This past week I have been going to a lake to swim Mama Beetz. I am focused on her since she has a little injury right now, but if it is early morning or dusk, I might bring one of my other dogs along that really enjoys swimming. I never as in never ever, bring all of my dogs together unless we are 100 miles from no place, it is a lot of management, time, and effort to keep everyone focused on whatever we are doing, so I bring manageable numbers.
Our local lakes have always had a fair amount of summer activity, but there are days and times when they aren’t quite as busy, and I shoot for those times. I always try to take the path of less resistance, for my dogs well-being and safety as well as my own. I try to leave the house relaxed and return relaxed.
This past week has been a reminder to me of how much I appreciate people who put time and effort into their dogs, respect others space, and have an understanding that the world is not just for their dogs hedonistic pleasure, but rather for everyone to enjoy, unmolested by others. I have shared space with a few awesome people and their well trained dogs this past week, that has been a joy for sure.
But the amount of people I have come across in the past week that lack any level of dog owner etiquette while in public with their dog is jaw dropping. But what should be alarming is that they seem to all have been going to school at ‘the dog park’, and share the same bad behaviors, on both ends of the leash.
There are signs in the environment that always make me leave and find a new piece of shoreline, or at the very least, put my dogs in my car and watch to see how things will play out.
- When a car arrives with a dog hanging out the window, barking frenetically, and music blasting.
- When this happens, 100% of the time, the dog has been ramping up in arousal all the way to the destination, and then is let out of the car off leash, to run around and blow off steam before they hit the lake or a trail, and the person and dog don’t care whose space they run into, at all.
- When a group of people are standing and talking about how great the ‘dog park meet up’ was the night before, and their 6 dogs are running up and down the shoreline, through other peoples spaces, kids sitting in the water playing, picnics, and other people with dogs playing fetch, and they see nothing wrong with this.
- The world isn’t a dog park, and truly, almost 100% of the time, people resent dogs running through their space uninvited, especially around their babies, young children, and their own personal dogs space.
- The dog that is tracking your dogs movement from across the parking lot, so you keep a watchful eye to see where their person is headed, and then you realize their person is sitting down and looking out at the lake. No leash, no person.
- When a person doesn’t care enough to watch their dog, decision making becomes your responsibility. The dog park mentality is ‘let them work it out’. Responsible mentality is, keep your dog safe first and foremost, and if the other dog was never invited, then you have decisions to make.
- While your dog is swimming out and retrieving and someone else allows their dog to jump in and ‘swim chase’ your dog to try to ‘get them’ or the toy. “Oh he chases fetching dogs at the dog park all of the time, BEST exercise ever”.
- Ummm, fuck off and get your dog right now.
- When a dog is running and spinning on the shoreline, and is hyper aroused just by being there, and has a muzzle on, but no leash, that is a huge ‘orange blinking light’ that all is really wrong. Then you hear the growl, frenetic barking, and lunge, and the subsequent “I’m glad his muzzle was on we are teaching him to not bite while we are in public places, he is doing so well at the dog park”
- Let me throw up in my mouth just a little bit first and then say, nothing right is happening with this scenario at all, other than rehearsing super bad human and dog behavior, and putting everyone at risk. This is when I have been calling it and just coming home.
- When a dog launches out of the back of a truck on arrival and heads for the lake, with no sense of purpose or direction, just amped up frenetic energy, and you hear the dogs name being called over and over and over, with no recognition from the dog.
- Your car had better be close.
- When someone is walking their dog through the parking lot/ boat launch area, off leash and letting them jump into other peoples open car doors, kayaks, canoes, back of trailers, sniffing picnic gear, bark at the guy trying to put his boat in, and basically taking their dog on a shopping trip.
- There are clearly no rules, no boundaries, no respect for others space. And, the BIG and, why would you walk your off leash dog through a parking / boat launch area?
- When over and over, multiple dogs names are called and no dog responds.
- Leave, just leave.
- When someone says “my dog goes to a dog park everyday, he is super well socialized” as he is peeing on your car tires and then jumping up on your car to stare your dogs down.
- Not sure who lied to this person and told them that their dog was super well socialized, but there is comfort and power in numbers, and dog park people support each others own beliefs in their armchair behavioral assessments of each others dogs. Reality is a hard one once you leave the safety of the gang.
- Then there is the walking ‘shit show’, multiple people, multiple dogs, barking, jostling about, of course off leash, darting in and out of cars coming and going from the trail head parking area, going into others spaces, and you hear “oh it’s okay, they settle in after about a mile”
- So everyone else has to ‘take it’ in the meantime, and a group of wound up dogs ends up on a public trail in the front country as if it were a dog park. Hmmmm
All of this, every scenario is dog park mentality. And the problem, since forever, that I have with dog parks is that it teaches bad human and dog behavior, that then pours out into other environments. The complete lack of understanding of their dog, but mostly the environment around them, and respect for others space is profound, and not in a good way.
If you go to a dog park, you for sure can defend your actions, why not, but you cannot deny the amount of poor behavior and suck education that happens in these places.
I have written about dog parks for sixteen years, I have visited the countries first dog park, I sit in dog parks and take videos of dogs in motion to study movement and group behavior, and I am never disappointed in the total lack of human understanding that abounds within those areas.
I know if you are reading and have gotten this far that I am preaching to the choir, but as always –
- be kind
- be a good and knowledgeable dog owner
- be respectful of others space when out and about
- practice polite public manners
- have your dog on leash unless it is a leash free area, but even then only off leash if your dog is 100% under voice control
- if your dog is over their comfort level or arousal threshold, choose a different environment that is better suited for them
- AND, don’t put others at risk