As Pack Leaders, our responsibility is to our pack, to house and feed them, love them, and to keep them safe in a smart, Pack Leader way. This includes taking them out of the home, into crowds, the beach, and dog parks. Keeping them safe doesn't mean picking them up when YOU are afraid (that's a GREAT way to get bitten, even by your own dog). It means not placing them in a situation that could be a danger to them, and this has to do with reading Dog Behavior/Body Language.
While that will be the subject of the next blog post, reading dog behavior will go a long way towards keeping everyone safe. Rough play is essential in the dog world and if you're unsure about which is aggression and which is rough play then study other dogs, too. It's always a question of what is the right thing to do when you arrive at the dog park and start reading the energy inside. And the short answer to this is simply don't go into the dog park if you don't think it's a good idea. Once inside, it becomes not the other dog owner's responsibility but ALL OF THE PACK LEADERS' responsibility to control behavior. An owner who doesn't understand this probably already has a dog that is a problem so it should be easy to spot. And if you are unable or unwilling to do this, don't go in.
Another option besides not going in is to go to another portion of the park and look for the dogs/owners who are calm and balanced. Projecting calm, in-control energy on your part also sends a message to the other dogs that you are an authority figure. If you cannot do this, please do your dog a favor and find another outlet for their energy. Most dogs can get along just fine when we leave them to their own devices and control the boundaries of good behavior (we do it with our children; our dogs are no different). If things are getting out of hand and no one is controlling it, do what ALL dogs do -- if there is a hole in the leadership hierarchy, FILL IT YOURSELF!
Good dog owners know this and don't take things personal when a leader steps in and makes sure things don't get out of hand. And, timed well, this leadership behavior is powerful in the human as well as dog world.
Until next time, protect your canine but let them be dogs, too!