A Dog’s Favorite Place: The Park (Part 1)

Parks are the most popular spots in the city for owners to take their dogs. It’s the one place where owners can let their dogs run loose and play with other dogs. Many dog owners like going to the parks because it gives them a chance to meet and chat with other dog owners. Most dog owners are amused by the fact that they remember the names of the different dogs but not the names of the owners.

Though I have no problem with dogs playing with each other in the parks, I do have a problem with owners who just congregate together and don’t play with their dogs. Dog owners often forget that they should be the main focus of their dog, not other dogs. The park is such a great environment to train a dog and owners who do no more than just stand together talking do their dogs a disservice. This also gives a dog a false sense of total freedom – your dog blocks you out while playing with other dogs.

You can alleviate this problem by occasionally whistling for your dog to come to you while standing with the other owners. When he comes to you, praise him and then let him play with the other dogs once again. By doing this, your dog learns that even though he is coming to your call, it doesn’t mean you are going to leash him and take him home. You don’t want your dog to associate coming to you with killing his good time. That is why owners have a hard time calling their dogs back to them in the park. Dogs know that the only time they are called by their owners is when it’s time to leave.

Instead of just standing there with the other owners, move quietly away from them and stand off to the side. When your dog looks for you among the group of owners, he will be alarmed that you are not there. You are preying on his sense of insecurity – he is going to panic as he looks for you. This is good – you want to be your dog’s main focus, not other dogs in the park. He will come to you full of excitement at having found you.

Another problem with groups of owners getting together in the park is that you can get some bad advice. When you get your dog, you will quickly discover how many owners act like experts about dogs, and you will get a lot of free advice. You will get all kinds of training and medical opinions – some of it good and some just a lot of old myths.

Puppy owners need to understand the pack mentality of dogs. Any group of dogs playing in a park form a pack mentality within ten minutes of being together. Now if a puppy runs into the pack, the dynamic is thrown off balance and tension can easily develop. The dogs tower over the puppy to investigate. Some dogs don’t like puppies, especially if the puppy is hyper or cocky. There’s a good chance such pups can get bit. Pups also tend to get trampled on and can physically get hurt when playing with mature dogs. That is why I don’t like owners taking their puppies to parks to play with big dogs. Puppies need to play with puppies in their own peer group. You wouldn’t let your five-year-old child play football with thirteen-year-old kids, so why have your pup play with mature dogs?