Monday, 4 May 2015

Dog Park Ettiquette

Maizy and I had a super active week - we checked out a few new hiking spots and polished of the week with a long trail ride on Saturday. We got lots of compliments on how well behaved Maizy is, which is one of my favourite things in the world!

Yesterday and today are rest days, though not really by choice. I could feel my fibromyalgia brewing yesterday and hoped a somewhat relaxing day would fend it off. Alas, today I feel like absolute shit (pardon my french). Thankfully I have Maizy snoozing at my feet, which makes being basically stuck in bed much easier to handle.

But I digress! This post is going to talk about the highly controsversial dog park... get your torches and pitchforks ready! There are a lot of people that hate the dog park, stating that it is a magnet for bad owners, poorly mannered dogs and disease. And you know what? It is. But Maizy and I love the Dog Park nontheless.

There are many benefits to the dog park that can be had difficult to replicate in other settings. The park is an excellent place to practice your training with a high number of distractions. It also gives Maizy the ability to interact with dogs of all sizes, personalities and ages. That's not to say there aren't issues - we've left a few times when owners or their dogs made me uncomfortable. Maizy is also very submissive; her reaction to meeting new or old friends is to flop down on her back and be thoroughly sniffed over. Because of this, I have to make sure she does not get overwhelmed by dogs crowding around to get a sniff in. Once she has been inspected by the other dogs, she is up and running, ready to wrestle.

Maizy leads the pack at the local dog park.

Is your dog suitable for the dog park?

While it would be lovely to think that all dogs are dog park material, that unforunately is not true. Don't bring your dog if...
  • Your dog is a young puppy. Seriously, the park is not a place for your 8 week old puppy (and I have unfortunatley seen this!). Bringing a very young pup to the park is a recipe for disaster. Puppies at that age are very easily injured and are highly suspectible to disease. Not everyone at the park will vaccinate their dogs appropriately so it is imperative that your puppy has all of it's shots before attending. Attendionally, the dog park is a highly rough and tumble place and its not appropriate for socializing puppies. At best, they will end up overwhelmed. At worst, they can be severly injured. Want to socialize your pup? Bring it to an appropriate puppy class.
  • Your dog is not spayed or neutered. At the park I go to, the rule is "no dogs in heat", but I really wish it was "no intact dogs". To be clear, I have absolutely nothing against a dog being left whole when appropriate, but hormones can quickly turn a scuffle into a full on fight at the dog park.
  • Your dog is aggressive towards other dogs or towards humans. This one really should be a no brainer, but sadly it isn't. Your dog will be exposed to rude humans AND dogs; people who will grab at Fluffy as she runs past or dogs who will shove their nose up Fido's bum uncermoniously. Your dog needs to be handle these less than polite interations.
  • Your dog has not been socialized elsewhere first. Bringing a dog or puppy who has had little interaction with other dogs is like teaching somebody to swim by starting off in the ocean.
  • You are unable to understand that there will be fights and scuffles between dogs and that there is potential for your dog to be injured. Shit happens, unfortunately, and while we do our best to avoid it you can only control YOUR dog's actions.
Your dog must be good with other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

Dog Park Do's and Do Not's

Okay, so you think your dog is the perfect candiate for the dog park. That's great! Here are some tips to keep everyone happy.
  • DO introduce your dog to the park slowly. At one of the parks I attend there can be upwards of 50 dogs in attendance. This can be hugely overwhelming, so scope out the park before you bring your dog and avoid peak times at first.
  • DON'T micromanage your dog. Some owners jump in at the slightest growl. Dogs at play growl, bite, bark and wrestle. Familiarize yourself with what aggression looks like vs play.
  • DO talk to others about their dogs. The dog park can bring a great sense of community for dogs and people alike. People love to talk about their dog. You'll also learn lots about the park - which owners are crazy, which dogs get along best, which dogs can be aggressive.
    Toys can be fun if the dogs play well.
    When in doubt, leave toys at home.

  • DON'T bring toys. Okay, okay, I'll admit this is a rule I break on occasion. However, toys can cause major problems at the park - dogs can become possesive and that can quickly lead to a fight. If you do bring a toy be prepared to A) share the all the dogs at the park and B) to put your toy away at the slightest sign of trouble.
  • DO make sure your dog has all its vaccinations before going to the park.
  • DON'T bring food or treats into the park.
  • DO leave if you feel uncomfortable, for whatever reason. Put your safety and your dog's safety first.
  • DO ensure your dog has basic obedience down before going to the park. I've had to call Maizy away from potential problem dogs many times - a strong recall is a must.
  • DON'T expect the worse. Most dogs and owners are great. They are there to have a good time, just like you.
  • DO expect the worse. You're probably going "but you just said!..." and you're right. 99% of the time things will be just fine at the dog park. However, things do happen. If you are not prepared for the chance that your dog may possibly get hurt at the park - whether a fight breaks out or a big dog gets a bit too rough with a little dog - the park is not perfectly safe. Most of the time disagreements between dogs (or owners) are easily broken up, but in some cases a vet visit has been required. Evaluate if the risk is worth it for you. 

The best of friends can be made at the dog park.

1 comment :

  1. I wish we had a dog park near where we are stationed! Unfortunately, all we have are city parks and believe you me, the dog owners that bring their dogs to the parks need to read all your rules. I'm a little afraid to bring our smaller pug Maddie because of the bigger dogs running loose that can be a bit aggressive. Anyway, I found you through blogpaws and I love your blog!