The Dog Park: Pros and Cons

dogParkWhat pet parent doesn’t spend their entire day at the office looking forward to those forty-five minutes of serenity at the local dog park. It’s a place to socialize with other dog owners while watching your dog run around and play getting some well deserved exercise.

But it is also chock full of disasters waiting to happen. Namely: dog fights.

The Setting

If everyone brought their dog to the dog park at the same time, chances of dog fights would likely be reduced dramatically. But unfortunately, that almost never happens. We all have different daily schedules and thus arrive at the dog park at different times.

Why is that a problem? Imagine ten dog owners and their ten dogs have been at the dog park for twenty minutes. At this point, they have formed a sort of pack for the past twenty minutes where the dog with the stronger physical presence and stronger personality take the role of the pack leader.

Along comes little old you and your dog. Your dog is the new kid in the pack and is therefore subject to Homeland security like inspection. This often means the standard butt sniffing but it could easily turn into a physical challenge.

More technically, all it takes is one dog to become annoyed by your dog’s energy and be ‘put in his place’. This often takes the form of pouncing, growling and pinning (not necessarily in that particular order).

If your dog is pinned in front of the pack, it can be easily misinterpreted by other dogs surrounding pack members as a  threat to the pack that is being subdued. This will often prompt other to join the dominant party in subduing your dog. This could be in the form of barking at the ‘victim’ and could mean getting bitten by some of other over eager dogs in the pack.

The Result

Once your dog is bullied by another dog (or dogs), the lasting results can involve a dog who becomes overly suspicious of other dogs. That’s because when a kid gets bullied, he realizes it’s not life or death. That’s not necessarily the case with dogs.

When a dog gets bullied, he literally fears for his life. that’s why so many dog conflicts turn into deathly high pitched growling and barking even though there is often no damage done.

The lasting result is often a dog who who will never give other dogs the benefit of the doubt and will become overly defensive when encountering other dogs. This can mean growling, barking or even outright attacking any dog in its path it interprets as a threat.

Although many dogs are born dog aggressive (especially breeds like pit-bull terriers), I’ve seen my fair share of dogs who can attribute their dog aggression to the dog park. This is especially the case with young dogs and puppies.


I for one, do not believe that dog parks are the enemy. They can be a great vice for you to get his energy out with exercise.

One possible solution is to go to the dog park when it is less crowded like early in the morning, late at night or in the middle of the day (if possible). That way when there’s less dogs, it’ll be easier to reads their behavior. And you can control the situation much better. That way, you can get the best of both worlds-exercise with fellow dogs minus the fights…hopefully.


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David Sidman is a certified professional K-9 trainer with a specialization in training military and Police working dogs. Sidman qualified as an I.D.F explosive detection dog handler and was certified in Police K-9 Training by the Eastern States Working dog Association (ESWDA)

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