I know opinions are mixed on dog parks. My post isn’t meant to open (or close) the debate, but simply to share an observation. I know the risks: Lyra got kennel cough last year; she’s been roughly tackled a few times, before I got wise. Yet I’ve chosen to use a dog park — with a few conditions — to give Lyra the chance (legally) to run at top speed, which she loves, and to practise recall etc.
Today, I realized how useful it has been to me in analyzing Lyra’s triggers. In the dog park she seems “normal” — with one small exception: she will still duck away from people reaching out to her. She’s happy to stand close to anyone — and chooses to do so — as long as they don’t try to stroke her; she has played happily near a small child; she is unafraid of (and mostly uninterested in) the passing traffic — which she can see and hear from all areas of the park.
I suspect her fearlessness at the park (with the one exception) is due to three things: 1) what’s missing: buses, garbage trucks, and people trying to handle her in a closed-in, focused way; 2) familiarity with the space; 3) the fact that she is “primed” to be happy doing one of her favourite things (run). The park has thus helped me isolate her fear issue with strangers/children — hand reaching — and with traffic. (Other dogs are not an issue for her, usually, and one of my “rules” is that I’m familiar with the dog/owner.)
Unlike the creek — where we are happy and trigger-free — the dog park does admit some issues, as above, but not the top three, and I’ve found this to be helpful in isolating what really upsets her.
(I may also be slightly addicted to watching Lyra run.)