Most of those that know me, know that I'm am not a fan of dog parks. Unless of course I am the only dog in the dog park!
I'm probably not gonna be very pupular writing this article. We are not here to judge or to preach, just to share information about our experiences and those of others that we read, know and discover. Maybe this information will help other pups and keep them from suffering the same fate (or even worse) than I.
We hear stories nearly everyday of dogs getting severely injured, attacked, and even dying from encounters or accidents occurring in dog parks all across the country. I was once one of those statistics.
Back in November 2005, when I was just about 16 months old, I was severely attacked at the dog park. I had been going there all summer, about 8 months at least 2-3 times a week and always had a blast. Never a problem, never a consequence. Then on November 6th, 2005, a beautiful fall, sunny day, we decided to go to the dog park for some fun and exercise.
That's the day that it all went horribly wrong. Mum let me in the park and I was greeted by a couple of pups, we made our way back to where all the humans and other pups were. Just then all the pups descended upon me, at first it looked just like play. But one of the pups bit me, and that's when all the pups ganged up. They bit me and they bit me hard. The human owners were much too far away to do anything. Mum took action and kicked the dogs off me and scooped me up and had to continue to kick the other dogs off her as they were trying to get to me.
She rushed me to the car, ripped off her sweatshirt and patted me down to look for injuries (I'm a black dog and injuries don't show up very well). She didn't find any blood, but there was an incredibly awful smell coming from me - a smell like the worst doggie breath imaginable. That's when Mum found a damp spot on me, looked more closely and found that I had a chunk taken out of my backside, right between my hips.
She sped to the emergency room and we spent 6 or so hours there as they looked me over, performed surgery and got me all stitched up. You see, when a dog bites, all the skin surrounding the place where they bite is pulled away from your body, creating a massive injury. So they had to stitch me up from hip to hip in a criss-cross fashion.
The next few days were touch and go. All the dogs biting on me had bruised my bladder and we had to rush back to the vet several times. Over the course of a couple of weeks, as I was mending, Mum found numerous places where dogs had punctured my skin, and the amount of bruising all over my body was just unbelievable.
But I was very lucky, each dog bite had miraculously missed every important artery and organ. All I needed to do then was heal from my surgery.
I have to say I'm a pretty resilient. Six weeks later with a still shaved, but fuzzy and scarred backside, I was well enough to compete in my first agility trial - a USDAA trial where I came away with 4 Q's out of 7 runs, with three 1st places and 1 second place. It was a good end to a tragic story, but it could have been so much different.
Mum and I learned the hard way the dangers of dog parks. I will never set paw in one again, guaranteed! Being my Mum's first dog, she didn't understand and I don't blame her - she's learned, I learned and we are always learning.
One thing that amazed us is when we talked with the docs at the emergency room, they told us that 80-90% of the injuries they see day in and day out either occurred at dog parks or at doggie day camps. That figure, we both have to admit, was very surprising. Maybe we hadn't been around the doggie world long enough and hadn't heard the stories, but until that time we had never heard of pups getting injured at either of these locales.
After the attack, I was pretty skittish around other pups, but came out of it fine in a few months or so. And Mum paid particular attention to re-socialize me with other pups in a more organized and controlled fashion. Luckily it didn't scar me for life.
Everyone talks about how great dog parks are; your dog gets great exercise, dogs like to play together, dogs love it, and humans don't have to get tired exercising us.
We know that many of our friends visit dog parks and do wonderfully, just like we did for the first 8 or so months. Perhaps they have friendlier dogs at their parks, perhaps the dogs' owners are more attentive, or perhaps their time hasn't come yet.
Now that we've been around the block, so to speak, we've heard way too many stories about injuries and deaths occurring at dog parks. And we've learned you really just don't know the dogs in the park, even if you think you do. You don't know if those dogs in the park are nice dogs, or a bad dogs, or if they are dogs that could have just been adopted, where their history isn't known. And you don't know how much control the humans will have over their dogs, or if they will be paying attention at all.
Dog communication is very complicated to humans. Many, many humans really can't read or understand what we're saying to each other. An innocent looking group play can turn into a gang up situation and dangerously escalate in a matter of seconds, even if you are carefully watching your dog and how the other dogs are behaving, like my Mom was. You can't expect any human to be able to read 10 dogs in a matter of seconds, and then try to break up something before it gets out of hand in a split second. It's impossible.
There is a lot of information found on the Internet about how great dog parks are for you and your pup. We read about it all the time. But what we don't hear much about are the dangers.
For more information about dog parks, check out these links about the dangers of dog parks and suggestions for pup owners if you decide to venture:
Dog Parks: Why they are a bad idea!
Dog Park Violence On The Rise
Dog collision kills pet at Sequim off-leash park
Pet death shows dog park dangers
Board Weighs Changes At Park After Dog Is Killed
Whole Dog Journal's Dog Park Etiquette