My Dog Is Not Your Dog: A Dog Park Dispatch
We often treat our dogs like children. We feed them, snuggle them and even take them on play dates. But as well as you may know your own furry “child’s” temperament, trouble can arise when he mixes with others. Jonathan Wiener shares the good, the bad and the ugly of socializing with new dogs at the park.
Dogs are like our children. We send our children to school as soon as we can because it’s important for them to socialize, learn new skills and grow. They learn how to relate to others and play nicely in the sand box.
Your dog needs the same kind of social training. But unlike human children, dogs are animals, and their instincts stem from undomesticated ancestors. We can teach our dogs to fetch, sit and do their business outside the house, but they still have wild instincts that developed over countless years of breeding. These behaviors are innate to their personality.
Every breed has different behaviors, which can make the mingling of breeds that happens at a dog park kind of nerve-wracking.
My two dogs are huskies. They play — and play aggressively, but not viciously, and not maliciously. They play chase, and they like to be chased. This is their fun. When we all go to the husky club, no one cares. They are all huskies, and we know how they play. When we go to a familiar dog park and most of the parents there know how dogs play, we rarely run into problems. All of the dogs are there to get exercise: play, jump, run and get dirty.
But when we go to a different place, I know there will be at least one dog who will react negatively to my dogs. Most dogs engage in play with others. If one doesn’t like it, they react in a way to let the other dog (or dogs) know. This makes me nervous because, while I know my dog’s temperament and boundaries because I’ve trained them, I can’t vouch for the other dogs at the park.
It’s like driving a car: you might be a great driver, but not everyone is. (You know who you are, short elderly lady with Florida tags who can’t see over the steering wheel! Just saying.)
For this purpose, pet parents need to know and understand their own dogs’ boundaries and be able to anticipate how others might react. Dog clubs are great for this because your dogs can play with others they become familiar with. You get to know the pet parents of those dogs and how they will react. It’s very similar to a “play date.”
As a pet parent, I’m doing my best to keep my dogs well-trained and constantly watch them as they play to make sure they’re respecting other dogs’ boundaries — and being accepted in turn. I’m hoping that other pet parents do their due diligence of socializing their pets and making sure they behave.
I’ll see you at the park!
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