Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy dogs need the freedom to be themselves...

Dog parks have always made me nervous.  There are too many irresponsible dog owners, who do not consider the ramifications of bringing a dog-aggressive dog to the park.  The potential risk to my own dogs' health and well-being just wasn't worth the benefits that a dog park can provide.  I refused to consider bringing any of my dogs to one of these parks.  That's how I felt, until I discovered a little park near my home...

This park is small for a dog park.  It has about an acre of fenced area for the dogs to run around and play.  The ground of the park is covered in mulch, not grass, and some areas are a little bit muddy after it rains.  But this park appeals to me because every time we have visited, we have either had the park to ourselves, or there have only been 1 or 2 other dogs present.  So I am able to see what type of dogs are present, before we enter the park with my collies.  And when I say type, I am referring to the dogs' temperaments, not their breeds.

Ryder and his new dog park buddy. (up to plenty of mischief!)

One day we ended up leaving the park early, because someone did bring a dog, which was a wolf mix, that was acting aggressive.  So we left before anything could happen, because it was only a matter of time before someone ended up injured.  But for the most part, we have found this park to be a fun place to visit with our dogs.  Kori tends to prefer the company of smaller dogs, she tends to avoid dogs that are her size or larger.  Ryder on the other hand loves to run and romp with the big dogs.  Abby and Holly only want to play with their own family members, or with people, so we don't bring them as often as the young collies.  Scarlett is too little, so I haven't let her visit the park yet.  She is still a puppy, and we want all her interactions with other dogs to be positive, and with the somewhat chaotic atmosphere of a dog park there is no way to ensure that all the dogs are behaving.

Still, I have found that dog parks, when they have the right mix of dogs present, can be beneficial.  Socializing with other friendly dogs, in a large area is fun for dogs.  They get a chance to meet other dogs, and play and run in a safely, enclosed area.  They can really stretch their legs, and burn off a lot of energy.  They get to run as fast as they want, they get to wrestle without worrying about damaging your furniture.  They get to explore, free from leashes and free from their humans directing where they get to go.  In short, they get to just be dogs.

Too often we read about how dogs are being placed in the role of family members, which has many benefits but also some drawbacks.  They are expected to behave 100% of the time, which often means suppressing their normal canine urges.  Dog parks, if all the dogs are friendly, can be so much fun for your dogs.  But if you are hesitant about visiting one, like I was, try to find an area where you can safely let your dog off leash to run and explore.  This can be a baseball field, once the baseball season has ended.  Or if your dog has a perfect recall, this can be during a hike in the woods.  But dogs need time to "just be dogs," which is something we humans sometimes forget.  The next time you take your dog for a walk, try letting your four-legged friend choose the direction you walk.  When your dog wants to stop and smell some interesting scent along the way, let her.  Don't hurry her along, dragging her away before she is ready.  A walk to your dog isn't about the exercise, it's about exploring the world around her.  While I personally consider all my dogs to be family members, and while I do have expectations of their behavior inside the house, I have come to realize that they need time where they are allowed to be's the only way to be sure that your dog is living a truly happy, well-balanced life.


  1. I get a little nervous at the dog park too, but I know Finn loves it. When there are too many dogs, we leave too. Glad you found a good one!

  2. We don't do the dog park, personally I find more problems with the humans than with the canines. :-)

    We do have a nice park near the top of our street and we do go there as frequently as possible. Most people use it as an off-leash park. Delilah however isn't reliable on recall so she is on a long leash and only off in certain areas.

    It is a nice place to get their run and sniff ons. :-)

  3. Aw, I'm so glad that you found a dog park near you that you really enjoying taking the Collies to! :-D As I'm sure you know, I love the dog park...but even I have to admit that there are certain pups and certain pet parents that need to stay away. But when you find the right place, it can be the bestest place for the pups! (Your new boxer friend looks like an awesome playmate!)

  4. Glad that you found a small park that you like. I took Blueberry to a small dog park a few times - but the bad owners won out and we haven't been back since.

    Hope it remains a nice place for you to bring your C's! :)

  5. Great advice! I keep meaning to take my babies to the dog park near us, but mostly they just ride in the car everywhere I go, windows down, heads out. That's about as doggie as they get away from home. In the back yard, though, they wrestle, eat chicken poo, chase rabbits, bark at neighbor dogs through the fence. It's all good.

  6. I wish we had a nice dog part here where I live!

    It looks like everybody had fun.

    Nubbin wiggles,

  7. Wonderful post! Glad you had such a positive experience with the dog park. Sounds like the dogs loved it!

  8. It sounds like your dogs really enjoyed the park. I still have never taken my dogs to a dog park. I have just always been a little leery of them, I don't know why.

    Thanks for your kind comments and suggestions for Freddie. We are looking into all possibilities. :)

  9. We love the dog park, but have had a few problems. Brett is pretty tough and Woodson is learning to stand up for himself, so we usually have a great time. I, too, get really annoyed at what some people allow their dogs to do and usually leave when they come in. One woman came in with seven dogs! She fosters most of them and does not have control. As she was passing me the last time we were there she says: We bring the party! Yeah, time to go.

  10. We know what you mean. Fortunately we have Angel Paws. It is on the military post, and we definitely meet a better breed of dog owner. The temperment of the dog is the most important thing. We agree there are some folks out there that lack common sense with their aggressive dogs.