I know, I know, the dog park can be a terrible place, but for some people its a good place to bring your already well socialized ADULT dog. We live in a suburb, an area where there isn’t necessarily good off leash options in a convenient location. What we do have is a few off leash city dog parks within a few minute drive of our house.
For a GSP owner off leash areas are a necessity, a GSP NEEDS to run, yes we have a fenced in yard, but your yard isn’t always sufficient for the needs of a high energy sporting breed. It gets stale and boring, they need places to run and sniff. Sure we have some squirrels and birds, but not nearly the same amount as the dog parks around us have. And a leashed walk is not sufficient exercise for most dogs.
So, why do I defend dog parks when they are havens for dog fights, communal diseases, and injuries? Because I have fully educated myself on the risks and know how to take as much precaution as I can. First off, I regularly keep Qwerty up to date on his Bordetella (Kennel Cough) vaccination, Distemper combo vaccination, and Rabies vaccination. He is his heart worm prevention monthly (I bet you didn’t know that heartworm prevention also help protect against intestinal parasites!).
We also did not start going to the dog park until training and socialization was in a good place. Qwerty has awesome recall and checks in regularly. He is always kept in check and I am constantly paying attention to where he is in relation to other dogs. I pay attention to both Qwerty and any other dogs who may interact with him, and their behaviors. BEFORE I see an issue escalate I call Qwerty to me and we move to another area and try to avoid any dogs he doesn’t jive well with. I also have a rule, if I hear more than 2 loud scuffles between other dogs I leave immediately, I also will leave if I hear multiple people calling their dogs over and over again with no success (these dogs typically are not going to be able to be called off another dog if there is a fight or scuffle because they do not have the obedience to be de-escalated by a human and are much more in the dog pack mentality.
Sometimes its hard, we are only at the park a few minutes before we notice that there is just not a good group of dogs there for our needs, usually then I go to a leashed area and work on some training or just go for a sniff walk to at least get some stimulation/enrichment in for the day. I try not to blame other owners either. Sometimes their normally well behaved dog is having a bad day, or they are just off for whatever reason.
Following my own rules I have created for me and Qwerty have worked well for us. I know that the dog park is not a good place for everyone. I definitely do not recommend bringing puppies there to socialize, actually I don’t recommend using the dog park as a place to socialize any dog. It is a place for already well socialized, social dogs, who are ok with being around other dogs and people to go to enjoy some off leash time.