3 Bad Habits Your Dog Learns at the Dog Park
Dog parks are extremely popular and many owners use them regularly with their dogs. However there are several bad habits your dog learns with each trip to the dog park and these can quickly become larger problems. Ones that can affect the day to day living with your dog and bring to light that there are downsides to this activity.
We’ve already examined how dog parks aren’t helpful when socializing your dog or puppy. In this post we will instead be focusing on habits that erode your relationship with your dog and make them more difficult to live with, as well as potentially making future training difficult.
Bad Habit #1 - Pulling on leash
Of the bad habits your dog learns at the dog park, this is one that I think affects almost all of the dogs who go to dog parks regularly. The dog park is a place of massive excitement and dogs become very familiar with the pattern of being taken from the car straight to the dog park. Many owners may laugh or otherwise downplay the dog straining to get to the park, not realizing that it’s only going to take a few trips to make this a deeply rooted problem.
What the dog is practicing is pulling to get to the thing they want. Once a dog begins to do this for one thing, they may experiment with others, and the end product is a dog who pulls towards anything and everything that they want, eventually pulling whenever they are on leash. It’s safe to say that this is not the way that owners want their dogs to walk on leash.
Bad Habit #2 - Rude Greetings
Dogs generally enter the park very hyped and excited about the entire event. This means that they’re not really thinking clearly, and in the manic environment that the dog park is, this isn’t helpful in generating polite behaviors. We’ve all seen the dogs in the park mob a newcomer, or that one dog who races to each new dog and gets right in their face. Both of these are extremely rude dog to dog greetings and add stress to the situation.
With people too it’s not necessarily a good thing. Dogs who like to jump or otherwise greet people in ways that aren’t what we’d call polite, they’re more likely to do so when they’re in this hyper and excited state. On top of all this they are learning that they can get away with doing this to strangers and you’re not there to stop them. So if you’re working on trying to teach your dog to get it together when there are new people around and to keep all those paws on the floor, the dog park isn’t helping.
Bad Habit #3 - Ignoring You
Every minute of the day our dogs are learning how to behave and how to live in our world. This doesn’t stop at the dog park. These places teach dogs to ignore their owners so effectively. While your dog is pulling you to the park gate to get in, how much of their attention do you have? Can you get any of it back? And this is before you even enter the park!
When your dog then rushes over to a new dog, call them to you. How many times do you have to say their name before they come? How about if they’re jumping on someone? Or chasing another dog? What choice do they make, you or park activities?
Dogs quickly learn that there are little if any consequences to what they are doing in the dog park, and this is a place where humans are not in the picture. Instead it’s all about being wild and taking advantage of the freedom as much as possible in the limited time available. Dogs are not dumb and know that no leash = no control for many owners.
If you’re trying to have a dog that has a deep relationship with you, who you can trust off leash, dog parks will throw a wrench right into that plan. They’re not helpful to building up your relationship with your dog and your dog isn’t learning anything valuable. Ignoring you may seem small when you don’t need your dog to pay attention to you, but that can change in an instant in an emergency situation.
What to do Instead?
Many dog parks are part of larger park systems, so walking your dog, running, biking, or other activity with them, can usually replace your time at the dog park quite easily without even having to go somewhere new. Training is also an option. Working outside the dog park and using the dogs and the park itself as a distraction is how trainers use dog parks. They can be great for training when used in that manner.
Hiking and long lines are also both great if you feel your dog isn’t getting the kind of freedom you want to provide. Freedom without structure isn’t a good thing though, so it’s best to make sure your dog has been trained to a level where they are reliable in these scenarios.
There are other options besides the dog park, and most of them have benefits that you can’t find there. Give it a try!