It is a Saturday morning and I am working with a client with a new puppy. We meet in a park that tends to be low traffic. It is across a main street from another park, that although not an “official” dog park, has been an off-leash area for dogs and owners to gather for the 20+ years I have lived in the South End of Boston. The park has fencing on all 4 sides with open, non-gated entrances on all corners.
Prior to beginning our training, we had a conversation about dog parks in general, and specifically the park across the street. The client is an un-experienced, first-time dog owner who has already had a few unpleasant interactions with other dogs in the park.
As we finish our training session and head across the very busy main street, we are greeted, in the middle, by an exuberant lab mix, sans owner. I immediately coax the dog back to the sidewalk, and then we wait. This is a good lesson for my client
It takes a full 5 minutes for the dog’s owner to realize he does not know where his dog is, then another 2 or 3 to locate the dog. When he sees the dog on the sidewalk, outside the park, with me, he slowly walks over to see what is going. When I inform him I plucked the dog out of the intersection, he wants to know how far the dog was into the street. Like that makes a difference! The lack of concern was astonishing.
I have seen an increasing amount of bad behavior, by both dogs and owners, to the point where I no longer frequent dog parks. I opt for leashed walks with planned off leash outings.
If the following etiquette rules were followed, there would be a lot less fighting among both dogs and owners:
- Pay attention to your dog, not your coffee and friends; you should know where your dog is at all times to ensure he does not get out of the park, or worse yet, get stolen
- Pay attention to your dog’s body language as well as that of the other dogs he is playing with; preventing escalation in an iffy situation is the best way to avoid a dog fight
Know that you are responsible for your dog’s behavior, good or bad, as well as his safety; it is not acceptable to allow your dog to:
- Rush other dogs as they enter the park
- Bully the more submissive dogs in the park
- Hump every dog he sees
- Don’t bring your toy possessive/aggressive dog to a park where you know other owners use balls, Frisbees, etc…
- Don’t bring your “can be” dog aggressive dog into the dog park – period
- And last, but not least, if your dog does get into a scuffle, act responsibly; do not chalk the incident up to “sorry, but it is dog park, and dogs will be dogs”