Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Dog Park Dilemma

For over a month Husband and I have known about a new dog park that was to open soon. We didn't know when it would open but it looked completed each time we walked by except there was a padlock and construction tarp over the gates keeping the public out.

We'd walk by late at night during the times when most people would be back at home with their dogs ready to go to bed. One day the construction tarp came off but the park was still padlocked. It looked ready to be used but still nothing.

Finally last Friday it opened to the public! We couldn't wait until our late evening walk with Barry to go check it out and see if it really opened. It was. There were a few other dogs in the park along with their owners. One dog Barry had played with before at our secret park and his name is Trooper. We felt it was a good group of people who wouldn't judge Barry based on his breed. This is important to us.
Though, one couple left with their dog as soon as we entered. It could be coincidence so we'll just leave it at that.

There was Nella, Trooper, Miles, and Barry. Nella was Barry's favorite. He couldn't keep his nose away from her. She seemed to like him too. They ran back and forth and back and forth. Barry even chased a ball. He's no good with fetch, that's not something we have worked with him on yet as we have more important things to work with him on at this point. Miles and Trooper were pros at fetch.

This park is such a welcome addition to our neighborhood. We've taken Barry to another dog park about 3/4 of a mile away (again it was late at night and there was only one dog in there at that time). It's a nice park too but it's about 1/3 the size of this new park and it's all cement. The new park has seating for people, a gazebo for shade, and turf with some small pebbles along the sides for doggies to dig in and poo if needed. Plus it's right across from Barry's other favorite spot.

Then we took Barry again on Saturday evening. There were only a few dogs again because it was very late. It was a different crowd this time. There was a guy with two pit bulls and he asked us to wait to enter because he needed to leash his dogs, saying they weren't good with other pitbulls (this should have served as warning to us and we should have just told him we'd be back later and not enter at that time). He was a new owner, he told us. Barry ran around and played, running back and forth. He sniffed some of the dogs, they sniffed him and then he went to meet the two leashed pitbull dogs. Now, leashed dogs surrounded by unleashed dogs with a nervous new owner can make the leashed dogs uncomfortable and frustrated. That is exactly what they were. I saw Barry with the dogs and they began to growl and bark. Barry responded with what appeared to be an attempt to mount one of the dogs. The owner told me to grab my dog and I pulled Barry away. Barry was ready to play. Then the guy, after inspection of his dogs, said, "There's blood." I went over and noticed that on the snout of one of the dogs there was a tiny scratch. 1/4 inch and a spot of blood. Every time Barry plays with a dog that is his size or bigger he gets a scratch. He just does. I have assumed this was normal and just goes with the territory. Even when there is no aggression or frustration he gets little scratches. We asked to see that everything was okay and the guy did say that it was just a small scratch and it was okay. The scratch didn't seem like a big deal to me but I gave the guy my number because he seemed so distressed about it and in case anything developed from the scratch, and then we left the park.

Currently, I don't recommend taking pitties to a dog park in general. For us we know Barry won't hurt any dog or person. He's just not going to do it, unless you count a scratch from playing as something harmful. However, we'd never bring him during the daytime when many dogs and people would be at the park. We'd prefer only a couple of dogs along with open minded, or I should say informed people, who won't judge Barry based on how handsome he is. Because that's how they are judging him, right? Since he's so handsome they're jealous their dog isn't that handsome. I like the people that are confident that their dog is handsome too and aren't jealous. No need for jealousy. The dogs certainly don't judge one another based on looks.

We will be very cautious from now on when considering if we should bring Barry to the park. I think we will prefer there to be no dogs in the park at all if we could have it our way or only go in based on who's in the park. It was our mistake to go into the park where the owner was uncomfortable with his own dogs. That should have been our cue to just leave and come back later or the next day.

I have no doubt that the dog with the scratch is fine. I hope the owner of that dog can understand that he has two very strong dogs that like to play hard and that scratches will happen. To us it was very surreal to have the owner react to us and our dog in the way that he did when he himself owns two pitbulls. We can just chalk this up to yet another learning experience.

As a final note, I started this post before we went on Saturday evening to the dog park. I brought my iPhone to take some shots of Barry playing in the park and it was my intention to post them here. However, since the attitude turned so quickly in the park that evening no pictures were taken.


  1. Dog parks are a bummer to me. Too many people who don't know how to handle or "read" dogs. Charlie was attacked at the dog park and now she's fear-aggressive toward other dogs. I can't take her to a dog park because she freaks out and starts a fight. I guess it's better to know your dog and take appropriate precautions. Charlie's a yellow-lab mix and everyone assumes she's gentle... which she is with people and kids, but other dogs are another story. I just have to be cautious and know her limitations.

  2. Be careful with dog parks, I'm glad everyone was ok. You don't need dog parks and daycare to socialize your dog, best to steer clear for your and his safety.
    One big problem with taking bullies to dog parks and even daycare's is other owner attitudes, as soon as an owner gets nervous it sets their dog up for failure and can spark a fight. You also have to worry about pack/mob mentality because you have a large and strong breed. Play can get too rough for some dogs who may have a lower tolerance than your Barry for example, if the low tolerance dog has had enough it can spark him to bite your dog which can turn into a group fight and the bully will always be blamed.

    For bully breeds you're best suited socializing you dog in small groups of friends, puppy play dates with people you know, obedience and other classes.
    Most pit families, rescue organizations, and dog experts recommend not taking your bully to dog parks.
    Here are some more articles on it: http://www.pbrc.net/socializing.html http://www.badrap.org/dog-parks http://www.realpitbull.com/dogparks.html http://ascpbr.org/Dogpark.html

  3. Another great read on the topic! http://www.chako.org/dogparks.pdf

    1. Thanks Aavery! I do agree. I've never wanted to take Barry to a dog park because I've read all those things you just linked me to. We did so much research and learned so much upon bringing Barry home. Not only that, in general, even for smaller dogs or more "socially accepted" dogs things can still get sticky at a dog park. Many many people not paying attention to their dog - that is usually the biggest issue.

      We will take Barry as long as no one else is present so that he can get some exercise and run. We don't have a yard so a dog park is a great option for us, unless there are other dogs or people there.

      As for the daycare, this is another thing we have looked into quite a lot and our trainer recommended it for Barry. The specific daycare is very bully breed friendly and it is the highest people to dog ratio daycare in the city. The daycare has a great reputation and we feel really good about it. We won't take him often, just a few times per month. I wouldn't compare the daycare to a dog park, though. All the dogs being brought are registered and all have their shots. Plus the dogs are being watched full time by staff that are professional and trained, there are also a few dog trainers on staff as well. Unlike a dog park where people seem to go to gossip and meet new people and therefore aren't paying attention to their dog.

      We will definitely look for a doggie play date group or something, I'm sure there are plenty in the city here (unfortunately we don't have any friends near us with dogs). The only dog play date we've had is with a dog that lives 60 miles away and that dog showed Barry how much fun mounting can be. :)

    2. That's soo great that you found a good daycare for Barry. :-) Good luck in finding more playdates!