Good Morning friends!  I don’t know about you, but so far this Fall I have been super busy!  Paul, Riley, and I attended the Canine Carnival in Syracuse, NY last weekend to represent Coddled Canine and sell some products.  We had a blast! It was so cool to meet customers face-to-face, since we sell almost completely online!  I am looking forward to opportunities to do more events like that.  
Now that we’ve settling back in at home after a busy weekend away, I want to talk about dog parks.  When we were searching for housing, we needed something that was dog-friendly.  We found our current apartment complex which is very pet friendly and even has a dog park! We thought that was awesome!  After living here for a couple months, however, I realized that we tend to keep Riley away from other dogs we encounter.  I think it is actually the responsible thing to do.  Let me explain more.
Although now we try to avoid encounters, it hasn’t always been this way.  My stance has recently changed on this topic.  When Riley and I were younger, I wanted to make sure he was as socialized as could be!  I thought that going to a dog park or a place with other dogs would be a great experience for him to learn to be comfortable around other dogs.  Even the first few times we took Rye to our favorite hiking place that I’ve blogged about before, I was happy that Riley would be around other dogs.  
I’ve learned through experience that there are lots of scenarios that may occur at a dog park.  As we were hiking and passing by other dogs, some would run up to Riley in a playful manner, but just a little too fast for Riley and it would scare him.  Riley would growl and act defensive.  Some owners would let their dogs do whatever they wanted, and some would ask if our dog was okay around other dogs as we approached.  One time we walked by a couple and their dog who was leashed as the big dog barked at us the whole way.  The couple was trying to train their dog, but he was obviously overwhelmed.  Another time, two Great Danes were swimming off leash and Riley walked up to one of them and was alert but friendly and the three of them got along very well.
My favorite experience with Riley at a dog park was the same day we met the Great Danes.  We seemed to be alone on the trail and so we let Rye off leash.  He is for the most part very good at staying on the trail and will just trot along with us.  We came upon a women with a little dog that looked very similar to Riley.  Immediately Rye went up to her and sniffed around.  The two of them circled around each other about ten times and then Riley ran away as fast as he could.  He turned around and came sprinting towards her and stopped in front of her in the puppy bow pose.  He wanted to play and run with her!  It was the sweetest thing I have ever seen!  Riley had never done anything like that to a dog he didn’t know and the dog’s owner said he dog never did either!  She said that Harmony was a Pomeranian, but I know she had some Papillon in her because she looked just like this:

There are a lot more experiences that we had with dogs and their owners at dog parks.  Some good and some a little bit frightening.  Paul and I have talked a lot about these experiences and we came to a conclusion.  In general, we think that dog parks are not a good place to socialize your dog.  Dog parks are full of people and dogs who are unpredictable.  I do not find it wise to subject my little dog to the mercy of dogs who may not be trained or well-mannered.  To me, the risk outweighs the benefit.  There may be good encounters with other dogs, but unless they are all good encounters, your dog will have mixed feelings about being around strange dogs.  This is not the outcome I want for Riley.

If you are looking to socialize your dog or puppy, I would recommend asking trusted friends who have dogs for a play date or signing up for group dog training classes.  These are much more controlled situations that will result in positive socialization experiences for your dog.  

After coming to this conclusion, we still would go to our favorite dog park, however, we would keep Riley leashed at all times and be extra cautious around other dogs and even pick him up if we felt the need to.  We have put this into practice at our apartment as well.  We keep Rye close to us until we are sure there aren’t any dogs close by.  If we see a dog and their owner approaching us, we will start walking in the other direction especially if the dog starts to bark at us.  So far this method has worked really well for us!  We don’t take Riley to the dog park at our apartment complex either.  We hear a lot of growling and barking coming from the dog park and it doesn’t sound happy.  We figure it is better to avoid that experience all together.  

So that is our thought process on dealing with dogs and their owners that we do not know.  I think it may be a risky situation and it is not worth any one or any dog getting hurt just for the dogs to sniff each other and never see one another again.

I would love to hear your thoughts on dog parks and encountering other dogs on your walks.  How do you deal with the situation?  Do you like dog parks?  Have you had any bad experiences at dog parks?  Thanks for reading and have a great week!