Sit. Stay. No Begging.

22 01 2009

or, How to Not be a Complete Jerk at the Dog Park

One of the highlights of my day is taking Henry (seen below at Capehart Dog Park in San Diego) to our local doggy park. The sun is setting, the breeze is blowing, and the air is fresh with the scent of… well, nevermind. But even though the dogs at our park are wonderfully sweet, silly and downright bizarre, some of their people can be a bit much at the end of a long day.

Of course, everyone knows the official rules: Be current on vaccinations, fill any holes your dog digs and pick up any “presents” he leaves behind. Great. But there’s also unwritten, and often violated, dog park etiquette that helps keep the park a fun, safe and reasonably sane place for everybody to unwind and get their wiggles out. So sit, stay and read on for Urbzen’s five things you should never bring to the dog park:

Food: This applies to both the human and canine variety. Whether it’s Fido’s favorite treat or a quick lunch for you, bringing food into the dog park is one of the best ways to go from zero to anarchy in seconds. And don’t think you can hide those morsels in your pocket; With a sense of smell that is 100,000 times greater than that of a human, they’ll find it every time. After all, they don’t have bomb-sniffing humans, do they?

dog park

Your own toys: Of course, bringing your dog’s personal toys to the dog park is fine–as long as neither of you wants to see them again. The beauty of the dog park is the communal atmosphere, so expect to see plenty of sharing, but don’t expect to see Rover politely return Fluffy’s ball when it’s time for her to go home.

Small kids: A dog park may seem like an ideal place to let your two-legged charges run loose as well, but even the friendliest medium- to large-sized dog can knock a toddler to the ground with so much as an enthusiastic greeting, causing inevitable conflict between parent and pet owner. Kid parks outnumber dog parks by at least 100 to 1, so for everyone’s safety and peace of mind, keep at least one hand  (or better yet, a leash) on your tots when they’re in canine territory.

A leash: Though a must in most situations, a leash should never enter the dog park attached to a dog. Rather than keeping your pooch safe, being tethered to a leash can make your furry friend a sitting duck, unable to get away from dominant or aggressive dogs. Last year in San Diego, a Chihuahua/Yorkie mix was killed at Dusty Rhodes Dog Park when its leash kept it from evading an aggressive Husky. While the leash was obviously not to blame for the incident, it left the small dog open to attack.

An attitude: Your love for Lassie may be unconditional, but that doesn’t mean she can do no wrong. Always keep an eye on your pup and be ready to intervene if playtime gets out of hand.

By following the rules–both written and implied–the dog park can be a great place for everyone who is lucky enough to be owned by a dog. Let the butt-sniffing begin!

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15 responses

22 01 2009
Anna

I like bringing treats–when I call my dog she comes and gets a reward. Otherwise I agree with mostof what you have to say

22 01 2009
malcontentist

Mr. Henry and I were at doggy park on Sunday and Rule #3 was violated repeatedly by annoying chillins running around trying to pull dog tails.

Personally I was hoping one somebody would lose a hand. That’ll teach ya.

22 01 2009
Ann

I think we should add, PLEASE watch the gates when coming and going. Some humans can be very oblivious to what is happening at their feet when they are going in/out of the gate. Shut the first gate before you open the second gate.

22 01 2009
Angela

I love the recommendations you are giving, I hope people will read and follow this. But as you see above, already you have a person with a varying opinion concerning treats. People do not take the time to think what is best for the group. May I ad one more to this? For owners with little dogs when a dog park affords you the option of a separate area, please use it. I am tired of owners with 4 lb dogs getting upset when they see me walk in with my 180lb dog. I go to parks where the big dogs are separated for a purpose.

22 01 2009
Liza

I do bring a bag of small treats but only bc I am training my dog. I need to do the training in a dog park kind of setting.
So I just ignore the other dogs who beg for the treats. Not a big deal.
And obviously I am not mad when dogs beg or jump on me bc I am asking for it.
However, it not training, I would not bring treats.

The kid thing I 100% agree.
Why on earth would you put your kid in a situation where they can be jumped on, or even nipped at?
The kids can be used to being around dogs, but I bet they have never been around a dog who nipped them (otherwise they would likely not be at the dogpark).
Alot of times dogs who go after children are not going to really hurt them but they sure could scare the daylights out of them!
If it were my kid, I would never want that to happen.

22 01 2009
Kelley

Love this! Great points on all counts. I also agree with Ann that watching the gate is a key rule that some people are either oblivious to or think is someone else’s problem.

Mad props on the kid one…I don’t get why people would think that’s ok. My Aussie LOVES kids but, thinks it’s great fun to herd them – the parents of the herd tend to disagree and it leaves me in a tough spot. It’s not like I take my pup on the slides even though she’d love it!

22 01 2009
Reena

I’d add one more rule- Do not bring you 6 week old puppy to the dog park! 1) There is no way it has had all its shots and 2) it is not big enough to defend itself or fast enough to run away. I ran into a situation with a pug owner last week when my year old Boston Terrier tried to play with a very tiny pug puppy (it was a one hander, It couldn’t be more than 5 or 6lbs) and rolled it over.

My dog wasn’t trying to be mean, just trying to play. But this pup was too young to know the rules of play and too small to handle itself and the owner scooped him up and huff as if it was my fault (I did separate them and told my dog “easy”, but she was playing with him like a puppy, he was just too small).

22 01 2009
tanya

i agree with most, but i would also like to emphasize keeping an eye on your dog. We usually go to the dog park on grape and granada which is the best park ive ever found! the only problem i encountered on two occasions were dogs that were constanly trying to hump my dog. My dog kept gently trying to tell him to stop by softly mouthing him and walking away even jumpiong up on the benches which he never does but this dog did not give up! it was really annoying and i could tell my dog was getting annoyed! he couldnt play with other dogs because a IRRESPONSIBLE owner was not keeping an eye on his dog.

22 01 2009
Melinda

You should rewrite this an add Picking up poop to the list. There are a lot of people who see their dogs poop and then don’t even look twice much less pick it up.

22 01 2009
Katybeth

I agree leave the food outside of the park. When your instructor told you to find distractions to train around….trust me she did not mean a place where 10 plus dogs were running madly to and fro. Train on the way to the park and toss the treats before entering or make the park the reward. Practice you recalls before walking through those gates. Leave you cell phone in your pocket making sure that the hand that is not holding the Starbucks is holding onto your leash and ready to snap on your pups if they need to be removed from an unpleasant situation. If you are of the hysterical nature and will become nervous or upset if your dog is sniffed by another dog, or if another dog becomes personal with your dog, or if another dog growls at your dog stay out of the dog park. it is never the OTHERS DOGS FAULT . . .ok, maybe not ever but 99.9 percent of the time. Refrain from training other people’s dogs and offering unsolicited advise. Mind your own dog; because more than likely he is the 1 percent that is causing the problem. Nobody likes to be jumped on not even at a dog park but hey, its like sitting by a swimming pool….more than likely you are going to be splashed. if being jumped on will hurt you and cause a series of trips to your chiropractor then best to find another place to play.
I don’t go to dog parks, watching the humans makes me very nervous and I am inclined to offer unsolicited advise by the gallons. since most people pay for my advise, this is bad for business. But if you do go be nice, wag more than you bark, pick up after yourself and you pup and have a howling good time!

22 01 2009
Xian

There is another reason for not using a leash. When your dog is leashed to you it can feel like it needs to protect you from the other dogs. Letting them loose lets them go play and not get defensive.

23 01 2009
Katie

If only everyone would read this and follow the rules. I am so annoyed with little kids aggitating my dog who normally loves kids, but I am afraid he is going to start to fear them as sometimes the little ones yell, tease, and jump at him. I also agree with the double gate issue. Though my puppy follows me like I am her God, my older dog is part jack russell therefore any open opportunity to take off and run, he’ll jump on and people don’t realize that there are two gates there for a reason. I would like to ask a question if anyone wants to answer… If a dog starts humping my dog’s face numerous times (an obvious sign of dominance) and my dog finally gets fed up and goes after their dog, who’s fault is it? My dog has never hurt a dog, but he has gone after dogs that weren’t fixed and insisted on humping him. He’ll put up with it for a minute or two, but then he finally has enough and let’s the other dog know it. If my dog ever hurt another dog, i would take full responsibility for it, but a dog owner once asked me to take my dog home because he “attacked” his dog who was humping his face over and over again. No harm was done to the dog, but I guess it kind of scared the owner. I just want to do what is right even if it means leaving my dog at home, but my dog has gone to this particular park for years and has only had about 3 or 4 encounters like this. Otherwise, everyone loves him because he gets all their dogs running in circles and playing.

23 01 2009
animal lover

I have to agree with just about every one of these “rules”. But, as I was reading throught the comments, I found myself a little “disturbed” by what “malcontentist” had to say about the little kid who was pulling on the dogs tails, and how that would teach them a lesson. While I fully agree that kids should not be running around a dog park un-attended, and definetely should not be pulling on dogs tails, I would have to disagree with hoping the kid would lose a hand. Not only are you putting yourself at risk for a law-suit, but who hopes that on any person, much less a kid????
The proper way to “fix” this situation is to politely ask the child to stop pulling on the dogs tail, and explain to them why doing so is wrong, (i.e. it hurts the doggy and they could possibly bite them). Once this is done, you should inform the parent of what the child was doing and ask them to either not bring their child with them next time or to keep a better eye on them.
I personally have dogs and cats, and I have a one year old. I am teaching my child that it is not nice to be mean to any animal and that he should respect animals of any kind. I however, would bring my child with me if I were to go to a dog park, but I would keep my son with me and not allow him to run around and pester the dogs that are at the park.
Just my 2-cents. Hope I don’t offend anyone!

25 01 2009
Wally

Wonderful guidelines, unfortunately, the idiots that this mainly applies too, will not read this simple instructions

28 01 2009
Brian

An offshoot to Angela’s point:

If there are separate areas, keep your big dog out of the small dog area, even if it is a puppy. There are size limits for a reason. I don’t need my pug accosted by an overly-energetic/aggressive german shepherd or doberman puppy that, while young, is fully grown. They play harder than little dogs! And don’t just let them run free without watching them!

I really hate that (can you tell?).

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