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A beautiful spring day, a doggie with lots of energy after being cooped up from all the rain, and a romp at the local dog park may seem like just the ticket to get those legs going and tongues hanging out.
A lot of times, an hour or so at a dog park is a safe and fun activity (and saves you from schlepping around the block) but then there are times when it’s not safe or fun. These are the reasons why, despite the convenience and potential exercise benefit, I don’t use dog parks for my own dogs or my client’s dogs.
Yes, I understand I may be taking a hit in the pocketbook by not offering dog park excursions but ultimately, no amount of money could replace the pain and heartache that will come from a pet who doesn’t come back from the dog park in the same shape he arrived.
And now, the TOP 5 Dangers at the Dog Park:
#5. Parasites. Is there any way to know for certain if all the dogs in your local dog park are on flea prevention, free from hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworm? Hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms contaminate soil through feces, and tapeworm are spread by infected fleas. Giardia is another nasty parasite that contaminates infected soil or water (it’s transmitted through feces as well).
#4. Lawsuits. In most regions, pets are legally considered property. This means that any damage your pet does is your responsibility. This means any claims of damage by your pet could land you in court. Picture your happy-go-lucky pup bounding through the dog park with a ball in her mouth. She’s not paying attention to where she’s headed and BAM! she knocks over a dog park patron. The person claims an injury arising from being knocked over by your dog and now she’s looking to sue for her medical bills and pain and suffering.
#3. Dog fights. Never trust that a dog won’t fight, plain and simple. Although we love our dogs like human family members, we have to respect them for being dogs. Dogs do not reason like we do, and they do not communicate like we do. Studies point to a dog’s intelligence being comparable to that of a human toddler. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t leave 20 toddlers in a park with a box of blocks and not expect that someone is going to get a shiny new black eye. It happens. Sometimes fights are very minor, maybe just a growl or a snap with no actual contact. And sometimes, dog fights are deadly.
#4. Predatory drift. This goes along with dog fights but is significant enough and specific enough to merit it’s own mention. Predatory drift occurs when a larger dog views a smaller dog as prey, and the results are often tragic. Some dog parks have designated areas for small and large dogs but if you are a regular dog park-user, I’m sure you’ve noticed that folks don’t always follow the rules. Maybe you own a small dog and you always use the small dog section of your local dog park, which is great, but can you prevent owners of bigger dogs from coming on your side?
#3. Psychological trauma. Another consideration: dogs that were previously social and happy with every dog they meet, can become reactive to other dogs after a bad incident. Think of it like when someone is mugged by a person wearing a baseball cap and the victim is now traumatized and scared of everyone wearing a baseball cap. Chako Pit Bull Rescue holds Dog Reactivity classes in Sacramento a few times a year. These classes are wildly popular, yes, even with non-Pit Bulls. Many folks that attend the class have told stories of their dog being great with other dogs – until he/she was attacked by another dog. Now the owners have to spend time and money to resolve the issue and their dog may never be the same again.
#2. Lack of Enriching Activity. Time and time again, I see folks at dog parks essentially ignoring their dogs and socializing with the humans there, or obsessing over the infamous smartphone. For some dogs, the dog park is the main place they get to interact with the world outside of home. Dogs need exercise not only for their bodies, but also their minds. They need to explore the world, learn new scents besides other dogs, gaze at the scenery, and feel different things on the pads of their feet. Sure the dog park gives you lots of exposure to other dogs and people, but what about wooden bridges, a variety of flowers in bloom, cobblestone walkways, and jack rabbits hopping through a field? If you are paying someone to watch your dog, are they really paying close attention to your dog at the dog park? Leash walking is a chance to bond with your dog one-on-one. So put that leash on and trek through the American River Parkway, splash around in the river, stroll through Old Sacramento – there are so many things for your dog to see and do around town and you (and doggie) are missing out if the vast majority of your trips outside the backyard are to the dog park down the street.
#1. Humans. Human Beings are the single most deadly threat your pet faces on a daily basis. Whether it’s an honest mistake by an owner who opened the door before putting on the leash or a heinous abuser who is out to intentionally hurt our four legged friends, humans are the worst of the worst when it comes to keeping your dog safe. At the dog park, they might be chatting on the phone and not paying attention as their aggressive dog attacks your dog. After an attack, they may simply leave and you’ll be left to pay for the vet bills all on your own. They might be in complete denial about their dog and when their dog attacks your dog and your dog finally defends herself, it’s suddenly all your dog’s fault. They may bring their children to the dog park and complain and call the cops when your dog knocks them over and then sue you. You may find yourself separating a dog fight and get severely injured in the process. They may even poison your dog. Humans can be scary, and a dog park is ripe for exploiting the dark side of human nature.
Need more convincing?
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