I just returned grumpily from the dog park; I can't say the same for my dog, he always looks pretty happy! I take Rocky to the park because he is a McNab rescue, and has loads of energy that needs to be expressed socially with other dogs (as well as on runs, hikes, and in training, etc.). Sometimes he finds a great match at the park and engages in doggie “boxing,” and a game of chase, important rest and sleep inducers (for dogs, that is).
Lessons: 1) Set up private play dates with dogs whom you know he is a good match. 2) Get your dog in some other “job” to occupy his mind. 3) Vary where you take the dog and what you do together.
I figure this is my duty to my dog to keep him calmer and happier. But what does it do to us humans? I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go to the park (I could have gone for a long walk instead with Rocky) and didn’t listen to that intuition, and something doesn’t go right at the park, or an ignorant human ends up irritated at me or someone else. This is when I say “I hate the dog park!"
Lessons: 1) Listen to your intuition. 2) Never respond to “shoulds.” They are always a recipe for problems/disaster. 3) Go to the park when you know the dog’s favorite playmate will be there. 4) Let go of negative relationships and places, surround yourself with people and places who support and uplift you! 5) HAVE FUN and LIVE LIFE FULLY!
When I first arrived at the park, a woman asked me if I had just seen “the dog fight.” Apparently she had broken up a fight between two dogs, a black lab mix who had a Corgie by the throat/scruff and wouldn’t let go even while she pulled him on his collar (apparently there was no blood, and I didn’t hear any screaming or cursing). Instead the Corgie was lifted into the air by the Lab’s mouth and he/she kept it’s grip. The extraordinary thing here is the woman that broke up the fight, neither of the dogs were hers; the owners of the dogs in this fight just stood by, apathetic, ignorant or frozen.
Lessons: 1) Dog Parks are not for everyone, human or dogs. 2) Just because someone owns/adopts a dog, doesn’t mean they know anything about dogs, dog behavior or giving dogs good boundaries. 3) Their dog’s behavior is mirroring their own; how good are their own personal boundaries, empathy, and their willingness to learn about their dog? 4) The gap between consciousness/unconsciousness and compassion/fear is growing wider.
There weren’t many dogs for Rocky to play with, and the one big dog, who finally gave into Rocky’s sometimes obnoxious play barks (which some humans can misconstrue as aggressive), chased him and barked at him, scaring him into submission. Rocky didn’t want to play with that dog anymore!
Lessons: 1) Be careful what you wish for! 2) But life's too short NOT to go for the biggest and most challenging anyway! 3) If at first you don't succeed, try another path.
A few minutes later some submissive dogs arrived at the park. If Rocky is a little anxious and a dog is very submissive or unneutered, barky Rocky may seem “aggressive” to an ignorant human as the submissive dog, shakes, quivers, whines and hides. Dogs who are are balanced and well socialized, know how to dissipate this energy. One way of mitigating submissive/dominant energy is the dog will roll over and expose their stomach, dissipating the energy into “whatever.” This poor little submissive dog didn’t have a clue, but could have learned if given the chance. But her human? No, she was overly protective of her baby dog and yelled at me “control your dog!” I laughed and got out my trusty behavior modifier, the squirt gun. I told the human that Rocky’s barks were play, but she strutted off like the anti-social behavior of her dog.
Lessons: 1) Some humans treat their dogs like babies (again, they do not understand doggie behavior dynamics) and make the situation worse for their dog. 2) Maybe she (the human) was having a grumpy day, 3) Many people live in fear and telling people what to do with their dogs is a form of feeling in control.
What does Rocky’s behavior say about me? I certainly have found my voice and not afraid to say things, confront and push boundaries with anyone. Life’s too short to keep quiet, and Rocky is an excellent teacher in this department!
As Rocky and I were leaving the park, there is a little enclosure where you can leash/unleash your dog before entering or leaving the park. Someone was opening that gate to let their dog in before I had Rocky’s leash on! Annoying? Come’on get a clue! I didn’t look up to see who it was that didn’t understand the protocol and said in a terse tone “hold on, wait until I leash Rocky or he may run off!” When I looked up, it was a young girl of about 10 years old...oops, no wonder she didn’t know. Her dog was fine and mellow, mine was/is a wascally wabbit. I was in fear about Rocky being unsecured and annoyed from the last ignorant human I had just dealt with. I should have made an attempt to educate the young lady and apologize for my tone. Poor thing, she looked a little stunned. I did thank her for letting me finish, then held the gate open for her and her dog.
Lessons: 1) Don’t make assumptions about human ignorance from the few bad apples out there. 2) Slow down, look up and smile, it’s amazing how your perception can change. 3) Apologize when you feel like you did something wrong. 4) Explain and educate if necessary, and wish them well on their way.
So, I don’t really hate dog parks; they are just a microcosm of the bigger picture and a potential hotbed of learning. I actually love all the dogs, but the humans are sometimes challenging. Oh well, yet another venue to practice my coaching and educating skills with compassion and without judgment!
Oh and dogs (God spelled backwards) are excellent teachers of unconditional love, humility, boundaries, and sillyness!
©Shelley Carlisle 2012