A Dog Park Rant (the first of many, I’m sure)

I love the dog park. I love it for many reasons, most notably the fact that it provides me with a safe, secure venue to exercise and socialize my dogs. It also gives me a way to really understand how my foster dogs interact with strange people and dogs, what type of play they prefer, and which dogs they gravitate towards or avoid. Of course, I don’t leave straight from the shelter and head to the dog park, but after a dog has been tested and proven with my own pack, I’ll venture out.

Fenrir, child-eater.


Since I got Fen, my ten month old Doberman foster pup, I’ve become a bit of a regular at the local free dog park. It’s a mile and a half from my house; I can walk, run, or drive there. I try and go after class whenever possible – usually I take Fen, sometimes one of the Boykins, or another trustworthy foster. Last night, I took Stream along as well.  Both boys were well behaved, and we went home tired. Mission accomplished.

So here we go – five for today.

1. Don’t bring a child to the dog park.

I’m really not sure why I even have to say this. Who in their right mind thinks a dog park is a good place for a small child? You are literally bringing a prey item into a pack of dogs. Anything more than two dogs is a pack, and dogs operate on pack mentality. They are running around, chasing, snapping, barking, wrestling – doing what dogs do. Then you bring a small child into the fold, that runs and squeals, and get mad at me because my dog chases the child? Look, I know my dog is mouthy, I know he’s big, and I know he jumps up when he gets excited. That’s why I took him to a dog park. Not a playground.

2. Don’t get upset when they play rough

Dogs will be dogs. They all have their different methods of play; some like to be chased, some like to do the chasing, some like play ball, some like to bark incessantly in other dogs’ face, some like to play fight. It’s instinct – play behavior in animals is practice for real life. If you can’t handle watching Buddy get all slobbery and growly with another dog, then go home. Most recently, the bitchiest violator of this rule also violated #1. Because my big, vicious, child-eating Doberman puppy chased the boxer who would not stop barking in his face.

3. Understand basic dog behavior and body language

This ties in with #2. If you can’t recognize the difference in angry growl and play growl, I don’t trust you and I don’t want you around. Why? Because you are either super sensitive, or super dangerous. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the dangerous part. Your dog is running around mounting other dogs, hackles raised, and you say, “Oh he’s just playing.” Nope, he’s being a dick, and he’s trying to start a fight. Fix it.

4. Know how to break up a dog fight

Fortunately for me, there’s only been a handful of fights while I’ve been at my park, and I broke up most of them because typically I’m closest and I’m actually watching the cues that led up to the fight in the first place. Also, I’m the crazy dog lady, so I don’t hesitate. But if dog fights freak you out and all you can do is squeal and cry, you need to stay home. Fights happen, they suck, but these are dogs we’re talking about. Your lack of self control and confidence as an owner only feeds into the issue.

5. Don’t be a dick

Probably the most important one here. I swear, last night some frattastic asshole came in with the cutest little golden retriever puppy. We’ll ignore for now that the puppy was probably too young to be there in the first place. Dude walks up, and the dogs rush the gate, so the puppy naturally hesitates nervously. What does he do? Shoves his puppy through the gate and says, “Don’t be a little wimp.” This guy continued to just radiate douchery the rest of the time, laughing when his puppy got picked on by the other dogs, the like. I wanted to punch him. Whether you’re being a tool to your own dog, or to someone else’s dog, or to another owner, doesn’t matter. Don’t be a dick.

9 thoughts on “A Dog Park Rant (the first of many, I’m sure)

  1. mammab April 16, 2014 / 10:32 pm

    That was a terrific rant! Love it!

  2. Nifty April 20, 2014 / 12:33 pm

    I’d add a #6 and say, “Check your ego at the door and be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.” Sometimes the vibe in the park is just bad. Sometimes it’s the other dog(s). Sometimes it’s YOUR dog. (They’re entitled to have “off” days.) It doesn’t matter if you just got there 3 minutes before. If your instincts tell you it’s a bad day to be there — too crowded, too rambunctious, too many humans not paying attention, too whatever — leash up and leave. If your generally sweet, well-socialized buddy woke up on the wrong side of the dog-bed that day and is being a bully, leash up and leave.

    • Heather April 20, 2014 / 1:16 pm

      So true! I’ve been at the park plenty of days where it just seems “off”. Sometimes it’s one or two dogs, sometimes it’s all of them. It’s like there’s a weird energy in the air. The dog owner needs to be able to recognize off days and pay extra close attention.

  3. Liz April 21, 2014 / 12:25 pm

    The only thing I would add to the list…

    Don’t bring in treats and start feeding all dogs there! My usually docile hound started getting snippy if other dogs got close to the lady with the bag of chopped hotdogs. I don’t care if your trainer said they were good for working with your submissive dog. My dog doesn’t need them!

  4. Paul Graham May 5, 2014 / 6:48 pm

    How about, for those of us who would like to learn, How do you do these things. (Learn to recognize behavior cues or break up a fight for example.) I’d like to know.

    • BlackberryCoyote May 16, 2014 / 9:17 am

      There are several resources for learning dog body language, including Google, trainers, and local rescue organizations. It can be very enlightening.

  5. Cathy Lawrence February 26, 2015 / 8:21 pm

    Thanks for all the sensible advice, particularly #3 — so many dogs, so few dog people. And I’d like to add one more peeve: Dog parks are a shared resource. Treat it like a privilege, not a “gimme.” I wish all who used a park would understand it’s a shared responsibility and learn to: Pick up their dog’s poop. Pick up the plastic bottle their dog just shredded. Tote a jug or two from the tap to refill the water bowls. Talk to the new dog owners who can’t interpret their dogs’ behavior, and help them to see and understand cues. On bark-spreading day, show up and work.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s