We know that one of the most infuriating experiences for responsible dog owners are encounters with less-than-experienced dog owners.
They insult us. They infuriate us. They perpetuate myths that give all dog owners a bad name. They don't do the right things for their dogs or the community, and blame everyone else for their failures.
So how do we help less-than-knowledgeable dog owners take responsibility for their actions instead of blaming everyone else? Well...here's a start...
First, we highly recommend everyone read the article Dog Walking Etiquette. (see below) In it you will find handy tips to assist the responsible dog owner when out on walks with one's dog.
It seems the most common dog owner complaints stem from off-leash park encounters. Normal dog behaviour is misinterpreted by another owner as being "aggressive" or "unacceptable" when really it was just normal play behaviour. It should be made abundantly clear that truly aggressive behaviour is unmistakable. It could never be confused with play. It is similarly important to remember that dogs involved in actual fights were not usually playing well with each other prior to the attack. In most cases, the attack comes at first physical contact, not after the dogs have already demonstrated their ability to play with one another appropriately.
In terms of leash-free parks, we have a saying here at GoodPooch.com:
"There is no scenario we can imagine in which we'd leash our well-behaved, perfectly socialized dogs in a leash-free park."
With that in mind, here are a few of the most commonly misinterpreted dog park behaviours:
Growling: Growling is generally considered an aggressive behaviour in dogs. And, for the most part, it is. It's a warning for other dogs to 'back off'.
Falling Down/Being Knocked Down: Dogs tend to bump into each other quite a bit during play. They knock each other down, step on each other, etc. This is completely normal behaviour. It is quite unusual for a dog to seriously injure another dog during normal play. When it does happen, though, it is the result of an accident, in the same way that children are sometimes injured during play. Accidents happen. Each person attending the dog park should be aware of this possibility. Some dogs learn a play tactic that involves pre-emptive falls. They fall down before another dog gets too close. Sometimes this is a submissive display, and sometimes it is just an accident. No matter why dogs end up on the ground, the benefits of properly socializing dogs off-leash with strangers far outweighs the small risk of injury associated with normal interaction.
Collar and Neck Biting: It is normal dog behaviour to "bite" other dogs on or around their necks. The dogs are not actually attempting to hurt one another. They're just playing a game of chase and "catch". Dogs use their mouths in place of hands, so the only way they can catch something is in their mouths. It is so rare that it may not even be worth discussing for a dog to injure another in this manner during normal play.
Yelping or Crying: While this doesn't fall into the category of "normal play behaviour", it certainly is a common occurrence at dog parks. Dogs that are inadequately socialized may feel threatened by perfectly friendly and playful dogs. In fact, it is so common, that its sometimes unusual not to find at least one dog at the park who doesn't yelp in fear at the mere sight of some dogs. This is not the "fault" of or even a concern for the owners of other dogs. The owner of the yelping dog simply has to expose the fearful dog to more, positive socialization experiences. Once the yelper learns to read dog body language a little better, it will be able to differentiate between those dogs that want to play, those who don't, and those rare dogs that truly are a danger.
Barking: Some dogs bark more than others. And while repetitive barking is annoying for everyone, it is usually a benign behaviour. Some dogs will bark just out of excitement, while others will bark to encourage other dogs to chase them. Each dog owner should discourage unnecessary barking. However, barking has never, in the history of the planet, harmed anyone.
Things Dog Owners Do Wrong
Taking a leashed dog to an off-leash park: Every properly socialized, disease-free dog is welcomed at a leash-free park. However, other dogs will be loose at the park. That means other dogs will run up to meet your dog if it is exhibiting playful body postures. Dog owners should expect their own dogs to follow their commands, no matter what is going on around them. Similarly, if there is a reason your dog can't be off-leash, then don't take it to the leash-free park.
Blaming other dog owners for their own dogs' poor behaviour: We can only control our own dogs. That means when our dogs are heeling, and another dog runs up to ours, our dogs must be able to control themselves and remain heeling. If not, it is our failure as dog owners, and not the blame of the other dog or its owner. If you can't control your dog, train it. No one else needs to restrict their personal freedoms or that of their dogs solely to accommodate your poorly behaved dog.
Not recognizing their own dogs' behaviour: How many times have you seen a dog being walked by its owner when it sees another dog and invites it over for play, using its body language? It's actually quite common, given that dogs are social creatures. (We're not sure we even want to know the dogs who are so poorly socialized that they're not interested in other dogs.) Having said that, this is what's going on in these situations: The other dog, recognizing and accepting the invitation, goes to greet the dog, only to be met with hostility from the dog's owner. In reality, knowledgeable dog owners recognize the fact that it was their own dogs who invited other dogs over to play, based on their body language. No experienced dog owner begrudges another dog for simply accepting the invitation his/her own dog just sent out. If we don't want other dogs coming over to us, we must ensure our dogs aren't inviting them to do so.
© 2004 GoodPooch.com
Article #2: Dog Walking Etiquette
We all know there’s truth in the old saying, “If you aren’t part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” Assuming that most visitors to GoodPooch.com are already trying to be the most responsible dog owners possible, it’s worthwhile discussing how even already responsible dog owners can outshine the rest.
Proper heeling is the hallmark of the responsible urban dog owner. Whether passing other pedestrians or dog owners on sidewalks, or venturing into crowded transit systems or plazas, a dog who heels is always welcomed. Unlike their irresponsibly-owned counterparts, these dogs don’t touch other citizens by lunging at them or reaching out with wet noses. Their owners would never consider leaving them unattended outside a store. All citizens have the right to walk without interference from anyone (or any pooch) when in public places. GoodPooch owners respect that.
Picking up after your pet. You do it every time, without exception, right? If so, you must be aware that a certain amount of the feces can sometimes be left behind. Ask yourself, once you’ve “cleaned up” after your pet, would you walk barefoot over that area? If you wouldn’t, it’s probably still not adequately cleaned up.
The solution some exemplary dog owners have devised is to “catch” the dog’s feces before it hits the ground. If your dog is large enough, you simply hold your bag-covered hand below your dog and catch. If you have a smaller dog, you can quickly slide a poop bag onto the ground below your dog before she goes. Voilà! The feces never touch the ground! Not only that, you simply tie up the bag as you walk to the trash can while other dog owners are left, scrounging around on the ground, failing miserably in their attempts at getting 100% of their own messes cleaned up.
Other dogs. We already know that responsible dog owners actively maintain well-socialized dogs, meaning they give their dogs socialization experiences on a regular basis. So, there is no concern about responsibly owned dogs being too assertive or frightened when around other dogs. A well-socialized dog knows how to interact with dogs of all temperaments. If another dog is too rough, they know to extricate themselves. If another dog is submissive, they know to play more gently. Really responsible dog owners are aware that they must take an active role in ensuring their dogs meet others of all temperament types. It just won’t do, only allowing one’s dog to play with dogs one knows well. Dogs need to learn dog language from other dogs, not humans. That means meeting strange dogs on a regular basis.
Lucky & Ziggy
Each of us can only control our own dogs. Short of attacking, if another dog runs up to your leashed dog, you should have enough control over your GoodPooch that she remains heeling as you continue walking. There is no need to say anything to the other dog owner. With experience, you’ll find that your supremely well-behaved dog ignoring the exuberant interloper will virtually shame other owners into admitting their negligence. More often than not, the other dog owner will ask how you managed to train your dog so well. That’s your golden opportunity to spread the word about responsible dog ownership.
Help other dog owners. If another person’s dog runs up to play with yours, but you hear the owner calling his dog to no avail, do what you can to help him out. If possible, ask your dog to sit or heel, so she isn’t a further distraction to the other dog. If that dog still doesn’t return to its owner, firmly command the dog to “Go!”
Ask questions. Sometimes conflicts arise between dog owners. That’s life. Usually the cause is a simple misunderstanding. Responsible dog owners are confident and knowledgeable, a group unlikely to be inconsiderate of others. Remember that the general public, and even most dog owners, are not very knowledgeable, though. The majority of dog owners don't understand even the most basic aspects of dog training and behaviour, which is why their dogs are so poorly behaved. You can assist them by asking what they think is appropriate (or inappropriate), then redirecting them into a discussion about ethical dog training, consideration for others, how we shouldn't try to control other people (only ourselves), and what is normal dog behaviour.
Here's an example: In a leash-free area, two dogs greet each other by sniffing. One dog is quite a bit younger and smaller than the other. As a part of normal dog behaviour, the younger dog lays on its back, showing its belly in a normal display of submission to the older dog. The young dog's owner, knowing little about dog behaviour, rushes over to "protect" the youngster from the larger dog. The owner picks up her dog and scolds the other dog owner for not calling her larger dog off.
The owner of the larger dog, being more experienced with dog behaviour then asks: "Why would I do that?" The person's answer to that question tells us what we're dealing with.
1. "That big dog could hurt the little one." Yes. Remotely possible. But highly unlikely given the circumstances. The owner is demonstrating her own fear of large dogs.
2. "My dog was afraid. I am protecting her." What she's actually doing is halting the socialization process, and teaching the dog to fear others. This kind of owner simply doesn't understand basic dog behaviour and training.
3. "It's just good manners to call your dog when another owner is trying to move on." In this case, we have to ask ourselves if our dogs were actually disruptive. In this scenario, we're in a leash-free dog park. It is meant for dogs to interact, so that's not the problem. Both dogs were just meeting each other, not in a heated dominance display, nor was the large dog pestering an unreceptive dog.
Ruger & Bart
The larger dog is very well-trained, and can be called off in a moment's notice. So, isn't it really the fault of the smaller dog's owner, that the small dog is so disobedient the owner is unable to get her own dog to follow her? Don't we only control our own dogs? So, if another dog runs up to ours for play, we should be capable of keeping our dogs heeling next to us, or coming to us when called, regardless of other distractions.
It is best to let the younger dog learn how to interact with other dogs. Dog communication is non-verbal. Dogs aren't born knowing how to advertise their desires to others. They have to learn, through trial and error. Sometimes dogs will run into bullies; sometimes wimps. They must be able to interact with all of them in an appropriate way.
It is imperative, as responsible dog owners, that we also train our dogs to the point that we can walk them past any normal, everyday distractions like loose dogs, squirrels, etc.
When conflicts arise, it is best to ask why the person is reacting in what we perceive to be such a puzzling manner. (More often than not, the cause is ignorance, myth, or irrational fear.) Responsible dog owners tend, as a group, to be more knowledgeable about dog behaviour and training. We have the opportunity to help less-knowledgeable people better understand dogs, if we give them the chance to explain their (sometimes flawed) reasoning.
Also keep in mind that you are not your dog. Try not to take comments about your dog too personally. Never forget that most of society sees dogs as little more than possessions. You know your dog is an innocent, intelligent being. Represent her in the best light possible.
Lead by example. Ever wanted to be a diplomat? Responsible dog owners accept the fact that every time they leave their homes with their dogs, they become ambassadors for dog owners everywhere. Now use that power for good, and not for evil.
Hershey & Lady
Article #3: Dogs Really Are "Just Like Us"
If another child walks up to yours at the playground and asks him or her "Do you want to play?" or "Have I met you before?", would you run over, hysterical, and snatch your child away? Would you scream at the other child's parent? What if the other child was larger than yours? Would that seem like reasonable or even productive behaviour then? What if the other child was perfectly well-adjusted and friendly, but it was your child who was anti-social or unjustifiably fearful of everyone else? Would you be doing your child a favour by removing him/her from social encounters, and expecting everyone else to restrict their own kids? Or might it be a better tactic to increase your child's exposure to others, so s/he learns how to get along?
Now replace the children with dogs. Is everyone else at the dog park really the problem, or is it you and your dog who don't know how to interact normally with others?
Knowing that 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes, should you ask every man who approaches you if he's going to rape you? Or do you learn to "read" people, and try to figure out if they're friend or foe based on their actions? Do you recognize that not every man is a rapist?
Now think about (statistically) how little we have to fear from strange dogs. Should we ask all approaching dog owners if their pets are vicious, or should we learn to "read" people and their pets, to more accurately determine if we have reason to be afraid; freeing us to assume that most dogs are not a danger to us at all? Which is the more reasonable approach? If you wouldn't assume every man is a rapist and react accordingly, then why would you assume that every dog is a danger?
If you were attacked by a member of a specific race, do you now fear all members of that race, even if it is your own? So, whether a person is police officer or a felon, they're all judged to be guilty by you? Doesn't that keep you in a constant state of fear, when you needn't be? Isn't it possible to find members of that race who are not criminals, and therefore nothing to fear?
Now what if you were actually bitten by a dog of a specific breed? Does it really stand to reason that all dogs of that breed are likely to bite you? Can't all dogs bite? Aren't the telltale signs that a dog will bite pretty clear and predictable? Couldn't you find dogs of that breed who are perfectly friendly, proving that your assumptions are incorrect? Isn't is just easier to lump all dogs together in the misguided hopes you can protect yourself from harm, than it is to treat individuals on an individual basis? Doesn't that require greater effort? But isn't it the only civilized way to behave?
What if we wanted to reduce the amount of shoplifting in our store? Since there is no effective way to predict who will shoplift, should we go ahead and ban all people from the store? Wouldn't that eliminate shoplifting? But isn't it supremely ridiculous? What if only certain types of people committed most of the shoplifting? Should we ban anyone matching that description from our store? Okay, the law doesn't allow us to do that.....But what if it did? Would we do it? Would we say "the ends justifies the means"?
Now let's look at dogs. Some dog owners have caused problems. But do all of them? If only some cause problems but other don't, isn't it unfair to restrict all dog owners? Shouldn't individuals be dealt with on an individual basis? Aren't dog owners discriminated against because they can be, and not because they all cause problems? Isn't it just easier to ban all dogs, than take the time and effort to deal with the few dog owners that will, inevitably, cause some kind of difficulty? If there was legal protection against discrimination, wouldn't businesses have to hold individuals accountable for their actions? Wouldn't that allow law-abiding pet owners to go on about their business, while punishing the ones who are actually causing problems? Isn't that more civilized and egalitarian?
What if we raised children like we raise dogs? What if we restricted them from almost all social interactions? What if we kept them in our yards and our homes? What if we never allowed them to learn how to properly engage strangers? What if we made them think everyone they didn't know was dangerous? What if we never allowed them any freedom? What if they couldn't behave "normally"? What if we kept them in a way that is inherently unnatural to them? Would those leashed and socially restricted children ever hope to become fully functioning members of society? Wouldn't they be fearful, mistrustful individuals who imagined a danger around every corner? Wouldn't they behave in ways that are socially inappropriate, simply because they've never learned how to interact with others?
Now, what if dogs were raised like we raise children? What if dogs were taught to stay close to us when they're young, for protection from traffic and obstacles? What if we taught them to come to us when we called? What if we let them make mistakes in engaging others, so they could learn what is acceptable behaviour and what isn't? What if we took them everywhere? Wouldn't they come to see those situations as normal, everyday kinds of things? Wouldn't they learn to behave accordingly? What if others demanded our dogs behave more appropriately, instead of excusing their anti-social behaviour as "natural to dogs"? What if dogs were given stimulating tasks, to keep them interested and occupied? What if we made sure they had play time? What if we found them threatening the mailman or the paperboy or the neighbour? Wouldn't we discourage that behaviour? Why are our dogs any different, when they live in the same houses, travel the same streets, ride in the same cars, and bathe in the same tubs?
Dogs really are just like us. They're social. They want to meet others. They greet them. They signal their intentions, good or bad. They want acceptance. They make mistakes. They're products of their environments. They learn. They can learn to be "good" or "bad". They eat. They sleep. They get bored. They like to play. They do better in a stimulating and responsible home than a negative and punitive one. They breathe air. Some of them like to swim. Gravity effects them. They get fat, if they don't exercise enough. They miss friends and relatives when they're gone. They get lonely. They become ill. They die. They are...just like us.
Every time we excuse discrimination against our dogs, we de-value them. We mystify their behaviour. We perpetuate negative myths. If your reaction to a dog would be more positive if it were a human doing the same thing, your are probably discriminating against it.
Ultimately, while we don't want people to indulge their dogs in the same negative ways many indulge their children, it is only through viewing our dogs as similar to our children that we will ever hope to end the myths and hysteria surrounding dogs.
When a dog approaches, it is probably doing so for the same reason the last person approached you. .Unless they were trying to sell you something...
© 2004GoodPooch.com – all these articles are reprinted unchanged from http://www.goodpooch.com
Supplied to you by http://www.geocities.com/charlieloveshalifax
Charlie loves Halifax and he wants it to be dog friendly!!
ALL of the pictures in this pamphlet are of dogs who are regulars at Seaview Park everyday. They are the dogs who some people who come to the park once or twice and never come back think of as being the reason why they’ll never come back to the park. This pamphlet tries to dispel some of the myths of what trasitional dog park etiquette SHOULD be. Thanks!!!!!
Some of the dog park regulars in order of appearance here in this pamphlet:
Charlie, Daisy & Buttercup
Lady & Fil
Lucky & Ziggy
Ruger & Bart
Zoey, Charlie, Leonard, Guiness, Hershey, Max
Hershey, Guiness, Buddy & Fil
Charlie & Leonard (above)