What do you think about dog parks?

Happy 2013 everyone!! I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Year and got to spend lots of time with your pooches!

Now that I have my own dog, I am no longer 100% sure how I feel about dog parks anymore. I am not going to sit here today and tell you that they are dangerous and you should not take your dogs to them. Rather, I thought I should tell you guys a bit about our experiences of taking Cooper to dog parks and then try to get a response from you guys to see you what you think about them.



Before Cooper came along, my family had a Spoodle, called Ruffi. I loved him to death. Ruffi was not the most social dog so I never got to take him to dog parks. As an absolute dog lover, I always got quite upset about this as I always loved the idea of so many dogs and dog lovers getting together in the one place having so much fun. When I was at university, I had my own little dog walking business. For me this was a great opportunity to start seeing the behaviours of many different breeds of dogs – plus it meant I could start going to dog parks – which I loved!! As they were not my dogs, I was always extra careful and more often then not, kept the dogs on lead during our walks.


When we first took Cooper to the vet – Jase and I had heaps of puppy questions for him. Our vet also has a Golden Retriever so we bonded very quickly. We started chatting about dog parks with the vet. He told us that he never ever takes his dog to dog parks because as a vet, he sees way too many of the negative outcomes. He told us that most of the injured dogs that come in to see him have been injured from a dog fight in a dog park.


Since that conversation, I have been way more cautious and less as excited about dog parks. I love the idea of a dog park for the socialisation and also I think it’s a great way to let your dogs release a lot of their energy. However, not all dogs are as well behaved, trained or friendly as yours. And not all owners care like you do. We learnt this the hard way…


Cooper is only 5 months old now and he has been attacked in a dog park three times (twice by the same dog)!!

When Cooper got attacked the first time, he was very submissive. He didn’t deserve it – he didn’t charge at this dog or get over excited like he sometimes does. He actually lay down straight away for the dog to sniff him.  The dogs body got stiff and he very quickly started to maul my puppy!!  The community of people in the park yelled and we got the dog off Cooper before he could get hurt. I took Cooper away from the pack of dogs to get some water and for some time out. I put him on the lead and started to walk out of the park. As I was walking – this dog approached us again and went straight for Cooper. The owner of this dog was deep in conversation with another gentlemen at the other end of the park, not even watching his dog. Why didn’t the owner of this dog put him straight back on the lead after the first attack!? I found out later on that this dog is known in our park as a bit of a bully and has actually done this in the past to other puppies. The thing that angered me the most was that the owner didn’t give a shit. How on earth can you allow a dog off lead in a park if it has attacked a dog in the past?? That is called irresponsible dog ownership if you ask me!! And it ruins the fun for everyone else.

The second dog that attacked Cooper was friendly at first – Coop was actually on the lead with this one too and he went to sniff the dogs bottom and the dog bit him! This time Cooper was actually bleeding. The owners apologised and told us that their dog does not like getting it’s bottom sniffed. It is a dog!!! How can you let a dog off lead that doesn’t like getting it’s back side sniffed?? That’s what dogs do to each other!!


I am now very cautious with Cooper. We go to dog parks far less often than I originally would have liked too. And we never let him off the lead right away. I like to sus out the environment and the dogs and people around. I also have started using the extendable lead in the park as this gives Cooper space to run but still gives us the control over him.


In our few months of owning Cooper, we have come across many passionate and responsible dog owners, however, it is those few irresponsible dog owners that spoil it for the rest of us. I am so passionate about this… All dog owners who let their dogs off lead in dog parks should take responsibility of their dogs so that all of us can actually feel safe taking our dogs off lead.



Do you take your dogs to dog parks? And how do you feel about them?




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  1. Anne Gagliardi
    Anne Gagliardi says:

    I have only taken my dog to a dog park one time. It was for a one year reunion with the breeder. He had the puppies from his dogs 2 litters. All aggressive dogs had to be on a lead. There was no fighting amongst the dogs. They all played well together fetching etc. But these dogs were all from the same parents. Other then my dogs family reunion I have no interest in dog parks. I am also too leery of what illness etc my dog may possibly catch. I would be livid if my dog was bit by another dog.

  2. Jacquie
    Jacquie says:

    I agree… there are definitely some very irresponsible dog owners who don't pay attention to their dogs (a bit like playgrounds when parents don't watch their kids and the kids bully each other) unfortunately there is no perfect world for any of us really! I have also had to take JJ away from those "bully" dogs and now I just pick my time to go to the dog parks – after 5pm is the worst as you can imagine all these dogs have been cooped up all day and have extreme amounts of energy to expel so I wouldn't recommend going then, just go for a walk instead. Best time is at around 11am as it's all the lovely little old ladies taking their little white fluffy dogs for a walk or Mums who have dropped their kids off at school – hard time when you work though! Don't give up on the dog parks just pick your times!

  3. Mel Thurin
    Mel Thurin says:

    Anne it really is such a shame that it's the only time you have been as they really can be so much fun!! But only if you get there at a time when there are really nice dogs and owners. It really is unfair that there has to be those few out there that spoil it for the rest of us. In saying that though it is definitely better to be safe than sorry – so if you don't want to go, then you shouldn't!

  4. Mel Thurin
    Mel Thurin says:

    It's so true! It really is all about picking the right time to go. I have had those few times – where Cooper and i have had an absolute ball at the dog park – because the dogs and owners are all really nice and especially when there have been young dogs with the same energy as Cooper – he just loves it. But i still don't think it's worth the risk – that's why we sus out the surroundings before letting Coop off lead. Thanks for your response Jacquie.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Had the same experience with my 2 yr old Golden. HUGE sign about not brining vicious dogs into the park. My girl was walking across the part and a rottie ran across the part and attacked her. She was lucky to not have any injuries..owner of the rott said "that's what her dog does sometimes" NOT going back..

  6. Mel Thurin
    Mel Thurin says:

    I don't blame you – that is scary! Why on earth would that person have their dog off the lead if they know it has done it in the past. It really is selfish and i wish there was something we could do about it!

  7. Linda
    Linda says:

    Unfortunately the common theme here is that dog parks are not exactly the fun place that we would like them to be for dogs because of irresponsible owners. But also it is a bit like the school playground and maybe just life in general. We don't get along with everyone and maybe dogs are a bit the same way. So maybe the concept of the dog park is a bit problematic. There are also dog trainers who argue that no dog should be off their lead unless the owner has 100% proof recall in all situations. I agree. And to get this recall it is necessary to have your dog on a long lead for a long time to make sure they never learn that 'come' only means to come sometimes. So good job Mel on the long lead, Cooper will reap the benefits and in the meantime will be kept safe and sound from any more nasty encounters.

  8. Kristine
    Kristine says:

    I am not a big fan of dog parks myself. Personally, I believe that they are more for the owners than the dogs. Of course, there are those few social dogs who LOVE playing nicely with other dogs. However, I feel like this is more the exception then the rule. We personify dogs and treat them like children who would love to go play with other children. Dogs aren't like this. I am so sorry that your puppy was attacked. Make sure to keep socializing him so he doesn't have those bad memories imprinted forever!

  9. Stacie Anekstein
    Stacie Anekstein says:

    I have to disagree with keeping your dog on a long leash at the dog park. A dog park is an environment designed for dogs to be off-leash, which is why it is fully fenced in. If other dogs are off-leash and yours is on-leash it makes him vulnerable. It doesn't protect him from harm; it puts him in harm's way. If an unfriendly dog approaches, he can't escape… Plus he can start to learn to be fearful and defensive because he is restrained and the other dogs are not.

    Getting picked on and "bullied" is a part of puppyhood, and it's scary for us as devoted pet parents but it's a part of your puppy's development. I'm not saying it's normal for your puppy to get bitten and injured… that's a different case entirely… but being dominated and even snapped at is normal.

    I agree with the playground analogy. Some pet parents are simply irresponsible and negligent. But does that mean your puppy should miss out on a vital part of socialization? Ideally, you should be able to socialize him in an environment with balanced dogs so that he learns how to be balanced himself… But even balanced dogs can have unbalanced moments. No pack is "safe." So what's a loving pet parent to do?

  10. Stacie Anekstein
    Stacie Anekstein says:

    Well, I can't speak for all of us, but I can share with you what I've done with my Border Collie, Brodie. I've been taking him to dog parks since he was fully vaccinated. When he was a puppy, he was quite hyper (as you can probably imagine of a Border Collie) and he would often annoy the older dogs. More times than not, they would simply put him in his place but every once in a while he would fall. The thing is a dog park should be place where you bring your dog and keep an eye on him while engaging in conversations – it should be a relaxing environment where the dogs are trusted to work things out in a healthy and safe way. But the problem is, it's not always like that. Sometimes you get a bully… And to keep yourself from being an overprotective parent, your puppy has to learn how to spot the bullies and stay away from them. And he will!

    So here is what I suggest: For now, because Cooper is still young, keep a very close eye on him and follow him around the park off-leash. Don't be right on top of him, but remain close enough that if something goes wrong you can be there. I would do this with Brodie and watch the dogs that approached him like a hawk. Very, very rarely will a dog attack without warning, unless that dog has some kind of chemical imbalance. Being that you know dog behavior so well, you can spot the warning signs. If you see a dog staring down Cooper or showing overly dominant body language, break it up before it starts… call Cooper to you or physically get in between the dogs. With Brodie, when I saw a dog exhibiting these behaviors I would do just that and it always did the trick. This especially works when the other dog's owner is oblivious to the encounter. Getting in between them, facing the offending dog is the same idea as "claiming" your dog and the other will eventually back off. As Coop gets older, he'll learn to read other dogs' behavior and he'll avoid them all on his own. That's exactly what Brodie does now. He gets a quick read and if that dog is giving off a negative vibe, he turns and checks out someone else or will even come and check in with me.

    Eventually you'll be able to give Cooper more and more distance at the dog park because you'll be able to trust him to look out for bullies and stay away from them. It is rare that a bully will chase him down… but if that happens, intervene and the dog should back off. If there is a bully that just keeps coming after him, maybe it's time to leave the park for the day and try again another day. Another day will bring another group of dogs… Remember that… And don't deprive your puppy of this vital part of his development because of a few bad experiences. Would you pull your kid out of school for being picked on? It's good to be concerned, but find the line between concerned and overprotective, and you and your dog will be much happier 🙂