Dog Parks Dog parks are an extremely hot topic with a lot of pros and cons that people need to take into account before making a decision. I, personally, consider dog parks to be the equivalent of sending your child to day care. Great for socialization, but with a higher risk of illness and not all kids thrive in a daycare setting or are ready for it. The most important thing for these settings is to make sure you are doing what is best for your dog. Yes, your dog will be exposed to multiple illnesses that they would not necessarily be exposed to if they stayed at home. This does tend to be in the beginning when you’re new to the dog park community, but will always be a slightly higher risk. This is the same as every time people go out in public they risk being exposed to more illnesses. Many illnesses will be avoided with proper vaccinations, but not all illnesses or parasites are covered with basic vet care. This can also be said for training places and any other place where multiple dogs are found. Dog parks can be an absolutely amazing place to get exercise and socialization for your dog. Many owners do not have multiple dogs for a chance to get the dog places where they may have access to a variety of dogs in their lifetime. Not all dogs enjoy having doggy friends, but many absolutely love having friends that they get to play with. These dogs will commonly have the same doggy friends they will wrestle with for hours. Many dog parks have the same people around the same time every day so the dogs do have best friends with time. The hard part is making sure that you are getting your dog the interactions it needs, not the ones you think it needs. Not all dogs love meeting strange dogs or cannot handle the overly aggressive greeters. Some dogs hate having other dogs near them and are easily intimidated. These dogs don't want to play at a dog park with tons of dogs running up to greet them. Just like people, not all dogs love being in social settings. This does not feel like exercise to these dogs and is more traumatic than social for them. Not all people are good enough at reading dog cues to really recognize the difference. For those people, doggie daycare is a much better option since most good doggie daycares have a dog person watching over the interactions and acting accordingly for each dog. Prices for doggie daycare vary a lot, but it can still be a lot cheaper than vet bills accrued from one fight or illness from a dog park. Every owner needs to make sure that your dog is staying safe. Many times, going to a dog park can mean just you, your dog and a large play area with no one else about. But the busy dog parks can be full of dogs and not all the dogs have great social skills. Dog fights can be very common in these situations and it can be hard to recognize all the dogs coming and going to watch for the dogs that may be aggressive. When parks get that busy, we avoid them completely. They can be more stress than fun at that time. It is better to come during hours when the park is less populated to play. Fights can vary from minor to life threatening. Some dog parks are extremely small with very little space for the dogs to actually get out and run, have no grass or Enrichment and are usually dirt fields policy sees that nobody ever picks up. These are not great places to visit. Some dog parks are absolutely huge and offer multiple areas where you can play ball or disc with your dog and may even have Agility equipment or docks that you can train your dog on. Some have beaches for those water loving dogs. We have visited many dog parks over the years for training purposes of our dogs. They can be an amazing place to work basic obedience, recall, focus, and socialization skills. They can even be a great place to work reactive dogs as you are at the end of your training with them. But they can also be an absolute nightmare when somebody shows up with a dog that is not properly socialized, hates other dogs, or is out right aggressive with other dogs. Not all dogs are good candidates for dog parks. Unfortunately, many owners are not able to recognize when it is not safe to have the dog at a dog park. When we lived in an area where there was a huge dog park in a great place to socialize our dogs, we would go every day at lunch. Just gave the dogs one to two hours to go and run and play. Unfortunately, there were days that we would pull up at the dog park and realize that there were dogs there that I did not trust around my dogs. On those days, we turned around and went elsewhere. This drove my dogs absolutely crazy since they were used to the routine of going and running for a while. But it is not worth having that access to a dog park if your dogs are not safe when they are there playing. When using dog parks it is extremely important to be an advocate for your dog and recognize when they are better off staying home or just going for a long walk. Examples of dog parks we have visited and loved: 1) Huge dog park (hundreds of acres) that is all fenced in with hiking trails and a lake for swimming. We meet people with their dogs as we hike, but it is not overly populated. This is a great place to go with dogs and be offleash. 2) A couple of acres in town that is mostly dirt and fenced in. Small and large dog area with some basic agility equipment for training. Commonly has 5-20 dogs running and playing. We learned to wrap feet when we visited here since the dogs would run their pads off playing ball. Rarely saw a dog that was aggressive or sick here. Owners have a mom's club, book club, and chess club that meet here. There are most likely other clubs, but these are the ones I saw and participated in. 3) Couple of acres on the ocean that was not fenced in. Some areas were extremely congested, but if we walked a way we could find areas with more room. Our dogs had a TON of fun and swam for hours in the ocean. Multiple toys were lost to the ocean that day and multiple we didn't come with showed up. 4) A couple of acres of beach on a lake that was fenced in for the dog area. Reasonably full of people but spread out enough you could find a place alone if you wanted to. Most people just laying out and enjoying the beach while their dogs played in the water. 5) Small place on pea gravel with agility and obedience equipment for training. Small fee for using facility to train. Usually a couple of dogs training in different areas. Great place to learn from different people and watch different training methods.