Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dog Parks

I'm going to broach ground that may or may not offend some people. I am willing to take that chance in the hopes that maybe (just MAYBE) someone will read this and take to heart the things I am about to say.

Answer True or False as the statement applies to you:

1) – You are unable to understand (read) your dog’s body language.

2) - You are unable to read any dog’s body language.

3) - You expect your dog to behave the same way that he does at home.

4) - You are very sociable and easily distracted by conversations with other dog owners.

5) - Your dog does not ‘recall’ reliably.

6) - Your dog is terrified of other dogs.

7) - Your dog has a history of aggression toward humans.

8) - Your dog has a history of serious, damaging aggression toward other dogs.

9) - Your dog is not current on his vaccinations.

10) - You watch ‘The Dog Whisperer’ and are expecting the ‘pack’ to fix your dog.

Be honest, now :) If you answered 'True' to any of these statements, you might want to avoid Dog Parks.

I have only had Pixel for 8 weeks and I have already learned an amazing amount about dogs, dog behavior, dog parks, dog owners, etc etc. And I have to say that Dog Parks and Dog Owners are the ones that really leave impressions.

People who frequent dog parks and are also good, caring owners think about things like Who is going to be at the dog park today? Are their dogs going to be well-behaved? Are they up-to-date with their vaccines? Are they going to be with responsible humans? Can I trust these dogs?

If you are one of the people who asks these kinds of questions, it would appear you are in the minority in some dog parks. Of course it depends what time you go (off-peak times are the best times to experience dedicated, responsible owners and their well-behaved dogs), it also depends on which dog parks you go to in your city (you know your city and the reputation in different neighborhoods).

Mostly, though, your experience at the dog park comes down to the owners. Do they walk their dogs regularly; does their dog obey their human's commands; can they control their dog when it is necessary? These kinds of questions aren't a matter of opinion or a matter of different styles of owning a dog; they are ESSENTIAL to a dog's well being and health (ask anyone with a well behaved dog and they'll agree).

There is nothing more irritating than seeing an owner at the dog park frantic, running after their dog as he's playing a game of Chase with a new dog he's just met. What is going through this owner's mind? Does the owner think their dog is going to chase the other dog down and pummel him? Do they think their dog is going to catch up to the other dog and GET pummeled? Why does that thought even cross their mind? Do they understand dogs at all? Can't they read both of the dogs' body language to tell that neither dog has any ill intentions? And if not... what are they doing here? How can anyone live with an animal and know so little about it?

Also irritating is seeing punishment for no good reason. Often seeing this behavior can quickly go from mere irritating to downright infuriating. Here is the scenario:

Young man shows up at the park with an American Bulldog who we can all see is clearly still a puppy. His floppy ears and excited demeanor say it all, "I'm ready to play!" As soon as the maybe 6-8 month old dog gets sight of the group of dogs at the other end of the park, he immediately start springing toward them; straining at the end of his leash to be let go. The owner, frustrated with this excitement, yanks on the leash hard enough to send the puppy sprawling backwards adding in a harsh "NO!" This goes on for a while until the owner gets sick of trying to correct his distracted dog, and then eventually he lets the dog off the leash and away he runs! Immediately the owner yells after the dog, "NO!! Come!" So in a completely distracted, hyper state of mind this dog bolts off to play (that's why we came here right?), the owner lets him off the leash to go where his focus is, and he gets angry (oookay where's the sense in that?) Here we see one of two reactions to the dog running off. Either the owner runs after the dog, or he sulks around the dog park for a while brooding over his hyper dog. If he goes after the dog, he'll probably get close enough to lunge, reaching out to the dog just in time for the dog to see the bent over reach and he'll think the owner is ready to play and he'll dart away happily. Frustration increases, maybe some more frantic yells, and around and around we go.

It's not hard to see what this owner is doing wrong. But how many times have you yourself been guilty of this? How much do you REALLY know about your dog? If you're feeling defensive right now, chances are you know you've got some work to do. So go over there, to where he's laying down and get to know him! Play with him, walk with him, learn his mannerisms, watch how he reacts to the world around him, find out what excites him and what doesn't, take him somewhere he'll have fun and watch him at play and learn the way he communicates with other dogs!

Chances are you don't have a dog for decoration, so get over there and let him be a part of your life and be a part of his - so there is one less worry on those trips to the dog park :)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your feedback is always appreciated. Rude, solicitous, or spam comments will be deleted.