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The Truth About Dog Parks:


Dog parks are a relatively new trend in the dog world, and have unfortunately been the cause of many social issues we as trainers see in our clients today.  Dog parks are first of all and most importantly, not a safe way to socialize your dog.  ­Not every dog at the dog park is friendly and plays nicely and appropriately, which often times causes everything from minor scuffles to full on fights.  If your well socialized, happy go lucky puppy or dog finds himself in the middle of a skirmish, your once confident dog loving companion may become fearful, shy, and even aggressive.  Once a dog gets into his or her first fight, they may have permanently altered social interactions.  If you really feel the urge to check out the dog park, only do so with a confident younger dog that is well mannered, and has a well trained “leave it” and “come”, that way if anything does develop, you have voice control of your dog.  Also, watch the group of dogs and owners before entering.  Be sure owners are being diligent and aware of their dogs, all the dogs are playing nicely and appropriately (no bullies, mounting, toy stealing, etc.), and always make sure your dog is exercised before going to the dog park.  This will lower your dog’s excitement level and set you up for a more successful trip to the dog park.  Also be aware that dog parks are a source of diseases such as ringworm, giardia, and other parasites, which a young dog is especially susceptible to (as are you, some of these diseases are zoonotic).


Dog Play Dates:


This is by far the best way to socialize your dog.  If you have a few friends with well behaved, healthy, vaccinated dogs, invite them over to play!  This way you can control the environment, you can control the dogs, and your dog has a group of dog friends that he knows and trusts.  Dogs are like people; they like to hang out with other dogs they know.  


Dog Training Classes:


Signing up for a training class is another great socialization method.  This is different than dog play dates in the sense that your dog will be focusing on you while around all the other dogs.  It provides some structure for your dog and helps to strengthen the bond and engagement you have with your dog. 




Walking is another amazing way to further your dog’s social skills.  Just walking on a trail and passing by other dogs works wonders to improve socialization.  It teaches your dog to be calm and obedient around other dogs, and that sometimes it’s ok to play with other dogs (such as during a play date), and sometimes it is not (on a walk).  


Meryl Cohen

B.S. Animal Science

AKC CGC Certified Evaluator, Selected Mentor Trainer for Animal Behavior College, APDT Full Member


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