is great reward in socialising your dog. Start with play dates in your back yard. Always structure introductions with new dogs and get some background information about the dog before you let them off lead. If in doubt don’t go ahead, seek professional advice.
2. Find less popular safe areas to meet up with friends and their dogs. Start a Facebook group to coordinate catch ups and put some basic ground rules in place.
3. If dog parks are in your blood and you can’t get enough, start going in off peak periods. Always stay vigilant, be risk averse and move with your dog. Learn the body language and precursors to aggression and safely intervene early to avoid escalation. Most importantly train your dog. Responsive dogs are always safer.