IS THE DOG PARK BEST FOR SOCIALIZATION?
The short answer is no.
While dog parks offer a venue for your dog to be social, many dog parks aren’t the best place to teach your dog how to be socialized. You may encounter dog owners who aren’t knowledgeable in dog play, some may be negligent in tending to their dog, and others aren’t taking an active interest in socialization. Your dog can learn bad habits or be involved in situations where they don’t have the tools necessary to avoid or dissipate dangerous encounters.
We’re definitely not against dog parks, though, but we suggest when planning an outing to a dog park, find local groups with people who share your interest in dog socialization. You can find a lot of great groups via Meetup or Facebook Groups. Search these platforms for your dog’s breed, age, size, play or energy level, or any other thing that would be a classification on which a playgroup could be focused. You’ll not only have the possibility of compatible matches for your dog but you’ll also meet like-minded dog owners.
SOCIALIZATION BEYOND THE DOG PARKS
With our Frenchie, Madoc, we started with puppy socials at a local puppy training facility. We enjoyed these socials as much as she did – so much so that we continued going when Madoc graduated to the small dog socials. Friday night socials had become our weekly happy hour outing thanks to the wine and cheese laid out for dog parents. Beyond snacks, socials were great because they were staffed by a certified dog trainer and a support staff member or two. Through interactions with the trainers, our dog learned a few things, but more importantly, we as dog parents learned about dog play and the difference between “good play” and what is cause for concern.
We began having “play dates” at home with dogs that we met at meetups and puppy socials. The most effective group was the French Bulldog Meetup group in San Francisco. They held two Meetups per month and we tried to get to at least one of them. After making frequent appearances, we made a handful of close people and dog friends. Individual playdates were great after matching dogs that have demonstrated chemistry with each other at these larger events. The pups could then practice their play skills in a familiar environment with attentive parents on hand.
Finally, we learned about dog daycare while at a social one night and it was the best decision we ever made for our dog. The dogs are attended by daycare staff who monitor play, so it is a safe space and the dogs bond into a “pack” – complete with social hierarchies and interactions.
She continues to love daycare and it was her enthusiasm for it that led us to have Good Dog. The foundation we built through multiple channels of socialization made her adaptable and sociable while becoming a better dog at home.