July 2, 2012

People behaving badly at the dog park

After a nice long trip cross country, one not so nice accident, and shot up to Jersey to pick up Relay, we finally made it back home. After the 7 hours in a car yesterday, my pup deserved a trip to the park. Who could have guessed it would have ended up in drama?

A lady had just moved back to the neighborhood with her new dog, a male terrier mix puppy. We got into the park, and she is holding the puppy, explaining that he is very under-socialized, and we nodded understanding. Relay had a very similar story, but instead of not understanding boundaries, his problem had been he was too intimidated to play. Thankfully, my boy out grew that, as I'm sure this pup will outgrow his over eager personality and learn to give space.

So, all continued as you would think at a park, dogs sniff, they chase, they play. At one point, however, the puppy was a bit too rumbustious, and somewhere in all the mouthing, Relay got hurt and yelped. Close by, I stepped in, and separated the boys. After that point, I had my dog keep his distance, not wanting him to get bit again. This it seems did not sit well with the puppy's owner. Jeff and I let a few baiting comments slide, and she even tried to engage Jeff directly, and he didn't respond.

It wasn't until she turned around and asked, "If you aren't going to let your dog play, then why are you even here?" in a less than friendly manner, that Jeff even responded. From there it escalated between the two of them very quickly. I tagged Jeff out of the proverbial ring and spoke to her calmly, and ended the long debate as best as I could with a "we will have to agree to disagree."

Throughout the whole exchange, the two dogs in question peacefully coexisted. Dogs don't seem to hold large grudges; nips happen, some days they want to play, others they don't, maybe they argue over a toy, or a place to sit. And I'm sure when we meet again, they will play or they won't and that will be the extent of it.

Unfortunately, with humans it is never so simple. Maybe I was too naive to think that the dynamics of people would ever be a factor at the dog park, and up to this point we were fine with all the "regulars." But now it seems like we have ourselves a nemesis whether we want one or not.

*Dramatic sigh* I have no training tools for how to improve interactions at the dog park when people are concerned. Any suggestions?


Sadly, it is often the human dynamics and lack of education that are the more common issue at dog parks. I am so sorry that happened to you. The woman was definitely in the wrong. That's like saying two kids who fight all the time should continue to play together. Really?

Good for you for the way you handled it.

Well, your dog is counting on you to be his advocate. I don't fault you for looking out for him. That has to come first.

Sadly, training humans is a lot harder to do than training dogs -- or so mine tell me. I think if it were me, I'd keep my distance and just let it go. If she has a few other less than pleasant interactions with others there, she may just decide to move on to another place. I'm betting she's the same kind of person who can't stand to hear that her child is the problem at school and makes all kinds of excuses and points fingers at everyone else instead of admitting that her child has a problem. Just roll with the punches and see what happens.

Guess everyone has met a person with that type of personality. I'll try to let it slide, but it just stinks that I now have to be prepared for stress every time I go to the park.

Sometimes it sucks but we just have to be the better person. People like that just seem to be looking for an altercation and ignoring them usually works, but this one seems tough. Hopefully she finds somewhere else to take her dog. :)

Unfortunately, it seems to be very common for "dog park drama". I totally know where you are coming from, though. It seems like some people just don't get it. I went to the Greenbrier dog park a while back... but I was very unhappy with the lack of knowledge from other owners about body language. I pay VERY close attention to my dogs as well as other peoples' dogs. A small/medium sized dog actually went after Brody (my 95 pound GSD mix)... and he obviously didn't just stand there. I grabbed him and scolded him and made him "take a break"... but the other owner didn't do ANYTHING. I took the liberty of doing a better introduction myself right there in front of the owners. Haha... if they weren't going to step in, I sure as hell was! They were fine after that... but I was shocked that they didn't do anything when their little dog went after mine. And if it got bad... what dog is going to get blamed? Probably my giant GSD mix. Le sigh... ya can't fix stupid. Have you gone to the PETA dog park? It's REALLY nice!

Thankfully the dogs were close to the same size, but I have totally seen that when a small dog antagonizes a big dog, some people will blame the bigger dog regardless. Good for you for trying to be a responsible pet owner.
We've been to the Bea Arthur Park (behind the PETA building) and really like it. We do most of our meet and greets there.

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