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Dog Parks

“Dog Parks” 

Why They Are a Bad Idea! 

“It’s Your Job to Protect Your Dog”

By: Ed Frawley

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About once every couple of days I get an email from someone asking about problems with their dogs being attacked when they are on walks or running loose at one of the local parks that many cities setup.

People question me on how to deal with overly aggressive dogs that belong to other people and they question me about their own dogs not trying to defend themselves. Some people want to know if they should just let the dogs work out the problems themselves.

I want to go on record as saying that the concept of ”Dog Parks” was well intended but a bad idea, especially when dogs are allowed to run off-leash. I do not recommend people take their dogs to these places.

The average dog owner does not understand pack structure or how strong the pack instincts are in their pet. These drives click into high gear when a dog is taken into a park with other dogs. When new dogs come into parks look they are viewed not as visitors but as intruders into “the personal territory of the dogs who come there on a regular basis.” This leads to territorial aggression.

When there is a group of dogs that are allowed to run together, they instinctively try to establish a rank order (or pecking order). If there are several dogs that want to assume a certain rank within the pack there are going to be problems. There is always a good possibility that fights will develop to determine what order various dogs fall in. 

With inexperienced dogs, or dogs that do not have strong temperaments there will be posturing going on before a fight begins. Many times owners can verbally control their dogs and warn them to back off. But all too often dogs that have fought before will launch into a full-fledged attack. These dogs have learned that a fast attack is often the best defense. In other words, they have learned to be good fighters.

You cannot assume that every dog in the park is a well-mannered, well-trained pet. Just because you see it playing with other dogs does not mean that it will play with your dog. The issue of rank has already been settled with these other dogs and the game may be going according to their rules. Your dog will not know the rules and can easily get into trouble.

I get emails from people who are disappointed in their puppy or young dog because it shies away from other dogs and shows avoidance to other dogs they meet on walks or in parks.

Most new owners don’t understand that their dogs EXPECT THEM to be “their pack leader.” In the wild the pack leader protects its pack. Your young dog instinctively expects you to protect it. When a handler does not protect his dog the dog is in conflict and loses confidence. If threatened before it is mature, these young dogs will show avoidance to strange dogs and strange situations. I am sure that what happens is that the pup learns that its owner is not going to step in and help, so it’s on its own. This breaks down to a young dog becoming unsure in other situations. After all, if his best friend and pack leader will not protect him who will have learned that a fast attack is often the best defense. In other words, they have learned to be good fighters.

When you stop to think about it, normal people would not expect their young children to fight adults that were threatening them. So why do people expect their young dogs to show aggression to older dogs or even dogs of their own age? In most cases, the owners simply lack the understanding of pack drives and dog training.

People get caught in the trap of thinking they have a German Shepherd from working police K-9 bloodlines and by God it should be tough!! Well, it doesn’t work that way.

If new owners do everything right when their pup is young the dog can grow up to be a confident,
strong protection dog if it has the genes to allow this to happen. But in the hands of the wrong person the same dog can grow up to be a basket case. This is one of the reasons I do not guarantee temperament in the pups I sell. Too many people out there lack common sense or the experience to properly train a dog.

So when your dog is approached by a dog that looks like it may be aggressive you need to take the aggressors role. Verbally tell the dog in a deep voice to get out of there. If another dog attacks your dog you need to do what I explain in my article on Breaking Up A Dog Fight. If I were to walk a dog in the city, I would not do it without a can of pepper gas to use on any dog that even looks cross-eyed at my puppy. I would not hesitate to physically go after a dog that approaches my pup. The only ones that would be allowed to come close would be dogs I know for a fact are well- mannered, friendly soles that will be tolerant and play with my puppy.
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