Are Dog Parks Necessary?

Back in June, Eric Goebelbecker posted a very controversial post at Dogstar Daily in which he argued that dogs don’t need to play with other dogs to be happy. And, since dog parks can be volatile situations, you might be better off finding other ways for your dog to play with others if you do think it’s necessary.

I’ve met too many dogs injured at dog parks to think of them as innocuous locations. And two of my previous dogs were reactive and would never have wanted to go to a dog park.

But Honey is much more social. She really likes to play with another dog or two so I decided to try the local dog park–with a few precautions.

  • We went early. 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning has a handful of dogs, not the pack of 40 you might find on a sunny, weekend afternoon.
  • I checked out the activity in the park before deciding to go in with Honey.
  • I exercised Honey first so she wasn’t all wound up and hyper when we got there.
Golden Retriever in a car.

Yep, I'm tired. I bet I'll sleep for 15 minutes when I get home!

We’ve had mixed results.

One time she got to play with a very sweet 4 month old Golden Retriever puppy with a very attentive dog mom. Once she saw her boy was getting tired, she took him home for a rest (yay dog mom!)

I also encountered a man who hoped Honey would teach his dog to be less of a resource guarder. I’m sorry but I think that’s something the dog should know before coming to a dog park and I’m not willing to have Honey serve as a practice puppy.

Over all, I think our experiences with one-on-one play with dogs we know has been much more successful. It’s much easier to supervise two dogs and to break in if you think they’re getting too aroused. And you know how the people are going to react since they aren’t strangers to you.

I’m not going to give up entirely on the dog park. But I think I’ll make more efforts to plan playtimes with friends and neighbors in the future.

Golden Retriever adult and puppy.

I don't think I've ever seen such a gorgeous dog! (Except when I look in the mirror.)

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  1. I read that article in June and we go back and forth on this issue. San Antonio recently opened a brand new dog park, but so many of the dogs are aggressive. Gus never seems to enjoy himself…so we stopped taking him as often. We want to like the dog park, but aren’t fans yet.

    I agree with friends/neighbors dogger playtime…much more controlled environment!

    • It really is all about the dog. If Gus wasn’t having fun, what’s the point?

      Gus is lucking to have such a responsible dog mom. It’s amazing how many people don’t hear the basic things their dogs are telling them.

  2. Yea, I only take Bella to dog parks I know aren’t overloaded with dogs. I find irresponsible owners to be the ones causing problems. I once had to pull a wolf hybrid off of Bella, while the owner stood there and did nothing. That incident (Bella was thankfully not hurt or phased) soured me on dog parks. I take her to doggie daycare where play is monitored. She absolutely loves it and so do I.

    Oh my – Shadow and Blu do look like cousins — LOVE it!

    Wags and woofs,

    • I’ve heard some good things from friends who have tried doggie daycare so maybe I’ll look into it more.

      Glad to hear Bella wasn’t hurt in the dog park. It’s so scary when you see something like that happen.

  3. We’ve had pretty good luck with dog parks but there always seems to be that one person who doesn’t clean up after their dog or reign them in if they’re getting a bit aggressive. Puppy play dates do seem to be the best option, just not always the most convenient to arrange.

    • One thing I have to say for our dog park–it’s quite clean (although not perfect). The coordinators have arranged for composting the dog waste. There are stations with biodegradable bags all over the park and a convenient collection spot near the exit.

      Of course some people still clean up and leave those (filled) biodegradable bags sitting on a picnic table for someone else to clean up. Yuck!