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Socializing at a Dog Park: How to Know If It’s Right For Your Dog

It is often true that a dog that has poor behavior or mannerisms is facing situations that they feel are negative, stressful or frightening in some way. Obviously, the ideal would be to protect their dog from these sorts of situations, but the reality is that it is actually impossible to control a dog’s environment at all times. It is far more helpful to both dog and owner if the dog has been exposed to all manner of situations and has learned how to calmly respond to and cope with them. This is where socializing your dog at a dog park may come in handy–but it doesn’t mean that this is appropriate for every dog.

Knowing if Dog Parks Are Right For Your Dog

Most dog owners would readily agree that seeing their dog playing happily brings them great pleasure. When you consider bringing your dog to a dog park, you may dream of them excitedly playing with other friendly dogs–getting exercise and having great fun. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out this way.

More than simply the location of the dog park and the condition of the dog park, it is important to verify who is at the park and how things seem to be going. When you arrive at a dog park you should check to see if there are too many dogs crowded together, how the dogs in the park when a new dog enters the park (do they surround him in such a way that he may feel frightened?), whether any of the dogs in the park seem to be bullying other dogs, whether the owners are keeping an eye on their dogs so they can step in where needed or if they are too busy talking with one another to see things that are happening, whether the owners are tolerant of each other’s dogs, if there is any sort of toy that could lead to aggressive conflict, if there seem to be a lot of intact males, if there is a separate area for small dogs to play together safely, and whether the park is double gated and securely fenced.

Some individuals find it difficult to tell the difference between playful behavior and aggressive behavior, but there are some specific things one can look for in all dogs included in the game. Some of these signs are play bows, barks or high-pitched growls, taking turns being on top and being on the bottom so it’s fairly even, keeping mouths open when play biting, stopping and starting the game or motion, lots of side to side movement, relaxed, loose bodies and even some growling and snapping. On the other hand, a dog whose ears are laid back against their head, who is staring at the other dog, who is maintaining a dominant posture over another dog with his head and neck over the other’s neck and shoulders, whose lips are curled up in a snarl, or whose hackles are up, is being aggressive, not playful. Whether it is your dog acting aggressively or another dog who is acting aggressively–even to a dog that is not your own–it would be wise to rapidly remove your dog from the park.

There is no arguing that dogs need lots of exercise, playtime and socialization, but there is also no arguing that these things are only effective and beneficial if they are running smoothly. It is perfectly acceptable to walk up to a dog park and decide not to enter with your dog, or even to leave shortly after entering if you determine that dogs or owners are acting inappropriately, the play is getting too rough or your dog isn’t having fun. Beyond that, it is your responsibility to ensure that the entire experience aids your dog in living a healthy, happy life.

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