Dog parks seem like the perfect tool for socialization, right?  

While this can be true (if utilized properly), there are also some unknowns that come with taking your pup to the local dog park.  

As always, consult with a professional (your veterinarian and a trainer) to decide what is right for your dog, but in the meantime, here are some pros and cons for you to consider and ask questions about.  

Pros:

  1. Socialization! As mentioned, most dog owners view dog parks as the perfect place to offer their pets some socialization time! They are not wrong. Under the right circumstances, the dog park can be a solid place for both dog/dog and dog/people socializing. Your pet can play with other dogs, but also get used to people they don’t know being around them, which is just as useful when desensitizing our dogs to the world around them. The mental and physical stimulation is a major plus!  
  1. Meeting other dog owners. If you end up at the dog park, you must really love your dog a lot! You are sure to meet other like-minded dog owners with whom you can share experiences. If your dogs really hit it off and play nicely together, you can even set up additional dog play dates!  
  1. Learn more about our dogs and their interactions. The best way to understand our dogs is to observe their behavior. At the dog park, we can see how they interact with other dogs, learn more about their play style and boundaries, and witness how they interact with strangers (other dog owners). This might be valuable information to then take back to your professional trainer, but be sure to get their clearance before doing this.  

Cons:  

  1. Potential of clashing personalities. Just like kids on a playground, dogs might not get along with every dog they meet. This presents potential dangers of dogs fighting, even if it’s not your dog’s doing. Be sure to educate yourself on what warning signs to look for, how to break up a potential fight without getting hurt, and when to remove yourself and your dog from a situation before it escalates.  
  1. Potential of parasites. Most dogs parks (not all) are public and do not always require a clean fecal sample or up-to-date vaccinations to attend. Therefore, if a dog enters the park with a parasite of some kind, there is a risk of spreading. Dogs can pick these things up easily via water bowls, or stepping in fecal matter, and then licking their paws. If you do attend dog parks, make sure your own dog is vaccinated, and get fecal samples done frequently to treat parasites right away should they occur.  
  1. Other owners not having control of their dogs. You can do all the right things with your own pet, but if other owners are not being responsible, things can still sometimes go awry. Remember, if you are uncomfortable and fear your pet’s safety, and the other owner is not intervening, remove yourself and your pet and stay safe! 
     

If the dog park is not the best decision for you, there are other ways to reap the same benefits. Look for others in your community looking to have play dates with their dogs. If your pet and their pet are compatible, try meeting up and letting them play privately in your yard!  

The dog park has its pros and cons, but be sure to make an educated choice for your pet with the professionals in your life!