Tuesday Topics #27 - Who Meets Your Dog's Needs?

cabana standing face to face in a grassy field with an older male yellow Lab Here is Cabana playing with 8-year old Schute. Schute's owner brings him to the dog park almost every day--but for some reason, Schute rarely plays with other dogs. When he sees Cabana, though, Schute becomes a different dog--romping and running and enjoying himself like a young pup! It gives Schute's owner so much pleasure to see his dog playing like that--and it makes me feel so proud of Cabana, that she somehow knows how to charm an old dog like Schute. Aww, Schute!

Recently, I signed up for Family Dog I at the local Humane Society. So far, we've had one orientation class without dogs and one training class with dogs. It's all very basic stuff, but I'm excited about it. I feel like my dog training knowledge is very piecemeal, so it's great to get it all step-by-step from ground zero.

At the first class, though, the instructor said something that has me pondering. She asked how many of us (12 students) bring our dogs to dog parks. About half of us raised our hands. Uh oh. I knew instinctively that the instructor was probably going to tell us that dog parks are a bad idea...and I was right. But the reason WHY she said they are bad really surprised me.

She said that taking your dog to dog parks creates a situation where his/her physical needs, mental needs, play needs, and to a degree, emotional needs, are all being met by other dogs, rather than by us. Allowing their needs to be met by someone/something other than us deteriorates our relationship with our dog. They won't need us as much, won't love us as much, won't want to be with us as much.

Although I can see her point, I just don't think it's possible for me to meet all those needs EXCLUSIVELY or even PRIMARILY for Cabana. She is a dog's dog, and if given a choice, she'd much prefer playing with another dog than with me. I believe she loves me and enjoys being with me--but she's never going to find me as fun as another Labrador puppy. I could try playing her favorite game of "bitey face" with her, but I don't think it would have the desired effect.

If I had a dog that was more like Bucky, the dog we puppysat last week, I could buy the instructor's viewpoint much more easily. But to take away Cabana's playtime with other dogs would, in my opinion, deprive her of one of her greatest joys in life. She is simply hardwired to love other dogs. Heaven only knows I tried to train that out of her for a year, to no avail.

Also, even if it were possible for me to be the "be-all end-all" for Cabana, is that something I'd even want? That's a lot of pressure to put on any relationship. I'm grateful that Cabana is happy being with other humans and playing with just about any dog, knowing that she brings joy to them, as much as they bring joy to her.

I'd love to know what you all think about this subject.

Emily  – (June 1, 2010 at 3:13 PM)  

I think dog parks are a wonderful place. They teach manners, release energy built up from a lazy day or a long night's sleep, and they're a great place to train with dog distractions. Dogs need to interact with one another. They're pack animals, and although they love to please their human friends, nothing beats a romp with another dog! I think dog parks make a better owner-dog relationship, especially if you reward big for recall!

JackDaddy  – (June 1, 2010 at 4:04 PM)  

Hmmm, I don't think I agree with the trainer either. I think a good mixture of both is needed - if nothing else, to get the dog socialized to be around other dogs without fear or aggressiveness. I've seen too many dogs who are stuck in their back yard and who go crazy whenever a dog walks by.

Raiser Erin  – (June 1, 2010 at 4:29 PM)  

I think they're a great idea as long as that's not the only place they get to play. I love taking my pet dog to the dog park in my area, but I only do it once in a while. It's not because I don't want her to play with other dogs (though she mostly makes her rounds with the humans first) but because I want to be able to play at home with me. If it was the only place she was able to play I can see what the instructor was saing as plausible. But as long as that's not the only place the dog is getting exercise it's a great place to help them learn to interact with other dogs. Though I do scope out the park before we go in to make sure none of the dogs are aggressive.

Erin and GuidePupPompei  – (June 1, 2010 at 4:55 PM)  

Hmm.. defiantly have not heard that point of view before! Personally I'm fine with not being the end all be all for my dog, and enjoy that can operate independent of me. And the NEED dog-dog interaction, or else they will become fearful/aggressive towards unknown dogs..which is never good.
Sounds like a recipe for a dog with separation anxiety to me!

Lauren and Don  – (June 1, 2010 at 5:36 PM)  

Dog parks are a great place to train with all the distractions. For a pet dog, I think that going to the dog park is a great way to release energy, and could even strengthen your relationship. It teaches the dog that it can play with other dogs, but that they must stop when you say "that's enough" or are asked to come. It is a great place to teach a dog that you are in control.

Of course, if you were to only go to the dog park, and never do anything else with your dog, that would not benefit your relationship. I think balancing dog park time with walks or games like tug is perfect. I think that some dogs would be unhappy without some doggy playtime. While Don can't play at dog parks, my friend's dog will come over to play in our backyard. If I never let Don play with other dogs, I think he would really be frustrated in dog distraction training.

Ally, Eclipse, Teddy and Kira  – (June 1, 2010 at 6:11 PM)  

I think it's a necessary balancing act when dealing with either dog parks or mutli-dog households. I know that Teddy was a lot less confident and more anxious before Kira came along because Kira has something that I can't provide him. The same holds true for Eclipse, I can play with him all day and smother him with attention but there's still something that needs to be released through interacting with other dogs be it irritating Kira or enjoying a romp at the dog park. Even when he is at the dog park he doesn't rely heavily on the other dogs but he does enjoy short spurts of play before coming back to me or sitting and watching the action. I agree, it's difficult and detrimental to have one person as your everything, be you human or dog and could very well be the issue many spoiled small breed dogs have due to one person being their everything. Very nice Tuesday Topic!

Mimi and CC Cabana  – (June 1, 2010 at 6:51 PM)  

You all are so smart! You're right, I think the instructor meant that dog parks should not be the ONLY time your dog plays. (Or at least that's what I think she meant, even though she didn't quite say it that way.)

Our next class is tomorrow, and the instructor has told us to bring some interactive toys. So I think she's mainly trying to encourage all of us to play more with our dogs, which is always a good thing.

The Thundering Herd  – (June 1, 2010 at 7:08 PM)  

Not sure I agree, because it sounds a little like the dominance theory ( if we are in charge, the dog follows us - if we are not, the dog does not follow us). I believe canines are far more complex than that. My Herd certainly respects me (despite all of my joking around), but that does not mean that they can not get needs met by others.

OSU 98  – (June 1, 2010 at 7:33 PM)  

One of my biggest concerns with Ace was bonding with him, because he always wants to play with Chelsie. Someone I train with said I should try and keep them separated so he doesn't bond with her, but that is nearly impossible. I do think a healthy balance of human/dog is very important, and I think you are right not to want to be the end all for Cabana. Chelsie HATES to leave me - even though she does just fine once she is at my parents, you can see the fear in her face when she thinks I am leaving her and that is torture for this mama.

Cabana has a fantastic home, you are such a great dog mom to her. She is happy, well trained and well balanced. I know one day you want to do therapy stuff with her - and waiting for the right time and doing all this stuff with her will make your transition seemless.

Martha G  – (June 1, 2010 at 8:00 PM)  

The class you're taking sounds really interesting. I love humane societies these days!'

I'm not a fan of dog parks for Ardella, but it's because of Ardella's reaction when she's with a lot of dogs. I'm jealous of people who can take their dogs and have a good time.

At the Pet and Companion Fair in April, there was a Dogwise booth with a lot of dog-related books. One of the books I later found at the library is called Visiting the Dog Park, Having Fun, Staying Safe by Cheryl S. Smith. This is an author that doesn't have a firm opinion for or against dog parks, but she does raise some interesting observations and her chapter on diseases dogs can get from dog parks made me think I might not ever go to a dog park again.

One topic that was emphasized at the Dogwise booth was playing with pets. They had a lot of games and books on playing with dogs. Play seems to be a big interest of late.

Sierra Rose  – (June 1, 2010 at 8:27 PM)  

Hey there! Who's your instructor? We didn't hear that info... BUT, our FDII instructor, Sue did like to make us CONFUSED...to the point that we have to be very clear to our furrie pals on what we are asking/expecting... And, perhaps the follow-up will be about making YOU the funnest 'recall'...even when at the dog park. MHS has a dog park...so...? We do remember the talk in MHS classes about not meeting on leash....not natural.
Good luck :) Keep us posted on class II!

Hugs and snaggle-tooth kisses,
Sierra Rose

Mango  – (June 3, 2010 at 4:27 PM)  

We don't go to dog parks for a different reason. It is because every single one we have been to eventually has an owner with a mean doggie and tries to hurt us and the owners are usually very oblivious. Yuh, one doggie attacked PeeWee when he was a baby and the human had him pinned to the ground proclaiming that he "never did that before." Just too scary.

PeeWee goes to daycare, but he always goes on the same day and he goes to a place that is very mindful of how the doggies behave (that is why I got kicked out - hehehe).

But playtime with mom totally rocks anyway. For sure. We do mentals stimulations, agilities, and games and sometimes just snuggles.


Heather and Ellie  – (June 9, 2010 at 7:43 AM)  

I really disagree with the trainer on that--I can't imagine it would be good for a dog AT ALL to not be able to play with it's own kind. In fact, it's crucial that they play with other dogs when they're puppies, so they aren't aggressive or over-excited with other dogs when they're older. I don't see why that would stop being true when the dog grows up.

You saw how Cabana stopped being so distracted by other dogs when you took her to play with them at the park--I saw that with Barrett, too. If they play with other dogs a lot, it's less of a big deal when they see a dog on the street.

This may not be true for every dog, maybe that's where the trainer is getting that theory....

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