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Hello! I have a dalmatian puppy (16 wks old) and am living in an apartment. I know that with dalmatians it is very important to socialize them early so that they do not become aggressive when they are older. With humans my puppy is great but around other dogs (even little ones) she is still very timid. There is a dog park here at my apartment complex that I think would be great for her so that she can extinguish her energy and socialize at the same time. I have however heard people say that dog parks are not safe due to bacteria from dog poop. So I am curious if anyone here has any opinions on the topic. Has your dog ever gotten sick from a dog park. I know that there are other ways to socialize such as training classes ect. and we are utilizing those options but it obviously isn't everyday and she isn't getting to run around and use up her energy when she is out for class or something. The dog park here at my complex is just so tempting because we can go everyday.
 

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I would look into 'puppy play' classes instead - they are supervised by trainers to make sure that puppies only get a positive experience. There are a lot of bully dogs at the dog park!
 

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Lots of people on this forum have opinions about dog parks so I'm sure you'll get a lot of responses.

First thing is don't take your puppy anywhere public like that until after he's had all his vaccinations.

Personally I don't go to dog parks. We had a bad experience at one once and after hearing many other people say the same thing I just decided it wasn't worth the risk. Too many irresponsible dog owners take their dogs there. Some people will actually take their problem dog to a dog park thinking it will help their dog, but they're really just risking an incident and not helping at all.

I would recommend finding a good daycare and using that for supervised puppy socialization.

Also I want to add that socialization is more than just dogs interacting. It includes meeting many different types of people (i.e. people wearing hats, people with beards, really tall people, people in uniform, etc.), taking her to many different types of places, hearing many different sounds, feeling many different textures as he walks (grass, concrete, hardwood, carpet, etc.), drinking/eating from different dishes, etc.
 

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Dog parks are not a great place for puppies because of the diseases they can get, and also because they are simply not a great place to socialize a dog, especially one that is already timid. Dogs of all different temperaments can go to that dog park, and some of those temperaments do not jive with all temperaments. Some dogs are bullies and will pick on more timid dogs, and sometimes dogs just don't see eye to eye. The possibility for your little impressionable puppy to have a really bad experience that haunts her through the rest of her life is very, very possible.

Instead, opt for puppy play classes where a professional can monitor and separate puppies into appropriate play groups and watch out for naughty behavior. You can also try setting up play dates with other people who have puppies, or perhaps a calm adult dog who likes puppies.

My opinion of dog parks in general: it depends. I think the larger ones where you can walk around and your dog gets to explore a bit would be okay for dogs who have a pretty even temperament all around and are pretty tolerant of shenanigans. I certainly wouldn't take a timid dog or a dog who is quick to escalate confrontations to any dog park. The smaller thunder dome parks I would avoid all together. Dogs can't disengage and escape one another and move to a different part of the park, and owners are typically immobile.

Bottom line, dog parks aren't for every dog, every dog is not suited for a dog park, and dog parks are really not a great place for puppies.
 

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With the right dog, the right owner and the right park, it can be a great experience for all involved. I've enjoyed that combination just once with my last five dogs. With the other four, a dog park would be dangerous, either for them or for any dog that approached them the "wrong" way.

It's a bit of a crap shoot.
 

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Go to a dog park and watch. Go for a day. You will see dogs that are uncomfortable. You may see a fight (if it is an active park). You will see people trying to get Pookie to play or thinking Pookie is playing when Pookie just wants OUT of there. You will see people talking totally disconnected from their dog who is being run around the park by a pack of dogs with its tail between its legs....

...and sometimes you will see dogs actually playing.

I would not take my dog to a dog park on a bet. If you want to have your dog play with another dog or two then find friends with dogs and give it a try and then only with those dogs.

Socializing, BTW is not the dog actually interacting with people or other dogs. It is getting the dog out and about around those things and allowing the dog to be exposed to different things being around without actually interacting or touching.
 

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Dog parks can be good for really stable, easygoing dogs. Unfortunately, many people take their unstable, easily-offended dogs there because they think it'll help them become more social. There's also a big difference between the "Thunderdome" style (smallish fenced area) and the more open park style -- the latter is much better because dogs have more space to get away from each other. I would never do the Thunderdome style, both because my dogs are unsuitable for dog parks and because I have read way too many horror stories across all my dog groups about my acquaintance's dogs being badly injured or killed. Even if it doesn't come to that, a bad experience or two with a bully dog can make your dog start disliking all other dogs.
 

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Absolutly never. The risk of an idiot owner bringing their vicious "my furbaby would never" mutt it just to great for no pay off. Dogs don't need to play in packs of strange dogs. They need to learn to ignore dogs that aren't part of their family, not expect to play with them.
 

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Your Vet might have a suggestion for places to take your dog. One of your neighbors may have a good backyard and compatible dog to play with?
 

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If you've got a very easy going dog that just likes to chill and can tolerate all manner of random stranger dog introductions, you've got good odds of a good experience. Even then, go enough and you'll have a bad experience.

Personally, my idea of a dog park that works is an actual large 1000 plus acre human park that just allows dogs off leash to spread out and interact with their humans doing both human and dog related activities as a family unit out in nature. Most (if not all) "dog" parks are just small fenced off areas within a real park that are used exclusively to let strange dogs play with strange dogs while the humans just awkwardly hope everybody gets along. This is a pretty unnatural situation.

If I had my way there would be equal number of "Dog friendly" human parks and "Dog free" human parks. No dog parks. Afraid of dogs? Go to the dog free parks. Love dogs? Go to the dog friendly park. Don't care but don't have a dog? Go to either... not to let your dog play with strangers, but to enjoy a day of hiking, tennis, frisbee, volleyball, soccer... whatever... with your dog with you and enjoying your activities with you... leash free. The dream. Dog parks are a broken solution to the leash law plague.
 

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I vote for an older stable dog and perhaps another pup. The pup to help drain energy and the older dog playing a "parent" role teaching social skills and doggy manners. That might help your dog not feeling overwhelmed by a crowd but to have some friends... if that goes well you can try introducing bigger groups.
 

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For me, it depends on the dog park. In my city, there are wonderful, huge, dog parks with wooded trails, acres and acres of room, the works, that allow for dogs to interact very naturally and make it very easy to get away from any dogs that don't get along with mine. But there are also small, fenced in, Thunderdome style parks that I won't set foot in, so ... it depends. That said, I wouldn't use even the best dog park for socializing a puppy. I made that mistake with my dog, Kuma. I had access to one of the fantastic parks I mentioned, so his experiences were entirely positive, BUT, it created an expectation in him that he should be able to greet and play with EVERY dog he sees, even when we're walking on leash, and I've had to deal with barrier frustration induced reactivity ever since. He'll be 12 in December, and while he HAS gotten better, we are STILL working on this, so learn from my mistakes, lol. I would strongly recommend socializing through puppy classes and with older stable dogs that you know, work on a solid loose leash walk and on ignoring other dogs while walking, and THEN try out a dog park and see how your dog does with it. But I wouldn't ever take a puppy to one again.
 

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It definitely depends on the park. There was one down the street from where we used to live. It was probably around 5acres(maybe more) completely fenced, it had a stream that ran through it, and had different areas for big and small dogs, it was a really nice park because of how big it was. We went there almost every day since we lived in an apartment at the time.

I would not go to a small park, the ones that are the size of a baseball field are just too small for so many dogs to be offleash.

There is one that is about an hour from where we live now. I haven’t been there since we have our own property for the dogs to run. But I know people that take their dogs there. Apparently they require a monthly payment, vet records, and they keep track of any fights/complaints so they can black list any “troublesome” dogs.
 
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