Friday, February 8, 2013

We Take Our Pit Bull to the Dog Park - Oh My!

"You should never take your pit bull to a dog park"- Said by pretty much everyone

Well, whoopsies!  We must be really bad dog owners because we take Athena to the dog park.  Yep, I said it.  We are those people who dare to take their pit bull to a park where other dogs might be roaming around.

Some may actually consider us to be bad dog owners if all that they heard was us say, "we take our pit bull to the dog park."  What many don't know is that although we occasionally frequent the dog park, we are actually very particular about the park location, time of day, and circumstances for bringing Athena to a dog park.


1.  We don't go to those kinds of dog parks:

You will never see me at a dog park holding a coffee in my hand, chatting to a fellow dog owner, and letting Athena "play" with an unfamiliar dog without my supervision.  We are lucky to have so many dog parks in the Portland area, but honestly there are a few that are the stereotypical dog parks where owners bring their dogs for "free play" and "human socialization."  Those are the kind of dog parks that we avoid.

The dog park that we frequent is kind of a hidden gem and we are lucky to have it right in our neighborhood.  It offers a very spacious area for dogs to run and is far from the main road, so I don't worry about Athena running out into traffic.


2.  There aren't actually dogs at the dog park:

When I tell people that we are taking Athena to the dog park I might as well just say we are going to the "off-leash park."  It is a rare occurrence for us to actually encounter other dogs at the dog park.  Whenever we go to the park on a sunny weekend we can almost guarantee that there will be a few other dogs there, but if we choose to go mid-day on a week-day we are usually the only ones there.

I know that there are many dog parks in Portland that often have up to 20 dogs at them any day of the week and at any time of day.  I feel like that's just a little bit too squishy for me and Athena, so we avoid those more popular parks.


3.  Athena is a master dog-parker:

Would you believe me if I told you that our social butterfly could care less about other dogs at the dog park?  Well you better believe it!  Athena is WAY more interested in playing with her ball than she is with the other dogs at the park.  She never approaches another dog unless we give her the "ok" and if other dogs approach her, she will give them a quick sniff and get back to playing with her ChuckIt unless we allow her to initiate play.

We wouldn't take Athena to the dog park if she exhibited rude behavior in the presence of other dogs or if she didn't have a solid recall.



4.  Yes, there really sometimes are naughty dogs at the dog park:

I would be lying if I said that dog parks aren't filled with dogs and owners who shouldn't be there.  We have seen dogs who stare down other dogs, bark, and growl.  This is why we make a point to go to a dog park that is large enough for everyone to have their space and has an easy way to exit in case of a confrontation.

We also aren't afraid to leash Athena inside the park.  If there's a dog that comes into the park who is questionable, we immediately leash Athena and head to the car.  By having the leash handy, we are able to better control the situation.


5.  Dog parks aren't for everyone:

It's true that not every dog is suitable for the dog park and it's also true that a "dog park savvy dog" can turn into a "naughty dog park dog" as they age and become less tolerant of rude behavior.  Just because we bring Athena to the dog park at this stage in her life doesn't mean that she will frequent the dog park later in her life as she grows out of her puppiness.

So, instead of saying "you should never take your pit bull to the dog park," I am saying "take your dog to the dog park if you are a responsible owner, know your dog, and have done your research about the dog parks in your area."  


Not every city has the same type of dog parks and people who frequent them, so it's really unfair to judge those who do take their pit bulls to dog parks.  It's up to each individual dog owner to determine whether or not they want to go to a dog park.  Personally, we feel fortunate that there's a dog park in our area that is suitable for Athena's needs (not gated, lots of room to run, few dogs, etc.).  This might not be the same equation that makes up the right dog park that suits your dog.  

It's also OK if you choose not to take your dog to a dog park at all.  This might be what's right for your dog and you are being a responsible dog owner for knowing that your dog may not thrive at the types of parks that are offered in your area.

What are your thoughts on the dog parks in your area?  Do you take your dog to the dog park?

30 comments:

  1. Wow. Those are some common sense thoughts on taking your dog to the dog park. You are awesome. I adore you! :)

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  2. So true! There are a few dog parks in Erie that are gated, but they are both very small and hardly ever have dogs there when we go! There is an off-leash park that we've never gone to with Ed and probably won't because it is HUGE and other dogs will walk right up to you. Many owners there assume all dogs in the park (even leashed) are friendly and allow their dogs to engage.

    Tess is okay in a park, but I wouldn't be comfortable where she could be too far away with lots of dogs around, as she can be selective. I like the small areas for her. My biggest issue is that IF something should happen, it's not because Tess is a pitbull, but that's what people would see.

    Ed is not a dog park dog. Although he does okay at some in Erie when there aren't any other dogs there - it's basically like them playing in the backyard, only bigger!

    This is such a good point you bring up, and it's so true! Kudos for you and Athena in having such clear rules for yourselves - and you're so lucky to have found your "private" dog park!

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  3. Corbee doesn't go to the dog parks around here, but not because he's a pit bull. Because, the dog parks in our area are the human social hour type of dog parks. There are a few nicer, quieter, dog savvy owner parks outside of our area that some of our previous foster dogs frequent. But Corbin enjoys doggie daycare and I'm comfortable knowing the dogs he plays with there are up to date on their shots and all dogs have been evaluated for behavior issues prior to play. Corbin loves dog/dog play and can some times get vocal which makes other owners who don't know him uncomfortable. He's also a mega butt sniffer, both human and canine, so the doggie daycare girls keep him in line! We also set up playdates with some of his canine friends to keep him active when he's feeling well. I wish we had an open area like the one you bring Athena to! Corbee would love that open area to run in. We do bring him to the dog beach on Lake George, but it's not often there are other dogs there. In that case, Corbin ignores other dogs and only cares about his ball getting thrown into the water!
    -Corbin's momma, Jenn

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  4. Love this. I agree with everything you said. The dog parks in our area are what you describe as "the stereotypical dog parks where owners bring their dogs for "free play" and "human socialization." So we avoid them. We go to other places that allow dogs off leash, like the beach. There we do encounter other dogs, so although it's not officially a 'dog park' it's the same idea- a place where dogs can run free and don't have to be leashed. Although Nola is not a pit bull, I still wouldn't take her to the actual dog parks. It's not because of her breed, it's because it is not a place we feel comfortable in, with too many things we can't control. We take all of our fosters to other areas they can run freely, fenced in baseball fields, the beach etc., and not dog parks- not because we are worried about their behavior (because all pit bulls have dog aggression, right? ha!) but because of the OTHER dogs and their owners that frequent the parks. I wish more people would have common sense about this topic! Great post.

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  5. The only one even remotely near us is a closed park in which you register and pay a fee to belong to. Being that it is 30 minutes from us, we passed on that but try to find ways to excercise Ray in our own yard. For socialization, we 'shop' and take classes but I'm still considering doggie day care as well.

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  6. We take our Sadie to the park. Her looks would remind you of Athena. I never take my eyes off her for a moment because there are too many people drinking their coffee, chatting and reading the paper instead of watching their dog. We have also encountered pitbull prejudice at the park. I had a man tell me that I shouldn't have my viscous dog there. Sadie had done nothing but calmly greet his dog. I also heard a couple talking about the pitbull that shouldn't be off-leash with the other dogs. It's based totally on how Sadie looks. She is one of the best-behaved dogs in the park. But then again, we also have people cross the street when we are walking her. And she's a pocket Pittie . She only weighs 40 pounds!

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  7. Yes i do take Trinity to the dog park. We use to frequent it more when i worked weekends. We only went on the weekdays and i watched her like a hawk. We've only had one problem there when two beagles were barking at her from both sides of her, she was so scared, she tried to come to me but couldn't and once i finally got her i yelled at them. Luckly the owner wasnt pissed i did it but he wasn't a responsable owner and take his dogs out of there (he kinda laughed it offf). All the other dogs i encountered have been fine and we see many of her friends from play group there. Kylie still needs to work on her barking at other's issue. I wont be taking her anytime soon.

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  8. Love responsible dog ownership, regardless of breed, it's the only way to be!!!!

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  9. I have read before that you should never take your pit bull to the dog park and I was really taken aback. If we're trying to erase stereotypes then shouldn't we stop imposing them on ourselves? I don't take my pit to the dog park mostly because she is pretty rude when greeting dogs, although I wouldn't consider her aggressive, she just needs a really tolerant playmate. Also, our neighborhood is mostly filled with older people and small dogs, not a good combo for my pup. I definitely think though that any well-behaved dog can go to the dog park by following your common sense rules!

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  10. I take my dogs to our local off leash area often. It is not a dog park, per se, but is a human park where dogs are allowed off leash. That said, I would never take a non dog friendly dog there, even on leash, because I think it is reasonable to assume at least a certain amount of dog tolerance from all dogs at the park, leashed or not (though I do not allow my dogs to run up to and bug leashed dogs).

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  11. I know someone who adopted a pit as a puppy and they frequented the dog park daily. He was a master and loved it. But, as he neared about the age of 2 they started having problems. He wouldn't start a fight, but if a scuffle broke out he would always get involved. It only took a few incidents for them to realize this was no longer a good option for their dog. This has nothing to do with him being a pit, but its the kind of experience that makes me hesistant.
    I know my dogs and I know Braylon does not have good recall. I don't think Braylon would ever be a good dog park dog. She loves to play but I can say for a fact if another dog started up with her it's not very likely she would just walk away.
    I think Hades would do much better but honestly I am overly protective and I don't know that I'd be willing to risk it. And if nothing else Jay is not very tolerant of people and I could see him being very impatient of irresponsible owners. He's not quite so good at keeping his mouth shut. It's usually a people problem, isn't it? ;)
    I like the type of park you have and you do know Athena very well so it sounds like a great situation for everyone. She's so well behaved!

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    1. "Has nothing to do with him being a Pit". LOL! That's rich...

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    2. Dog/animal aggression tends to appear in dogs once they mature, most often between 2 and 5 years old, and this is actually a natural that American Pit Bull Terriers are highly prone to because of genetics. Just as a Border Collie is prone to displaying herding instincts, most APBTs will often display dog/animal aggression to some level; some APBTs will go through life without ever exhibiting any form of dog/animal aggression, others may display very severe levels of dog/animal aggression, and others may be very dog-selective meaning they may only get along with certain dogs. Unfortunately, even APBTs that have been raised with another dog have matured into being dog-aggressive. Other bully breeds and terrier breeds are also prone to this, simply because of genetics. This is not a trait that should be considered negative in the breed, it should be well known & acknowledged by APBT / pit bull mix owners/fanciers. Anyone that denies these facts need to take a step back and rethink what dog breeding and dog breeds are all about; we have different dog breeds for a reason - selective breeding for desired traits. APBTs were bred for a blood sport requiring very specific traits, and those very traits still stay within the genetic makeup of these dogs.

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  12. Great post! In Chicago, we had a very large dog park that included trails and ponds as well as off-leash dogs. I loved going here with Rufus because it offered us space to do our own thing and our dog-to-dog encounters were few and far between. Usually Rufus would sniff a dog for a quick second and decide to walk away or offer a play-bow on his own terms. When dog parks are just smaller, fenced-in areas with dogs and grass, he gets overwhelmed and will growl if a dog invades his space. Rufus has never taken the next step after growling, but was once pinned down by a boxer after he gave her a little warning growl. Because some dogs don't take crap (and I respect both sides of this), we now avoid smaller dog parks in which he can't "get away" if he needs to. The same goes for daycares with small play areas.

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  13. Here, Here! I'm in the same situation as K-Koira. Also, my Bodhi isn't concerned with the other dogs until he is through playing with the ball or frisbee. I think responsible pit and pit-mix owners are a little more vigilant with how they let their dogs interact with the public and other dogs. I guess we still feel we have something to prove.

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    1. And why is it, do you think, that you have to be vigilant in the first place? Why is it that everyone here admits to being cautious, and careful? Do you think maybe it's because the dog breed has major problems with aggression and violence? It's fascinating to see so many people admit something without actually being willing to admit it.

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  14. Agree with everything you've said! I am slowly introducing my dog Mabel to the dog park in my neighborhood of North Portland. She is very social in smaller settings, but gets very shy at the dog park, so we just walk around and stick to ourselves for the most part. I think Mabel actually prefers the attention she gets from the humans we meet at the park! But every once in awhile she finds a dog interesting enough to play with for a bit. I'm just happy to get her out and let her sniff to her heart's content - I do like to see her socialize with other dogs, but she's just as happy smelling every inch of the park!

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  15. Great rules! We take Hurley to Chimney Park in North Portland. It's off the beaten path and 100% fenced with a good group of attendees so long as you don't take your dogs there on a sunny Saturday. Actually, the Hubster took Hurley last weekend when it was really nice here in Portland and said there were about 40-50 dogs. Now, I would have turned around and left but he stayed and said Hurley did amazing. There were so many dogs that some altercations did break out but Hurley apparently is now the Dog Park Peace Officer because each time a few dogs got snappy with each other, he deposited his 100 lbs in between them and played peace officer, calming the dogs down. My guy is such a champ! Sadie & Maggie however need a much more chill dog park experience so Saturdays are out for them. Maggie is much like Athena in that she doesn't care about any other dogs when the Chuckit comes out.

    Usually, Chimney Park is not that busy. When I take Hurley weekday mornings or early Sunday mornings, there are usually 5-15 dogs in the 2 acre fenced park. We have plenty of room if we want to work on training. All the dog owners walk the circular path with their dogs, keeping with them and while we do socialize as pet parents, the folks who do weekdays and early mornings are uber responsible about their dogs. If I'm uncomfortable about any one dog or owner, I simply move to a different part of the park and if that doesn't work, we leave. We haven't had any issues with our dogs at this particular park and I attribute that to the fact that the majority of the time, there's a small number of dogs in a large park with owners very tuned into their behavior.

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  16. I agree with you and I don't think there is any reason why you shouldn't take Athena to a dog park!

    We only have two dog parks here in Wichita and we only go to them when we can be the only ones there. More than once there have been close calls with dogs getting injured at these parks and I don't want to put Boomer and Dottie at risk.

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  17. Kato loves going to the dog park, but I don't like any of the ones here in Dallas. Too many people, too many dogs. Hopefully one will be built close to home soon that we can go to. I'm lucky to have a relative with half an acre so Kato can run free without any worry. It is just a little too far for frequent visits.

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  18. I agree with you, it doesn't matter what the breed of dog is, what matters is if the dog has the personality and behavior to be with others in that type of setting. One of our pack is one of those that doesn't play well with others. Not even her own pack mates sometimes. As for me, I am not dog park material either! : )

    First time here and gotta say, your Athena is a beautiful dog!

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  19. Wow, your dog park looks pretty amazing! The few times I took Shiner to the dog park, there were hardly any, or no dogs. But it just seemed like a muddy hole to me so I don't really take her anymore. Plus, she gets intolerant of younger dogs that want to play after a little while. Yes, she's getting older.

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  21. Mom and dad never take to the big dog parks with a lot of dogs because sometimes dogs like to pick on me and they don't want me to have bad experiences if they can avoid it. But I do get to go to a couple of smaller dog runs where I get to play with just a few dogs at a time :) I just love playing with some pup buddies!

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  24. It's good that you know not to take your dog to a regular dog park where normal dogs can play. Because of your dogs propensity for violence and aggression. I wish every pitbull owner was smart enough to know how dangerous their dog is. Unfortunately 80% of the time I take my English bulldog to the dog park, it gets attacked by a pitbull for no reason whatsoever. It's too bad most pitbull owners aren't aware of how dangerous the breed is.

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