Everyone wants a dog that they can take to a dog park. Just as we like our kids to play nicely with other children, it’s important to a lot of people that their dog is well socialized. But do they learn that from a dog park? Just recently my sister came to visit, mostly because she had not yet met her newest niece and nephew – my dogs Bella and Dobby. Of course, being a proud mama, I wanted to show them off in a positive light. Dobby can be quite leash reactive to other dogs even though off-leash he is fine with everyone he has met. So we naturally headed to a dog park where they could show off their good manners.
Recently there has been several articles and stories about dog parks popping up on social media. One specifically talked about the biggest mistakes people make at the parks and another gave you ways to evaluate if your dog was dog park material. People who go to a dog park, unleash their dog and then tune out – sitting on a bench engrossed on their phones or a book – are rude and one of the main reasons that problems arise. If everyone was actively monitoring, and managing, their dog’s behaviors, things would not spiral out of control. Just as kids left to their own devices often get into trouble, dogs with nothing but each other to focus on, can cause problems.
Dogs, like most people, have a core group of friends. Those that they interact with frequently and have learned to trust and read their body language. Given the choice of a nice quiet dinner party with two or four of your closest friends or attending a huge cocktail party where you don’t know a soul, which would you choose? Yet we take our pups to new dog parks, beaches and other places where dogs are permitted and expect them to not only peacefully coexist, but actively play with all the dogs they meet. Think about it! Most adult dogs are past the need to actively engage another in physical play, and least of all, a dog they don’t even know. They may have spurts of play with their closest dog friends but in general, they just like to hang out together.
It’s interesting to watch how various breeds of dogs have different play styles. Ever seen a Boxer stand up on their legs and literally box with their front paws? Not every dog recognizes that as play. Same with herding dogs that stalk and stare – in another dog an intense gaze like that would spell trouble, but with heelers and border collies, that is a prelude to a pounce and play! Just like people have many languages and you would probably be lost if someone came up to you and started talking in rapid Japanese, dogs have many different play styles and body languages. So it’s easy for one dog to misread another’s intentions and that’s how fights start. In one article the author stated that 90 percent of dogs don’t belong at dog parks!
The exception would be a fabulous dog park like Pt. Isabelle’s in Point Richmond. The last day of my sister’s visit, we went across to the East Bay so we could take the dogs to that park, which I personally think is the best in the world. It is 23 acres with miles along the waterfront so everyone is moving with their dogs – there is a notable lack of benches and seating except at the cafe. It’s a lovely place to walk with views of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, San Francisco skyline and more. They have bathrooms in two locations, a hose to rinse off your dogs if you don’t want to pay for the full-serve or self-serve dog wash option, and an outdoor café with coffee drinks, smoothies and made to order sandwiches. Paradise! This place makes all other dog parks pale in comparison. And it shows what a dog park should be – people enjoying the outdoors with well-behaved dogs, who are allowed to engage, or not, as they want. Have a dog friendly dog? This is the dog park to try!
“Get Them Back Home” Campaign – Every lost pet should have a way to get back home. FREE pet ID tag and a back-up microchip are available to all residents of Rohnert Park and the City of Cotati. Call for an appointment, 707-584-1582.
Fix-it Clinics – Free spay and neuters for cats; and $100 dog surgeries (up to 80 lbs.) for low-income Rohnert Park and Cotati residents. Call 707-588-3531 for an appointment.
Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.