Dog parks can be an awesome place to let your Weimaraner run off leash and socialize, but they can also be a place where your dog can learn bad habits and potentially degrade your relationship with your dog. At its worst, it can be a place where your Weim can get into a fight and possibly be injured.
Note that I said dog parks “can” be a bad place. Some dog parks are better than others, and some people manage the dog park experience better than others. There are so many things that are outside your control at the dog park, and it is up to you as a responsible dog owner to be able to read your dog, and read the other dogs (and other owners!) and be able to make decisions about whether your dog should or shouldn’t be making an appearance at your local Bark Park.
What are the Pros of Taking Your Weim to a Dog Park?
Dog parks provide a place for your Weim to exercise in a somewhat controlled and “safe” environment where he can neither chase cars nor critters.
Dogs are naturally social creatures and as such most of them enjoy interacting with other dogs. Dog parks can help a slightly skittish dog gain confidence and help confident dogs remain that way. Interaction with other normal dogs helps dogs understand how to behave around other dogs—practice makes perfect!
Can you say built in distractions? For the Weim that is ready to work with distractions, the dog park can be a great place to test their mettle.
Dog parks can be an awesome addition to a well-rounded Weimaraner’s schedule…….. but there is always another side to the story…
So Here Are the Top Reasons We Use Dog Parks Sparingly:
We’ve all seen variations of the theme. Someone brings their lunch to the dog park and gets bowled over by dogs. Or they bring their screaming kids who race up and down the dog park. Or they bring half a dozen dogs. Don’t be that person. Nothing is more rude (and scary!) than an owner who introduces danger to the dog park simply by not paying attention, or creating situations where they can’t possibly be as attentive as they should be.
Dog parks encourage regulars to become a pack that has its own doggy hierarchy, especially if their owners are the type to leave the dogs to their own devices. If a new dog comes into the dog park, it could potentially spell trouble, since the pack dynamics have created an environment where the park is the Pack’s Kingdom with no human in charge. Bad news.
Don’t think that all the rules are obvious, or that they don’t pertain to you… because they’re not, and they do. Read and follow them; the rules are usually plastered all over the place.
They Make It Easier
Oh yeah, I’m saying it. Taking your Weim to the dog park in order to go talk to your friends while letting your dog run around and thinking that this is “enough” is just plain lazy. Dog parks do not replace the amount of training time you should spend with your Weimaraner. Just because he is too tired from physical play to be bad doesn’t mean that he’s trained. People who use dog parks this way can undermine their relationship with their dog, inadvertently encouraging their dogs to become more focused on other dogs than on you. YOU should be the pack leader and the main focus of your Weimaraner’s attention.
This one might put a few of you dog-park-regulars on edge. But let’s face facts: Dog parks are filled with opinionated people who condone the behaviors of their out-of-control dogs. Sure, there are also smart, savvy and considerate dog owners at the park as well, but some days at the dog park can be a scary commentary on the dog-owning public!
Almost every dog park problem we have heard of basically boils down to the human element. People are not paying attention and/or they lack the ability to read dogs. These are generally the same people who would argue with a brick wall. You can usually spot them as soon as they walk into the park: They have an attitude and their dogs do too.
The good news is that there is just one very simple way to avoid all these dog park problems: Pack up your pup and leave!
If your Weim is being bullied or if your dog is bullying another dog, leave. If you have a shy dog and the dog park is overly crowded, leave. If you see a situation escalating and other people do not see it the same way, leave. If conversations make you uncomfortable or you see lawsuits waiting to happen, leave. If your dog just isn’t having a good time, leave. If the energy seems “off” for some reason that you can’t put your finger on — leave!
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Another “con” to the dog park is disease – it’s a great place to catch kennel cough, giardia, and other viruses and contagious illnesses. This is especially true once things start to thaw after a cold winter.
That being said, we do take the pup to the dog park about once every 2 weeks for a chance to socialize with dogs who aren’t weims. But it’s not her main source of exercise.
Thanks for the article!
1. OBSERVE. 2. Listen to your INTUITION and 3. Be VIGILANT. Do these things or don’t go as you risk putting your dog in danger. My dog would be heartbroken if we didn’t go to the dog park. However, I take her very early on weekend mornings so there’s only 5 or so dogs and their people and we know them as “regulars.” Whenever a new dog enters the park, I go right up close with her and monitor the first interaction. There have been times when new dogs have come in or the crowd gets large or the vibe “feels” too off kilter and we just leave. We also have to leave when any Great Danes come because, while friendly, they run her over like a freight train. And don’t hesitate to tell owners not to do something as stupid as bring food into the park. Small children don’t belong inside the dog park either for their own protection. And yes, it’s a great place to pick up giardia, etc. so I don’t allow Olive to drink out of bowls of water that have been “left” there when we get to the park. When we come home, I rinse off her feet in the shower. It may not bee foolproof, but it helps. Olive gets so much joy out of being at the park that’s it’s palpable!
I’ve always viewed the disease exposure as a plus, within limits. If I hear there’s been an outbreak traced to the dog park, I stay away for a while. Other times, I figure the ongoing exposure to microbes not found at home will keep my dog’s immune system on its toes.
I love the dog park at Marymoor park in Redmond, WA, although many others do not. It’s 40 acres, has river access along one side, trails and open meadows to run in. There’s plenty of room to steer clear of troublemakers, even multiple entrances so that if you have a dog that’s a bit reactive when he first gets there (like mine) and needs time to calm down before he can run with others, you can give him that time.
My dog Lucy is a bit of a snob, and plants all fours firmly outside the gate and refuses to go in and join the hoi polloi.
I have two weims, the male (Baco) and female (Kali). I must say Baco loves the Dog Park, basically for all the space he gets to run and chase the ball, but Kali just stays with me or the people. She is so shy and dependent.. Just make me laugh, I love them….
does anyone have a recommendation for how to enter/exit and introduce dogs at a dog park?
my weim does not like dogs off-leash if he is on leash.
i’ve gotten some idea about “guarding” behavior — like me holding on to his collar when a new dog enters. I don’t want to be the source of anxiety, but I don’t understand how to properly introduce dogs at a park yet.
thanks for your help!