Canine trainer Linda Mair says off-leash areas don't always produce calm dogs.
A far north Queensland canine trainer who describes off-leash areas as being like "a mosh pit for dogs" has urged owners need to think twice before their next visit to 'pooch paradise'.
Linda Mair is a certified dog obedience trainer who has worked with canines for more than 20 years.
Despite this, she refuses to take her pets to off-leash dog areas.
"We are all under the assumption that the more we socialise them [dogs] the better they are socially. That certainly isn't correct," Ms Mair said.
"It's not natural for dogs to socialise in big groups with other dogs they don't know.
"Some dogs get over-excited or over-stimulated and that can bring out behaviour, or we can have issues with possessions — I have many clients say to me that their dog was chasing a ball, another dog raced in to take the ball and a dog fight developed."
But the biggest problem Ms Mair saw with off-leash dog parks was the lack of control owners had over their pets — hence the "mosh pit for dogs" analogy.
"I like to say that with good training and correct socialising dogs should be ballroom dancing together," she said.
Personal protection for you and your pooch
Ms Mair said most dogs displayed recognisable signs when they became stressed or aggressive.
"A lot of dogs will stop still, their ears will go up, tail will go up, and the body will stiffen," she said.
In the event your dog ends up in a fight at an off-leash area, Ms Mair said the best thing to do was to remain calm.
"The more yelling and screaming we do, it often further escalates the behaviour," she said.
"As much as we want to get involved, we need to be very, very careful because if you start getting your hands in amongst something like that you can be very seriously bitten."
She said humans who found themselves face-to-face with an agitated canine needed to avoid eye-contact with the animal.
"That [staring] is quite an aggressive form of communication to a dog that is feeling defensive," she said.
"Sometimes you're best to appear slightly submissive —
I have a rhyme I give to children in schools:
"Stand like a tree, don't make a sound. Arms by your side, and eyes to the ground."
Above all else, Ms Mair said if you were attacked,do not run.
"Once you run, you generally become a target."
Teaching canine etiquette
To get the most out of their relationships with their dogs, Ms Mair believed owners must teach canine etiquette.
"We want our dogs to be more interested in us, as their owners, than every other dog they meet," she said.
"[They should] be social, be calm, do as we ask, but in the greater scheme of things I want to be the most important thing in the world to my dog."
To reinforce this idea Ms Mair said she chose to walk her dogs in quiet suburban areas where there were few distractions.
"If you really want to exercise your dog, put it on a lead and make it work a little bit," she said.
"A lot of dogs that go to dog parks aren't doing any mental work, they're just doing heaps of physical work — and often not the ideal physical work.
"If we put them on a lead and actually do some on-lead work with them, practising scenarios of what we would do as domestic dog owners in general and have them in a better state of mind.
"When you see calm, relaxed dogs, they're not always dogs that have been running around a dog park."