The Dog Park Conundrum

puppy in snow

Having a local dog park is the dream of every dog owner. It’s a municipally-maintained safely-enclosed spot to take your dog where it can run around to its heart’s content and receive plenty of interaction with other dogs. Today I want to ask: do you take your dog to dog parks? To start off, I’ll share my experience with them.

Our initial trips to the dog park ended up being unexciting. I first went in the middle of the day during the week, and so no one was there. Still, I thought this could be a good experience for Chihiro: a large enclosed space in which she could run around to her heart’s content. Chihiro, however, had other plans in mind.

She found the plethora of smells left behind by the countless dogs who attended the park before her maddening; all she wanted to do was trot around with her nose to the ground. Chihiro has some hound, likely beagle, in her, so I should have guessed that would be her reaction to an empty dog park.

I had to cajole Chihiro into playing fetch with me in order to get her to run, thus taking advantage of our trip all the way out to the park. That involved me dashing about the place after a stick and making it seem interesting to her as much as it involved her actually thinking about fetching.

After a trip or two to the dog park on a weekday around noon, I guessed that I’d find people actually in attendance with their dogs later in the day. So one day I went at 3:30, and successfully found others there.

Only that victory felt short-lived. Once we stepped through the double-gated area a mass of five or six large dogs (we’re talking 100 or more pounds to Chihiro’s 20) immediately swarmed upon Chihiro. My dog is always cautious around dogs larger than her, and while she will warm up to them once she gets to know them, having that many huge unfamiliar dogs leaping upon her at once was very unsettling to her.

The owners of said dogs told me I needed to let my dog interact with theirs and they would back off. Maybe I’m being too overprotective here, but I thought the situation a little extreme. One or two large dogs at a time Chihiro could handle, but several seemed excessive and I was a bit annoyed at the other dog owners for not making theirs back off.

One the large dogs bored of Chihiro she and I were kind of back to square one; all she wanted to do was walk around sniffing at bushes. She did romp for a minute or two with some other dogs, but mostly she seemed uninterested. Suffice to say I was discouraged from returning, especially because the traffic to and from the dog park at that time of day was awful.

My husband and I frequently spend weekends away visiting friends, many of whom are dog owners and then Chihiro gets plenty of interaction with other dogs. When we are home we often go hiking where we can let Chihiro run to her heart’s content. So I haven’t bothered to go to the dog park again.

Should I have kept trying to go to the dog park? Was I being way overprotective not letting five massive dogs jump all over my twenty-pound puppy? What have your dog park experiences been like?

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