"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?