Four years ago I attended a Sue Sternberg seminar which brought to light the dangers of dog parks. Sue spent years traveling the country visiting dog parks studying the dynamics of dog to dog interactions. Sue explained how the dogs are always communicating with each other and often what owners perceive as play is often not play at all. For detailed information and explanations watch Sue Sternberg’s dog park videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z18_TAYooHo.
Most importantly, much of what is seen at dog parks is not playing! Sue specifically calls out five “Red Alert” behaviors that dog owners should be watching for when taking their dog to the dog park. Owners NEED to be intervening IMMEDIATELY when they see these behaviors:
- Tail Tucked – tail under or between the legs
- Pinning- one or more than one dog on top of another dog and not letting them up
- Rolling- knocked over or flipped from impact of another dog
- Yelping- the dog is frightened and can trigger other dogs
- Group Chase – 2 or more dog chasing one dog
Sadly, many owners do not pay close attention to their dogs, they do not understand what to look for, or the wrong pack of dogs is already occupying the park. Just like all humans do not get along, many dogs have no desire to socialize with all other dogs! The willingness to interact is often influenced by breed, age, sex, temperament and energy level. Therefore a mixture of a dominant 5-year-old 85# dominant male bulldog, a cocky 3-year-old intact male Labrador, a 1-year-old submissive sheltie coming into season and a 5-month-old puppy mix could be a recipe for disaster!
Not only do dog owners have to worry about the dog interactions and potential for fights… what about health issues? Even if dogs were required to be up to date on their vaccines, who is enforcing the policy? Dogs are susceptible to deadly diseases, parasites and a host of other sicknesses as dog parks are unmonitored and not disinfected properly. These are important points to consider.
So what about Doggy Day Care!?? Well, depending on where you choose to bring your dog, daycare can be a much safer alternative to the often ‘free-for-all’ dog parks. Day care is not completely without risk because any time dogs congregate (like humans on an airplane) one sick dog can easily spread a bacteria or viral infection. Dogs running and playing could certainly get minor bumps, scrapes, cuts and even injuries, however, the benefits of healthy group play and exercise can be a great outlet for many athletic, energetic dogs.
At QK, we offer Play Care Monday through Fridays from 7 am until 5:45 pm. Our Play/Day Care program is extremely structured and well supervised at all times by experienced kennel care employees. All dogs at our facility must follow our strict vaccine protocol and we pick up feces and disinfect with hospital grade cleaners daily. These practices help to reduce the spread of illnesses.
Each morning our QK Manager or Kennel Care Lead will make playgroup lists to create packs according to each dog’s temperament, size, sex, age and energy level. New dogs are always evaluated and tested until we know them. Every day we can get different dogs, so it is important to assess the individuals and plan appropriate packs. Our skilled day care attendants will take the time to correct inappropriate behaviors and diffuse potential issues before they turn into problems.
This diligent interaction and strict supervision are often needed and important to help nurture safer, more healthy play. Simply put, the human is the leader and the dogs must learn to play nice. If at any time a dog cannot play nice or is just not thriving in a group, the dog is immediately removed. All QK employees carry radios so a quick call for assistance gets us all running to help.
We will work with problem dogs, try them with other playgroups, we will leash a problem dog and step in abruptly to correct bad behavior so that the offender learns better manners and social interaction. If our kennel care interaction cannot resolve the behavioral issues, then we recommend our training program to the owner in order to instill better structure, respect, rules and obedience. We will not tolerate aggressive dogs in our daycare packs! Some dogs simply cannot socialize, they may be too frail or injured and cannot play, they may be too shy or submissive or maybe even just too old and or grumpy. No worries, in these cases we will hand walk, do individual play, use our indoor land treadmills, or our higher intensity ATV roading exercise. We also offer aqua therapy for added exercise for dogs that need to burn more energy or for the old-timers who love the warm water, buoyancy and reduced stress on their joints.
In closing, dog parks are a great concept and they may be wonderful options for dog owners! If you are going to utilize dog parks, just take the time to watch the dogs first, watch the body language and make sure it is safe for YOUR dog. Always interact if you see RED ALERT behaviors!
QK Play Care is offered Weekdays 7 am until 5:45 pm.
$40 per dog per day or $35 per day if twice a week or more.