Dog parks: six mistakes to avoid

Dog parks are not for all dogs, but their owners cannot be distracted either and they must always pick up their droppings

More and more cities and neighborhoods have dog parks, areas designed for the use and enjoyment of these animals. But dog parks, are they for all dogs? These are six common mistakes that their owners make in dog parks: letting go of the animal as soon as they enter the door, going with a dog in heat, bringing toys or food to the park, not picking up excrement, going with fearful dogs or with aggressive behaviours and ignoring him while interacting with other people.

1. Release the dog as soon as you enter the door

The dog can get excited several meters before reaching the park. This causes you to be upset, pull on the leash … and your human is angry and tense, which can be stressful for the animal. An overly excited dog will enter the park nervous, and some of those already there might not take that well. The scene can even end in a fight.

What should be done? Try to vary the paths to the dog park and not make the visit to the park a daily routine. Once near the park, wait for the dog to relax before entering. To do this, you can take some trinkets or balls of their feed and throw them on the ground or garden so that they can look for them with their nose (but first you have to make sure that there are no other dogs around to avoid the opposite effect). This will relax the dog and make it easier to enter the park. Once there, ask him to sit or lie down for a few seconds before removing the strap.

2. Go to the park with the bitch in heat

The heat of bitches is made up of three phases. One of them is proestrus, which lasts between six and fifteen days and is when vulvar bleeding occurs. In this phase, the female does not accept copulation and can be aggressive towards dogs that try to mount her or sniff her. If the dog is taken to the park at this time, the fight is assured and it could even develop a fear of dogs.

In the next phase, called estrus , the bitch may no longer bleed, but this is the most dangerous stage, as she will be sexually receptive and will allow herself to be ridden. Entering with the bitch in a dog park during this period of heat is irresponsible, since it could cause fights between the uncastrated males that are there.

The last phase of heat is the so  called right-handed, where the males will no longer be interested in the bitch, which means that they can start going to the parks, always increasing vigilance just in case.

3. Bring toys or food to the park

It is quite common to see an owner reach into his pocket and take out a tennis ball to throw at its dog. It is rare that the rest of the dogs stay still without running after the ball. So, if you decide to take a ball to the park, you have to anticipate that almost all the animals present will run after it. But not only that. We must also remember that there are many dogs that protect their toys a lot and could fight with the rest for that ball.

The same goes for food. There are people who come to these parks with trinkets not only for their own dog but to distribute to the rest. But you have to be careful. If you want to give the dog treats in a park, you have to do it whenever you are away from the rest to avoid conflicts, and never feed someone other than your own, much less without asking first.

4. Don’t pick up excrement

The fact that there are dog parks that do not have litter bins on their premises is no excuse for not picking up dog droppings. You should always go with hygienic bags and not take your eyes off the dog. It is the way to avoid sanctions.

5. Go to the park with fearful dogs or with aggressive behaviors

Some people believe that their dog’s fear of other dogs will disappear by going to a park with many dogs and forcing them to socialize. This is a very common mistake. Doing so only exacerbates the problem. The same happens with dogs with aggressive behaviours towards others.

In these cases, it is always best to consult a canine behavior therapist to indicate how to deal with this fear or aggressiveness. Experts recommend not going to a dog park, at least for the first few weeks of treatment.

6. Ignoring the dog while its owner interacts with other people

This is the most common mistake in dog parks: dozens of people interacting with each other, or glued to the mobile phone, and not knowing what their dogs are doing.

These parks should be used for the use and enjoyment of the dogs. If a dog does not enjoy the experience, it is best to leave the park and take a long walk with him and play in a quieter area.

Dog parks, what would the ideal park look like?

They should have enough space, as most are designed for just six or seven dogs. And it is that in each park more than 20 animals can get together at rush hour. All parks should have tall, closed bins to prevent dogs from urging them. Ideally, dog parks have a special fountain for dogs or, at least, containers that can be filled at some strategic points. A good dog park should have trees that provide shade for dogs and owners. The fences must be high and, if they are made of metal or wooden bars, these must have little separation from each other to prevent the dog from escaping. The entrance to the park must have a double door. In this way, the chances of dogs escaping when entering or leaving a dog and owner are reduced.

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