My dream dog park

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Some dog trainers don’t like dog parks like I do. They can be a great place for dogs to socialize and get some exercise. Of course, they aren’t right for every dog - owners of dogs who are aggressive toward other dogs, afraid, or just bored at dog parks should find other activities. 

 But let’s assume for a minute that your dog is a good candidate for a good dog park. So what makes a “good” dog park?

Here’s my idea of a dream park: 

Facilities 

Honestly, I’m less worried about the park itself than I am other things (see below). But since I’m on the subject, I’d love to see: 

  • Space - the more, the better. Allowing dogs space to get away from the crowd is important.

  • Separated small and large dog sides - I hope to never witness another large dog attack a small dog again (the small dog lived for a week after emergency surgery, but ultimately succumbed to the injuries).

  • Fresh water. It’s really a requirement in my opinion.

  • Poop bags - we could bring our own of course, but it’s nice to have them there already.

  • Benches in the shade - generally speaking, I don’t use them. I’m usually on my feet watching my dogs closely. But there are days we could all use a break and people who have trouble standing should have a comfortable and safe place to use while watching their dog.

People

But what I really want in a dog park is good people. For this purpose I’ll define “good people” this way...

  • Attentive. Not just chatting with one another or looking at their phones. They are watching to make sure their dog is having fun and not harassing other dogs. And of course, they usually notice and clean up after their dog.

  • Friendly and relaxed. We are all there for the same thing - to give our dog a chance to play.

  • Educated about dogs. I know, everyone thinks they are a dog expert. But there’s a lot of inaccurate information out there that I hear (or see) far too often. Like...

    • “Humping is dominance.” Nope, humping is normal play. I only intervene when the owner of the other dog is bothered OR if I see my dog ignoring the other dog’s clear signals to knock it off. Otherwise, I let him hump and be humped as long as they’d like.

    • “Dogs shouldn’t argue” People argue sometimes. Dogs do too. Sometimes arguments between dogs are noisy with flashes of teeth and it sets people off. But if they aren’t landing blows, I let them work it out. Most “fights” are non-injurious spats that resolve quickly on their own.

    • “Dogs who (insert any behavior) are trying to dominate you.” Dogs aren’t trying to dominate you. Ever. It’s just not how they work. Dogs think “this works, that doesn’t” and “this is safe, that isn’t.” But they are never thinking, “I’m going to take over as the leader in our house.”

    • ”You have to be the leader.” Dogs don’t need you to “lead” them. No, we need to train them and make sure they feel safe. We do not need to “alpha roll” or otherwise restrain scared dogs (heartbreaking and likely to increase fear-related behavior problems). The number of times I see people yelling at their dogs, or grabbing their muzzles to hold their mouths closed, or pushing them down to “submit” for doing something very normal is stunning. I’m always surprised they don’t get bitten (and honestly, I wouldn’t blame their dogs if they did bite).

    • Finally, no one would use prong, shock, or choke collars. These are tied to increased aggressive behaviors and are 100% unnecessary if you have the right trainer. At the VERY least, these should be removed before coming into the park. Prong collars are dangerous to the dog wearing it and to dogs playing with them (who can get get their mouth or leg caught in the collar with disastrous results). Many dog parks around the country prohibit them and I wish ours did.

 Fortunately, I have two different dog parks near me filled with good people. Still, I see the things above sometimes.

The answer is ongoing education. 

What did I miss? What would you like to see in a dog park?