Dog Park Etiquette – Part 2
In Part 1 of dog park etiquette, we took a look at the different scenarios that can play out in the dog park and ways people can keep problems from breaking out.
But at the end of the day, dogs are still dogs, so keep these tips in mind.
Let Dogs be Dogs – Remember that dogs are not people. They have a different way of working out disagreements than we do. Mother dogs will carefully snap or growl at their pups to correct them. This is perfectly acceptable in the canine world. So if you see a dog growling or snapping at another, don’t jump to conclusions. When dogs disagree they will growl and snap but they rarely make contact with each other. If they do nip, it’s in low-impact zones such as the shoulders. A balanced, normal dog doesn’t go for the jugular.
Dogs are pack animals and they might form loose packs while at the dog park, and at times, for reasons too complex to go into here, they might not want your dog as part of their group. Respect that this is normal dog behavior and encourage your dog to interact with some of the other dogs that are friendlier toward her.
Know the Signs of True Aggression – Look out for the following body signs of aggression not only in other dogs, but in yours as well:
– Raised fur along the backbone. (Keep in mind Rhodesian Ridgebacks have a permanent ridge of fur along their backs. It’s a genetic marker of the breed and not a sign of aggressiveness)
– A stiff, alert body and a very high, stiff tail.
– A sudden quietness, and change from interest to aloofness.
– Persistent growling and a curling of the lips to show barred teeth.
– Body blocks, not only to other dogs, but people too.
– Prolonged eye contact.
If A Dog Fight Breaks Out – First, yell out for the dog owners’ attention, then get your dog and family to safety. Do not try to break up the fight yourself, and do not put your physical person between the dogs. Even if it is your dog, do not get between them. Your dog is in survival mode and when in this heightened state may still bite you.
If you feel so moved to help diffuse the situation, here’s some safe ways to break up a dogfight:
– Look for two garbage can lids and start banging them together. The unexpected noise will temporarily distract the fighting dogs so their owners may leash them and get them separated. If garbage cans are not available, someone can pull their car close to the dog park and start honking their horn.
– Likewise, water can also be a distraction. Give water bottles or bowls of water to the owners so they may throw water on the fighting dogs.
– Resist the urge to yell. Agitated human voices will only add fuel to the fire and will muffle the commands being given by the owners.
– Direct the owners to grab the dogs by the hindquarters and pull them away from each other like wheelbarrows. Once separated, turn the dogs away from each other so they can no longer make eye contact. This is a dangerous maneuver and should the last resort.
– Don’t eat or smoke while in the dog park. Dogs will crowd around you wanting a bite of your chicken sandwich, and cigarette butts thrown on the grown are extremely hazardous to dogs.
– Choose the toys you bring wisely; you might not get them back. And don’t bring a tiny, tiny ball for your tiny dog as these are choking hazards for bigger dogs.
– Dress appropriately. Hopefully you won’t be jumped on. But don’t mad when muddy paws get all over your just–back-from-the-cleaners seersucker suit.
– Don’t bring treats. Fights often break out over food, and you really shouldn’t be feeding dogs you don’t know who might have allergies or sensitive stomachs.
– Make sure your dog doesn’t get overheated. Encourage them to take breaks at the doggie water fountain or bring your own water and bowl.
– Bring a towel for muddy paws or lots of drool!
Leah England is the founder and publisher of Lowcountry Dog Magazine.