Because our dog park has two sides to it - the under 30 pounds side and the over 30 pounds side. Everyone always plays in the over 30 pounds side unless for some reason they want to separate their dog(s) from the group, in which case they'll hang out on the other side. It's been used by me to get Luna used to all of the dogs without playing with them directly, by an Italian Mastiff owner when their dog didn't get along with a black lab, and by a woman whose dog tore his ACL and just got the okay to play but was still recovering.
The key for me is that I let them play - Ares and Luna know where I am and that I'm always going to be there for them if they need me and I will pick them up if they decide that they need a moment away from all of the dogs, but I don't hover over them and baby them. As a result, they are very independent at the park and even Luna can easily hold her own against all of the dogs.
Here are some videos of some of the dog park regulars playing with Ares and Luna. As you can see, Ares loves playing with Zooey (the black lab) and Trudy (brown and white collie mix). I can always count on those two to wear Ares out.
Unfortunately, as with anywhere where people can have strong, differing opinions, especially about their animals, there's a lot of drama at the dog park. The funny part is that I'm usually the youngest person there, especially among the regulars. I could be the child of most everyone there and I get along with all of them. But it's really easy to get on their bad side and I don't understand what people are thinking sometimes when they come to the dog park.
One person yells at any of the new people who forget to close one gate before opening another (dogs have definitely gotten lose before and it's no fun) and there's always the person who will watch their dog poop but make no move to clean it up.
The other big issue for any dog park is aggression between dogs. One of the reasons why I love my park is that you have to register and pay through the town in order to come to the dog park so people are usually really committed to coming. There's always going to be incidents that occasionally happen between the dogs but everyone always jumps in and stops their dog and checks to make sure the other dogs are okay. We know and care about each others dogs. I understand incidents happen and for the most part, people are concerned and embarrassed if their dog takes part in it.
But there's been a few things that have happened recently that actually made me reconsider bringing my dogs to the park. One is that one day when I was walking to the park in the afternoon, about 20 minutes before all of the regulars come, there was a man in with his dog, Lucky. I entered the first gate and started taking the harnesses off of my dogs while Lucky barked her head off at me. He met me at the gate and told me that I shouldn't come in the park because our dogs might fight. I pointed out that my dogs wouldn't be aggressive with his, but would his be aggressive with mine? and he stated that it was a possibility. When I stated that he shouldn't be bringing aggressive dogs to the park, he told me that when he signed up for the dog park, they told him that you enter at your own risk. I obviously didn't go into the dog park with him, but I did go into the other side until he left. I later called in a complaint against the man although nothing could be done because I didn't get his name.
The other huge issue is a woman who comes in with her Springer Spaniel. This dog is not super friendly, to the point where even she says he's a grumpy old dog. He's had several incidents with dogs and one time when another woman brought in her toddler, the dog went after and nipped at the toddler for no reason. The woman went up to the mother and made sure the girl was okay then said to the girl "Just don't mess with that grouchy old dog." The mother and I were both quick to point out that the girl did absolutely nothing except walk by him. It really bugs me that the woman knows that her dog can show aggression towards people and other dogs, yet she continues not only to bring him, but to let him do what he wants without stopping the behavior. It's gotten to the point where I usually leave shortly after she gets there because it's simply not worth it to me to risk the chance of either of my dogs getting injured by this dog.
I still love my dog park, though and for the most part, I love the dogs and people that come. It's a tight group of people AND dogs and I really appreciate the sense of family.
And now, a dog park picture dump to end this post on a happy note: