Welcome to another installment of “Dear Maxine”, where my canine, feline (and occasional human) friends, write in for advice on immunizations, nutrition, behaviors and anything else on their minds. (Full disclosure, my human mom helps me type this.)
Our third letter comes to us from an Introvert in Iowa who writes:
I just adopted a dog from a wonderful rescue. Henry is young and playful, but at this time is an only dog. He seems shy around other dogs and will often hide. I really want to socialize him. I was thinking about taking him to a dog park, but I am not sure. Dog parks: yes or no?
Introvert in Iowa
What a fabulous question! There are various schools of thoughts on this subject, so here are the pros and cons of taking your new best friend to a dog park.
Pros: dog parks provide a safe area that is fenced for your dog to play, exercise and socialize. They can facilitate socialization with a variety of dogs. It can also provide a social setting for humans to gather and talk.
Cons: owners often do not understand boundaries in regards to the needs of their dog and other dogs. This can cause injuries to both humans and dogs. Dogs can learn undesirable behaviors, such as rough play, biting, barking and fighting.
So how do you know if a dog park is a place you want to venture? Here are a few tips.
Know your dog’s personality: is he an introvert or a social butterfly? If he appears to love other dogs, and is excited when meeting dogs on the streets, then a dog park may be a good place for him; if he prefers humans to dogs, then it’s perhaps better to avoid them.
Learn your pup’s play style: Does your dog like to play rough and tumble with other rough and tumble dogs? Then know the time of day these dogs visit. Does he prefer to run and smell things or play fetch for hours? Then bring him to the park at a less crowded time.
Make sure your dog is trained: If your pooch can obey simple commands even in new high stimulus situations, he will be more likely to stay safe.
Know how your local dog parks are constructed and maintained. Is there plenty of space for dogs to run, plenty of water, varied terrain and even equipment? Small parks that have little to engage your pet creates an atmosphere where fighting is more likely to occur. Make sure fences and grounds are maintained to keep your friend safe.
Learn the culture of various dog parks. Are owners watching their dogs, or is it a free for all? Are owners following rules and correcting their dog’s bad behaviors? Are small dogs separated from large dogs? Unsupervised dogs can be problematic and can pose safety concerns.
We’ve all heard horror stories about some horrible event that has happened at dog parks. Trainers and vets often speak negatively about them in general. But there can be benefits to dog parks as well if you do your research and find the right place. As you can see above there is a lot to consider when deciding on whether to take your friend to such a place.
If you decide that a dog park is not the best place for introverted Henry, there are other options that you have that can help with socialization.
Consider taking Henry to a doggie daycare for playtime once or twice a week. Doggie daycares are generally smaller in population and are staffed by humans that know behaviors that are safe from those that need to be corrected. They have rules and unwanted behaviors such as mounting, bullying and aggression are stopped immediately and corrected. You can also take Henry for long walks in areas where he can see and smell other dogs while on the leash and at a safer distance until he becomes more relaxed. After he becomes more comfortable with canine peers, you can invite friends or family over with well- behaved dogs and start introducing them to Henry. Last but certainly not least, consider adopting another wonderful rescue that is compatible with Henry. You will be saving another life and two is always better than one, right?
We know dogs are social creatures, but just like people, we don’t like every dog we meet and some of us prefer our human companions, and that is okay. Please do your research when investigating local dog parks, doggie play groups and doggie daycares to make sure your dog has a safe and positive experience.
Good Luck Introverted in Iowa and thank you for rescuing Henry!
Maxine (& Brenda) Storms
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