An enclosed dog park is a fully fenced park where owners can bring their dogs to play with other off-leash dogs.
Enclosed parks can be fun for our dog, and can be a good way to expend some of his boundless energy. However, these parks are not for everyone. The often chaotic environment may be stressful for some dogs, may encourage dog-to-dog aggression, and may also result in dog fights.
Note: Do not leave an aversive collar (e.g. prong collar or choke chain) on a dog at the dog park. Only use a flat collar, or remove all collars. Choke chains can easily get caught in teeth while the dogs are playing, and become a choking hazard.
Enclosed Dog Parks – The Good
1. Provides good exercise for our dog.
An enclosed park gives our dog some nice off-leash time, in a fairly large space. Most dogs will enjoy the freedom to run, jump, smell, and play with other dogs. Friendly, energetic, and well-socialized dogs often enjoy this environment.
When I got my first dog, I did not have a backyard. I took him out on many walks (3 hours total daily), but our on-leash expeditions were insufficient to drain his puppy energy. He really needed an enclosed place where he could play and run.
2. Helps socialize a dog to people and other dogs.
Bringing a dog to an enclosed park will get him accustomed to a wide range of people and dogs. This may help build his confidence, and make him more adaptable to new things.
3. Is convenient and free.
Enclosed dog parks are free and open all day long.
Enclosed Dog Parks – The Bad
The most dangerous aspects of an enclosed park is that our dog –
- May get into fights.
- May get injured.
- May accidentally hurt a person or child.
- May develop fear and aggression issues. Once a dog has had some bad experiences with dog fights, he may become aggressive toward other dogs.
Dog fights usually occur because of irresponsible owners.
The most common problems we may see in an enclosed dog park include –
1. People who focus on socializing with others, and pay no attention to their dog.
When at the park, most of our attention should be on our dog. In this way, if any problems arise, we can quickly stop our dog from getting involved.
It also helps to pay close attention to the other dogs there. If I feel even a bit uncomfortable with any of the dogs (e.g. too dominant, too rude, too energetic), I always just leave. Better to be safe than sorry.
2. People who bring dominant, aggressive, or fearful dogs.
Some dogs are just not appropriate for enclosed parks.
Dominant dogs can become aggressive, when they think they are being challenged. Fearful dogs can become aggressive, when they think they are in danger. This may occur if they get surrounded by other dogs, and feel trapped.
If our dog has gotten aggressive with other dogs in the past, i.e. been in a dog fight or bitten other dogs, it is best not to bring him to an off-leash park until he is fully rehabilitated.
Fix dog aggression problems in a lower stress environment, and not in a chaotic park environment. Even in the absence of aggressive dogs, problems can occur. Some dogs may dislike rough play, some dogs may dislike barking, and others may dislike being chased. In fact, a dog may dislike another, for no discernible reason.
It is crucial to always be on alert, and diffuse problems before they escalate into a fight.
3. People who “correct” other people’s dogs with physical force.
DO NOT correct other people’s dogs in an enclosed dog park.
If we do so, we will get bitten sooner or later.
When my dog gets involved in a disagreement (before it escalates into a fight), I just separate him from the others and go to a quieter part of the park. I make a loud noise to briefly distract the dogs, and then remove my own dog from the group.
If the dogs are already in a fight, then do not introduce more aggression into an explosive situation by manhandling unknown dogs. Here is a useful article on how to break up a dog fight.
Someone at the dog park once told me, “You have to hit, slap, or beat the dogs when you separate them, to show them who is boss. Otherwise, they will bite you.”
That is one of the most stupid things I have ever heard in my life! Doing so would definitely get us bitten, and we would deserve it!
4. People who bring really young children who do not know how to interact with dogs.
Young children may inadvertently cause a dog attack by making a lot of noise, and running-around like prey. Because of their size and fast movements, small children are likely to trigger a dog’s prey drive. This may cause otherwise calm dogs, with good temperament, to chase and even nip or bite at the child.
For the safety of both child and dogs, do not bring young children (below 10) to an enclosed dog park. Note that a small child may also be knocked over by dogs who are running or wrestling.
If we want to bring a child, please make sure he/she knows how to interact with dogs. Absolutely no teasing and no running around.
Should I Bring My Dog to an Enclosed Dog Park?
The quality of an enclosed dog park depends on the people who frequent it. If we want to explore this dog activity, first, get all the information we can on the park. If we are happy with what we see, then visit the park before bringing our dog.
I am not a big proponent of enclosed dog parks, because all it takes is one irresponsible dog owner and his under-socialized dog, to start a fight.
If our dog absolutely loves playing with other dogs, we can consider dog daycare, group dog walking, or inviting friendly dogs over to our house.
An enclosed dog park can be very stressful on both owner and dog. Unless our dog is very balanced, and we have good off-leash control over him, a chaotic park environment may not be a good idea. If a dog just wants to play fetch, or if an older dog just wants some peace and quiet, it is best not bring him to an enclosed park. In such circumstances, an off-leash trail, or a large school field will probably make the dog much happier.
My Enclosed Dog Park Experience
When we bring our dog (a Shiba Inu) to the dog park, we closely supervise him. We always stop him from humping, and other anti-social behaviors. However, it is difficult to keep an active dog out of trouble, all the time. Sometimes, he will redirect and bite on us, when we try to separate him from other dogs.
In all our dog park experiences, Shiba Sephy only got into one almost-fight with another male Shiba Inu. There were no injuries, and no breaking of skin, but it was an unpleasant experience for everyone involved.
After experimenting with enclosed dog parks for several months, we decided to stop going. Given our Shiba Inu’s personality and his interaction style, it is simply too dangerous for him to mingle with a large number of unknown, and often untrained dogs. We also did not want our Shiba practicing bad dog habits, such as redirecting his frustration and biting onto us.