Against my better judgment, I wore flip flops to the dog park on a 90-degree day. Big mistake. Traipsing after the tennis ball, I stepped right in a pile of fresh poop.
Oh, I beg of you. You, yes you, with the cute, cuddly Chow Chow, and you with the pair of poodles, and everyone else who comes here, I plead with you to watch where your dog does his business. Because as well as leaving a mess, this park smells pretty freaking horrible on a hot day. I’m still pretty new to this dog thing, but I’m the stay-at-home-dog-mom, so I’m a regular at the dog park now. I find most pet parents to be responsible, lovely people. I look forward to friendly conversations as I try to wear out our boisterous Bella throwing the same ball approximately 872 times. But nearly every day I see something that irks me about this canine community.
We all know parents have some pretty strong feelings surrounding playground etiquette (share, take turns, stop texting and watch your own kid, you know the drill). Some of these guidelines should also be adopted when we take our dogs to the park to play.
So I propose eight commonsense rules of the dog park.
1. Clean up after yourself.
I know you want to gossip with the your human friends or maybe just sit down and relax with your cell phone while your puppy plays with the other pooches, but please, keep an eye out for the tell-tale stance. You know when you go to the park, your dog is going to go. When he’s been out of sight for a while, chances are he’s done it. Don’t leave it behind for us to pick up – or step in. There are even bags available if you forgot yours. This seems like Dog Owner 101, but I can’t believe how many piles I dodge. Trust me, this is a lot worse than stepping in your kid’s Gogurt or finding an abandoned juice box that didn’t make it to the garbage can.
2. Bring your own toys.
Listen, I’m all about sharing. I’ll throw the ball for your dog too. But if Fido chases my dog’s ball then runs away with it, just bring it back. “That’s not yours,” you can say, just like we do when our children claim another kid’s truck or doll. “They’ll let you play with it, but we have to return it.” And if you know your dog loves playing fetch – which you must, because he does it with me every single day – maybe invest in a Chuckit of your own? You can get one online for like 8 bucks.
3. Don’t let your baby be a bully.
Dogs love to play, we know. Some are more rambunctious and louder than others. I get that. But if your dog is overly aggressive with other animals or people, making too much noise, or just getting in someone’s way, step in. The other day I was surrounded by three yapping Chihuahuas I’ve never seen before. They relentlessly circled me for at least 10 minutes, jumping, yipping, jumping, yapping. There’s no way the owner didn’t hear them. When I finally tried to escape to a different part of the park, they followed me. Their owner saw them with me and said, “Were they harassing you? They’re kind of out of control, so they just harass everyone.” Not cool.
One day my excitable dog took a liking to girl with long hair and wouldn’t leave her alone. I called her off, pulled her off, to no avail. So you know what we did? We left. No one else should have to deal with my dog’s misbehavior – or yours.
4. Don’t be a helicopter parent.
If you are worried your little princess might get hurt or dirty, put her in the separate, fenced small dog area. I’ve seen giant greyhounds and tiny terriers get along just fine, but if you think every big dog is out to devour yours, don’t let her roam. Don’t expect all the dogs in the park not to check each other out, and say, “Do you want to be my friend?” Unlike our kids, their feelings won’t be hurt when one says no, but you can’t police their introductions. Also, if you’re a mom who insists on going down the playground slide with your toddler on your lap, you probably shouldn’t bring her to the dog park either.
5. Safety first.
There are two gates at each entrance. Please make sure you close at least one (preferably both) when coming or going. There are way too many distractions beyond the fence – other dogs, joggers, oh and loud cars and trucks – to chance someone else’s dog darting off.
6. Dress appropriately.
I will do everything I can to keep my dog from rubbing her muddy face up against you, but chances are, she or another is going get your white pants dirty. I apologize (most people shrug it off with, “Well she’s a dog.”) But if your wardrobe is important to you, leave the designer duds at home and wearing your oldest jeans or yoga pants. And boots.
7. They won’t always listen to you.
Like our kids, I think dogs have selective hearing. I hear you calling your dog. I’ve heard it 100 times. He hears you too, but he’s having way too much fun to do what you say. When it’s time to leave, or if you need to get your dog out of some trouble, you might just have to walk over and get him.
8. Leave it how you found it.
Simple: If your dog poops, you scoop. I know, I’m repeating Rule No. 1. But apparently it needs to be done. The sign doesn’t say, “Watch your step.” My shoes and I thank you.