Friday, June 11, 2010

The Dog Park With Buffy

When writing this blog, I've put into practice the whole "if you can't say something nice, say nothing at all" saying. Which is why certain subjects are absent from this blog like: Jersey Boys, Glee, "I Gotta Feeling," Christian Rock, the menu at The Cheesecake Factory (seriously, ads in a menu?!?) and Indiana.

That's the reason why I haven't written about my experiences with Buffy at the dog park. Diana and I regularly take Buffy to our local dog park and 90% of the time we have great experiences. As much as I'd like to focus on those memory, a couple bad experiences take over my thoughts.

Most dog owners understand when that their dog is dog-aggressive, don't get along well with other dogs or are not well trained. And most of these people wisely chose to not take their dog to dog parks. Then there's the people who are completely clueless of their dogs issues and bring their dogs to the dog park anyways. Would you bring a kid to a playground with other kids if you knew he had a tendency to get in fights? 

Of course not, but that doesn't seem to stop some amazingly ill-informed and ignorant people from bringing dogs to dog parks that could hurt other dogs.

I'm not exaggerating. I know two dogs that have been scarred from fights with aggressive dogs at dog parks. Though it's not highly publicized sometimes these situations result in death (like this case in Oregon). Yes, these cases are rare but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful. The chances of getting run over by a car when crossing the street isn't very likely but we always look both ways.

The bad experiences that I've had with Buffy in the dog park have to do with one messed up idea: "the dog is just being a dog."

-The time when Diana was mobbed by two dogs because according to their owners "she is holding a purse."
-The owner of the dog who had one of Buffy's throw toys refused to help us get it back.
-The aggressive dog who just went for Buffy, growled and tried to bite her while her owner who was within arms reach of her dog did absolutely nothing as Diana with Buffy in her arms tried to get away.

No, you are wrong, these aren't actions of dogs just being dogs (well except for the throw toy incident, which was more about the dog not being trained). These are unacceptable behavior. Dogs are like kids, they need to be taught how to be dogs. The same way I teach my student show to share and be polite you have to to teach your dog how act around other dogs.

Not training your dog with clear expectations isn't "letting your dog be a dog," it's allowing your dog be an menace, a wild animal and a possible danger to other humans and dogs. If its your prerogative to have an untrained dog, fine, that's your business, but bringing that kind of a dog to a dog park is a display of insidious thoughtlessness.

This has all resulted in Diana and I being cautious at the dog park. We're not there to socialize with other owners (which we do if we feel comfortable with the other dogs that Buffy is playing with). We stay within a certain range of Buffy just in case something happens and call her to us often so that she remembers that we are there and doesn't go absolutely crazy. Am I scared that some crazy dog is going to come by and try to get into a fight with Buffy? Yes  At this point is that enough for me to swear off dog parks (which is something that many reasonable and responsible dogs owners do)? Not yet.

I’m not going to let a couple bad apples ruin it for the rest of us. We have had some amazing experiences at the dog park getting to know great people and giving Buffy fantastic experiences socializing and playing with other dogs.

Watching dogs play together is nothing short of witnessing pure unbridled joy. It’s great for Buffy, rejuvenating for Diana and one of the places where we have some of our best times as a family.

I understand why people are nervous about dog parks, but I say don’t give up. Don’t let the minority of irresponsible dog owners take over. There are too many great owners, great dogs and amazing experiences to be had.

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