It all started when Rhianna was the first dog in my present pack. I wanted her social, I wanted her to be able to educate other dogs with my word, and I wanted her to be the example for every dog that followed in my pack. So how did I do that in an appropriate manner you ask? Keep reading…
I found as a dog trainer, the majority of dog parks had pretty unbalanced dogs in them a good portion of the time. (OR the owners weren’t stepping in when necessary) So how would I keep Rhianna safe, and educate the owners that needed it on how to properly monitor there dogs while at the park? Yes I know, most people would say its a useless battle, but If I can help a few local and not so local parks learn to have a better system — I’m all for it.
Rhianna and I would head out a few times a week for a car ride and go to a local park, sit and watch for a bit. If the park wasn’t so close, we would park the car and walk over, then sit and watch from a distance. (While Rhianna was in a Down Command) If anyone with their dog came by us, Rhianna would stay, and I would only release her if the dog had good body language. (If the dog did not I would tell the owners to please pass us.) This had two benefits. 1.) Rhianna learned she was always safe in command with me. 2.) She could watch me gauge the dogs, and this is how I think she started to gauge them herself.
Eventually, after learning what dogs went to these parks, I would give Rhianna her “Free” Command when we went to them. This means she can do what she pleases, until I say otherwise. (within reason of course) I would let her play and be a dog, teach her what dogs she can and can’t rough house with, and when to step away and come to me. Any dog that needed to calm down, or for the owner to step in I would gently approach the owner and let them know what was going on with their dog. (Yea it wasn’t always pleasant when some owners are in denial, but hey par for the course.)
Rhianna absolutely blossomed from here. We still to this day do this. “SCAN” parks we haven’t been too. She always checks in with me when a dog wants to rough house, she always comes and tells me if a dog is getting to be too much of a bratty pup, and she’s even taught a few unsure puppies how to swim a few times! Rhianna is my absolute rock star, she is the one dog I’m sure many of you have met if your dog was “not so friendly” and I’ve worked with you on it.
So yes, dog parks I do NOT advocate the average dog owner to go into willy nilly. They are a big deal, and yes sometimes you get lucky but other times…not so much. I DO though however, advocate responsible dog owners that are educated in canine body language and have a dog that’s really in tune with them, to try them out the way I did. It works.