If your dogs aggression is directed at other dogs, taking him to a dog park will not improve his behavior. Most often, dog-related aggression is the result of your dog feeling threatened by other dogs, so while exposing him to lots of dogs may seem like a good way to teach him social skills, it puts your dog at a disadvantage, because being around other dogs makes your dog nervous, and more likely to put himself and others in danger.
Working out your dogs existing dog aggression on your own, or in a dog training class will be much more productive than taking your dog to a dog park and hoping things work themselves out. If your dogs aggression is mild, and he will still tolerate being around other dogs, enrolling in a group dog training class can allow you to work through your dogs issues in a safe, structured environment, giving your dog the opportunity to learn what to do in situations when he’s stressed or unsure.
For very aggressive dogs, private dog training lessons and consistent, daily practice walking on a leash and listening to obedience commands in stressful situations is essential to improving your dogs behavior. Even so, not all dogs will un-learn their old habits, and may never be comfortable with dog parks.
That’s OK. For an under-socialized dog, being around other dogs can feel surprisingly unnatural. Your normally happy dog may become very tense - hackles up, teeth bared - just by the presence of other dogs. Just like people, not all dogs inherently like other dogs, and dog parks can have such a large variety of other dogs and temperaments, that some dogs are just never okay with them.
Introducing a Reactive or Aggressive Dog to a Dog Park
There’s no safe way to introduce your reactive or aggressive dog to a dog park.
Even if you know your dog very well and you’re confident that their aggressive behavior isn’t serious, you have no way of knowing how the other dogs will react. It only takes one dog to dramatically shift the energy of a dog park. If all the dogs in the park are happily playing, and a new dog joins them that is barking, harassing other dogs or displaying extremely dominant behavior, the other dogs may get defensive.
Fights in dog parks are often triggered by under-socialized dogs and well-meaning dog owners trying to socialize them, or burn off energy. The reality is that the only way to change your dogs behavior is through training and consistent practice. And if you’re worried about your dog getting exercise, there are plenty of alternatives that dog-aggressive dogs can participate in, such as hiking, walks, jogging, biking, swimming, and dog sports that can help burn off your dogs energy while not putting other dogs at risk.
Introducing a Dominant Dog to a Dog Park
If your dog is a bully, but still generally social with other dogs, visiting a dog park could help him learn better play behavior. However, it’s important that you set your dog up for success when bringing him to a dog park by:
- Starting with parks that are not very crowded
- Practice essential obedience training, like re-calls, before you go
- Stop overly-rough play behavior early
- Staying close to your dog
- Keeping visits short
If you’re trying to make your pushy dog more social, start with obedience
training and gaining control over your dogs behavior on walks and in public before going to a dog park.