Some dogs are better suited than others for dog park play
Special to the Sun
If you are a dog owner and have been following the local news, you’ve likely heard about the Army Corp of Engineers proposal to make the Martis Valley on-leash only.
As part of this plan, they are proposing the creation of a dog park on the dam side of the valley. The vast majority of people who own dogs live in places with dog parks; however we’ve never had a dog park in Truckee, and most of our dogs haven’t experienced them.
Well-organized dog parks with adequate open space can be a great place for dogs to safely run, socialize and play. A well-run park will also have space for small dogs to play separately, because larger dogs can easily hurt them.
Dog parks tend to be a place where people socialize. Problems arise when people pay more attention to each other than to their dogs.
Not recognizing when a dog is either bullying or being bullied is a significant problem at many parks.
A dog that is bullied may learn to fear other dogs, and the bully just learns he can overpower others.
Lack of owner control also teaches the dog that it can get away with just about anything because its human can’t or doesn’t stop it from acting inappropriately.
When I’m at a dog park, I move around so my dog has to keep an eye on me. When it comes over to check in, I reward her to encourage the behavior.
Another problem in any setting where there are lots of dogs is differing play styles.
Some dogs tend to be very physical and need to play with similar dogs. These dogs easily overwhelm more timid dogs.
It’s also important to watch for dogs that become overly aroused when there are so many dogs around.
These dogs can display behaviors they might not under normal circumstances. Owners need to pay close attention to their dog’s play style and interrupt the play with a time out if necessary.
Owners who take timid dogs to dog parks are usually trying to “socialize” them so they will like other dogs. These dogs tend to be very attached to their owners and will stay close to them.
If dogs run up to them, they may show teeth or growl in an attempt to tell the dog to go away. Many well-intentioned owners interpret this behavior as “guarding them,” and many reprimand or punish the dog.
Punishing a fearful dog is ineffective and usually makes the dog more fearful. Dogs get better at behaviors they practice, and a timid dog repeatedly put in this situation will get more aggressive toward other dogs.
Some dogs are better suited than others for dog park play. If a dog park is built, Truckee dog owners will have to decide whether it’s a good place for their dog.
If your dog does seem to enjoy a day at the park, be a responsible owner and monitor its behavior.
Give time outs when needed and leave if you feel uncomfortable with any of the interactions.
Carla Brown, CPDT, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of The Savvy Dog in Truckee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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