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Thread: Stressing out over dog park etiquette (another long one)

  1. #1

    Angry Stressing out over dog park etiquette (another long one)

    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.

    *deep breath*

    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

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011


    What an A-hole! If his dog would have been on leash, if it would have been daylight and you could have seen the other dog being nervous, if he would have politely asked you to restrain your dog... That would have made it a very different scenario and then the lack of control in that situation would have become an issue. But your dog is very young and no one can claim that a whippet is threatening either.

    I personally think that the best way to train recall in a variety of situations is at the park and off leash, obviously in an environment where the dog isn't going to put themselves in danger or be a real annoyance to others. You could try the long leash, but I would feel a bit nervous about using one with a dog as fast and agile as yours. Others may have a different opinion on that though.

    The fastest way to train reliable recall with high distractions like that is to use the distraction as the reward. So, they see a dog, you call, they come for their treat, then you let them go off to play. Then you slowly increase the difficulty but always end with allowing interaction with the distraction at first. But you probably already knew that.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2010


    What a complete idiot! He definitely would have copped it from me if I was in that situation!
    As an owner of a reactive dog, my personal opinion is that you were fine in what you did. Yes, your dog does not have a 100% recall. However, you were in the park alone, you were watching for other dogs, and planning to control her if you saw one heading over to the park. This man, clearly wasn't controlling his dog if he is going to let his "nervous" dog off leash and run up ahead up to another dog which for all he knows could have easily felt intimidated and attacked out of fear. (not implying your dog is aggressive, just saying it can easily happen with any dog).
    If there were off leash parks in my area I would probably take Koda there regularly when there are no other dogs there, i would be doing exactly what you did. Letting him off leash when he's alone, but as soon as i see another dog, i would put him on lead.
    I agree with Beloz, use the long leash idea, that's how i taught Koda, and he too has a reliable recall with everything except men at our house, and any other dog except for Dodge.

  4. #4


    You know Hooch is so much like your dog! He LOVES dogs so much that he would run to a dog like a bullet just to have a play and welcome lol
    It scares people to death because Hooch looks scary when he runs full speed towards their dog but has no aggressive bone in his body - they dont know that. He does this over enthusiastic wag and sudden play move, puppy like.
    If I put Hooch on a leash and he sees another dog he would bark like he wants to kill the other dog and we get evil looks from people for not being able to control him.
    He is 100% in control unless there is another dog around, then we don't exist.
    It frustrates me to no end, we tried the RSPCA method the woman suggested, we tried so many things - nothing changes it.
    So now we only take him to places where everyone knows Hooch or where all other dogs are off leash.
    Once in an off leash dog park Hooch ran to a dog to say hi, the owner - an old man with a stick started hitting Hooch even when he realise Hooch was harmless and just wanting to play. My husband ran to get Hooch who was too busy trying to play that he was letting the guy hit him!!!

    I feel your pain. We cant use the long leash as Hooch is too strong, it will break in no time. I will be watching this thread with great interest.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Mid North Coast NSW


    Another story that turns me off dog parks.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    se qld


    You were not at fault as your dog was focused on you during training time until
    a loon with an oodle mutt off leash approached.

    You are using the school ground as a safe area, just stay in there for now.
    Your dog will calm down as she matures but you also have to train YOURSELF to be calm
    (now if I can do this - then anyone can...really)

    I am going to the Isle of Capri on Thursday and Sunday to see my Mum.
    If you like I can pm my mobile and meet you in FranQuinn Park
    I can show you some things that a trainer taught me. (Not bringing my dog)
    They worked on Snoopy who was a wild nutty GSP puppy and I had no idea at all
    what to do with him.

  7. #7


    I can not believe people are so rude. I'm so sorry that you poor baby got spoken/yelled at like that! However I'm not surprised, seeing what happened to my husband and dogs on a walk. I have never taken my kids to the dog park for that reason. Some people use the one near us as a daycare.. Drop their dog off in the morning.. Pick it up after work, or a social setting.. Catch up sit round and let the dogs run amuck.. You did everything right!. You should have flipped him !

  8. #8


    Thank you so much everyone for the supportive comments and helpful advice! I wasn't expecting all the positive vibes, I don't have dog-owning friends I can rant to and bounce ideas off so it truly felt so awesome to have you guys back me up. Thank you so much.

    Chubbsecurity, I would LOVE your help. Hopefully it's not too late, I'm going to PM you now.

  9. #9


    Ugh I'm not very good at this; I think I sent you the PM Chubbsecurity but there is nothing that shows up in my sent folder so... please PM me with your number if you don't get mine. Thanks

  10. #10


    Beloz, actually, no I didn't know that. I mean I knew the basics of ending with a reward, but it never occurred to me that the distraction itself could be the reward. For a long time I didn't get very far with her because I was rewarding only with food treats, and even the yummiest morsels weren't really keeping her interested... when I switched to using playtime as a reward (throw a ball, play a quick game of tug) she suddenly became super receptive! So this really makes a lot of sense to me now that you mention it... thanks again for the golden tip!

    Also, you are right about the long leash - bought one, used it once, never again because she almost choked herself to death literally flying in mid-air at least three times in the course of 20 minutes... and I didn't get the feeling she was going to learn not to do that anytime soon.
    Last edited by leilei; 11-06-2013 at 11:19 PM. Reason: forgot to clarify the poster I'm replying to

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