Behavior | Training

Why did I take my girl to the dog park…?

I’ve been faithfully taking my ‘snarkileptic’ border collie female to the dog park for about a year around 4 times a week. It wasn’t until this seminar I really looked at my dog and thought “is this good for her? Does Ellie need to go to the dog park? Is her behavior improving because we go to the dog park?” My honest answers are all ‘no.’

Ellie never plays with other dogs at the dog park, she is often telling other dogs to piss off and not touch her. She is targeted by dogs that like to chase her while she is fetching. Because I wanted her to ‘socialize with other dogs’ I haven’t been throwing the ball for her, which means that she has to bring the ball to other poeple. Then when I want to leave she lays down next to the person who plays fetch with her, very clearly communicating that she’d be just fine if I left because there is another human that is taking better care of her needs than I am. And I wondered why it was hard to get her to come to me? How could she be more clear about saying that needs work and is happiest with whoever works with her?
Do you think dogs need to work/play with their owners or just other dogs? Our dogs are pets and in my mind their first ‘job’ is making their owner happy. Some dogs do benefit from playing with other dogs but that will never take the place of working/playing with its owner. I remember seeing other dogs happily come when their owner called and were satisfied to leave if thats what their owner wanted. This is what I want for Ellie. I want and need to be her dream owner as much as I want and need her to be my dream dog.
So why did I keep on going to the dog park when it was clear that she wasn’t making any progress in becoming more social with other dogs? I think because I had too much fun talking with and hanging out with other dog people. I still want to go to the dog park, I just have to work Ellie first and not bring her.
I could also change the time I go so that we have private time to interact together and let her sniff and mark. She has already had enough close calls for me. I know that I could go there another 1000 times and not have a single bite break the skin, but what cost am I going to pay in order to push my luck? Now I have to face the fact that my friends might think differently of me and change my schedule but its worth it to know that I’m doing the best I can to protect and enhance the relationship I have with my dog.

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