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The Dog Park Blues

By KatyBeth Jensen For The Dog Files

I was visiting with some new dog owners the other day, and they were worried.

It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming, and the sunshine is luring my campers’ owners to take leash in hand and head out to our local dog parks with their furry playmates.

It’s that time of year again. Concerned dog owners will call me with tales of their pup being bitten or biting a park playmate. Pups will be dropped off at camp with stories about the other dog owners that frequent dog parks. Owners who don’t care, are irresponsible, talk on cell phones, and bring toys and badly behaved children.

Some owners will wish for a more social dog. Others will wish their dog would share his toys, like the other dogs at the park. Owners will be beside themselves because they were yelled at when their larger dog ran over a smaller dog. One owner will cry when she shows me where her dog was “attacked” for no reason AT ALL. Another will cry when she tells me how her sweet dog seemed to attack another playmate for no reason.

I will hand out tissues, kiss owies, reassure everyone, and once again, curse the dog parks and playgrounds. However, since it’s doubtful I’m going to convince you that your pup would probably prefer a nice long walk with you for companionship, I’m going to share with you a few tips to consider before you open the gates of the local dog park and unsnap your leash.

Babies, toddlers, unruly older children? Leave them at home. Just do. If you bring them, don’t even think about snarling at the owners of dogs who run over them or jump on them. The odds of a bite are high. Read the sign on the gate: DOG park.

Before you enter the gates, dump all the treats out of your pocket. No treats. When you swim in the ocean, do you bring shark bait with you?

Toys. Leave them in the car. Dogs don’t share. They can’t be taught to share. Really. If a dog gives up a toy or allows another dog to take their toy, they are not “sharing.” They are showing social awareness. If they resist, they know the other dog will probably bite them. If your dog steals toys or refuses to share, they are not “selfish.” They are showing dominance. Leave the toys in the car. Okay, I see that purple eggplant in your pocket. Hear me sigh, but at least you know the dynamics. I’ll get the tissue ready.

Dog parks are stressful for your pups. Imagine you entered a party and twenty people descended on you, wanting to sniff your butt, jump on you, and snuggle up to your partner. Imagine knowing that at least a couple of “guests” had guns or knives. My guess is, you would hightail it out the door pretty quickly, or else head for the bar for a double. Giving up the human idea that dog parks are “fun” will help your pup have a better time and be less stressed.

When you enter the dog park, unsnap the leash, but please keep it in your hand. If you are sipping a latte and need a hand for your cell phone, put the leash around your neck.

Wait one minute. If you are sipping a latte and talking on the phone, who is watching your dog? Yes, the dog who is running amuck. Hang up. (I don’t have the heart to tell you to pitch the latte.) When your dog gets unruly at the dog park, call them to you immediately, and snap the leash back on, even if this means spilling the latte. Your dog needs your attention. Better yet, every few minutes, call your dog to you and have them sit. Your pup will feel more secure each time you reestablish that no matter what happens at the dog park, you are still his leader.

Along with your dog, leash, latte and purple eggplant, I hope you brought your sense of humor and goodwill with you to the dog park. Dogs will bite one another, get personal with one another, and sometimes accidents happen. Try to work it out. Be nice. If you can’t be nice, stay out of the dog park. I do.

Don’t stay too long, and for goodness sakes, shut the gate when you leave!

Now, take a nice calm walk home or back to your car. Talk to your pup about your day. Practice a few sits and downs. Look down and feel appreciation for the pup strutting beside you at the other end of the leash, wondering if the dog parks are really the best place for you and your pup to have a good time together.

Pats For Your Pups!!


KatyBeth & Rascal

KatyBeth & Rascal

Katybeth is a professional pet spoiler, living in the Chicagoland area, running her own business, Camp-Run-A-Pup. Camp Run-A-Pup spoils other people’s pups, and they do it really well. Katybeth lives with and loves three dogs of her own, Rascal, a Parson’s Terrier (AKC recognizers her as a Parson’s; you might recognize her as a Jack Russell), Skippy, a Schipperke with a personality disorder, and Scooby, a beagle that might belong to a neighbor. Katybeth’s newest family star is Soquel’s Last Souvenire, or as they like to call her, Trinket, a show-stopping Doberman pup. Katybeth co-owns Trinket with her mom because she likes being on the winning side of the dog show arena and wanted the rights to tell the real unabridged stories of the oddities of dog showing. the movie Dog Show did not even come close to telling. Katybeth also enjoys writing her blog — My Odd Family. Dogs, dog people, dog shows and owning a dog business combined with hearth, home and family never leaves her at a loss for material to write about.

Katybeth Jensen,PPS
Professional Pet Spoiler