Home > Dog Park, Pet Safety > The hidden dangers of entering a dog park

The hidden dangers of entering a dog park

DSC05342If there is one thing that drives me nuts at the dog park it’s dogs mobbing the front gate, the gate through which dogs enter and exit. There is so much energy at that front gate. The dog coming in is excited and amped up and the ones inside are excited and amped up and become even more so when they see another dog coming in who is in the same state.

When there is a mob by the front gate, I wait for the other dogs to leave. If they don’t, I ask their owners to come and get them. If that doesn’t happen, I leave and go to another gate or leave altogether. I won’t put my dogs at risk for an attack.

Last week I witnessed two dogs start to fight after an excited setter entered the park and several dogs mobbed the gate. The owner really should have waited until the dogs had moved away or until the owners moved their dogs away physically, but she didn’t. She probably wasn’t aware of the dangers in not waiting. As was expected, the excited setter was attacked by one of the dogs on the inside of the gate as soon he entered. And as the two wrangled a bit, several other dogs decided to join in. Fortunately for the dogs, the owners were close enough to intervene and did so quickly, but for a second there I thought it was going to devolve into something more.

Entering a dog park can be dangerous if an owner is not aware and does not plan ahead on what they will do if there is a mob at the gate. Given my recent experience, I thought it might be good to share another video from Great Dog Productions showing just such a situation at a dog park. I am also including the slow motion version of the same video so you can see how quickly things can turn ugly. Watch as some of the other dogs join in after a black and white dog jumps the doodle that is entering the park.

Here is the slow motion version of the same video. Notice how the Lab is pushed away from the gate, but quickly comes back when the black and white dog goes after the doodle. Also notice the little Westie who started to join in. Watch the body language of the doodle. How is he feeling right about now? Scared? Nervous? You bet.

  1. January 6, 2014 at 7:24 AM

    Excellent, thank you! Shows that even a good – sized dog can be vulnerable in these situations…. I’m for play groups!

  2. January 6, 2014 at 8:24 AM

    Thanks for stopping by to comment.
    I only been to the dog park one time I didn’t like it.
    xo Cinnamon

  3. January 6, 2014 at 8:30 AM

    There are several reasons why I don’t care for dog parks. Personally, I think there should be an attendant on duty when they’re open.

  4. cafall
    January 6, 2014 at 8:35 AM

    Oh scary. I don’t go to dog parks. I know it is supposed to be good socialization for my pups, but we’ve had too many scary things happen.

    Monty and Harlow

  5. January 6, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    i think people really do need to be aware of the dogs body language, especially in situations like that at a park.

  6. colliebrookcrossing
    January 6, 2014 at 8:48 AM

    The 2nd (and last) time I took Ranger to the dog park was a nightmare. We were there for maybe 30 minutes, and everything was great. All the dogs were getting along, playing, there was a good fun energy between them. And then one guy showed up with his two dogs. Several people left when they saw him. I was later told it was because his dogs get aggressive, and they get aggressive fast. It was only my dog’s 2nd time at a dog park, and he was new to the idea of playing with new dogs. This guy’s 2 dogs target Ranger, and they bullied him. I asked the owner to call his dogs off, and he just smiled and said “they’re playing. It’s good!” I told him my dog was new to dog parks and he was overwhelmed, please help me separate them. You could see it in my dog’s eyes from a mile away. He didn’t. So I had to reach in to the mess of dogs (putting myself at risk as well as my poor dog) to find mine, who at this point was almost on the verge of panic mode, and we left, with his dogs still trying to bully my dog as we went through the gate.

    Some people just baffle me. If someone had asked me to call my dog away from their dog I would do everything in my power to keep my dog away from their dog, even if that meant leaving. If a dog can’t play nice, then dog doesn’t get to play. If people see your dog coming and leave, you should know that means your dog is a problem.

  7. January 6, 2014 at 8:57 AM

    I was always sad, that we have no dog parks here, but after all the posts I read and watching your video, I think it’s too dangerous for me to visit such a park.

  8. January 6, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    None of my pack has ever been to a dog park for just this reason. But of course, with a pack of 10 small dogs, who needs a dog park. Our living room and back yard suits them just fine.

  9. January 6, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    Getting in and out of those gates is really the worst part about going to the dog park. There are always dogs just hanging out waiting and it can be intimidating to my dogs. I wish people would just get moving with their dogs and keep the entrance/exits clear!

  10. January 6, 2014 at 11:41 AM

    I guess I’m weird or have some awesome parks to go to. The mass of excited dogs at the gate is always a mixed bag. I am careful to watch the attitudes being exhibited before pushing that gate open. Beamer is probably the most excited one and will get the others going first many times. I’m teaching him some patience and waiting for him to level out now before letting him in.

    I’m very grateful for the info here. Always something to learn. Thanks!

  11. Carole
    January 6, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    I stopped going to dog parks because Max does not like to be rushed or ganged up on. We go to a local park close to home that has a huge football field they can run in. Any other people that show up with dogs we know and are friendly with, everyone gets along.

  12. January 6, 2014 at 11:51 AM

    It seems like dog parks can be dangerous in general! I know that many dogs *love* to play together and often it’s totally fine and a great way to burn off energy, but I’ve also heard tons of horror stories from our local dog parks. Haven’t taken our 5 month old puppy yet and won’t be doing so until she’s at least over a year old… if at all!

  13. January 6, 2014 at 12:05 PM

    Every trainer we ever worked with has said they would never take their dogs to a dog park. I didn’t understand at the time because what we were calling a park was nothing at all like what I’ve seen and experienced since.

    We used to take Bella to a ‘farm field’ that was 60+ acres. Lots of people would bring their dogs but there was a) a walking trail (not everyone huddled in one place) b) no fence and therefore only experienced dog owners with dogs that would respond came to the field and c) it was 60 acres – if a dog was bothering your dog, there was plenty of room to move away.

    Due to some idiots not following the unwritten laws of the field, it was closed down and a new gated field put in. The size now might be a couple of acres. Every idiot in town brings their dog there to get their energy out and they have a little coffee clatch in the middle of the field paying no attention at all to their dogs. I can’t tell you how many times I read on their new facebook page that a dog escaped or had a fight etc etc etc. All the experienced owners that used to take our dogs there have stopped. And I will never take Bella to such a park again. It just is not worth the potential risk.

    Good article. (Although I couldn’t bear to watch the videos.)

  14. January 6, 2014 at 1:02 PM

    We almost never go to the dog park anymore. I went the other day, only because there was only one other dog (my intention had just been to walk Rita around the rest of the park, but when she saw the dog heading for the enclosed area for dogs, she started to whine so I thought we’d give it a try). When another dog came, I held on to Rita while it entered. The 2 dogs together were too much energy for her, so we left. It’s just too worrisome to have all that energy in such a tight space. We used to go to a HUGE dog park/beach (100+ acres), that had many entry points so there was never the problem of dogs rushing the “gate”. But… there was the problem of morons who hit dogs/women with sticks. So.. that kinda puts a damper on things.

    As Leslie noted above, Rita’s trainer says he never takes his dog to a dog park. He only lets his dog play with other dogs that he knows in a controlled environment. We are pretty much doing the same now.

  15. January 6, 2014 at 1:13 PM

    We go to the dog parks in and around Madison frequently. It’s rare that dogs get into arguments. I don’t know if the owners are just more responsible or considerate or what, but, except for a couple of minor dustups in the last 3-4 years, we’ve been lucky. Of course, that’s subject to change at any time — you always have to be alert…

  16. January 6, 2014 at 1:17 PM

    I hate getting in and out of the gate. There is always some crazed dog “guarding” the gate of the park and its owner thinks that’s just fine. These videos sure do show how quickly a fun day at the dog park can devolve into chaos and commotion.

  17. January 6, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Although I haven’t been personally involved, this is one reason we no longer go to dog parks. Scary.

  18. jan
    January 6, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    We stopped supporting our community’s efforts for more dog parks after just one bad experience at the present park. It was one human and his disregard for the safety of other dogs that ruined it for everyone. Our backyard is a safe dog park.

  19. January 6, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    Great post and so good to call attention to this problem, although the folks that are t the root of it probably aren’t reading your great blog…oh well. We used to be able to take our dog Sally to the dog park years and years ago when they were first getting popular. I think owners paid better attention and mitigated issues more quickly. Now the dog park is a substitute babysitter and exercise release for TOO many dogs. It’s no wonder they are all hyper and intense!

  20. January 6, 2014 at 4:14 PM

    I’ve left the dog park without entering when it was obvious that the people already there are letting their dogs mob the front gate. This is a big pet peeve of mine.

    I’m off to share. Maybe someone who needs to read this will learn something new.

  21. January 6, 2014 at 4:15 PM

    I’ve never taken my dogs to a dog park and probably never will. Do they have any kinds of rules set at any of these? I just don’t trust other people to control their dogs properly. We are lucky to have a large fenced in yard and multiple dogs ourselves, so I haven’t felt the need to go anyway.

  22. January 8, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    Great post! This drives me bananas!
    If we’re at a dog park and see some new dogs arriving, I’ll call Moses and Alma to me and have them sit and wait until the new dogs are comfortably and well in the park before I release them – all that tension of the new dog being greeted by several dogs at once is just asking for trouble.
    On that note – I also release Moses and Alma separately, letting them greet the new dog individually. Two giant Newfs rushing over to say hello is uncomfortable for another dog of any size.
    And when entering the park – well, I try to pick parks that don’t have entrances that create backlogs. But if it’s unavoidable, we’ll wait out the crowd and go in one dog at a time (both the Husband and I are there – I don’t take them both to the park by myself – too much to pay attention to).

    • Mel
      January 8, 2014 at 11:17 PM

      You are the ideal dog owner. Jen – You, Moses and Alma are welcome at our dog park any time. I wish there were more of you!

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