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Since the weather has be getting really nice, I really want to take my small dog, Shih tzu x Pekingese cross, to a dog park so she can play with other dogs and socialize. Right now I'm working on her recall, going slowly, but eventually when her recall is good, I want to take her to those vast open fields. What I'm worried about is the dangers for a small dog at dog parks. Our outdoor dog parks are not segregated into small dog and big dog sections, and all dogs inter-mingle. I know small dogs can look like prey to other dogs, and I've read some of the horror stories of small dogs getting killed. Should I not bother bringing her to a dog park, or should I have her on a long line? I really want her to make doggie friends, but I am not sure if it's worth the risk.
 

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I wouldn't bring Kabota to the dog park if it weren't segregated by size, personally. He's too big to be taken as prey, but if a 90lb dog decided to fight with him, he'd never survive it.

I'm sorry. Kabota has a blast at the park. Maybe you could get a small play group going with other dog owners?
 

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I take mine and let her mingle with the big dogs... Just keep a close eye on body language and such, there will be warning signs before a dog does anything. Last time we went I positioned myself between her and a large mutt that had me worried and made myself look scary... Worked well :p
 

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I would look for specific small dog play groups (some dog training/boarding/daycare places have them) or at least something more private than a city park. You could also look for small dog meetups (in my city, there are several on meetup.com)

I think the key is finding a group of dogs and people that you recognize and know. I find the issue with city dog parks is the unknown factor. You don't know anything about the other dogs or the other people. Their dogs could be super-high prey drive and dangerous to your dog, or they could be fine. You just don't know. There isn't any regulatory body to kick out dogs that don't behave, unlike in meetup groups or at private locations. Occasionally there is a devoted group of regulars that keep an eye on the goings-on, but they don't really have any power over who is there and who is not.

I let my dogs stretch their legs when other dogs aren't at the park or if the other dogs are clearly not interested in them (i.e. ball dogs).
 

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Depends on the park. I would never take #9 Bailey to a public dog park... But I take her numerous times a week to a private dog park where I work, all the dogs are together, but they are all temperament tested with other dogs prior to joining, and we monitor their actions in the park.
 

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I'm not a dog park goer nor a huge fan, but no harm in showing up and scoping the area out. Big or small, it's really about the dogs THERE. If you are paying attention to your dogs and the dogs around you, know when it's time to call it and leave (even if YOUR dog isn't the one being a problem) then that's just a calculated risk. Even the best of dog friends can throw down, but if you've found a good park with vigilant owners that's more than half the battle for me. The one thing that stands out for me is the possibility of a prey driven dog to mistake your dog for something to go after, so I second the idea of finding a small dog play group. We used to go to parks in our old city but after some nonsense we just ended up finding another couple with three dogs and went to their acreage for play dates. They had a big old Golden Retriever that paid no mind to Jonas.

I would not personally bring Jonas to a park, but that's really a moot point. He doesn't particularly enjoy the company of other dogs so it wouldn't really be worth it to bring him, have him avoid the other dogs, and snark at any one that was persistent that they should be friends. Darkmoon's Peanut got a nice snark from him when she decided that he was VERY interesting. xD
 

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I take my brother's Shih Tsue/Dandi Dinmont mix to the dog park, but it is segregated by size. No way will I put a small dog in with a bunch of large dogs. Small dogs can trigger prey drive. It can happen in an instant with no warning at all. You won't have time to get your dog, if a dog suddenly has his prey drive triggered. Dogs hunting prey are usually silent, and very quick.
Find a small dog play group or start one.
 

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A long line is NOT safe at a dog park. A long line is great for regular parks and open areas where the dog just wants to sniff and run or fetch and there are no other dogs or people around to get tangled or tripped by it. Leashes of any sort are a problem at off-leash dog parks.

Honestly, I wouldn't take a small dog to an all-sizes dog park. Even friendly big dogs can hurt a small one. My dog loves small dogs and is very gentle around them on walks and when he greets them on-leash in public areas, but if he gets up a good running speed and slams right into or lands on a small (under 10-15 lbs is "small" in this case) dog, it could hurt the little one. Add in the potential for prey drive or the occasional dog that just shouldn't be there (dog aggressive or reactive or just really bad mannered) and I'd say "no-go"
At least if my 80 lbs dog gets in a tiff or snark situation, he's got a good chance of holding his own against another dog until I can help him out.
 

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I don't think it is worth the risk. I'd find some other dog owners to arrange play dates with. At least every other day my little dog gets to play with these 2 pug mix boys even though at 20 & 25lbs they are still twice Casbah's size. There's no way I'd put her at risk around any dogs larger than that. I used to even take her only to the small dog section of the dog park but every now and then there would be rude idiots taking their giant St. Bernards, aggressive bulldogs and high prey drive Huskies into the small section and after driving there I'd have to turn around and leave. There's no way I would have even considered taking her into the large dog section. They had fights in there once a week, either between dogs or owners and the police would be called there at least once a month. People watching from the small dog side would start referring to the large dog section as Thunderdome. That's when some large dog owners decided they'd feel safer by taking their big dogs into the small section and put some of the little dogs at risk instead. The only way I'd ever go to a dog park again is if it were private, had 3 different sections for small/medium/large dogs (maybe one other section for all dogs) and you had to have a key to get in. Otherwise, it isn't worth it.
 

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For my small dog, I made the decision that dog parks are not for us, even those divided by dog size. IME, too many large dog owners bring their dogs into the small dog side & most of the other people don't make any effort to train their dogs so it becomes a chaotic free-for-all. I wouldn't ever take the risk with an all sizes park. Never. It's just so not worth the risk. My girl is just as happy nosing her way along a trail than she is in a dog park and probably more so.
 

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I guess for me it's different because there aren't usually more than like two other dogs at the park closest to me at a time! I see where everyone else is coming from for sure.
 

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1. If your dog is not yet socialized with other dogs, do this in small groups in a more private area.
2. If you want your dog to find other dogs to play with, I agree with Thosewordsatbest that it doesn't hurt to look. Besides, you may find some friendly small dog owners who have playdate suggestions for small dogs.
3. As Shell said, a large dog can unintentionally bully a small dog. My big dog can play with small dogs, but new dogs can be terrified when he comes up to play. He won't bite, but he can slime them pretty badly, and possibly step on them. I've never seen him injure a dog, but he has scared new owner and new dog alike... Personally, I'm more worried that a JRT will do a drive-by nip on him !
4. If a dog park is like the deep end of the pool, an unsegregated park can be like the ocean ... during a hurricane....
 
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