The Hidden World of the Dog Park

The Hidden World of the Dog Park
{  Miles, longing to chase dogs. But when the dogs stop, and a car zooms by, what
will be more eye-catching in the heat of the moment, to a young prey-driven dog?  }

When raising a puppy in the city, I was surprised by the level of peer pressure I faced over the issue of going, or not going, to local dog parks. During our daily walks, other dog owners would constantly give me a hard time because they never saw us at neighbourhood parks. I would explain that Miles wasn’t ready – or reliable – to go off leash. The dog meet-up places in our area are urban, near to major streets, and are not completely fenced. The neighborhood dog owners shook their heads at me, standing next to their herding dogs and retrievers. And as I’ve mentioned before, breeds with high prey drives are often misunderstood. As a wild Welsh terrier pup, Miles was no exception. Miles’ prey drive level is a 10/10, and as a young man still in doggie “grade school,” he was no where near able to focus on me rather than anything moving fast nearby. Be it a squirrel, or worse yet, a car (a “big friend”).

As for puppies and dog parks? Besides for the off-leash concerns, there are other risks to consider when going to the dog park. Suddenly being being around a big group of dogs, especially strange new dogs, can be stressful and intimidating (especially to a puppy), and there are always health risks that come with exposing your dog (again, especially your puppy) to a group of dogs.

The Hidden World of the Dog Park

This experience lead me to think about how the dog park is a personal choice. I think if your dog is ready to be off-leash, and if there is a regular group of people and dogs who know each other, the neighbourhood dog park can be very fun. Our first (and only so far) experiences at dog parks have been at ones we know, with people who know.

I don’t believe the dog park should necessarily always be a part of every dogs life. Overall, I think trusting your instincts is the most important thing. You are the one responsible for your dog’s health, well-being and safety. There are plenty of safe opportunities for a young dog to socialize other than going to a dog park. When Miles was a puppy, I did many things to socialize him and prepare him for off-leash situations. Now that he is grown up, I am very happy with the way things worked out. He is healthy, well socialized, and at this point, I have a sense for when I can (and when I shouldn’t) unhook the leash. I prefer going into situations with confidence, rather than based on pressure from others. And you should too! Never compromise if you don’t feel the time is right. Your dog depends on you to make the right call.

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