To take a pet to a dog park or not? That’s the question

When our pet, Khal Dogo, was a puppy, my husband and I would take him to the dog park every evening, despite his trainer’s reservations. Our fellow pet parents suggested a dog park as the best place to socialise our pooch. Taking Khal there was convenient for us as well. While he played with other dogs, we chatted with other pet parents, fulfilling our social needs. 

But in about three months, we realised that dog parks are not the boon that pet parents think they are. A lot can go wrong there. “A space where dogs of different ages, breeds and temperaments are left loose without any expert supervision is not where you want your pup to be,” says Mumbai-based dog behaviourist Delano Henriques. 


We realised the follies of taking Khal to a dog park when he was bullied and bitten twice by two German Shepherds. He also suffered from skin allergies, got into fights with other dogs and picked up some bad habits. 

Also read: A dog is not just your best friend but a good therapist as well

So, while parents around the world rally for dog parks as spaces where their dogs can run freely, we realised what many experts don’t always feel so. Here is why.

Not always a positive experience
When a puppy is growing up, you want to ensure that he only has good and positive experiences while interacting with other dogs. If he is bullied or bitten, he may develop aggression issues towards other dogs. If he is the nervous, then he would become shy. That’s, of course, not good for your dog, says trainer and behaviourist Aakash Shukla. 

Then there is also the risk of your pet picking up bad habits from other dogs. At one point, Khal had completely stopped acknowledging our ‘come’ commands while in the dog park. Like most other dogs there, he refused to come back to us from a distance, especially while playing with other dogs. That was another warning sign for us.

Also, while dogs roam freely, their parents can be seen talking on the phone or sitting in a corner admiring other breeds, not knowing that their canine is humping another dog or has picked up a fight with a puppy. In such cases, it becomes hard for the parents of the other dog to protect them from others. Also, many pet parents are simply unapologetic about their pooches’ ill behaviour. Mukul Sachdev,  a pet parent, had a labrador excitedly run out of the dog park and straight jump into his car, which he had opened to let his pet out. The lab then jumped back and forth from the front to the back seat, leaving his muddy paw prints and saliva all over. The parents of the labrador couldn’t him out for several minutes. “When they finally did, they just shrugged and walked away,” says Sachdev. “I was shocked at their unapologetic behaviour. There I was, staring at a dirty car, and they didn’t bother to say sorry,” he adds. That day, Sachdev made up his mind to not take his dog to the dog park. 

Also read: How to handle your dog’s resource guarding behaviour

Many pet parents believe that their canine members understand the meaning of friends and that their dogs will not attack another one. Also, what seems like harmless dog play may not be so. One dog could be bullying another, making the latter very uncomfortable. But pet parents can seldom read a dog’s body language, thereby becoming a huge threat to others. 

In a dog park, many pets urinate and defecate in a limited area and then roll in it. It’s a breeding ground for infections. Veterinarian Pooja Harulkar advises her patients to not take their dogs to such parks. “Dogs there are more susceptible to skin infection and, in extreme cases, even deadly infectious diseases,” she says. 

Alternative to dog parks
If you want your dog to play with other dogs, take them to puppy training classes or for group treks, which are supervised by experts. Behaviourists know which dogs will get along with each other, and also immediately intervene when they see dogs bullying one another or aggression building up.

Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based journalist and a first-time pet parent.



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