Monday, August 25, 2014

Dog Park Etiquette

Not a dog park
Between me and you, I'm not a fan of dog parks. I've discovered that some of the patrons are real jerks. My dogs aren't that fond of dog parks either. I took Pepper to one a few times. She couldn't have cared less about playing with other dogs. I took Jedi to the dog park here in my little beach town once when he was younger. He didn't seem overly impressed. Jedi and I prefer hiking in the woods; there are more exciting things to see and fewer people. If it were up to me I'd never go to another dog park, but . . . it's not up to me. My little beach town now has two dog parks. And even though they clearly say "use at your own risk" I'm required to patrol them and play peacemaker. UGH.
As I've ranted about mentioned before, one of my many "other duties as assigned" is to write articles for the local paper. But before any article is published it is "tweaked" by a sergeant, a commander and an admin assistant (none of who know a damn thing about animal control) and the poor excuse for an article never sounds like the original. More often it sounds like a third grade writing project. Thankfully they don't give me the byline, which would only reinforce the public's belief that I'm a total moron. The last article I wrote was a sterile piece on "Dog Park Etiquette." Here's what I wanted to write:
  • Leash all dogs outside of the park. Yes, this includes the parking lot. Yes, even if you're "only walking 10 feet." Excited, unleashed dogs have jumped on and knocked over people, once causing injuries to an elderly woman. Excited, unleashed dogs have started fights with other dogs. Loose dogs have run behind moving cars, nearly getting hit. One dog ran out of the parking lot and down the street. We didn't catch him for two days. And let's not forget, dogs off-leash outside the dog parks are in violation of the leash law. Animal Control officers will write tickets.
  • NO leashes inside the park. This is a fight or flight thing (Google it). A leashed dog surrounded by unfamiliar loose dogs can feel threatened and become aggressive. Being unleashed gives your dog the option of walking away from a situation that makes him uncomfortable, thus reducing the chances of violence. If your dog is on a leash in the park because "he doesn't like other dogs" then maybe the dog park isn't for you.
  • Don’t crowd the entrance. This can be overwhelming and/or frightening for incoming dogs. It's also annoy to others trying to get in. The dog park is the size of a football field, so move. Head towards the back of the park and let dogs meet each other on their own terms. If you can't walk more than 6 feet without getting winded then maybe the dog park isn't for you either. And to that woman who had to be by the entrance so she could see her car because one of her dogs was locked inside (he was being "disciplined" for barking): you're an idiot. And the fine is doubled for your next ticket.
  • Save the small dog area for small dogs. Again, this is directed to Mr. My-Dog-Doesn't-Like-Other-Dogs. The small dog area was created so that the little dogs can feel safe and have fun without being overrun by dogs twice their size. Big dogs -- yes, that includes labs -- can be scary and overwhelming. However, if you have a small dog in the big dog area and you don’t like the way the big dogs are playing, take your dog to the designated small dog area. Stop calling the police. They don't care. Really.
  • Do not bring in food. Whether its treats for the pups or a sandwich for you, leave it in the car. Even the nicest dogs can become aggressive when food is involved. Think about all the dogs in the park, not just yours.
  • Pay attention to your dog. Dog behaviors can change quickly. You can’t stop -- let alone prevent -- a dog fight if you’re not looking at your dog. Leave your cell phone in your pocket. Leave the magazine at home. Avoid engrossing conversations with other dog owners. Every single incident Animal Control has had to handle in the dog park happened because the owners were too busy doing something else.
  • Pick up after your dog. This should be a given. Unfortunately, it’s not. Whether due to inattentive owners or inconsiderate owners, there are stinking piles of feces left in the park daily. Bags and trash cans are provided for your convenience, so the only real excuse is that you are rude and lazy. I bet people would pick it up if my "Non-Compliance Poo Flinging" clause had been included in the park rules.
    STILL not a dog park
  • Remove your dog if he becomes over stimulated. Sometimes a dog becomes over excited or overwhelmed. He may be cranky or timid or annoyed by a particular dog. If this happens, take him home. You can always come back later. However, ignoring the fact that your dog is being a jerk and/or making excuses for his bad behavior is unfair to everybody else.
  •  Leave children at home. This is not the time to multi-task. It’s difficult to watch dogs and children at the same time. Just because YOUR dog is tolerant of children doesn’t mean everybody else’s is. And it's na├»ve to assume everything will be OK in spite of dogs running and wrestling with claws and teeth flailing about. This is a DOG park. Leave the kids at home and take them to a kiddie park later.
  • Stay calm. Despite your best efforts, sometimes things go wrong. Dogs fight, someone gets bit, shit happens. The best thing to do is calmly remove your dog from the park, call Animal Control, and/or exchange information with the other owner. Remember that your dog picks up on your emotions. Yelling and screaming will only make things worse. A bad attitude doesn't work well with the police or animal control officer either.

I promise that this version was much more entertaining (and probably more informative) then the one that the City sends out. I hope you enjoyed it!

How about you? Do you "do" dog parks? Why or why not? Do you have any other tips? -- K

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