Are You Responsible Enough for the Dog Park?
As my last post suggested, not all dogs are “dog park dogs.” Well my time at my local dog park has shown me that not all humans are “dog park humans.” Let me explain.
The leading complaints people have about dog parks are the behavior of the owners.
Social Hour Owner
Some owners think dog park time is their time to socialize with other dog owners and leave the supervision of their dog to other dog owners. Social hour owners don’t see their dogs poop so they don’t clean it up. They are oblivious to annoying behaviors of their dog and absent if trouble arises. This is also true of the owner who thinks dog park time is their chance to read a book or the newspaper, or fixate on their cell phone.
Lack of Social Courtesy Owner
Some owners just don’t seem to believe that being a part of society means taking social responsibility, and are unresponsive to other dog owners who suggest their dog may be causing problems for other dogs and owners. These are the owners unwilling to exchange information — like "Is your dog vaccinated for rabies?" — or take financial responsibility for an injury to another dog. We had one owner leave the park with his dog after it bit a child without provocation. The dog’s rabies vaccination status was unknown. Fortunately the bite did not break the skin of the child.
Dog Rescuer Owner
We have a “crazy dog guy” in our city who has a great heart and rescues dogs of all ages and breeds. But he brings them to the dog park to socialize them. It always ends badly.
It is frightening how many people own dogs and haven’t a clue about them. These are the owners who bring female dogs that are in heat; unneutered, aggressive males; unvaccinated dogs; or dogs that have not been examined or treated for internal parasites.
Although these rules are posted at dog parks, they are completely unenforceable, especially if the park is on public property. These are the dog owners who don’t know the difference between normal and abnormal behavior and how to read dog ”body language” so that they know whether to act quickly or relax and let the dogs work it out. The dog park is not the place for the clueless dog owner to learn about dogs.
Dog park time is for the dog, not the owner. Owners need to be constantly attentive, in close proximity to their dogs, and have voice control at all times. They also need to be courteous, objective about their dog’s behavior, and have spent some time educating themselves about dog behavior.
I like the idea of dog parks and I truly feel the benefits of exercise, social play, and interacting with strange humans far outweigh the risks. But responsible dog owners need to realize the potential for injury and necessary veterinary and/or medical treatment, because not all dogs, or humans, are dog park material.
Dr. Ken Tudor
Image: Rock and Wasp / Shutterstock