Are they a good idea?
A common sense approach to dog parks
Dog parks are simply not the best place to socialize your dog. There are plenty of dogs that aren’t pit bull type dogs that don’t belong at the dog park either. It only takes one person to bring an ill behaved dog, dominating dog and a fight to break out to cause a non-dog-aggressive dog to begin to display fear aggression around other dogs. Why are dog parks are the most common place to find aggression? Because of the adrenaline and excitement, it’s easy for that to click over into a full blown fight when things get out of hand. It can happen in the blink of an eye.
Fights and disagreements in a dog park are common and we’re not talking about pit bulls, we’re talking about ALL breeds. If your pit bull type dog is there, it will likely be blamed and you may have to suffer the consequences. Responsible pit bull type dog guardians avoid the drama and potential dangers of a chaotic crowded dog park. Dog parks facilitate too many opportunities for negative experiences.
A dog park is not the same as a well thought out social group of known dogs. Dogs that are slowly introduced to each other complement each other’s play styles and are supervised well. That is not a dog park. A dog park is an open, random grouping of dogs in a public place. There is no requirement for training, and often dogs that go to dog parks have had little to no training or social skills with other dogs. Their owner uses that as an opportunity to “exercise” their dog without putting forth any real effort. These same owners will be sipping coffee on the sidelines while their dog goes around harassing other dogs, nipping and humping and they will make no attempt to intervene.
How can we socialize around other dogs then? Socialization is a "must", but it has to be done with common sense and in a controlled environment. Perhaps a friend has a mellow dog of the opposite sex and he/she is willing to let the dogs play together. Both owners should know that there is the possibility of a scrap and will intervene immediately and with the appropriate tools/techniques. Both owners will watch their dogs closely and never leave them unsupervised.
- Obedience classes are an important option. In obedience classes, the dogs are leashed and can learn to control themselves in the presence of other dogs. It is not necessary for a pit bull type dog to be dog-friendly, but it is necessary for us to help them learn to control natural behaviors. Dogs that are exposed to this kind of environment can learn to behave with some time and work.
- The local pet supply store is another way to socialize our dogs because they are another place where dogs are leashed. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean we don’t need to pay attention to the surroundings. Respect the comfort level of your dog and move away from other dogs if necessary. Face-to-face interactions can quickly end badly, even when both dogs are leashed.