Ok, so this is one of my all-time pet peeves since I started taking Lola to the dog park regularly a few years ago.
People seem to think that park = park, whether it’s for kids or dogs. Allow me to say how absolutely stupid and dangerous this is. Here are just a few reasons why:
1. Dog parks do not have playground equipment for kids and the ground is covered in dog pee and poop. There is nothing in a dog park for kids to play with except filthy tennis balls, chewed frisbees, sticks, and whatever else you can find on the ground. All of this is therefore also covered in dog pee and poop. Some dogs that come to the park aren’t regularly dewormed, and do you know what kids do with stuff they find to play with? Either the “toy” or the hand that touched the toy goes right into the kids mouth. Do you want your child to develop a potentially deadly parasitic infection?
2. Dogs love a moving target — that’s why fetch and chase are such great games to play with them. Run, pounce, bite/mouth, repeat. You can see how this can end badly when a child is the object in motion. Dogs can scare or seriously injure kids, and I don’t have much sympathy for people who let their undisciplined kids run amok in the dog park — just like I don’t have much sympathy for people who let their undisciplined dogs run amok out in public.
3. Most kids do not know how to behave around dogs. Even if a child was raised with a dog in the house, it’s still ONE dog (or just a few dogs), and every single dog is different. Just because your kid is great with your dog, that doesn’t mean your kid will be great with every other dog they meet — or that your dog will be great with every other kid they meet. Kids need to be taught early on how to behave around strange animals, and no matter what, they should be supervised with ANY animal. Trust to know when your child is uncomfortable with a situation, and that other animals’ owners know what their pet is and is not OK with.
I’m ranting like this because of our dog park visit this afternoon. A young father had his *maybe* 2-year-old son inside the main enclosure. This kid was toddling around by himself with a stick in one hand and a frisbee in the other.
I’m not even kidding a little bit.
Lola is anxious around kids anyway. She loves infants (all the soft fabrics and the baby smells, I think), and she’s OK with teens and adults, especially after she’s met them once. Children, though, are noisy and unpredictable…they run around erratically and make loud sounds and are just generally CRAZY. She will run up, barking an alarm, and effectively scare the shit out of whoever she’s barking at. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body — she’s just warning them that she’s got her eye on them, and they’d better not do anything nuts.
As soon as I saw this kid in the central “group” area (lots of donated lawn chairs where people hang out and chat), I snapped Lola’s leash back on and took her to the other side of the park so she wouldn’t be tempted to scare this kid and his dad to death. (He did get knocked down by a dog while we were there, and of course then there was screaming and crying. Then other dogs got curious when the dad picked the kid up, and that was another situation to deal with.)
Needless to say, we didn’t have much fun today. She had to stay on the far side of the park with me, and we were effectively on our own most of the time. A bit later on a friend came over to play a bit, but by then Lola was being a butt-head (since no fun was being had), so we left earlier than we had planned.
TL;DR: Don’t take your child to the dog park. Your kid will get scared (or even hurt — I’ve seen bites happen this way) and you will ruin other people’s day at the park.