Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Redmond, WA
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Photo Submissions 2 Times in 2 Posts
I take my little guy to our local dog park often and have seen a wide variety of behavior, from people and dogs. It can be a great experience for them, but they need our constant vigilance. There are way too many people who don't have a clue about dog body language, can't tell who started what, or know what they should do. Occassionally you'll find people, like the one you saw, who's response is totally inappropriate.
Here's a shot at the rules I go by:
1. Have your head on a swivel - always have your dog in sight and know which dogs are coming toward it and try to read their intent. Dogs that are staring, look very stiff, have head and tail very high, or come straight at your dog, are all looking pretty aggressive. Move between them or head off in a different direction.
2. Immediately leave trouble spots if the dogs or people appear rude or unfriendly, before it blows up into something. No need to say anything, just grap your pup and move out. There's a rule of thumb that a person can't learn anything while they're angry. I think that really applies at the dog park. I've watched sane calm people try to reason with an angry clueless owner who's dog screwed up and it just looks to me like they want to fight themselves.
3. Train your little guy to stay near you and/or check in with you constantly. My first trip was on leash, my next were off with treats in my pocket and lots of practice on great recalls, and rewards for every single 'check in'. I still reinforce it after dozens of visits.
4. I never go on the week-end. That's when there has been the highest incidents of dog problems in our local off leash park. This makes sense to me. Dogs that come during the week are likely to be getting out more often, have a better chance to practice interactions. The extra folks that come on the week-end add to the numbers and have less time with their dogs. Some of those dogs are pretty overenthusiastic from being home alone all week and/or not getting to come very often. Add in these less knowledgable people and dogs and the odds of incidents just goes up.
5. I go pretty early in the morning. It's quieter, fewer dogs, less complicated to manage. Also the professional dog walkers tend to come in after 11am (after picking up all the dogs). They have good skills and usually a good pack, but very often they have a new dog or two, have to keep one on leash, are distracted, etc. and I prefer to avoid that.
Last thoughts - there are great people at the dog park! Many are extremely knoweldgeable. There are lots of great dogs that have super social skills and will give your dog great play and dog interactions. I love going, I just do it very carefully. Enjoy!