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Yes, a dog park can be a phenomenal place for your dog and socialize with other dogs, but I must say (for me) the cons seriously outweigh the pros.

We used to take my parents' dog to the local dog park all the time, but I'd never take my current pup to one. I feel like dog owners (DISCLAIMER: not all of them!!!!!!!!!!!) go to dog parks and think, "Sweet! This place is fenced in and my dog can run around like a lunatic and do whatever he/she wants and I don't have to pay attention!" Or people who are not experienced, or who do not fully understand dog body language and behavior think their dog is "playing" when he is holding another dog by the scuff of the neck and trying to mount it. But of course the other dog is the aggressor when he finally snaps. I've been privy to more dog fights, bites and snaps than I'd like to admit at the dog park. And don't forget the kids I've seen leave DP's with cuts, scrapes and even broken noses because someone's dog jumped up--and not even necessarily in an aggressive manner! Did I mention the fact that it can also be a breeding ground for doggy viruses and fleas?

I think a lot of dog owners who go to dog parks are really responsible and have dogs that are, for the most part, friendly towards other dogs. With that said, if you take your dog to a dog park you better make darn sure you trust him. Trust that he's going to come back to you the second you call his name because I can be sure you can't fully trust the other dogs.

Luckily I live in an area that is very dog friendly--there is a huge field next to a bike path where lots of neighbors bring their dogs. I can be sure that the dogs are vaccinated, because everyone kind of knows eachother. Furthermore, I feel like there is an accountability factor when you're standing at the other end of the leash. And for the people that take their dogs off the leash on the field (I'm included!) the fact that the field is not fenced in forces people to actually pay attention to their dog.

Alternatively, I think you can find playmates for your pup through friends, relatives or dog obedience class.

What is your opinion on dog parks?
 

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Here, it's great as long as you avoid the weekends. The weekend crowd is just like you said, a made house of dogs that misbehave and parents who don't pay attention. My dog got bit on the weekend and we will never go back, only reason I went in the first place is because there are soo many cool dogs to look at and I was naive.

I think overall it has a lot to do with your area and when you go. In the morning between 10-12 we have a very regular group of a saint dane, my mick, some labs, retrievers, and some mixes that have gotten to know each other and it's a great thing, everyone behaves and we have yet to have an issue.

As far as fleas and viruses, I can see that being an issue but we have not had a problem with it. I don't think I would bring a puppy there regardless because I feel like even some of the dogs that otherwise don't cause trouble seem to sometimes play too rough and scare the parents and then it becomes a problem.
 

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Here's the deal. First you need to get to know the people who go to your dog park. Some dog parks are good, some aren't. It's an educated decision that must be made. Learn the peak hours and avoid those. We prefer to go at night.

Second, your dog needs to be trained well to safely let it off leash at the dog park. Our sheltie is 99.99% reliable on his recall so I have no problems with him. Our collie is not there yet, she stays on leash unless the park is nearly empty. We do let her off leash in the small dog/puppy area though.

Finally you need to pay attention at the dog park. I see so many people just chatting while their dogs do whatever they want. This is a big red flag. Avoid large groups of people. Especially the ones standing around. Get to know familiar people and their dogs so you know who your dogs can play with. And always keep moving.

Dog parks are fine if you know how to handle them. I understand those who don't want to bother with it though.
 

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I don't know. My dogs love the parks. I have never seen as issue except for the time one lady brought her 2 dogs into the side of the park for dogs 60 pounds and over... she had a dog that was 60 pounds or more, but she also brought in a dog that was about 10 pounds.... and the little one was terrified and was snapping at everything that moved. Other than that stupid woman, I have seen no issues with dogs or dog owners at the one we use most.
 

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Ah, another hot topic.

It depends on the dog, the owner and the park.

Some of the best times I've ever had, and the best friends I (and my dog) have ever made were at a huge dogpark near the city I used to live in. Cubby was the perfect dogpark dog - big-enough that nobody bothered him and social-enough that he got along with most everybody. There were open spaces for the frisbee and tennis ball dogs and a hiking trail for the hikers. We used both. People were generally conscientious and, in the ten years I went there regularly, I only witnessed a couple of really bad incidents. One of them involved a dog who ripped a hole in the leg of my jeans and my own dog took offense.

Fast forward to today. My new home town has a nice, but small, dogpark where it's more difficult to avoid trouble. Esther is not the perfect dogpark dog. She doesn't look for trouble, but she has little patience for foolishness. We pretty much stopped going when a small terrier snapped at her big, floppy hound-dog ears once too often and Esther picked him up and shook him a few times before slamming him to the ground. The dog was not seriously hurt, but is probably still shaking today.

So we go to the beach at Lake Michigan - preferably early in the morning - or to a sparsely-used, unfenced dogpark about 7 miles from here. The latter has a nice creek, which is a big plus. We don't encounter a lot of dogs there and the ones we do see are like mine - they just want to run and maybe swim. They say hello, check out each other's butts, and go on about their business.

Still, I see no reason to HATE dogparks. You either find them useful or you don't.

It's not like attendance is mandatory.
 

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It really all depends on your dog and the park itself. I have to keep a very close eye on Jubel because he can be a bit of a trouble maker, not going to hurt anyone (dog or human) but he will annoy some dogs with his 'attentions.' You mention grabbing scruffs as an absolute no-no and I have to disagree. A lot of dogs do that in play and there is nothing wrong with it as long as both dogs view it as play. When it's play usually they alternate who is grabbing who, Jubel LOVES play like this and has 3 buddies who love to play like that with him.

Though I will admit recently Jubel really hasn't done much playing at the dog park and more often we've been going for long walks versus going to the dog park. All too often recently we can go to the dog park for 90 minutes and he'll run around and play maybe 30 minutes of that time if I'm lucky. So we'll either just go for a walk, drive out to check out some trails for bikejoring once the weather cools, or come to the dog park for a short bit then walk in the woods behind the park maybe return to the park after. But this has more to do with Jubel and his difficulty finding good doggie playmates (we're working on his doggie manners but it's slow going for him) than the dog park itself being a bad place. He just gets more out of a 45 minute walk now than 90 minutes at the dog park mostly spent lying around.
 

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Depends on the dog. Depends on the park.

Our dog park is huge (and funnily enough not fenced), takes a good hour just to walk the perimeter at a decent clip and has ponds and beaches, fields and trails. So even on crowded days it's pretty easy to avoid people and the popular places and because it's much more like a hike people tend to pay a lot more attention to their dogs so we have very few issues.

Of course some pop up and there has been a couple of fights but in my 9 years of going there not a single fight stands out in my mind. If someone's dog is rude or trying to start something it's really easy to just move away from that part of the park.

I have two really dog friendly dogs, one of which is incredibly active so the benefits outweigh the risks for me. When I can go there for 4 hours and it's spent running and swimming the whole time I can come home with some happy dogs. Plus Trav would probably only swim a couple times a month if I didn't have our dog park and since he lives and breaths the water it definitely is a plus.

But really, not every dog is going to be suited for dog parks and not every park is going to be suited for dogs. Everyone needs to make their own decision while understanding that their decision is just that: theirs, unique to them and their circumstances
 

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I generally dislike the parks that are just a small open, fenced area. Around here, the people who go to those parks do tend to be of the "let the dogs play Thunderdome while we chat over coffee" variety. I do use them for working on off-leash heeling and recall, but only during extremely off-peak hours when we can have the place to ourselves.

The main parks I use are on substantial acreage, mostly wooded except for walking paths and a few "social areas", and in general people tend to be there to hike WITH their dogs rather than just stand around watching the mob. The weekends can get a little hairy, but there is a core pack of weekday regulars who are very dog savvy and polite. Pip is the only one who can really go to the park right now, anyway (other than the aforementioned training), and he tends to just ignore strange dogs and people, so it all works out very well. It all just depends so much on the style and size of the park and the culture of the people who visit, which varies tremendously IME.
 

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Like others have said... I think it depends on the park, dog and owner.

The dog park we go to is pretty big (around 14 acres) with two dog ponds (along with various other stuff). Harleigh has an absolute BLAST there and finds some great playmates.... sure, we sometimes run into dogs that aren't as friendly, but I just redirect Harleigh to another spot in the park.

The pros DEFINITELY outweigh the cons for us :)
 

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Because you get to be the only person in the park with a dog!!
Everyone else obeys the signs..and thats rediculous.
"No dogs allowed" signs should be ignored...or removed.
It may be ridiculous that dogs are banned from so many places, but blatantly disregarding such ordinances tends to create a more widespread crackdown on everyone.

You're not that special. Really.
 

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As many people have stated, it depends on the dog and it depends on the park.

In my case, it really depends on the park. The local parks here are pretty terrible and it shows. I haven't been in several weeks because every time I go, it seems like there is another huge dog brawl. It makes me uncomfortable and that transfers to my dogs.

However, when we lived in CO, there were several amazing 'dog' parks. They were basically just sanctioned areas of state parks were dogs were allowed off leash. I went several times a week for years and never saw one incident. Ever.

I miss it!
 
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