Dear Pets Adviser: The last time I went to the dog park, I was attacked by a 10-month-old puppy (I don’t know the breed, but he was about 50 lbs). The dog jumped on me and grabbed my arm on three separate occasions (no hard biting, but I think this is highly inappropriate, and if the owner doesn’t get the dog under control he has the potential to hurt someone).
Each time the dog bit me, the owner just laughed it off and told the dog “no”… with no real follow-up action. I wanted to pin the dog to the ground — but obviously that might not have gone over well!
I know that I have no control over the situation (I did tell the owner they need training lessons). What I need is advice on how to handle the situation the next time I run into this dog. —Amy
It can be tempting to stand back and watch the excitement when entering a dog park. Whether your dog sniffs every bush or frantically runs with his friends, it’s fun to watch him enjoy himself at the park.
Even if your pet is having a jolly old time, you shouldn’t ignore basic dog park etiquette.
Many trainers may steer you away from going a dog park because of the danger that comes with introducing your dog to another dog, usually off leash, at an enclosed area. Typically you don’t know the temperament, training and vaccinations of the other dogs there. You almost have to trust that people wouldn’t bring their dog-aggressive canine partner to a dog park, but I have seen this exact thing happen more than once.
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Although you can suggest training to a dog owner, you have to understand that not every owner will be as adamant and knowledgeable about training and behavior as you may be.
There could be unruly dogs and owners that you don’t have much control over. To be a courteous dog owner, you should obey basic rules to avoid stress in fellow owners and their dogs.
At some dog parks, there is a list of rules that must be followed, and some even require membership. In the case that there is no official rule posting, the following is expected as basic common courtesy.
- Never leave your pet unattended. A dog not being watched could easily run off (at a non-fenced in park) or get into a scuffle with another dog and you may never know.
- Clean up after your dog! Some parks will offer poop bags or scoopers but more often than not, they don’t. You should always have bags with you, either in your car or your purse, so be prepared in case your dog unexpectedly needs to go.
- Dogs under four months of age do not have the vaccines to attend a dog park safely. They are susceptible to fatal diseases and viruses like parvovirus and distemper.
- Close all gates immediately after entering the park. Some dogs are escape artists and will take any opportunity they can get to run off, which could end in tragedy.
- If your dog becomes unruly, plays rough or is bothering another owner, immediately leash him and leave the park. It is rude to allow your dog to bother another owner or play too roughly with a dog while you do nothing to stop it.
- Do not bring your young children. They too often will try to interact with dogs playing and roughhousing. Not only does this put your children in tremendous danger, but it also puts the dogs at risk. If you do bring children, keep them by your side and explain that this is the dog’s time to have fun and should not be touched, played with or ridden while at the park. Yes, this happens.
- Never bring food. Not only will you be surrounded by begging dogs but it puts the dogs at risk for fighting over a valuable food item.
When to Approach Someone
If you run into a situation where someone is clearly not following basic etiquette, you are not out of line to approach the owner of the dog.
Although it can be embarrassing to point out something that someone is doing wrong, you are probably not the only owner feeling uncomfortable about the situation.
The Pet Corrector
If you are being jumped on or see that a fight is breaking out between dogs, carry “The Pet Corrector” to ward off any unwanted dogs or to stop a fight. This little can of compressed air makes a noise that will startle dogs and interrupt any inappropriate behavior.
If a dog owner is angry at you for using this, you can say that you felt you or your dog was in danger and something needed to happen. I have seen owners actually applaud someone for carrying this spray at a park and stopping a major brawl between groups of dogs.
Dog Parks Can Be Wonderful
I love dog parks and usually seek them out for my friendly pup. Seeing him run around with other dogs and having positive interactions with his fellow canines can be a lot of fun for both him and me.
Not only does my dog make friends at the park, but I usually get involved in conversations with other owners. It can be a great outlet for making friends and meeting new people.
If rules are followed and dogs play safely, dog parks are a wonderful place for you and your pet to enjoy.
Photos: donjd2 (top), Urban Outbacker/Flickr