Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dog Park Here We Come

This morning Theo received his last set of his main vaccinations (minus rabies). Yay! I can now take Theo to dog parks and dog beaches and other places where he can roam free with his kind. Now the dog/dog socialization can really take place. He'll probably be a bit lethargic today from the shots, but I'll definitely try and take him to the dog park by my house tomorrow. I'm very excited! I hope he plays nicely with the other dogs...or rather, I hope the other dogs place nicely with him! He is a 'fraidy-dog after all.

In other Theo news, and this should teach me never to brag about how good he is again, Theo learned to chew on the wall this weekend. While I was in the room, no less! The nerve! Theo likes to chew his bed. I'd prefer he chew his toys, but I'll take it over my hands or something worse: the walls. And when he chews his bed, he likes to drag it all over the room. So there he was, chewing on his bed like a good little puppy. A few minutes later, after he had started playing with something else, I went to move his bed back to its normal spot. That's when I saw it. He had chewed up the baseboard that was next to where his bed had been! Ack! At some point he moved his chewing from his bed to the wall and I was none the wiser! What a tricky, tricky boy. Bad dog!

I sprayed half a bottle of bitter apple on the spot (which now looks terrible, since he chewed off the paint), and now I can only pray that it's a one time offense. So far he hasn't gone back for more, thank goodness. I'll just have to start watching him more closely. *sigh*


Jenna Z said...

I am not at all a fan of dog parks but I am so happy to see Theo growing up so quickly! He will be a big grown-up boy soon!

JuLo said...

Why aren't you a fan of dog parks? My trainer isn't a fan either because she's not in control. She says she just wants to tell everyone else what to do with their dogs. Makes sense since that's what she doesn't for a living. Is that the same situation for you? Or do you have other reasons, like the other dogs not playing nicely?

It just seems like such a great opportunity for socialization and exercise.

The dog park by my house is pretty nice. There's 3 separate pens. One for big dogs (over 30 pounds), one for small dogs (under 30 pounds), and one for all dogs.

S said...

Dog parks can be fun and it is important to socialize your dog, but sometimes, other owners are just reckless and don't watch their dogs when they bully others. Also, some owners are in denial that their dog is too agressive for the dog park. I've been doing the dog parks for years, and never had a problem, but just recently, my corgi was attacked by a crazy terrier that bit his ear. A dog fight is scary. Keep an eye on Theo and you should be fine.

Jenna Z said...

The reasons S gives are just a few of the reasons I think dog parks are nice in theory but can go horribly wrong. I think dog parks are a very HUMAN invention, something a dog would never come up with. I am of the mind that dogs do not need buddies that they see every once in a while. Dogs can benefit greatly from a buddy or buddies at home, in their own pack, that they bond with and form a family group with. They see them everyday, form strong attachment to, exercise with, etc. But once in a while friends are a very human idea that does not translate into dog. In dog, once in a while friends are competitors and enemies. Some dogs do very well, playing nicely with each dog that comes in and out of its life so sporadically. Other don't. But there is no NEED for this occasional interaction so why take the risk that something will happen (disease, dog attack, or even as flippant as fleas or ringworm or a small setback in training?) for something that (in my opinion) dogs don't need and some don't even want. Socialization during puppyhood is important. But it can be in a controlled setting, puppy class, with friends dogs you know well, at obedience classes. Dog parks are horrendous places to socialize a puppy because the chances of something going wrong are much greater than in a controlled environment. And if something goes wrong before your dog has completely formed their ideas of the world and other dogs, you get a major problem. You are putting your trust in other dog owners (which I wouldn't do if you paid me) and as S said, some people are in denial, ignorant, completely oblivious, etc. to their dogs' temperament and TOO many people use the dog park to wear out excited, high strung dogs. Nothing like unleashing a dozen highly reactive, excited, under-exercised, under-supervised dogs to create major chaos that most people have no idea how to manage or stop when things get hot and heavy. For me, the average (pet) dog owner is far too ignorant of dog language, and has far too little control over their own dogs for me to feel comfortable. I recognize that I have a highly reactive dog, I socialize him in highly controlled situations with dogs I know extremely well and I am in control at all times! And he knows it and gets reminded of it regularly while they are mingling, usually on leash. But I do not trust others to do the same either because they don't know how or they choose not to learn. But that's just my 2 (3? 10?) cents. So, I suppose it is a dog trainer control issue, and also a trust issue in that I don't trust the other owners to know and recognize their dog and it's body language/attitude/social needs as well as I know my own dog's.

JuLo said...

Thanks for clarifying Jenna, and thanks for the input S. I still think I'll give the dog park a try, but I do realize that I'll have to watch him like a hawk. I just like the idea that he has a place to play off-leash. I wouldn't mind just walking him around the larger park with me, but he would have to be on leash. I guess it would be nice if we could have our dogs off-leash without needing a specific dog park. But then again, those same ignorant people would still ruin it. Ugh.

S said...

Jenna is so right. So many people just drop their dogs off and then wander off to socialize with other people instead of watching over their dogs.

I'm not against dog parks, but I have seen some reckless, ignorant people and some nasty (very nasty) dog fights, with lots of blood and ambulances coming for the owners who jumped into stop something that should have been prevented. I've been going to dog parks for 2 years and my corgi's incident (2 weeks ago) was the first for me.

Jenna Z is right about all the other things. My dog has picked up fleas and ticks at the park. I check for ticks after every dog park trip. They're nasty and can transmit diseases. Not sure if Theo is on Advantix but check with your vet and see if he can go on it (just in case).

I usually take my dog for a walk to tire him out a little before a dog park visit. It's a good idea to get out some of that excess energy before stepping in, that way, your dog is less reactive to things around him and dogs are less likely to provoke and bully him. I also try to gauge the atmosphere of the park before entering. There are times when you can just FEEL how tense the mood is, if there is a bully dog. Please don't ever feel bad about walking away if your gut says you don't feel right about the mood that day. It's not worth Theo getting hurt. :-)

If you can, do try to take Theo to the small dog/puppy side, if your local dog park separates small from large dogs. There, he can play with other dogs who will be more comparable to him in size. It's safer and people on the small dog side are usually more watchful.

Good luck!

JuLo said...

Well luckily, the dog park by my house caters to a rather small neighborhood, so it's never very crowded. Theo has a chance to run around a big area with not a lot of other dogs. I'll definitely keep him with the smaller dogs at least until he's full grown. When he's an adult we'll see how we does with smaller dogs vs. bigger dogs. I don't want him to be the bully! Hehe.

Man, who would want to socialize with other humans, when there are dogs playing just a few feet away! I tell ya, some people are just crazy.

mary said...

Exciting, but yes be very watchful! Before you go for the first time, go out there without Theo a couple of times and scope it out, get a feel for what dogs are there on which days/times, and try to see when there is a good small group to join that won't overwhelm Theo.

There is one more important thing to be aware of. When Theo is scared, is his first reaction to run to you for safety, or to just run in any general direction he feels safe? You should be sure of which one it is, so that you know what to expect. Hopefully he would always run to you, and if anything went wrong you could just pick him up to safety and walk away. However, if you think he might be tempted to just run, you should be prepared to run after him. Better safe than sorry, be prepared :)

It's just something to keep in mind - it's an issue I had with my dog, where she would take off for home instead of me if home was in sight (and it usually was nearby since the off leash area was right across the street and not fenced). It was always terrifying, especially since she was basically cornered once she got to the door. While generally whoever scared her didn't care to chase her, I wouldn't wish my worst enemy to experience what I did when a GSD took off running after her... Fortunately the GSD didn't want to eat her once she was cornered at the door, but man was I terrified, I don't think I've ever ran that fast in my life ever again. I saw it coming too, but she took off before I could grab and leash her.

JuLo said...

Oh, I've scoped out the dog park all right. It's on my drive home, so I check it out as I pass by everyday. I've also stopped there to dog watch before. It's fenced into the separate areas I mentioned.

Theo tends to just freeze when he's gets overwhelmed by dogs swarming him. Then he'll generally make for a wall or corner. I've seen him run for people's ankles too. So he may not run for me, but I think if he were scarred, he'd probably run to the closest person to him.

mary said...

Sounds like you quite prepared, hope you guys both have fun :)

JuLo said...

Well I've been meaning to take him these last few days. Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance with work and other stuff coming up. Ugh. But hopefully soon!