Dog Parks vs. Structured Playtime
Dog parties are fun. No doubt about it. While many dogs do well getting to play in a group environment, some dogs can be reactive. That doesn’t make them aggressive, but you do have to manage it and train to desensitize the dog to his/her surroundings.
This involves continual training and proofing to find out what they can successfully handle without reacting. I have spent many years desensitizing my dog to his trigger of other dogs running around and playing. He has come a long way from when he was younger. I can successfully take him to shows and have him around a large number of dogs. But I manage it. I scope out the area first and try to find an out of the way location for him to be settled down. If things get too much for him, I take him out away from the situation for a little while to settle down. We have his favorite treats/toys and when he starts getting distracted we play the attention game. Even with all our training, I wouldn’t take this dog to a dog park. I’d have no control. The other dogs could run up to him and set him off. I also don’t know who will happen to take their dog to the dog park at that time of the day. If another dog was aggressive, they could take his reactivity as a threat and we could end up with an issue. I wouldn’t be able to manage the situation. I need to think about what is best for my dog and the other dogs involved in the party. However, in a more structured environment, I can continue to work on his issues. If another dog starts setting him off, I know I have help to control the situation. If he starts reacting, I can back up until we are at a distance he can handle. This is one of the reasons we require knowledge of the dogs before we allow them to attend a doggie party event. We need to know ahead of time if the dogs will have issues requiring assistance. For dogs that are reactive, but haven’t yet started desensitization, both dog and owner need to have some training first. As an owner, you need to learn how to manage your dogs individual reactivity issues so you can help control the situation and ensure a happy party experience for all.