I’ve always loved dog parks. There’s something wonderful about seeing a bunch of dogs with grins on their faces because they are allowed to run as fast as they can and romp with other dogs – something that is denied them most of the time.
Then I got Molly, a mini Australian Shepherd. Molly is a cautious, shy, reticent dog. I thought visits to a dog park might help her come out of her shell a bit.
We started off going at times when there weren’t too many other dogs and we met a little terrier she loved to romp with. We began meeting the terrier there almost every day and it was a blast for Molly.
Then we met some dog park bullies. Bigger dogs who would run with Molly but crowd and herd her and sometimes even jump on her nipping and occasionally growling.
Not aggressive, just rougher play than she liked. We would leave when they showed up but Molly gradually became more fearful of the dog park and we had to stop going.
Here is the part that makes me crazy. Owners of these “bully” dogs would often laugh and say “he’s just playing.” It’s not “play” if my dog isn’t enjoying it.
I realize some dogs like to play rougher than others but it’s the owner’s responsibility to watch, and call their dog off if another dog isn’t enjoying the “play.” This is how fights start. The dog being bullied finally decides she has no alternative but to defend herself. Even a friendly, well socialized dog may not like rough play and may snarl, growl, and eventually fight if owners don’t act responsibly.
So here are my rules:
- Before visiting a dog park, make certain your dog can play nicely with other dogs. If you’re not certain, go at a time when there are only one or two other dogs there and be ready to leash your dog immediately if there are problems.
- Every dog who visits a dog park should know the command “Come” and respond reliably to it. See my article on teaching “Come.” Owners should call their dog when play seems to be getting a bit rough.
- I know visiting the dog park can be a very social place for humans. But your first responsibility is to keep an eye on your dog, protect him/her if there is danger, and stop him if he is bullying another dog. Go ahead and visit with your human friends but your eyes should be on your dog at all times.
- Please don’t bring small children to dog parks. They run and scream and could seem like prey to the right dog. I worry!
- Oh, and Please, Please, Please scoop your own dog’s poop. Pretending you didn’t see is lame and ridiculous.