When your dog is going to meet another dog at the dog park, the way you facilitate this is really important. Should you have one on the lead? Both? Neither? My advice, in most cases, is that they are both off-lead.
Introductions can be stressful, especially if you’re not sure how your dog will react and if they will get along. Dogs are loving, loyal, trusting and VERY connected to their environment and surrounding energy. If we are anxious, stressed, or strung out, so are our mates, and they will react accordingly.
But it’s not just us. It’s also them! Even when you’re not worried about the approaching dog, your dog (for whatever reason) may be. When on a leash, your dog is restrained and is unable to escape. This means that when meeting another dog they’re unsure of, they are cornered, which may trigger them to act aggressively or lunge forward on the lead. Had they been able to move away and avoid, it may not have happened.
Needless to say, not all dogs are dog park candidates. If your dog has had a traumatic past, has not been socialised, is anxious and acts with aggression, or is not under voice control, they should not be off the lead, and they should not be meeting other dogs off-lead at a dog park. In this case, you’re not doing your dog, or any other dogs at the park any favours. These guys need supervised socialisation and training by a calm, experienced trainer or behaviouralist who focuses on positive rewards and interactions to give them the happiest life that’s possible!
As the one in charge it’s up to you to assess the situation and decide if the off-leash dog park is safe and suitable for your pooch. If not, find another way to give your very best friend the exercise they need and deserve. A happy dog makes a happy home!