Panic! at the Dog Park
Posted on 19 July 2018
When I first adopted my human, she couldn’t wait to take me everywhere with her. Inevitably, I had to educate her on what I was and wasn’t comfortable with. She was pretty clueless, to be honest, and I was young, wild, and free! Chaos often ensued. Now, since I’m pretty much perfect in every way, I was surprised to find that not all of my fellow furballs are as naturally laid back as I am. Like you humans, all of us are different and have our own quirks that never fail to delight in the best of times, but can also pose all kinds of difficulties in public spaces.
I fancy myself an athlete, and I enjoy getting physical with new friends. When I was a puppy, no one really seemed to mind, and everyone I met seemed delighted for me to invade their personal space. I was shocked to find that as I grew, other dogs and humans seemed to find this slightly less sweet and whimsical. To be fair, as a 50 pound grown up, I can see how wrestling could be considered inappropriate upon a first meeting. It took a few conversations with my human for us both to get our points across, especially considering we were still trying to learn each other’s language (She does have a pretty great bark, though, I must say). It is important to really get to know each other before you enter into polite society.
Here at PetKrewe, our humans are pretty obsessed with us, and they really love to play. Whether we are costumed and parading, chasing chickens in the backyard, or going to the park, we have found that boundaries and communication are key. The dog park is a favorite spot for most of us, so let’s start by going over some common etiquette so that you lovely humans can help us live our best lives!
Basic Pre-Park Guidelines
- Keep in mind that puppies younger than 12 weeks are not old enough for the dog park yet. Let us get used to you and your home before you toss us into the real world and tell us to get a job!
- No matter how old we are, none of us should be running around off the leash around other dogs until we have had all of the proper basic vaccinations, as prescribed by our veterinarians.
- Basic Recall. This just means that we should be trained to respond to you when you call our names. For some of us, this can take a little more time and patience, but if you always use our names and reward us each time we respond to you, we will pick up what you’re putting down pretty quickly.
First Time Jitters
- When approaching the park, if we seem nervous or overwhelmed, take a beat.
- Remain outside the fence, on a leash. When potential new friends approach the fence to say hello, give us a treat to teach us that other dogs=GOOD. Plus, we really love treats.
- As always, when training, Positive Reinforcement is the name of the game!
- If we react negatively, step back, calm down, and try again.
- Let us hang back and chill, we need to observe how other dogs are behaving before we jump in all crazy-like!
- Remember: You should remain calm. We take cues from you, so if you are anxious, we will be uncomfortable.
- When inside the dog park, remove the leash! Even if it seems comforting to you to keep it on, it can make us feel like we have no escape and it poses a hazard to other dogs and humans.
- Keep a constant eye on us! Don’t be that parent that never looks up from your smartphone until it’s too late! We know when you’re not paying attention, and we deserve your full attention. It’s pretty rude to us when you ignore us to talk to other humans instead. Please don’t get distracted! Make us your first priority the whole time and you will avoid being an annoyance to other park patrons.
When Fights Happen
- Fights happen. Ideally, all of us are properly socialized and friendly, and have some basic recall and training, and many parks will separate big and small dogs to avoid possible bad situations, but we can be unpredictable in new situations with strangers, and sometimes people don’t follow the proper rules and etiquette.
- Sometimes when we are scared or nervous, we revert to our basic predatory instincts
- Sometimes, like you guys, dogs just don’t get along! I generally like everyone, but not all dogs are as chill as I am, let’s be honest.
- Keeping us playful puppies safe starts with preventing fights before they have a chance to get out of control.
- Watch for cues that we are not happy: Growling, snarling, lunging, stiffening, eyeballing, and pinning other dogs down are signs that something isn’t quite right. Calmly and firmly remove your us from the situation.
- If a fight is in progress, do not use your hands/arms to separate us!
- Don’t grab us by the collar. These tactics can result in you being injured or bitten. We make mistakes too, in the heat of the moment.
- One tactic is for you to surround us and try to draw our attention with loud noises/yelling. Personally, I am pretty easily distracted.
- If you need to physically grab one of us, go for our back legs. Don’t grab near the teeth or you risk being bitten.
- Use an object or shield to get between two dogs in a fight.
- Throwing a blanket over us can also help in an attack.
- If an angry canine clamps down and locks his jaw, a finger in the butt will cause him to release! Good to know in case of emergency!
- If a small dog is being attacked by a larger one, your instinct may be to grab the little guy. This fast upward motion can cause the larger dog to “chase”, and could cause more injury to the small dog as well as to yourself. However, if you see it coming before it starts, always best to pick up the smaller dog and walk away calmly and quickly.
- Teach us never to lunge or bark at other dogs and always to look to you in any scenario.
- Obedience training can be difficult. Look for local classes. Group classes are a great way for us to socialize and bond, with you and with other new friends!
Remember, not all dogs are alike, and some of us will prefer a long walk with you instead of going to the dog park, and that’s OK! Sometimes I’m lazy and just want to lounge around the house with my human and get all the cuddles. Getting to know your dog is the best way to avoid any awkwardness or pain while socializing. Above all, just spend time with your furry loved ones, and we will show our affection for you every day! Here at PetKrewe, we can’t think of anything more rewarding. Well...maybe donning a pirate costume and sailing the high seas, but let’s be real, that’s more for you than it is for us!
Until next week, humans!
-The Pirate Captain Blanche