Are Dog Parks Ok?
Dog parks or runs can be very beneficial for your dog if you know what you are doing. If you want to read more about dog parks click this link to learn more about it: Are Dog Parks A Good Idea?
I’ve heard numerous well known trainers talking badly about parks and not recommending going any near them. This is usually because they are not specialized in Family Dog Training. They are usually specialized in agility, high obedience training, dog sports or working dogs.
How NOT to enter a dog park?
More often than not, well intentioned dog parents and dog trainers enter the park by asking their dog to sit, then wait and 10 seconds later they release their dog. Some more advanced obedience dogs they do this even without the leash. Wether you do this on leash or off leash is not relevant.
So what’s wrong with this? Isn’t this advanced obedience training?
Yes, but this is the wrong place to do this. Why? Because when you do obedience training you’re penting up your dog’s drive with a “command” or “cue” and your dog is waiting for a release. By the time you release, all that pent up energy and anticipation is like a balloon under water. So you are basically sending a torpedo to the park. Which means that your dog is most likely in the wrong state of mind. In other words your dog is on high excitement, high-arousal, high-drive mode, high dopamine etc. This mindset might work very well for performance and obedience. The problem is that at this sate they can miss a lot of social cues from other dogs and people. They also loose awareness of their environment, since they are mainly focused on a task or on you. Your obedience training can actually make it worse.
If you are a very good trainer, your dog might listen to you, but at some point your dog is either going to get into trouble or attract trouble. And this is why Dog Trainers hate parks, because obedience doesn’t work well in parks. What works is a controlled state of mind on your dog where your dog slowly develops great dog social skills.
An even worse way to enter a dog park is restraining your dog on a leash, while your dog is pulling like a maniac and then unclipping the leash. If obedience (cue and release) is sending a torpedo, doing this is sending a nuclear missile. It’s most likely not going to end up well.
So how do you enter a Dog Park?
The best way to enter a dog park is by calming your dog down. Your dog should be with no tension on the leash and in a calm state of mind. This doesn’t mean your dog cannot run or play with other dogs. What this means is that your dog is in a state of mind where he or she can pick up on dog social cues and adjust to every dog.
The more they practice self control and awareness, they better coping skills they get. This has to do with behavioral dog training not with obedience or advanced obedience training. Family dog training is 90% of the time behavioral training (state of mind), while obedience or advanced training is Classical or Operant Conditioning Training which is based on consequence (reward or punishment)
Best well behaved dogs I’ve met are not from dog trainers, They are from dog owners that tap into this intuitively. They are not highly trained dogs that attract attention on instagram. They are well behaved happy dogs that no one notices or cares because they are just doing their thing. You will find most of this dogs in dog parks not on instagram accounts.
© Gabriel Riesco, Pawmos Dog Training LLC | All Rights Reserved January 2023