I’ve written a blog post on how to behave at the dog park, but there are some situations I’ve come across that just don’t have a precedent. Here are some stories of dog park issues and how I handled them.*
Someone Refuses to Let Their Dog Off the Leash
Sheesh. Some people. The whole point of an off-leash dog park is for your dog to run wild and free of the restraint of a harness and leash. Some people just can’t bring themselves to unlatch their pup, though. Here’s a hint at who these people are: people who are worried about their dog misbehaving, people who are worried about all the other dogs misbehaving, and those who want their precious pup to stay attached at their hip forever and ever and never make any friends.
These people are nuts if you ask me. I wish I could bring myself to let them know that leashes aren’t allowed, but I’m sure they’d argue that to the death. I just feel so bad for their choking dogs when they’re tethered to the person who just won’t let them free. I understand that some pups aren’t trained really well yet and risk jumping on all the humans at eh park, but I can assure those people (and often do) that dog park goers are prepared and aware that this will happen. The dog park is a community area where we’re all helping each other teach our dogs good behavior. It takes a village people.
Anyway, Jackie is a great dog who sits by my side and waits for my ok when a new dog arrives at the park. This didn’t happen overnight, but if you want to know how I taught her to stay and only move when I let her, click here. It’s great to have a dog that’s trained to obey verbal commands because frankly, my hands are always full with something or other to eat and of course my cell phone. I’d recommend to you pup parents out there, unleash your dog in the unleashing area and teach your dog to sit until the dog coming in can actually run away if they’re scared. No one wants to be tethered when the welcoming crew tackles them.
Jackie is a female dog, and a pretty sexy one at that, so it makes sense that she brings all the boys to the yard at the dog park down the street. The only issue is that their idea of a romantic first date is going straight for a home run. Jackie gets humped about 9 out of 10 times we visit the dog park. She’s fixed, so there’s no way she’ll give me a litter of mystery puppies, but it is sort of frustrating for her and annoying for me.
So, for the most part, whatever dog it is bothering Jackie either can’t catch her or is scared of by her quick nipping. She could honestly teach a workshop to the other girl dogs on self defense because she handles herself really well. Jackie hasn’t been aggressive to any dogs attempting to mount her, but she has quickly ducked out of their grasp and sometimes growled to keep them away. She’s a pro at rejection, but sometimes they’re a little too forceful.
In the situations in which Jackie can’t wriggle free, usually the owner of the humper comes to the rescue and quickly scolds their pup. This almost always is a temporary fix, but with everyone in the park sort of keeping an eye on them and pulling the culprit off of Jackie right when he starts to hump, they get tired of trying.
The best way to solve this situation is just to have a well behaved dog that actually listens to their owner. When I say listens, I mean literally just hears their owner’s voice and obeys. Jackie is pretty great at this, but then again, she’s only been caught humping one dog on one specific occasion. I’ve raised an angel.
Aggressive Dogs Getting at Yours
This is an issue that is usually mild at first, but accelerates so it’s easy to notice. There are dogs that come to the park that are there to play with their favorite friend, but no other dog. So, while they give friendly signals off, all kinds of dogs will approach and nip and pounce, but when that initial dog stiffens up, growls, and starts bearing teeth, you know it’s on.
A lot of times this behavior is just a defense mechanism from being overwhelmed and doesn’t last, but if it’s dominant behavior that starts to get worse, you’ve got a problem. There are two kinds of dominant dogs that I’ve seen at the dog park: the loners that will pretty much keep to themselves and the fighters that seem like they came to the park for a penis measuring contest.
This second group is trouble because they’ll prance around the park growling at anyone who touches them, but humping any dog that walks. They can get really angry too, and start biting down on dogs and doing damage, If you see this extreme behavior, it’ll be easy to tell that they aren’t playing. In my experience, their owner quickly pulls their dog to the side and tries to calm them down or just leaves altogether.
I’ve honestly never seen a super aggressive dog just unattended by an owner, but if it does happen, I suggest scooping your own pup and taking a break. If it seems dangerous for you, please don’t dive in to get your baby. You will lose that fight and your pup. Get the owner to handle their dog or call animal control. The dog park should not be a dangerous place to be.
These are my ways of dealing with some awkward and unsavory things that inevitably happen at the dog park. Take my advice or leave it, but just promise me you won’t be the meanie who causes this nonsense.
*I’m putting up a disclaimer because, as you can probably tell, I’m not an expert. I lack the qualifications to be a vet or a trainer. I’m just a pup parent and these are only my experiences, not medical or training advice.