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Siberian Husky playing with a flirt pole

Skip the Dog Park: Safer and More Enjoyable Alternatives for Exercising Your Dog

Do you frequent your local dog park to exercise your pooch? I’m here to share with you why skipping the dog park all together may be your best option. There are much safer and enjoyable alternatives that you and your pup can do together!

Ten years ago, while studying to become a dog trainer through CATCH Canine Trainers Academy, one of my assignments was to visit local dog parks and document what I saw. I did my best to not look like stalker while my focus was observing dog play haha. Visiting random dog parks was probably one of the most eye-opening experiences during that course.

My dog at the time, Kota, was “dog reactive”, so dog parks weren’t even an option for us to frequent. Once I saw what was going on at the dog park, I made a promise to myself that I would never take a dog their for exercise or play. The things that I witnessed were pretty darn scary!

Why am I “not” a fan of these outdoor fenced in areas that seem to be popping up everywhere?

Here are 5 reasons that I’m not a fan of dog parks, along with some alternative activities you can do to exercise your pooch:

1. Safety

Do you know these other dogs? I mean EVERY dog that is there? If a dog is acting like a “bully”, can you be 100% sure that the owner will be able to call their dog away from yours, if needed? Does your dog love EVERY dog that she meets? I’m guessing this is a “no”.

What about parasites? Giardia? Viruses? Bacteria? Fleas and ticks? The dog park is a breeding ground for all of these things.

How about trash? Food? Random things your dog may pick up while running around with other dogs? Can you be sure that your dog will not scavenge in this wide open space?


Take a walk or a hike with your dog, together! Focus on the connection between the two of you. Do you have a super active dog? Run with them! You can even do these most likely without getting into the car. Trails, especially with leash laws, provide much safer environments for you and your dog.

This fall I’m going to start canicross with my high energy husky, Halo. Check out all of the safe and well made gear Non-stop Dogwear has, from hiking to skijoring with your dog.

Trail hike with dog Georgetown-Rowley-State-Forest
Charlotte hiking at Georgetown-Rowley State Forest

2. Bully and Aggressive Behavior

Some dogs MAY become aggressive at the dog park. They may bully other dogs. A dog might become territorial or start to guard other dogs… or even their owner.

A dog may grab something off the ground. Another dog could witness this and try take it from them.

Guess what this can lead to? Dog fights!

I’ve seen it all too many times. A poor dog that gets trapped. The owners are chatting about their recent vacations or weekend plans and a poor pup is trying to tell the world, “please help me”!


How about dog training classes?! Take a class with your pooch. You can do a manners class or try scentwork or agility. Here, dogs learn to socialize and learn behaviors in a safe and controlled environment. Agility is perfect for exercise and scentwork tires the brain. I promise your dog will get a good night’s sleep after classes!

My dog, Halo, and I are doing Manners classes at the MSPCA on Saturday mornings. She is having a blast and learning how to be polite around other dogs. This week is our graduation and we are signed up for Manners 2 class later this month. She is exhausted after class! Classes are also mentally stimulating for our dogs.

Halo Mat Training
Halo – loves mat training

3. Overstimulation

Dog parks can be overwhelming for some dogs…. and people, too – like me! Dogs that get easily anxious will struggle in this environment. There could be loud noises paired with rambunctious unfamiliar dogs your dog has never met before. This high energy environment can be stressful. Oh my!


Fun games! How about frisbee? A game of fetch? The flirt pole? Hide-and-seek? These can be done in your own backyard and are great for running your high energy pooches. If you have a dog that isn’t trustworthy off-leash, grab a long line. Cody’s Creations is my favorite for leashes and long leads.

Our husky nugget LOVES the flirt pole. Just 5 minutes of this activity and she’s ready for a long nap. Look at that joy!

Siberian Husky and flirt pole
Halo with the flirt pole

4. Lack of Supervision

A BIG one! When visiting my very 1st dog park, I learned it was more of a “social hour” for the adults. They were in a group chatting and there was a poor dog getting ganged up on. I wanted to scream, “Pay attention to your dog!!!”

Dog parks are not regulated. There isn’t a professional “in charge” like at a dog daycare facility. Rules? It seems to pretty much be a “free for all” and one would hope that they understand their own dog well. Both dogs AND owners can be lacking in control.


Plan a playdate or hike with your dog’s friend. You get to choose who your dog wants to play with. Our dogs rely on us to keep them safe, and it’s our job to gain that trust and be advocates for them.

If you search your local dog friendly facebook groups for your area, someone is bound to be searching meet up for a dog hike… or a jaunt on your local dog friendly beach (during dog season, of course!)

Dogs running on Singing Beach
Dog friends running at Singing Beach, in Manchester by the Sea

5. Breed Restrictions

Yup! They exist! You may have super friendly dog that has great play style – but she’s pitbull and they aren’t allowed. Or maybe your dog a 160 lb Bernese Mountain Dog and there is a weight restriction. I get that! I am a big believer, even when it comes to dog daycare, that dogs should be grouped by play style AND size. Again… for safety. It’s ALWAYS better to be safe.


Keep things safe by creating your own playgroup! And if you want a “neutral” location that is unfamiliar to your small group of dogs, consider renting a Sniff Spot. Sniff spots are private dog parks that you can rent by the hour. And by “dog parks” I actually mean peoples backyards that are fenced in . For just $5-$15 an hour you can run your pooch in a private are – you choose her companions to play with! It’s a win-win!

Pointer running with boy
Bruno running with Cole in their backyard

What do think? Will you be taking your pup to the dog park? Please reply with your own dog park thoughts!

There are so many other safer alternatives than the dog park. I hope you found this helpful when making your decision when it comes to exercising your dog and keeping them happy!

Around the Cirlce

This week’s post is part of pet photographer’s blog circle. This week the topic we are tackling and each putting our own spin on is “parks”. Click on the link at the end of each post and follow along! Next up Lynn Sehnert of Lance and Lili Pet Photography shares a park location in Loudoun County that is quickly becoming a top spot to take clients to throughout Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “Skip the Dog Park: Safer and More Enjoyable Alternatives for Exercising Your Dog”

  1. Both of my dogs have been attacked at dog parks before and their people did absolutely nothing about it. They still love dog parks, but we only go now when there is no one there or we know the dogs. If I had known we were going to have dogs, I would have bought a house with a fenced in yard for my two sweeties. Then Lili could spend her days sitting outside, watching for squirrels.

  2. Agree 100% for all the reasons presented. No dog park for Rylie. Our Vet clued us in based on these reasons as well.

  3. So true! I hated it when I used to go to the dog park and the dog walkers would arrive with an unruly pack!

  4. Never took my dogs to a park. We would just use our yard to play and neighborhood for walks & runs! I
    would never go to a dog park because of all the reasons you listed.

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