For those of you who've read my blogs, you know that I have mixed feelings about dog parks. On one hand, they're a great outlet for your dog to socialize and release energy, but on the other hand, the terrain is festooned with peril. Aggressive dogs, parasites, open gate doors.
You could argue that driving a car, which is practically a necessity in modern life, is also fraught with a host of hazards: accidents, break-downs, police-traps. I get it: such is life - you take the good with the bad. You accept the risks.
Nonetheless, you wanna minimize, if not eliminate risk. That's why my parents never allowed me to drive in any car helmed by my one-eyed Aunt Gertie. She may have lived till 103, but scores of unlucky motorists who crossed her path at busy intersections didn't.
All this to say, that when it comes to exercising and socializing your dog, you can have your cake and eat it too without ever entering the hallowed, poopy grounds of the neighborhood dog park.
Here's what I do: Strike up conversations with neighborhood dog-owners who have dogs compatible with mine. If you're a regular neighborhood dog-walker, it's easy. There's always some pooch that's on the same wavelength as yours. In which case, ask the owner if (s)he is cool with their dog playing with yours (in an enclosed area). In my neighborhood, this juncture in space is a school yard, but any fenced-in backyard, vacant parking lot or field will suffice. The point is: let them chill together.
This approach has worked famously for me, although admittedly, it's relatively easy. We have many sweet, frisky dogs in the neighborhood and a huge fenced-in school yard with grass and an accommodating public security force that doesn't hassle us.
I'll typically allow for a 20 - 30 minutes of playtime and then walk my dog back home, his energy spent. Best of all, my dog's play-dates are healthy, safe and relatively risk-free...So long as my one-eyed Aunt Gertie doesn't drive through the neighborhood.