Why Dog Parks Are Bad [10 Reasons & Where To Go Instead]

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Are you thinking of taking your dog to the local dog park? You might want to think twice. Dog parks may seem like the perfect spot to let your dog run free and play with other dogs, but in reality, they are a bad idea! In this article, you’ll discover 10 reasons why dog parks are bad, and where to take your pup instead.

10 Reasons Why Dog Parks Are Bad

1. Irresponsible Owners

In a perfect world every dog would be friendly, play well with other dogs, and every dog owner would show responsibility for their own dog. But, this isn’t a perfect world!

Too many irresponsible dog owners take their dogs to the dog park to roam and run free. Often, the dogs that are brought to the dog park are really not great candidates for dog park play.

Instead of watching their dog, irresponsible owners mingle and socialize with other dog owners there, drink their coffee and play on their phones. Distracting them from what their dog is doing, which is often inappropriate behaviour like, bullying, biting, or humping.

An enclosed space with irresponsible owners and dogs of all breeds and sizes is often a recipe for disaster.

2. Aggressive Dogs

Why Dog Parks Are Bad - 2 Aggressive dogs fighting.

Again, this brings us back to irresponsible owners. Bringing a dog that is unfriendly, unsocialized or aggressive to a dog park is asking for trouble!

Some owners are aware of their dog’s aggressiveness and bring them to the park anyway, they simply don’t care! It’s not fair to their dog or any other dog at the park.

Many owners seem to let their dogs “work it out”, when they see them engaging in bad behaviour, such as bullying or playing too rough with other dogs.

3. Risk of Disease

As with any large gathering, there is always a risk of catching something that will make you sick. The same is true for dogs. When so many dogs are gathered in the same place there is an increased risk of disease.

Kennel Cough, Parvovirus, and fleas and ticks can easily spread from one dog to another. Even if your dog is vaccinated for Kennel Cough, there is still a chance that he can get it, because there are so many different strains of it.

Some dog parks provide water bowls for dogs to drink from, which is a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

Dog poop that is not picked up by irresponsible owners could cause intestinal parasites if your dog steps in it or comes in contact with it.

4. No Designated Area For Small and Big Dogs

A Husky and Jack Russell terrier playing together at a dog park.

Some dog parks that are well thought out will have a separate fenced-off area for large dogs and another area for small dogs. However, not all dog parks are designed this way, many are just one communal area for large and small dogs to play together.

Size matters when it comes to playing together! A small dog can easily get hurt playing with a large dog, and even some small dogs can bite and hurt a larger dog.

Even if separate areas exist, owners simply choose to disregard them.

5. Dog Parks Are Unnatural

Socializing your dog is very important, but many people make the mistake of thinking that their dog needs to play with as many new dogs as possible, and what better place than the dog park?

Dog parks are not ideal spots for socialization. There is nothing natural about taking your dog to the dog park and expecting him to play and socialize with a bunch of strange dogs that he has never met before.

Even if you claim your dog is super friendly, outgoing and plays well with others, there are no guarantees that this will be the case when gathered in a large group of dogs. All too often I have heard dog owners say “my dog has never done that before” when their dog shows any type of aggression.

Dog parks are notorious for dogs who lack socialization skills and dog owners who underestimate their dog’s communication and behaviour.

6. Dog Parks Can Traumatize A Puppy Or Undersocialized Dog

A scared puppy being held and comforted by a woman.

Bringing a puppy to a dog park is a bad idea, especially if your puppy is under 6 months old. Puppies who are not fully vaccinated are at a higher risk of contracting diseases, and they should not go near any strange dogs.

Young puppies, especially those under 6 months are very impressionable and could become traumatized by dogs who are unfriendly or aggressive towards them.

The socialization process for your puppy should always be positive encounters and experiences. Dog parks are just too unpredictable and could leave your puppy feeling overwhelmed, frightened and traumatized.

It just takes one bad experience to traumatize your dog or puppy, and the effects could last a lifetime.

7. Injuries May Happen Leading To Expensive Vet Bills

It’s not uncommon for dog fights to erupt at a dog park, causing serious injuries to dogs, and in some extreme cases even death.

Bite marks, tearing of the skin, muscle strains and sprains, and torn ligaments can also happen when dogs rough play. All of these things can be very costly to heal, with some requiring expensive surgery.

Having an expensive vet bill is one thing, but a seriously injured dog or a dead dog is certainly not worth the trip to the dog park!

8. Poorly Maintained Dog Parks Can Be Dangerous

Most dog parks are maintained by the city, county or municipality in which the dog park is in. Maintained dog parks are still at risk for being dangerous because they are unsupervised and rely on owners being responsible and following the rules.

Poorly maintained dog parks can pose a real threat to your dog’s safety. Broken or rusty fences can injure or kill your dog, broken glass, garbage, and dog poop not picked up are all safety hazards to be careful of.

9. Toys, Food or Kids Could Be Present

Even though toys food and kids should not be allowed at a dog park, many well-meaning dog owners decide to bring them anyway.

Children and babies should not be brought to a dog park. Their small size and vulnerability put them in danger. Over-excited dogs can easily knock over a child and cause serious harm to them, even if it is unintentional. Dogs who are afraid of kids can react aggressively towards them out of fear, and some dogs might see kids as prey.

Bringing food, treats or toys to the dog park is a bad idea. Most dogs are food motivated and will swarm you if you have treats and some dogs resource guard, meaning they will bite and growl at any dog over their favourite possessions such as food or toys.

There is a chance that some dog parks do allow toys, like tennis balls and frisbees, so if your dog has any resource guarding tendencies, it is best to avoid the dog park altogether!

10. Some Dogs Don’t Enjoy Dog Parks

Well-meaning owners take their dog to the dog park because they think their dog will love it! All dogs love to play and run around with other dogs, right? Wrong!!

Dog parks can be a frightening experience for dogs who are shy, fearful or anxious. Some dogs are dog-reactive, and really shouldn’t go to the dog park.

Many dogs simply don’t enjoy playing with other dogs or are intimidated by a large group of dogs. Others lack proper social skills and don’t know how to behave around dogs or humans, and some just prefer alone time with their humans.

As a dog owner, it is up to you to understand your dog’s behaviour and recognize the signs that your dog is uncomfortable or stressed.

The following displays of behaviour indicate that your dog is not enjoying the dog park:

  • Yawning a lot
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Tucked tail
  • Hiding behind you

Are Dog Parks A Good Idea For Your Dog?

Check out this short video from Zak George. He offers some helpful tips and advice on how to determine if the dog park is suitable for your dog as well as what to expect.

Where To Take Your Pup Instead Of The Dog Park – Dog Park Alternatives

As we have learned, there are many dangers and unpredictabilities that can happen at the dog park. The good news is, there are many great activities and places you can take your pup instead. Including the following:

  • Pet-Friendly Retail and Restaurants: This allows your dog to experience new sights, sounds and smells. Dogs must be leashed and friendly, and it allows your dog to practice his obedience skills in a distracting environment.
  • Doggie Daycare: They have trained staff to safely monitor your dog, and only a certain number of dogs are allowed. Dogs must be vaccinated and friendly.
  • Agility Training or Nosework: Great for high-energy dogs, or working dogs, as it provides them with mental stimulation.
  • Dog Sports: Enrolling your dog in a sport such as Dock Diving, Herding, or Flyball will allow them to burn off extra energy while doing what they love.
  • One-on-one Playdates or Small Groups: Arranging a playdate with your dog’s best friend or a small group of dogs that your dog plays well with, is much more enjoyable for your dog than playing with strangers.
  • Outdoor Activities With You: Your pup enjoys spending time with you, so why not try a new outdoor activity like hiking, swimming, canoeing, or paddleboarding. Doing something new together not only provides great mental stimulation, but it can be a great bonding experience.
  • Visit Empty Football Fields or Parks: Consider visiting local ballparks, football fields or playgrounds when no one else is there. This allows you to exercise your dog without any distractions from other dogs or people.

Final Thoughts

Having a fenced-in area for dogs to run and play off-leash might be a great idea on paper but in reality, dog parks are just a big mosh pit of dogs. Irresponsible owners are the number one reason why dog parks are bad.

There are far safer ways to socialize and exercise your dog than taking a chance at the dog park. With too many risks and unpredictabilities, dog parks are just a bad idea.

Have you taken your dog to the dog park? Or, do you avoid the dog park at all costs? How has your experience been at the dog park?

If you have any thoughts or opinions on dog parks, or you want to share your experience, please leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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8 thoughts on “Why Dog Parks Are Bad [10 Reasons & Where To Go Instead]”

  1. I agree with all the above but what if your dog seems to genuinely enjoy the dog park in the neighbourhood and always wants to get there, even only for a few minutes during a walk? I take this as a sign that he enjoys it and provided that the other dogs and owners are well behaved I think it’s still OK to go there from time to time, or would you suggest otherwise?

    Reply
    • Hi Davide,

      I agree that it’s a good sign that your dog enjoys the dog park when he actively pulls you in that direction. I don’t see an issue with this, as you mentioned as long as there are no aggressive dogs or irresponsible owners.

      Dog parks are really a hit or miss, and unfortunately, they are more often bad news. You just need to be aware of your surroundings.

      I am sure your dog has a few friends that he enjoys meeting and playing with at the dog park, I think that’s great. You could perhaps arrange a playdate with a few of his friends at a safer location. Again, that is completely at your discretion. Many people have strong feelings about dog parks, they are either for them or completely against them. Keep in mind that it only takes one bad incident to change your perception of them. I for one will continue to avoid dog parks at all costs.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.
      Jenny.

      Reply
  2. Dog parks are awful. There’s always at least one owner who lets their invariably large dog bully smaller dogs. Some of these bully dogs aren’t messing around either, attempting to bite a smaller dog’s neck while the arrogant, unintelligent, narcissitic owner with severe self-esteem issues tries to reassure everyone that all’s well.

    No, it’s not. Get a dog for your lifestyle, personality & level of expertise, not your ego! In our case, it was an Anatolian shepherd. In a suburb. Yeah, I bet that guy doesn’t have livestock or acreage, just some undealt with childhood issues. I had to save my 11 pound puppy from it.

    I hadn’t noticed it before putting her down, just the friendly dogs (2 Siberian huskies, 1 cockapoo, 1 miniature poodle, 1 standard poodle, all playing nicely). Saw him earlier & thought he’d left; maybe he came back. It’s a small dog run.

    The guy actually refused to call off his dog when I politely asked. The Anatolian kept pinning my dog to the ground, completely upside down & looking away over her shoulder, as dogs do as a last resort white flag, while the Anatolian tried to bite her neck. She didn’t take more than 8 steps in that park, because she kept having to appease/evade this dog.

    This behaviour is what causes resentment against certain breeds. I will never like Anatolian shepherds. I don’t care that they’re useful. I will always think of that dog & it’s awful owner. Not good PR for an unusual breed.

    And what would’ve happened if someone who was uncomfortable with large dogs was in my situation? The owner refused to help & looked smug like he enjoyed seeing his dog kill smaller dogs. I had to save my dog. That Anatolian was an inch from my face as I bent down, literally faced off with him & made him back off.

    As a famous dog trainer of yesteryear once said, paraphrased, “Do you have a bear problem in your garage?! No? Why’d you choose a Karelian bear dog?”. No wonder cat people think dog people are ridiculous. Maybe we are.

    Reply
    • Hi Margaret,

      Thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry this happened to your puppy.

      Unfortunately, this is all too common at local dog parks! It just takes one bad experience to traumatize a puppy/dog for life, and its owner too. In your case you will forever associate that breed with your experience.

      Dog parks are just not worth the risk, as too many lazy and irresponsible owners bring their aggressive dogs to them, as a way for them to let their energy out.

      I agree that owners should always research their breed and make sure their lifestyle is a match! Unfortunately, many get a dog simply for looks.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

      Jenny.

      Reply
  3. Hey, thanks for this article, it’s great that you have put something like this out there.  People need to be educated and learn to take responsibility for their own actions.

    I didn’t have strong opinions on dog parks, to be honest, I mean I thought they were cool but then at the same time negative points were also there lingering at the back. This post has definitely given me a clear idea of where I stand with dog parks. They seem fun to us humans but in actual fact, there are more cons than pros.

    Reply
    • Hi Sariyah,

      Many dog owners are under the impression that dog parks are a fun place to let their dogs play and socialize with other dogs.  But, the risks definitely outweigh the good, and yes, they are mostly for dog owners to socialize with each other while letting their dogs burn off some energy.  In all reality, most dogs do not like the dog park, and some really should not be there.

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this subject.  

      Jenny.

      Reply

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