By Nicole Guillaume
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an advocate of dog parks. I’m not – however – an advocate for stupidity.
I believe dog parks are a great way to give dogs the opportunity to socialize and play with each other in a huge green yard that happens to be a mutual setting. In this way, it’s better than having your dogs play in your own backyard. There’s plenty of space to run back and forth and chase each other. There’s plenty of scents to smell and locations to mark too. It truly is a dog’s paradise.
Until a clueless owner walks in with an ill-behaved flea bag.
Of course, it’s not the dog’s fault that it has no social skills. It’s not even the dog’s fault that it’s owner is too busy socializing and not watching over her dog. It is, of course, the owner’s fault for everything that dog gets into.
Like children, we can’t watch our pets 24/7. Work and other responsibilities get in the way. But like any good parent watches their children in a playground, so should a dog owner watch her dog at the dog park.
Earlier today, I took my two dogs to our favorite dog park. We haven’t been there in a while because my latest rescue, Lilly, has issues around toy dogs. I’ve been working with her to resolve these issues and feel confident that she will behave herself when she’s around them now. In other words, I know what Lilly’s faults and misbehaviors were, so we took a vacation from the dog park so that we could work on them. This makes her a better well-behaved dog, and releases the stress between the other dogs and owners (including myself) there.
When we got there, there were over 10 dogs and Lilly enjoyed the freedom of running and back and forth in the huge gated yard. Sara – my basset hound – wasn’t so lucky. Within 2 minutes of walking into the dog park, Sara was being humped by an overly energetic Boston Terrier mix. Sara was not shy in letting the dog know that she did not like this, and she barked bloody murder. The dog – Cooper – refused to budge and happily humped her anyway. Another dog owner came up to pull Cooper off. Within seconds of being released, he started at it again. And again, Sara barked, spun around and snapped at the dog. Her message was very clear.
I DON’T LIKE THAT! LEAVE ME ALONE!
The sad part is that the owner of this dog didn’t do anything. At the time, I didn’t even know who the owner was. It was the owner of another dog that intervened. But by the time the dog decided to do this a third time, I intervened.
I stood in front of Sara and began to body block Cooper. Cooper tried to dodge around me and go through me but I was faster than him. I kept telling him “Back!” until he backed off. Cooper left Sara alone for a whopping 45 seconds and ran in her direction again. Again, I came to her rescue and blocked the dog from getting to her.
In the mean time, the inattentive owner was watching the whole thing but did nothing. Maybe she thought this was normal doggy behavior. Maybe she thought it was funny or cute. But anyone who goes to a dog park should know that this is not good etiquette.
I blocked the dog and as I was moving to put my foot down, Cooper ran into my foot and then tried to get to Sara from the other side. Suddenly, I felt a firm hand on my shoulder and turned around to see an elderly woman who looked as if death warmed over who said in a firm voice with a scowl on her face “We do not kick dogs here.”
“I didn’t kick your dog.” I responded, “And don’t touch me.”
“If it wasn’t a kick,” she said sarcastically, “Then what was it?”
“I was blocking the dog with my foot and he ran into me. Touch me again, and we’ll have more problems than the dogs.”
As a positive trainer, I was absolutely angered that someone would come up to me and would accuse me of kicking their dog. Especially when that owner was completely inactive to what was going on. As the old adage goes “If you’re not a part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
I would never kick a dog unless it was self-defense. There’s a clear difference between blocking and kicking. If I had kicked her dog, he would have gone tumbling down. Or he would have yelped. He would have done something. But, I didn’t kick him. I was sending him a loud message which was “Back off and leave this dog alone.”
Seems like both the dog and his owner had an issue with personal space and touching others inappropriately.
Cooper is a humper. He humped just about every other dog there. The problem isn’t that he’s a humper. He can be trained out of that. The problem is that the owner knows full well that her dog is a humper but didn’t take any precautions to fix or prevent it.
If you have issues with your dog, either take a vacation from the dog park to work on it like I did with Lilly, or keep a sharp eye on your dog and intervene when necessary.
And for those of you who have humpers, here’s a video from Pam of Pam’s Dog Academy to give you an idea of why dogs hump and what you can do about it.