Rules to live by

I think it’s great when a whole family piles out of the car with their dog (or, even better, walks the three blocks to the park), ready for a few hours of fun in the great outdoors.  The amount of time children spend not-playing-and-running-around is something I find disturbing.  Any family time spent in the great outdoors is a huge plus in my opinion.

However – the dog park is for dogsOn a gorgeous sunny spring day, it might just have 20+ medium-to-large sized dogs running around and wrestling and chasing a ball and sniffing things.  They are excited.  Super excited.

You then put a kid (short, high-pitched, very energetic person) into the equation.  Given the choice, I would require people to be over the age of 10 if they’re going to be inside the fence.  The ones who are well behaved and pleasant are far outnumbered by the ones causing a ruckus.

We’ve had some great weather, so everyone’s emerging from winter hibernation.  Forgive the rant, but I’m about ready to explode, and I need to vent.  Blame it on having been stuck without my dog-walking time for the past week, due to a nasty ankle-roll that still has me hobbling.  We’re back to making trips, but my ankle still hurts too much for me to do much more than walk to the dog park and back.  If I could go somewhere else, I would.

In the name of not making me angry, some rules – for parents, for people under the age of 15, for whoever finds themselves at a dog park:

ONE: Don’t run.  Don’t run screaming, giggling in your high pitched voice,  waving a toy (or something that could be seen as a toy) over your head, don’t run at all.  Go outside the fence if you need to run so badly.  Do you know what an excited dog does when they see running?  They RUN.  A dog running after a child could easily catch that child if they wanted to.  They probably don’t… it’s just a game to them.  Having a dog chase them at high speed makes kids yell in their high pitched voices, and run more, making all the dogs in the area worked up.  So, when I yell across the dog park at your screaming kid to “STOP RUNNING”, don’t give me a dirty look.  Watch, as your child obeys the order, and the three or four dogs that were chasing him (leaving a good 10 ft space) stop running, and wander off.  Yes, I should have been able to grab Gwynn and make him stop following that kid (and yes, the other dog owners too), but I’m still lurching slowly around like Igor from a badly rolled ankle, so anything I do, I do slowly.

why are we running? Doesn't matter, I like it!

TWO: If you wave something excitedly over your head, dogs will try to get it.  Especially if you’re squeaking it while trying to get your own dog’s attention.

THREE: Kids like sand.  But this is sand in a dog park.  It has only been open for about 6 months, but it is still Dog Park Sand.  Please stop your kid from rolling in it.  Please?  Not only is it unhygienic, but a kid lying (or sitting) on the ground is in a position to get hurt if a pack of dogs come running through.

dogs who are not paying attention to where you are...unless you're running, that is.

FOUR: If your child is scared of dogs, DO NOT bring them into a dog park to cure that fear.  It won’t cure it.

FIVE: Don’t give your child the leash, don’t let your child leave the dog on leash in the park, and don’t let the child pick up the dog.  If a small dog is a bit anxious of bigger dogs, you can bet he’ll be more anxious when the other end of the leash is held by a very excited little girl.  If that little girl then picks up her fuzzy bundle (holding the anxious, squirming dog at large-dog-face-height), those dogs will think that dog is super neat.  When you see your child hysterically screaming for help while holding Fluffy up and being surrounded by young large dogs trying to jump up to meet Fluffy, DON’T just stand 20 ft away, laughing.  There are so many issues with this situation.  Where are the big dog owners?  Why aren’t you helping your child?  Yes, your kid shouldn’t have picked up the dog, he was fine on the ground until she shortened his leash so he couldn’t go anywhere, but now it is your problem.  Why did I end up holding your dog so that the little girl could escape the four dogs (thankfully NOT Gwynn) trying to investigate her small dog?  EDUCATE your CHILD in dog safety.

SIX: Not just for children, and I actually think the worst offenders are the adults.  Don’t give my dog a treat without my permission.  I don’t understand why you think this is a reasonable thing.  It IS NOT.  What if that strange dog has allergies?  Not to mention that you just rewarded him for shoving his nose in your pocket, jumping up and barking.  And, lady who gave Gwynn two whole chicken-jerky-strips (probably the same brand as got him terribly sick in the fall) – seriously, I will BREAK YOU.  You have no idea the wrath that is currently hobbling double-time towards you, and no, you don’t get to act all ‘wounded innocent’ because you ‘didn’t know’.  Of course you didn’t know, you didn’t ask.  Of course he likes it, he’s a dog, and it’s food.

All I ask is that people teach their children how to behave around dogs that are not their own.  Do you have any rules you think should be initiated for people in general who are at the dog park?

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  1. You have a great post here! What you have posted are most of the main reasons I stopped going to the dog park. People are just plain ignorant when it comes to dogs and children.

    The other place I feel strongly about children NOT being is training class. If you want your child to learn how to work your dog, hire the trainer privately or do it at home. A room full of dogs is not the place for a small child. Neither is a park full of dogs.

    An eighty five pound dog like Sampson can knock a kid down and do a lot of (unintentional) damage. Hell, a small dog going full speed can do a lot of damage as well.

    When Sampson was 9 months old he got frightened of a trash barrel that moved unexpectedly and took me down to the ground. I thought I’d broken my leg.

    If only people could pull their heads out of their asses to think.

    • Yes, actually. I had a trick class in which one woman brought her two young kids. Gwynn learning with kids doing random excited things in the background was not the most easy thing.
      One of the small children playing in sand actually did get bowled over. She was walking nowhere near her owners, and a group of dogs charged into her, flipping her over one dog’s back (she hardly could see over his back) and landing her smack down face first on the ground. She handled it well, and her family did well by not making a huge fuss out of it, but still – she could have been seriously injured if there had been any more dogs following, they’d have stepped on her.
      Unfortunately, when people treat the dog park as the only exercise their dog gets, then it is likely the only outdoor activity they do with their kids – and that’s when it’s likely the kids don’t know how to behave properly. The dog park isn’t the place to burn your children’s energy… just the dog’s.

  2. Another thing to add is Don’t Punish A Dog That Is Not Yours.
    I believe I mentioned to you the one time A little girl smacked Gwynn on his face (no real injury, was light, and Gwynn was unaffected) because he sniffed at her arm, saying “BAD DOG!” in a severe tone, and her Parents chortled next to her like “Isn’t she just DARLING?”
    They all looked at me like I was the troll crawling out from under the bridge to eat the goat family, or, like the dog owner who chortles and laughs when their dog snarls and acts the menace to innocent bystanders.
    My dog is NOT a strangers responsibility, do not HIT my dog, in ANY circumstance, ESPECIALLY on a morning walk where I want to know why you are walking with your child when it is still dark out and I have no patience for it.
    This is an in general thing, but then you put an in general thing with the dog treats (remember the people feeding ducks who also fed Gwynn bread?), and this post is something I think everyone should go by for dog-human-child relations, even when reading this I feel frustration at any time this has happened while I was out with Gwynn (often with you) and am revisiting the frustration.
    Oh, and to the small dog picking-up part, WHY do people think that if their small dog is nervous around large dogs, it is a GREAT idea to pick them up and reassure them in such a way that tells them that YES, they have GOOD REASON to be afraid of large dogs. And, oh gosh, why is Mupsy Wupsy afraid of large dogs?
    Stupid dog people frustrate me and make me want to force them to go to a directed at humans dog class.
    “How to Behave around dogs: DOs and DON’Ts”

    • yup, I really don’t like letting really young kids around Gwynn at all… Why do they think that he’s a punching bag? He looks like a teddy, but he’s got big teeth. And there’s good reason for him to be nervous of children when they’re always smacking him.

      • “oh, doggy is so fluffy and nice–sniffing my arm?!? BAD DOG!” *smack*
        Bugs me… also, you mentioning his teeth makes me think f that one guy who saw Gwynn and complimented his teeth, in an honest “I actually mean it” kind of way XD

        • That was a really strange conversation, but yes, it’s always appreciated to find a guy who appreciates good teeth 😛

  3. A really good reminder of why I don’t do dog parks. I like dogs. Kids not so much. 😆

    But seriously, you cannot imagine the number of people we have run into who try to feed our dogs treats. One is Storm’s co-owner breeder who cannot seem to remember that hot dogs make her very sick. No treats, sorry. 😉

    • In this day and age, with half the dogs you meet on special diets (high/low protein, no wheat products, etc), it baffles me that people still think it’s appropriate to just randomly hand out treats without checking first.
      One man I run into on a regular basis can’t let his dog have anything peanut-related. His niece is severely allergic to peanuts, and if the dog has had anything within a week of seeing her, she has an attack.
      I would have thought that the breeder (and people in general in the hunting competition and dog showing area) would know better than to offer random treats. Poor Storm, hot dogs seem to be like doggy crack – whatever they actually contain must be particularly delicious to dogs 😛

  4. One might add that there should be rules elsewhere in public as well, not just the dog park. My uncle used to have the most beautiful Rottweiler/Akita cross, but the dog had been abused and hated children. Serious hate; he wanted to eat them all and crunch the bones for good measure. Now, my uncle is a dog trainer and he could handle him, but there’s not much you can do when a parent doesn’t stop his/her child from running full tilt to hug this dog in the street. If you see a leashed dog, don’t assume it’s safe to get within leash range! Some dogs are territorial, or jumpy, or just don’t need to be distracted (ever watch a kid try to play with a seeing eye dog? Yeesh!)

    • I definitely agree that everyone should teach their children how to behave around dogs in any situation – just particularly in a place where the dogs are all off-leash and wired. Then again – on-leash, a dog is less likely to enjoy children being near him, even if he is kid-friendly. Even that one simple rule – “May I pet your dog?” ALWAYS ASK IT… that ought to be taught to kids the same way as ‘look both ways before crossing the street’ is. I hope your uncle’s dog didn’t do anything that might have ended in his being badly punished.
      I’ve heard that a lot of kids don’t understand service dogs – blows my mind. Even if I hadn’t known what they were, I was raised to ask first, then approach with caution, so I’d have been told ‘no’ before getting the opportunity to seriously distract a service dog.

      • He’s a dog trainer and very aware of his surroundings, so he was always able to keep Ossie from biting, but there were many vicious growlings. He has constant trouble when training service animals–even though they have vests that say “service animal in training, do not distract” on them, kids will pet them and adults will feed them, which just makes the training slower.

        • it is ridiculous, the things people are willing to ignore so that they can do what they want. “What? service dog? in training? whatever, it’s just a treat, it couldn’t possibly harm him, and the rules couldn’t possibly apply to me!”

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