• Holly
    I never thought I would be one to take my dog to a dog park. I have heard so many horror stories and had lots of friends and family tell us to avoid it based on their experiences. But I have a Lagotto Romagnolo (5 months), and whilst they are incredible dogs they are also very protective and loving towards their owners, which makes them nervous to be approached by other people and sometimes dogs as well. We don't have many friends in Adelaide as we only just moved, and it's hard to stop strangers on the street and ask them to bend down with a treat and let him come to them for a pat haha

    We have decided that the easiest way to practice is at a dog park where there are people wandering with their pups who can help us out! We are lucky that our puppy is very responsive and stays with us as I think it would be different if he was one to bolt off to the other side of the park and wrestle with other dogs. But I know that things can happen in an instant, even if they are standing close to you, and it does make me nervous despite knowing that it's one of the best situations for socialisation.

    So what are your thoughts on dog parks? Good and bad experiences?
  • Mike
    Really good question Holly.

    I love dog parks and although I get very nervous at times, my personal standpoint is that you can't put them in cotton wool and feel the worst. You shouldn't have to be, but it pays to be attentive and get a feel for what other owners are actually paying attention to their dogs and who is showing signs that you should stay close to your dog.

    Bad things can happen, but it's a shame to let the fear of them get in the way. Ideally, once you get settled you develop a group of friends and can meet them at the park to make it a more controlled social outing for your pup in the future :)
  • Lisa
    Generally, I avoid dog parks. I think it's because I've always had giant breed dogs and alot of people with smaller dogs get nervous about them squishing their precious little babies. I've had alot of people approach with their dogs off lead in on lead areas and I find that is way worse as the dog on lead is always at a disadvantage.
    I think as long as you keep a close eye on your dog and make sure that it isn't getting bullied, or being bullied you are probably fine. But I think to be safe it's probably a good idea to watch for a while before you let your dog in - see who is paying attention, make sure the dogs are interacting nicely before you let your dog into the fray.

    If you are looking to get your dog used to being touched by strangers, try taking them to pet stores, Bunnings, and random vet clinics to get them weighed. People who work in pet stores and vet clinics are usually pretty comfortable with dogs. There is also a "secret" comp amongst Bunnings stores apparently for which store can get the most photos of employees with customers dogs.
    Also, Glenelg and Hahndorf seem to be the centre of the universe for dog lovers. We were in Adelaide with our pup earlier this year and couldn't walk 20 metres before being stopped to ask if they could have a pat.
  • Kasi
    My advice would be to avoid a dog park if this is what you're nervous about.

    The problem with dog parks isn't necessarily other dogs, it's other owners not paying attention (very common). In my experience no one is interested in other people's dogs. I have a very bouncy, loving, friendly labrador and I still have to spend the entire time at dog parks warding off other more growly, aggressive dogs who go for her.

    Despite what they seem, dog parks can be hugely stressful for dogs. There are so many different types and nervous dogs can get very upset.

    This all said, not all dog parks are equal, and you can find some that have great owners and doggos. It sounds like your doggo might be the nervous one, so it could be stressful for her.

    A dog park is probably the "graduation" location, not a starting point. You could start more slow by finding a "friend" on petsitting/petfriend websites, where you can socialise your dog in small intervals with a dog it gets very familiar with.

    Good luck!
  • Holly
    That's what we have been doing, just going to the same park and scoping it out. Luckily it seems all owners stay close with their dogs and actually pay attention, which is definitely helpful! It has been going really well, we just wander around the outside and that way he will only interact with a few people and dogs at a time instead of being in a big unpredictable group!

    I think we should go to Petbarn more and wander around, that's a good idea! And I never knew that about Bunnings! haha I really hope that's true. That'll be easy for us because my partner finds a reason to go there almost every weekend.
    We do go to Glenelg and Handorf every now and then and we do get lots of attention, as you said! Only they are a fair drive from us which is why we have been more open minded about dog parks/off leash areas. Thank you for the advice!! :)
  • Holly
    Thanks so much for the advice! We have been doing our best to get friends around, but the biggest issue was that we don't know too many other people with dogs. The few people that do, have dogs that have become really good friends with our Spencer - so that's gone really well! It's more that since we got him he has been a little off about people and dogs coming towards him, and even when we would just sit at the park or beach he just wouldn't warm up to it. But as soon as we take the leash off he is a completely different dog! Still a tiny bit nervous, but so much more willing to say hello to everyone. Hence why we have ended up at a dog park.

    We have been SO lucky that our nearest park is actually really nice. Everyone there has nothing but good things to say about the people and their dogs and the owners stay close as well - so it's been a pretty nice community! I still don't think it will be something we do long term, but it's definitely been helping our nervous pup which hopefully means he will be better at on-leash reactions soon! :)
  • Lisa

    I just realised something that might help you out! The Newfoundland club of Victoria runs monthly water training sessions during the summer months to teach dogs to swim, retrieve and rescue people and boats from the water. Like your little cutie, Newfoundlands were used as water dogs for many years and are still used as lifeguards in Europe. I know we allow other breeds to join and take part in the training. Maybe there is a similar breed club in Adelaide that does something similar! Try the Newfoundland club, maybe there is a Leonberger club.... we've found it's a great way to socialise our pup with both humans and well trained dogs!
  • Holly
    I would love to do something like that with Spence! I will definitely look into it, maybe they are doing one indoors since it is getting into winter. Those are the kinds of things we would prefer to do to socialise him instead of going to the dog park. We have also been looking into doing scent training with him too, anything to keep him busy and around other people and dogs! Thanks so much, that's definitely one I'll be looking into :)
  • Lisa
    During the winter we do carting/drafting training, which also seems to be awesome fun. We had little 17 week old pups pulling "carts" (super light frames made of pvc) and they were having a ball!
  • Holly
    What! That's so fun! It's so great to get involved in things like that, especially when you have active/working breeds because they really enjoy things like that!
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