Size Matters: Madness at the dog park, or Who Made You Queen of the Dog Park?

Steph and Chloe hit the Bullshead dog park today after dropping me off at work. We take Chloe there often because of the proximity to work. The park is split into two sections, a big dog area and a small dog area. Until today Chloe has been able to enjoy the benefits of being neither a big or a small dog. She's a basset hound/retriever mix weighing in at 35 pounds. She's stout and strong and while she shares some characteristics of the retriever, her attitude is all basset. She spends her time at dog park and on walks with her nose firmly turned to the ground. She's easy going, but standoffish. Typically Steph and Chloe going to the dog park is not really note worthy, today however, Steph called immediately after with a truly bizarre tale.

Chloe has never really had to pick a side of the park. She enjoys small dogs and is not an exuberant greeter. Her trend is to do a casual sniff and greet then mosey around the edge of the park and occasionally yodel to the prairie dogs on the other side of the fence. And while she enjoys small dogs, she also has many buddies of the XXL persuasion.

Today when Steph and Chloe entered the dog park (on the big dog side) she was approached by a woman wearing a humane society t-shirt who was very nervous and concerned about one of her dogs (she had two malamutes). She said it was big dog play time and pointed out that Chloe had short legs and should therefore be on the small dog side. Steph, not really wanting a confrontation, said that that was where they were headed.

When they were preparing to leave a little while later she was hoping this woman was already gone, but there she was hovering near the divide of big vs. small dogs. All the other big dogs and owners were completely cleared out, and she stood there peeking over to the small dog side. As soon as Steph and Chloe crossed into the big dog side this woman came up to them, offered to carry our dog to the other gate, and then tried to pick her up.

I completely freaked out when Steph told me. I can't believe a complete stranger would try and pick up our dog. She's not tiny and she's not light, and she wasn't having any of it. She barked at the woman and backed away. Steph told her that if she was worried about her dog, then her dog was the problem. She also told her that technically Chloe is not considered a small dog and is in fact ten pounds over the small dog limit. Then more madness from this complete stranger.

She tried to talk to Steph about how she had volunteered for the humane society and had learned some things about dogs and how they have teeth (really? news to us!), again Steph said if she was worried about what her dog might do to another dog at the dog park, she was the one with the problem. Then she made it seem like Steph didn't care about Chloe's well-being or her dog's well-being...she said she just wanted to have a relaxing time at the dog park, as if it was Steph's fault that she couldn' if Steph and Chloe didn't also want a relaxing time at the dog park.

Madness really, all of it, as none of the dogs behaved badly according to Steph. (Chloe was not remotely interested in her dogs, which is not unusual for her.) And I can only imagine the reason the entire park was cleared out by the time
Steph and Chloe were ready to leave. And I can't imagine how the dogs could relax at all with this woman on the verge of a full on meltdown. The thing is that I am somewhat sympathetic with the idea of not really knowing what your rescue dog has been through, what might or might not be an issue.

Chloe's full story is one for the ages. Rescued from the pound after two previous "incarcerations", she came to us with crippling separation anxiety (a complete surprise to us at the time, though in hindsight it shouldn't have been surprising at all). There were vet visits, behavior experts to our house, everything short of an exorcism was done to help ease her blind panic at being left alone. After many years of working with her, and by years I mean 6 years worth of working with her, she has settled down. Aside from this one thing (and it was a big thing for awhile) she is perfect for us, sweet, loving, and her personality is very matched with Steph's which is even funnier if you know Steph. When we are out and about at some of our usual places people recognize Chloe before us. Even at her standoffish best she makes an impression. My point, in a long, rambling way, is that Chloe is intrepid, and is also kind of a rock star, but also that being responsible for a dog that has "issues" is also incredibly stressful.

That said, if she was worried or nervous about how her dog would act around a smaller dog, there are all kinds of things she can do to be smarter and safer. A muzzle comes to mind (though I'm not sure about this, not being an expert in this maybe someone else has a better idea), and I know for a fact that there are classes that can help address issues of dog on dog aggression. But the bottom line is that the responsibility is still on the dog owner. You can shout to the rooftops that you're concerned, that your dog may or may not have issues, but your dog's actions are still your responsibility. Telling people there is a potential problem doesn't make the problem go away either.

Taking your dog to the dog park involves risk. We've seen dogs get into it over something or other. We've seen people do some not smart things in the dog park i.e. fast food eating with children, or the Three Dog Bakery birthday cake for "Fido". That said, we have personally never had a confrontation or issue until today. And as much as it was bizarre, it was also ridiculous and upsetting that a complete stranger would label Steph as a poor dog owner and our dog a problem when clearly the problem was hers.

Views: 6

Comment by Sleeplessgrl on August 28, 2008 at 11:04pm
I really didn't want to think that, but it was in the back of my head that she might have been nervous because she knows there is an issue. She obviously cared enough to be concerned, which is good. We have a friend who has a dog that has dog aggression issues and she takes her to special classes and works with her all the time, but would never put another dog in harm's way.

I think it freaked me out just as much that she tried to pick Chloe up. I would never touch someone else's dog that way.

I like the idea of the brochures. I will ask my friend if there is a flier for the class she and her dog attend.
Comment by W2M on August 29, 2008 at 7:54am
I would call up the humane society and tell them that someone in one of their tshirts is at this dog park harrassing dog owners;

they should probably be made aware a nutjob wearing one of their shirts is hassling people and saying they are a volunteer for them.
Comment by Sarah on August 29, 2008 at 8:57am
Woah, that lady's crazy. I volunteer for Animal Humane and I've seen my fair share of people like this, but I think what this lady did was way over the line. The dog park is a public place and that woman is not responsible for making the decision on where Chloe could be in the park. As W2M said, I'd call the human society and inform them that one of their "volunteers" was harassing people at the dog park.
Comment by mombat on August 29, 2008 at 9:33am
Some people are just super neurotic. I have had similar experiences at the play ground with my kids where someone is concerned and there is really nothing to worry about or thier kid is hell on wheels and they don't seem to see that.
If she was claiming to represent the Humane Society I would call them.
Hope the next visit is more fun.
Comment by Khan on August 29, 2008 at 10:20am
Glad it wasn't our little Guido she bent over to "help," cuz after he opened her face up he would probably be taken by the city. Which is why we would never take Guido out to dog park-like venues-- he's a disturbed little rescue dog and we know better! And because I know MY dog has boundaries, I'm pretty cognizant of OTHER dogs having boundaries.

"Here, let me randomly grab your dog."

What in the world was she thinking? You know a so-called Do-Gooder like that would be the first to blow the whistle if her aggressive actions toward your dog resulted in her getting bitten.
Comment by Jill on August 29, 2008 at 10:25am
I have a dog that, at times, can have issues with dogs that are bigger than him. It has never been a big problem and he has never gotten into a fight, but he has been known to snap at a dog that was completely minding his own business. But as his owner, I am completely aware of this problem and realize that it is mine to deal with. And when we are at a place or in a situation where I know a problem could arise, I am close by and completely in tune with my dog's body language... and I have been successful in diverting his attention before there is an issue. If this woman's dog has issues, then it is her responsibility to keep her dog under control. And if her dog is very aggressive toward other dogs, then that may mean that the dog park is not an appropriate place to take him. It is not her place to tell you where you can and cannot take your dog...
Comment by Neonnoodle on August 29, 2008 at 10:46am
I'm with Jill on this one. We have an older Dalmatian, and he enjoys the same pursuits that Chloe does when at the park: sniffing, wandering around, and generally minding his own business. However, he gets easily annoyed by puppies and aggressive sniffers, and will growl and snap at them. I'm aware of his tendencies and simply have to keep an eye out on him, and like Jill "watch his body language".

I think I would have told that woman the same thing. Unfortunately, some people are just nuts and there's not much you can do about it.
Comment by dog breath on August 29, 2008 at 12:20pm
absolutely Jill, that's bullshit. the large / small dog thing is subjective. 35lb is classified w/in the med category large I think is 45lb & up. If she's got aggressive dogs, she shouldn't be in the freaking park.
Comment by JMG on August 29, 2008 at 8:38pm
Several times in the dog park I've heard people explain, after their dogs viciously attacked others, that the reason they brought them to the park was to "socialize" them because they had a HISTORY of picking fights. And I've heard others support this reasoning. Wha?? Dogs can be unpredictable and you take your chances at a dog park. But I'd rather that dogs who are known to be fighters not practice on my dogs.
Comment by Carol on August 30, 2008 at 4:23am
It's just unfortunate that That Woman may never read these posts. I'm with all of you. She who has dogs she suspects will go after other dogs need not visit the dog park. Duh. That omission in her schedule would happily free her from the (self imposed) obligation to mind everyone else's beeswax.

Hoping Chloe's next visit has great smells, and is otherwise mellow.


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