This is going to be a bit of a tirade, or possibly a public service announcement. I lean more toward tirade, since I’m sure you lovely people aren’t guilty of any of these offenses.
Yesterday evening a friend, Beth, and I went walking in a local park. We’re trying to get together once a week for a good, long walk at a local park or trail. Beth is also a dog person; she has three and usually brings one or two of them. I always bring Emma.
Emma doesn’t like to be approached by strangers. She came from a really bad place and has some fear aggression issues. She’s fine as long as no one tries to get in her face. One of Beth’s dogs, Tanner, was practically wild when she began fostering him (he’s a failed foster) and has taken years to become even somewhat comfortable around people. He’s also very afraid of loud noises and sudden movement. Because of this we’re really careful about where we choose to walk. We take the less traveled trails. We step to the side of the trail and let other folks go ahead. We realize our dogs have some issues, so we’re careful.
Yesterday we chose a park that has a lot of paved areas. It had rained a lot during the day and we thought some of our usual places might be really muddy. We’d both been to the park before and had good experiences. A co-worker takes his dog there often and always says it’s great. Apparently we’ve only been when the other park visitors were behaving properly. Also, yesterday must have been Go To Your Local Park And Be A Total Jerk Day; we just didn’t get the memo in time. So here are some highlights of proper park behavior:
DO NOT allow your dog off leash. Unless you are on your property (and no, being a taxpayer doesn’t make the local park your property) or in a dog park, do not allow your dog off leash. It doesn’t matter how friendly your dog is. Some people are afraid of dogs. Many people don’t like to be approached by a strange dog. And not all dogs are friendly. Many dogs don’t like to be approached by another off leash dog while they’re leashed or in a new environment.
DO NOT tell me how friendly your dog is. If I’ve asked you to restrain your dog, don’t tell me how friendly he or she is. Your dog hasn’t met mine. They are animals. You cannotguarantee their friendliness toward my dog. I know my dog, you don’t. If I’ve told you they need to be separated I have a reason for it.
ALWAYS ASK before trying to approach a strange dog. It doesn’t matter how cute the dog is, how much you love dogs, or how “good with dogs” you are. If you don’t know the dog, stand at a distance and ask the owner if it’s alright for you to meet their dog; if they say no, do not argue with them that you’re really, really good with dogs. You’re not good with thatdog. Most dog parents are more than willing to let people fawn over our fur kids; if we say no, we have a good reason. Respect that.
FOR THE LOVE OF WHATEVER YOU HOLD HOLY, TEACH YOUR CHILDREN TO ASK BEFORE MEETING A STRANGE DOG. I cannot stress this one enough. Children do not need to go running up to strange dogs. It’s just not safe. Aside from the whole dog standpoint, children shouldn’t be running up to the strange person on the other end of the leash.
Clean up after your dog. Even to crazy pet parents dog “leavings” are just gross. It’s not that hard; many parks even provide the bags. No one wants to step in that.
Respect the park rules. They’re there for a reason. If you don’t like them, find another park. The speed limits are slow because it’s a park. People are walking, kids are riding bikes and roller skating. It’s not the Daytona 500 (hoping I got that name right). If an area of the park is reserved for a certain activity (biking, walking, dog walking, etc) don’t do something else in that area.
I know I probably sound a little bit like the Wicked Witch, but yesterday was awful. We had to cut our walk short, and at one point ended up practically in a stream, serving as the mosquito all you can eat buffet, in an attempt to avoid pushy kids and off leash dogs.
I’m sure it’s probably happened to everyone at least once. What are your park behavior pet peeves?