Dog Park Etiquette

There’s nothing I like more than a stroll in the park with The Moog…

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The Moog is a 2 year-old boxer who is mad as a box of frogs. She wiggled her way into our hearts after we lost Juno, the first dog we owned as a couple, and one with the biggest 4 paws to fill. We managed two weeks without a dog in the house before we started sizing up cat leads on Amazon, so for the cat’s sake we began the search for the new pooch. Juno was a 3 year-old mongrel we’d adopted from Battersea, she just fitted in immediately, didn’t try to kill the cats, got on with other dogs, was already house trained, perfect!

The Husband decided we should try the puppy experience this time round, safer for the cats, a pooch we could mould into our very own Lassie… HA!!… We are now the proud owners of a massive buffoon of a dog that sits right on top of you when she wants feeding/walking/cuddling, loves mud, is as strong as an Ox, crap on the lead and sulks… So all those ideas I had of being a cool dog whisperer type who’s canine side-kick sits adoringly at her heel have gone out of the window. It’s a constant battle of wills, but she makes me laugh everyday and I wouldn’t be without her for all the world.

In my many years as a dog owner I have become aware of some strictly and keenly observed rules of the park, and some of the owner behaviours that drive us all nuts. I am going to share my experiences; feel free to add any of your own.

Poo-gate – Nobody wants to tread in a steaming turd as they walk their hound/s, many parks provide poo bag dispensing bins these days and you can buy them by the shed load from the £ shop, even get biodegradable ones, so no excuses people. Although I am a “Poo free park” enthusiast, I have recently encountered the ‘Poo Nazi’. I’m sure every park has one, the person who appears to hide behind trees and materialize as soon as your mutt begins circling, watching you intently as you’re turning out your pockets trying to find the bags you’re sure are in there somewhere. It’s then you realize in horror that the bags are in your other coat, at this point, for some reason, I feel the need to shout over to the poo stalker in a ‘silly old me’ voice, “Oooops, forgot my bags, I’ll just nip and get one from the dispenser” … as I walk (jog) towards the poo bin I’m aware that there are eyes still on me, I can’t help feeling like a failure of a dog owner. Eventually I get to the poo bin, my lucks in there’s a bag. Now I begin the walk of shame all the way back to the scene of the crime, bag the evidence and continue my walk, relieved, slightly smug and swinging my bag of poo as I go.

poo bin

Buy, Buy, Sell, Sell – I have to admit I have, on occasion been guilty of taking a call whist walking The Moog, but it’s not something I like to do and I tend to leave the mobile in the car to avoid the temptation. Among the many reasons we had for having a dog, is the daily dose of fresh air and sunshine (wind and rain) that I get, whether I feel like it or not!!

I’m not sure why a person would spend time walking around a beautiful park or woodland shouting into a mobile, or worse, shouting into one of those hands free kits, as they head toward me I always think they are talking to me, and embarrassingly reply. So apart from the anti-socialness and the embarrassing “You talking to me?” issues, exactly how much attention are you paying to your dog/s whilst discussing what you should have for dinner tonight? During this oh so important phone conversation, your dog/s are running riot, chasing other dogs, jumping up at people, eating shit and stealing balls. They could run off, get stolen, get attacked, attack another dog or person, all while you chat away, “Chips or jacket potato?” Even if your dog is an absolute angel, for their sake and the sake of your fellow dog walkers, try living in the moment, enjoy nature, and enjoy your dog, they are really quite funny!!

juno

Nice weather eh? – Micky Flanagan did a hilarious sketch about bumping into your neighbours, 1st meet, “Morning, how’s things?”….2nd meet, “We must stop meeting like this”…. Then there is the awkward 3rd meet….

 

 

I have a couple of parks I use regularly; one in particular is prime for the awkward 3rd meet. It’s a large, open space with foot-paths criss-crossing the grass and a small car park from which you can survey the lay of the land. If you don’t time your set off perfectly you can end up on a collision course, and here demonstrates the awkward social situation that Micky Flanagan so beautifully refers too…“You following me?…

Sandwich!!!! – Parks and beaches are for us all, well, the ones that are dog friendly at least. I’ve always thought that if there are no public toilets, no regular bins or picnic benches, then you BBQ or crack open your packed lunch at your peril. As dog walkers we are often limited to a small, rugged bit of the beach miles from the car-park, or regularly instructed that dogs must be on leads in parks and gardens, and that’s all good, I’m not one of those dog owners that anarchically flouts the park/beach rules. What always puzzles me is WHY you’d drag your whole (dog free) family to a park with no facilities apart from poo bins, or the area of the beach that we are allowed to let the hounds run wild, and set up your BBQ or picnic? Fine with The Moog and I, just as long as you’re willing to share your feast!

A nice labradoodle owner at West-Wittering beach once gave me an invaluable piece of advice. She’d just witnessed an embarrassing scene that involved my Juno and a man’s prawn baguette. Juno was a dog that lived for food; walks, cuddles, the sea, all good, but food was her one true love. She sniffed out the sandwich from 200ft away and made a bee-line for it, fortunately at the very last moment the man jumped up from his picnic blanket and saved his precious sandwich, it was a close call. Whilst making chase, yelling her name and flapping my arms about like a crazy lady, the man just looked at me blankly, not the sharpest tool in the box methinks. After the disaster was averted, Labradoodle lady shares her pearls of wisdom. “If you just yell ‘SANDWICH’ or ‘ICE CREAM’ when chasing your mutt, rather than the dogs name, with any luck the unsuspecting victim will get the point and defend their food” …

So if you hear someone screeching in the distance, “DONUT” or “HOT-DOG” when you’re at the beach or park, I recommend hiding your snacks!

bbq & poo sign

“Muzzles, Harnesses & Leads Oh My” – Not every dog that’s being walked on a lead or wearing a muzzle is a ferocious beasty, there could be a plethora of reasons. The pooch could be a bit of a ‘Houdini’, anxious or simply a new addition. I met a fab Italian Spinone last week who was sporting some rather ‘Hannibal Lector’ style headwear, he was however lolloping about like a silly puppy. As our dogs played I asked his owner about it, they informed me that Boris was a “Shit eater”… fox, cow, horse, or dog shit, not fussy, and after a succession of gastro related vet trips, this seemed to be the only way that Boris could run free without temptation getting too much for him.

In contrast, a few weeks ago the hubby and I were unloading The Moog from the car at a very busy dog park, all ready for our Sunday mooch when we heard vicious barking and snarling. There was a couple unloading their 3 huge dogs from a van next to us, “It’s probably just excitable noise” I say to the hubby, as one aggressive hound wrinkled its face up and lunged at The Moog. Fortunately the owner had a little bit of common sense and had Snarly McSnarlington on a lead, “He don’t like other dogs” the owner shouted the obvious at us. We rush off in the opposite direction ushering our precious baby with us and can’t help wondering why you would pick 11am on a Sunday at the busiest dog park in town to walk your obviously troubled and vicious dog?

The Woof Pack – In recent years there’s been a massive upsurge of professional dog walkers roaming the parks and woodlands with packs of assorted mutts, and why not? If people are out at work all day, but can still give a dog a good home then I don’t see a problem with dog walkers or doggy day care. I asked a few of my Sunday walk crew to share some of their dog walking issues for the purpose of this post and the “Professional dog walker” came up a few times, there are obviously a few out there giving the many good ones a bad name.

Apparently a car/van covered in paw prints and emblazoned with a clever doggy pun, (‘The Woof Pack’, ‘Pawsitive Petsitting’ and my personal favourite, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ based in Liverpool) a pocket full of treats and everything from a Cockerpoo to a Irish Wolfhound in tow, qualifies a person as a professional dog walker. I have enough trouble keeping The Moog in check at the park, let alone having the responsibility of 5/6 pooches with different exercise requirements and varying levels of obedience, so credit where credits due, if you manage this task with no broken or missing dogs at the end, you deserve your “Professional” status!!… However, if you’re one of the walkers that are regularly seen screaming and running to drag one of their pack off an unsuspecting happy hound, falling over the many leads or striding ahead acting like the paw print van negates the need to pick up the crap deposited by 5/6 dogs, then maybe it’s time to consider an actual qualification (they are available) or maybe a change of career!

http://www.caw.ac.uk/careers/dog-walker/

Buzz’s farts smell of roses – The people we regularly meet at the park become a different sort of friend, one that we stick to a strict selection of topics with.

 

  • Dogs, ours, and dogs in general.
  • The weather.
  • The park facilities, poo bins, bags, parking etc.
  • Discussing other dogs and their walkers.
  • Vets, dog food, kennels, groomers and lawns.

 

If somebody asks us how we are, what we do for a living or where we live?, then we can feel violated. Walks are often peaceful interludes in otherwise busy lives, and for some, the only “Me-time” they get all day. Although there are always exceptions to every rule, (Morris the lurchers Mum) in most cases please respect the unspoken code… Stick to, how wonderful our pooches are, whether the huge puddle in the backfield has dried out, if it looks like rain or little Ronnie’s latest vet bill…. and accept facts, we are all more comfortable sticking with the doggy small talk.

Small dog syndrome… it’s a thing – I know I’m a bit biased as I have a great lump of a dog, but I have friends with a typical “Small dog syndrome” pooch. I have a soft spot for Percy the pug, he’s already on home 3, but very happy now living with his buddy Frank the Pugalier. He is, by my friend’s own admission, a ballsy little shit. He runs at any dog he meets barking and bouncing about like a noisy cannonball, he lacks basic doggie manners. He’s not aggressive, just exuberant and enthusiastic, and as a rule I don’t object, but if a dog behaves like this and my big buffoon puts it in it’s place, don’t scream and pick the wee ankle biter up, it’s just the law of the jungle (park).

Look Wilbur, a doggy woggy – You’d think it was stating the obvious these days, but no, I still get approached by children who I’ve never met, with arms out stretched, “Doggy Woggy want cuddles”!!

The Moog has always been great with kids but that’s not to say she wouldn’t snap if startled or in pain. Mums, Dads, Granny’s and Gramps… anyone in charge of a child, “JUST ASK”, they might look like fluffy cutsie wootsie teddy’s, but they’re living creatures with mood swings, sensitive ears and tails, and most importantly, teeth!!!

Shit Christmas trees – More poo… What is with the 21st century phenomenon that I call ‘Shit Christmas trees?’. Why is it okay to scoop up poo in a bag and tie it to a tree branch? You have done the worst bit, collected warm crap in a plastic bag and knotted it, why then find the nearest tree to decorate with said bag? One fellow dog owner described the tree in his local park as a “Tim Burtonesque horror movie scene”…. He’d not noticed the bags until the winter came, and as the tree shed its leaves it revealed copious brightly coloured bags full of shit, nature at it’s finest :-/ … Another had a narrow escape whilst walking at dusk. She was minding her own business giving Monty his evening constitutional thinking about her day when she stopped just in-time, an inch away from her nose is a hanging bag of shit, she was very nearly shit faced!!

Thanks for the contributions from: Paul, Anna, Lucy, Karen, Jimmy, Liz, Jaime, Elle, Maya, Jane, Holly, Charlotte & Shirley

These are fab, especially if you have a nervous or intimidating looking dog.

http://www.friendlydogcollars.com

Do your bit for the environment.

http://www.biobags.co.uk/products/dog.htm

For a new addition to the household?

http://www.battersea.org.uk

 

 

 

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