I love going to the dog park. It’s a nice way for my kids, myself, and our dogs to get some physical activity in the beautiful outdoors. We try to walk to our neighborhood dog park most days of the week. In fact, I’d say dog parks are one of the greatest things ever. Except for when they’re not. Unfortunately this wonderful modern lifestyle event is sometimes tarnished by the few dickwads who ruin it for everyone.
Based on true-life experience, here are my top suggestions for how not to be a dick at the dog park.
1) Don’t bring your dinner.
One day I was at the dog park and my dog Lilly kept running across the park over to this man sitting at one of the tables. While Lilly likes people in general, this is not typical behavior for her. Finally I went over there to retrieve her once and for all and found the man was eating a chicken dinner. No wonder she wanted to be his best friend.
2) Don’t bring your Frappuccino and leave it unattended on the table.
Again, some dogs really food motivated and strongly attracted food and beverages. Having to continually restrain your dog from someone else’s unattended beverage is just plain annoying. Drink it and throw it away.
3) Don’t bring your aggressive dog to “play.”
If your dog has aggression issues that you cannot control, please don’t bring your dog to act them out on mine.
4) If I am leaving because your dog won’t leave mine alone, don’t let him follow us.
Recently we were at the dog park with two of our dogs to give them a chance to run around and get their energy out (the reason most urban folk go to the dog park). Another dog came over and started to “play.”
However, that dog’s comfort zone was quite different than mine. After that dog repeatedly chased ours under the bench, while growling and biting -- and the owner did nothing -- we decided to leave. We leashed up our dogs and proceeded to exit. The other dog followed and continued his aggressive behavior.
We continued making our way to the exit, with difficulty. The woman trailed behind and exclaimed in a whiny voice, “He’s just trying to play. He’s a puppy. This is a dog park!”
Yes, it is a dog park. Yes, our dog is a puppy too. IF SOMEONE IS TRYING TO GET AWAY FROM YOUR DOG, THEN YOU NEED TO MAKE IT STOP. Or else someone might be a dick back to you.
5) Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
I am not the most social person in the world. Dog parks are about as social as I get, and that is because I am in close proximity to other dog lovers. This doesn’t mean that I want to engage in small talk with every single human I encounter there.
In fact, most of the time I will avoid conversing with people I don’t know. That’s just me. The dogs that we bring to the dog park are generally self-contained and don’t attack other people.
One day I had May Belle, my Chihuahua/Rat Terrier mix held high up in my arms while our bigger dogs frolicked about. I don’t usually bring May Belle to the dog park because she has anxiety. But sometimes I do and I carry her when she is scared.
This lady stared at us for a long time and then approached, “Doesn’t she want to play?”
“If she did, she would be.”
May Belle was bothering no one. I was bothering no one. I know a few things about dogs and this dog in particular. I don’t want, or need, your coaching on how to treat my anxious dog.
6) Don’t bring your unaltered dog to the dog park.
Besides population control, one of the main reasons people get their dogs fixed is to reduce aggressive behavior. Inevitably, it’s these unaltered dogs that tend to get into the most confrontational behavior. I’ve seen many well-behaved unaltered dogs, to be sure, but generally speaking, this is something you’re not supposed to do.
7) Don’t throw shade on families with kids.
There is a segment of the population that resents the presence of children at the dog park. Why? Because they have to pay more attention when kids are around.
It’s true that children’s behavior is generally less predictable than the average adult’s, but this doesn’t mean that families need to hire babysitters before they take their dogs to the park.
Yes, the parents should be paying very close attention -- and most do. How else are children to learn how to be around dogs if they aren’t allowed to? Age-based discrimination isn’t any cooler than breed-based discrimination.
8) Don’t let your dog hump my dog.
Really, this is another dog behavior that is strongly discouraged. It’s your responsibility to keep your dog off other dogs.
9) Don’t let your dog hump my kid.
The same woman whose dog “plays” aggressively with my dog is the same one whose dog mounted my son and tried to hump him. It all happened in a flash, we were walking a slim trail and my then 6-year-old son was right behind me when her pit mix ran up and promptly started humping my son -- while the owner did nothing to stop him from doing so. Fuck you.
10) Don’t wander off and just let your dog do whatever.
Just like when parents bring human children to human parks, pet guardians should pay attention to their dogs at the dog park. Some people feel that because it’s a dog park, anything goes. No.
To make this a pleasant experience for everyone, people from a variety of backgrounds with dogs, and sometimes children, from various backgrounds, we all need to be present and active in the care and behavior of our dependents. That is how we show respect for others, plain and simple.