Should you take your Shih Tzu to the dog park? Perhaps you are considering a new dog park but not sure if your dog will like it. Stick around because we are going to talk in detail about the dog park and whether it is suitable for all dogs.
The dog park was once a great concept, particularly for urban areas. Some people still believe that their dogs love the dog park but this is actually rarely true. Sadly, a filled dog park is often a terrifying place to be, for all but the most confident Shih Tzu. Why is this so?
This is because dog parks can create bullies. Yes, dogs can be terrible bullies and often their owners or the owners of the poor bullied dogs have little idea of what is going on. Think of the dog that hides, again and again from a persistent pup whilst the owner of the overwhelming dog chats away somewhere else.
Dogs can also gang up on one poor timid animals making the dog park a place to be terrified of, from that very first visit. Often people believe that dogs should be encouraged to socialise, forced to interact or even pushed into the crowd with no back-up from the people that they trust. This is a poor state of affairs for a scared Shih Tzu and one that could stress him out for many days after the event.
Shih Tzu body language shows fear quite well. The dog when scared will drop his tail low. Drop his body language and try to get out of the way. If your own dog does this when a dog approaches him then your Shih Tzu is scared and the dog park is really not the best place for him to be. Can you imagine being frightened of crowds yet forced to be in a place where people force their presence right into your face? That’s what the dog park is like to a worried Shih Tzu.
If you live with a Shih Tzu puppy and are considering the dog park, then think again. A well-organised, professional puppy class is probably a much better option. When qualified trainers run puppy classes they prevent any kind of bullying behaviour from developing. This is because they know that bullying leads to scared dogs, as well as long term canine bullies.
If a Shih Tzu puppy is bullied even once as he is growing up and learning, or even worse during one of his sensitive social learning periods, then the Shih Tzu may always be scared. Therefore, learning to be social in a controlled and carefully monitored environment is the very best bet for a Shih Tzu puppy.
Back to the original question, should you take your Shih Tzu to the dog park, I am tempted to say no. Unless you can read your dog’s body language perfectly and are prepared to work hard at both keeping him happy and keeping over-enthusiastic dogs clear then no. Just allow your Shih Tzu to be naturally social with dogs he meets on normal walks and don’t force him into a crowd that he is likely to find highly intimidating.