Are Dog Parks Safe? The Harsh Reality Of Dog Parks

There you are, hanging out at the dog park enjoying the beautiful sky and fresh cut grass when all of the sudden you see a dog acting rather aggressive toward all the dogs at the park. You don’t think of it much because dogs rough house from time to time, but you start working your way toward your dog, just in case.

Like a movie, you see the bully lock eyes on your dog. You see him going in for the kill, so you put a step-in-it.

Just as you predicted, the aggressor starts dominating your dog. He’s not letting your dog move left or right, backward or forward. Teeth are bared. Hair is up. This dog means business.

Calling the aggressor off multiple times does nothing.

Your dog on the other hand wants nothing to do with him. Your dog would rather chase ball and meet the friendly faces at the park.

It’s been a few seconds now and you’re inches from your dog and the bully. You call your dog away. She tries, but she’s pinned to the ground against her will.

At this point two sets of teeth are going at it. It’s not a full blown fight, but it’s only a matter of time before it is and other dogs join in.

A first time dog owner in this situation could be thinking:

“Where in the world is the other dog owner?” – bad ones never react fast enough.

“People would actually bring a dog into a dog park with this behavior!?” – you better believe it!

“How do I break up a dog fight?” – thank me later.

… and once again,

“Where is that damn dog owner!?” – I feel you.

Luckily, I did what I’ve learned over the years and lassoed the aggressor with my dog’s leash. I pulled him off–at the right moment–and clipped the leash to a nearby fence. It took no more than 10 seconds. I’ve learned to assess situations like these long ago so my heart hardly races. But it was a good thing my dog wasn’t fully engaged. It’s a lot trickier when two dogs are fighting and guns are blasting. It’s important to understand the severity of a dog fight. Different energy levels will require different approaches. My concern was with the bully, only. I was lucky.

As soon as I pulled the aggressor away, my dog immediately got up and joined another dog in some frisbee action.

Everyone was helping me find the dog owner at this point.

I was irritated at the dog owner. Minutes had passed and he was no where to be found.

A short moment later, we spotted this guy with a hat over his face, headphones blasting, under a tree. “It has to be him,” I told myself.

I asked him if it was his dog. He said, “Yea, why?” Completely clueless as to what took place.

I told him what happened and all I got was a shrug. “My dog wouldn’t do that,” he said.

At that point someone yelled, “get the f*** out of here” more seemed to join in, “this isn’t the first time your dog does this.”

He caved in and eventually left. But this stranger, whom I’ve never met, ruined my day.

My mood dies easily when it comes to clueless dog owners. So much sometimes, whatever kills my vibe remains on my mind for hours, days, and weeks. Even years. These situations make for great conversation pieces with dog friends though.

I guess it’s just hard for me to accept that there are people who lack common sense. Now, I’m not saying I’m some dog-God, but lets be practical here; I don’t treat dog parks like battlefields. I use them for socialization–they’re playgrounds, and I’ve got a constant eye on my dogs. “Kids” are not suppose to beat each other up at the playground. However, squabbling is unavoidable, but the parents better get involved if they did, don’t you think? After years of owning dogs and knowing how people are, I don’t know why I still give dog parks a chance. Maybe it’s because I love dogs so much and love observing dog behavior. I don’t know.

Some dog owners even think of dog parks as the perfect place to work out a dog’s quirks. As a result, dog parks allow their dog(s) to engage with so many dogs at a given time, some folks figure it’s the perfect place to train bad dog-on-dog habits out of them.

Learn to break up a dog fight

I can’t count the times I’ve helped other dog owners separate their dog from a fight. I don’t do it because I love putting myself at risk, thing is, I’ve seen dog owners cry and scream bloody murder when their dog gets in a fight. Little do they know they’re only intensifying a fight. They’ve basically joined in on a fight the moment they start screaming at the top of their lungs.

If there is one thing that should be in a dog owners repertoire, it’s knowing how to break up a dog fight because dog fights can happen anywhere!

Even the most docile, and  most well-natured dog will get in a fight if they’re taken to that level. Dogs become overloaded with adrenaline during a fight that it changes their behavior. One can end up with an intense fight where neither dog wants to back down. These are the worst.

Learn to spot danger before it happens

Not too long ago, I witnessed two beautiful Rottweilers making their way into a dog park with their owner. These dogs were intense! I saw the dog owner slap both his dogs; demanding them to calm down–they listened, somewhat. Or at least he thought because they stopped pulling on their leashes.

I immediately got my dogs and stayed on the opposite end of the entrance. Not a second after withdrawing myself from all the coolness, I heard it.

Those bloody murder cries.

A dog was being pinned to the ground and shaken like a rag doll by the two Rottweilers.

The Rottweilers’ owner did nothing. They were too much dog for him. They were too much dog for everyone. No one knew what to do. The Rottweilers’ owner resorted to kicking and punching his dogs at full strength. Luckily he got his dogs off just in time. The Rottweilers’ owner informed everyone that his dogs had never attacked another dog; and while he could be telling the truth, it was bound to happen. He had zero control.

I never judge breeds as they enter dog parks, however, the Rottweilers’ energy level was semi-red zone. When you take into account their amazing build, it would have been mind-boggling for anyone to handle two of them in an attack.

Learn to pick your battles

Lot’s of preparation needs to be done before entering a dog park. Always observe other dogs and their human. Keep track of those coming in and those leaving. Not all dogs are pack oriented, and not all dogs know how to fight back. Some dogs are awkward. Yes, you heard that right. There are dogs that don’t know how to properly let other dogs sniff; they’ll tuck their tail and run away from dogs trying to greet them. These situations, where one dog does not allow itself to be part of the pack, can turn ugly if not monitored.

Walk out of the park if you’re having issues with a dog. As a matter of fact, never enter a dog park if you spot bullies from the outside, or dogs with energy levels you know your dog won’t connect with. You’ll end up loving dog parks more if you do.

You see…

I put a some of my experiences in short story format because it’s important for you as a dog owner to visualize a dog park firsthand. Subliminally, you can see what things I’m telling you to learn, avoid, and put into practice. These are experiences you’ll soon go through if you decide to visit an off-leash dog park–or not.

As a matter of fact, go to a dog park, without your dog(s), and see if you’re good at spotting dominant dogs and how pecking orders are established. Maybe you’ll get to witness a dog squabble. See if that doesn’t change your mind.

Just know, there are other ways for dogs to socialize with other dogs… and leashes! Off-leash dog parks can be the perfect place for your dog to meet random faces and enjoy an off-leash romp, but they can also be the perfect place to kill your day. Even your dog.

It’s all in the body language at dog parks. It’s always, mostly, bad…

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