Something happened today that really upset me. I'm trying to be objective and I can definitely see where I was at fault, but part of me is posting to rant and the other is to get more info about what's ok and not at dog parks.
Because my 7 month old whippet gets really excited around other dogs and unless they're bigger breeds or boisterous puppies she tends to wear them out/gets in their personal space a lot, I like to walk her at times and places where we probably won't meet other unleashed dogs. She's also a sighthound and I know you're supposed to be very careful about letting them off-leash outside of enclosed areas. We practiced recall till the cows came home in the fenced schoolyard near my house, and she is 100% reliable even when zoned into a bird... UNLESS there are other dogs around. If she sees another dog, she just gets so excited she's near impossible to catch.
I read a lot online about owners who are upset that an excitable dog came bounding up out of nowhere and scared their dog. I always thought I'd hate to be the person being bitched about online so I really do try to keep her away from dogs unless I know for sure the owner is ok with her. If I see another dog in the area, whether it's leashed or not I put my dog on leash and I distract her or move to another area. Today however, we were the only ones in the park and we were blowing off some energy with fetch before working on her down-stay. A labradoodle suddenly bounded up to her out of nowhere. I looked around for the owners but I couldn't see them anywhere. It was only after the labradoodle ran back towards the border of the park and my whippet chased him that the owners appeared from behind the corner. I started making my way over there quickly because I wasn't sure how tolerant/friendly their dog was, and already my dog was jumping around and barking excitedly at him. As I was trying to catch and leash her however, the man started SCREAMING at my dog to "LEAVE IT ALONE" and making threatening gestures with his arms towards her. I'm surprised he didn't try to kick her. I was so shocked; I'm not exaggerating, it was really violent! I hate confrontation (social anxiety) but something in me clicked into gear and I told him (borderline yelled) he could NOT treat my dog like that. He started screaming at me that his dog was very shy and I should have my dog under control. (this is the part I agree with - I obviously didn't have my dog trained enough to obey me when I called her.) I told him I was trying to catch her and he wasn't helping, and he continued screaming at me saying I shouldn't have let her off-leash in the first place. I really surprised myself here when I very calmly told him that my dog was just a puppy in training, that nobody else was in the park at the time I let her off, I was very sorry if she scared his dog because I can relate to owning a shy dog, but the way he treated my dog was unacceptable and as an owner of a shy dog he should know better - especially as she's particularly timid around men with loud voices. That shut him up and it was obvious he was embarrassed (that felt SOOOO good. I admit it!). I REALLY wish I pointed out that it was HIS dog that came running up to mine, off leash, and that neither him or his partner were even visible from the park when their dog got to mine so they must have had him off leash and running ahead of them. But I didn't think of that at the time. Sometimes I'm too nice - I tried to make some neutral conversation and I actually said "anyway, sorry about that" before I walked away. I really wish I could take that apology back.
So, obviously he has a point; my dog is very rambunctious and even at off-leash dog parks the law is that your dog must "be under your control" at all times. I knew this would be something I'd have to deal with when I decided to bring a sighthound into my life. I also understand the man's desire to protect his shy dog from scary things. But... can someone agree with me that he was a ********? I'm still fuming that he could be so aggressive towards another dog that was a. so much smaller than his, b. very obviously not aggressive if you know even the basics of canine body language and c. he could easily have just grabbed his own dog, which was bouncing around too may I add! ...How could he scream at me so rudely about keeping your dog under control when his dog was running off-leash before they even came into the park, AND his dog was the one that came running up to mine?!
My dog has been frightened by bigger, bouncier dogs bounding up to her more than a few times at the off-leash botanical gardens area. But guess what? I didn't scream at their owners. And both times that happened, the owners weren't even apologetic - they were friendly and casual, and I didn't feel the need to be angry at them because it was obvious their dogs weren't aggressive. One of the dog owners I've spoken to told me I should relax, stop trying to "control" her and let my dog be a dog; that they would work things out between themselves. (this has proven true with my dog when she continues to try and play with older dogs - after a while they will growl and snap at her to let her know they've had enough. That's when she gets the lightbulb look in her face and seems to learn a little something about doggie manners.)
I guess I just wanted to rant about that nasty little man. I would also like honest opinions on where you think the boundaries lie in off leash dog parks. How irresponsible am I really for letting my whippet run off-leash in a dog park when her recall is not perfect? I promise, I will handle the criticism as an adult.
Finally, if you have any pointers/tips/advice on how to make your dog park experience as pleasant as possible for everyone, please do post.
Thanks for listening to me rant