Disneyland or Disaster?

Dog parks–are they a Disneyland or a disaster waiting to happen? People tend to have strong feelings on this topic. Personally I’ve only taken Sam to our neighborhood dog park once and he stayed right next to me the entire time. Ok, truth be told there were those few minutes he went sniffing around and found someone who he must have thought was me and began to lean against them, but other than that, he really didn’t seem interested in everyone running hither and yon chasing after balls, Frisbees and other dogs racing by. Sam’s not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, he doesn’t do ball chasing and doesn’t seem to get it at all. His reaction suggests he doesn’t understand why you threw that thing in the first place and maybe wonders if you threw it, maybe YOU should go get it, not him.

Not sure if it’s the dog park’s frenetic energy or if it’s more like that 2009 movie He’s just Not Into You, because he’s just not into dog parks. Don’t get me wrong, Sam loves dogs, but he loves people so much more and he’d just rather lean stand next to someone who was willing to pet him. I recall a rally near the house a couple of years ago and we were getting ready to cross the street along with 50 or so other people and he leaned against the guy standing next to me while we were waiting to cross. The guy looked down at Sam, smiled, then said “Guess he kind of likes me.” Eek, talk about embarrassing!  This guy was a complete stranger; we had never seen him before that day and my dog was leaning like he had a major crush on him. I mean, what the hey dog…?!

The dog park in my neighborhood is your classic urban dog park-large enough for dogs to run themselves silly around on a few acres and just uncomfortable enough for the humans standing on the periphery near the gate chatting up neighbors waiting for the dog to “be finished.” It’s mostly flat at the far edge of a decent public park and bordered by a busy major street (read noisy). There’s no grass, only pea gravel and dirt, a couple of benches and one small awning. There might be maybe 3 trees in the entire area but they are small ones at that providing almost no shade. There is no running water tap so you need to bring your own H2O. Lots of people arrive after work so the place gets super crowded and there are more than a few aggressive dogs that show up. Hel-lo, stupid owners…don’t bring big, bad Brutus to the dog park. Instead get your sorry tush out and walk him on a leash and don’t let him terrorize that 6 pound Yorkie that is freaking out seeing your 90 lb. fur-gorilla come racing toward it. And even if you say “he’s friendly,” that gigantic ox is scaring the be-Jesus out of little Muffy. Course a fair number of purse sized dogs are terrorizing big dogs as well. Just saying.

No matter which side of the coin you’re on, here are some issues that come to mind where dog parks are concerned.

  • People think they don’t have to pick up after their dog. Unless you mother follows you around and is willing to pick up after you, YOU NEED TO PICK UP YOUR DOG’S POOP!  It’s bad enough when dogs aren’t vaccinated and go to dog parks, but there are all kinds of diseases and parasites living in dog poop. For dogs who suffer from Coprophagia (the polite code word for stool eating), this has all kinds of implications. ‘Nuff said there.
  • Pre-exercising your dog (which seems counter-intuitive, I know) helps keep any overstimulation under control. Dog parks should be a supplement to daily activity, not the only activity.
  • Dogs with socialization issues should not come to a dog park. Dogs need to introduce themselves appropriately and politely. Just like people, not every dog appreciates being charged by a loud, boorish critter who gets up close and personal into everyone’s face.
  • Leave the gangster collar in the low-rider. Pronged/spiked collars and harnesses should not make their way inside a dog park while they are playing. Rough-housing with them on can lead to broken teeth, jaws, paws and legs.
  • Keeping your dog leashed inside the off-leash area is…well just plain dumb. It’s too easy to trip or snap a leg that gets tangles while a dog is running close to the speed of sound after a tennis ball. Retractable leashes are an even worse idea. See this if you really want to know how I feel about that topic. 🙂 There’s no need to clothesline a dog or rip your dog’s head off once they reach the end of the cord at warp speed.
  • I can’t believe I even have to mention this one. DO NOT BRING YOUR FEMALE WHO IS EITHER IN HEAT OR PREGNANT!! Why isn’t there a law against this kind of stupidity-can anyone explain that to me?
  • Puppies less than 12 weeks old or dogs with incomplete vaccinations should not go to dog parks. Unvaccinated dogs could be dangerous to young puppies who haven’t had the opportunity to build up immunity for certain conditions like mature dogs have. Nasty stuff like Giardia or worms can play major havoc on those tiny bodies. Yes, they are adorable and EVERYONE loves seeing puppies play, but the dog park is not that place.
  • You need to be careful about having small dogs and big dogs in the same area. Some large dogs view little dogs more like squirrels than small dogs. That big galut is probably not vicious, just overstimulated yet the result can be the same.
  • Don’t pick up your little dog and carry it to “safety.” Some dogs view the pickup-ee as fleeing the scene which translates into “chase!” in some dog’s brains and which can trigger a treeing instinct. Picking up a small panicked dog could get you knocked over or possibly bitten.
  • Make sure your dog has recall skills. Being able to disengage a dog from escalating bad behavior is critical for everyone’s safety.
  • Dogs should not be allowed to bully other dogs. Bouncing all over a dog is not cute, it’s obnoxious and rude. Tag and run is cute, but non-stop nipping and pouncing with already overstimulated dogs…yeah, not so much.
  • Dogs shouldn’t ‘have to work it out’ at the dog park. First time introductions in a super stimulating environment probably isn’t the time for resolving potential canine drama.
  • Dogs that cannot share toys probably shouldn’t be at a dog park. That’s an invitation bound to go badly. No one needs to see varying levels of aggressiveness accelerate because of a resource guarding dog that can’t take cues to back off.
  • While it’s always nice to run into a neighbor or make new friends, owners need to stay engaged with their dogs at dog parks, not catching or hooking up. Dog parks are for dogs, coffee shops or bars are for chit-chatting.
  • Finally, just like chatting up people at the dog park is a no-no, people need to get off their smartphones and pay attention to their’s as well as other people’s dogs. If you’re texting or tweeting, you’re not supervising your dog. I don’t know what it is about millennials but they just can’t seem to put their phones down. I know, I’m starting to sound like the crabby old geezer who shakes their fist in the air and yells, “get off my lawn!” But it makes me crazy when these social cretins nearly walk into Sam and me when we’re out walking early in the morning because they are reading or texting something on their phone and then give me the stink eye like we did something wrong (true story, but that’s for another rant, er I mean, post). Sheesh, Sam has far better social skills and he’s a millennial, too. 😉

Sure I’m passionate about this topic but hopefully haven’t come across like a jerk. I realize it’s a thin line between the two and if I have, please accept my apology. So tell me, where do you weigh in on the issue of dog parks…Disneyland or disaster?

Live, love, bark! <3