I used to take my dogs to the dog park. However, this activity has been taken off my dog-friendly activities list. The reason? Humans of the dog park.
I was harassed on several occasions at two different dog parks in my city. On all three occasions, I felt my personal wellbeing was compromised. On the first such event, a woman accompanied by 15 dogs accused me of kicking one of her pups (of course I did not). She yelled at me, mocked me, and threatened to fight me. On the second occasion, a man “pet” my hair. The third occasion consisted of a young man following me aggressively, spitting threats because my dog “alpha rolled” his puppy (his dog, which was technically too young to legally come to said park, was unharmed). (In a related note, shots were fired recently in a dog park near my office because of a conflict between two dogs. One dog was shot in the leg.) I’m not sure if this is a common problem for others across the United States, but in Albuquerque, dog parks are not necessarily a safe haven for dog owners and their pups.
People Think Dogs Are Also People
By and large, I found that a majority dog park visitors know little to nothing about dog behavior. They don’t understand group dynamics, dominance behaviors and submission. They don’t understand that dogs don’t understand conversational English (I can’t even count the number of times I heard people scolding their dog as if it were a human who understood every word they were saying). One time, I encountered a couple that kept referring to themselves as “mama” and “papa” (to their dogs). This is mostly just annoying.
People Don’t Watch their Dogs
Things that have happened to me at the dog park:
- I’ve been peed on. Multiple times. I’ve yet to receive an apology.
- I’ve had many large dogs jump on me.
- I’ve been knocked on my arse.
- I’ve had to advocate for my puppy, who was being harassed by a sexually frustrated un-neutered male dog. The dog followed her around on multiple dog park visits, mounting her relentlessly. The owner blamed me by suggesting my dog was not fixed. I later found out his dog was permanently kicked out of the dog park for aggressive behavior.
- A very strong golden retriever wrapped its arms around my waist and made love to my leg for – I kid you not – almost a minute before I could pry him off.
- I’ve stepped in a lot of poo because owners did not notice that their dogs went potty. One time I stepped in poo, removed my shoe to scrape it off, and stepped in more poo with my bare foot. On that day, I cried.
People Don’t Watch their Kids
Kids are running around, screaming and harassing dogs. And the parents wonder why people are giving them dirty looks.
People Don’t Follow the Rules
People bring un-neutered dogs. People bring young puppies that do not yet have doggie manners. People bring 10 dogs to one person. People bring aggressive dogs. People don’t follow the rules.
People Are Very Defensive of their Pets
I get it. You love your dog. Your dog can do no wrong. I kind of feel that way too (I try to check myself on it though). There is nothing worse than calling someone out for their dog’s bad behavior and having them deny it or turn the blame on you or your dog. I’ve also seen simple scuffles between dogs turn into epic fights between owners. Pretty soon the park can turn from a relaxing dog chill spot to a bad episode of Jersey Shore. And who needs that drama?
Fetch is Problematic
The number one reason I started taking my dog Daisy to a dog park is that she loves to play fetch, but there are not many leash-free areas around. It is nearly impossible to play fetch at a crowded dog park, however. Chances are, other dogs will want to join in (of course, because fetch is so fun). Sometimes this brings out possessiveness and even aggression – I do not fault the dogs for this. However, it makes playing fetch a constant struggle between watching other dogs, watching my dog, watching their interactions and ending scuffles before they morph into full-blown fights. My solution? I take my chances (of getting a ticket) and play fetch at a regular park.
So there you have it. What was once a beautiful concept turned into a nightmare for me and my dogs. I do not discourage others from trying out a dog park if you have friendly, playful pups. But take caution and remember it might not be all that it’s cracked up to be.