Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Clueless: A Dog Park Tail

Generally I don't have to deal with people who think they know everything there is to know about dogs. The people whom I work with one-on-one and at behavior and puppy classes are there because they know they have things to learn. The dog park, however, is a different scenario. Although I tend to go very early in the morning (5;30 to 7:00am), by 6:30 others start showing up.

Most of the people and dogs that come to the dog park at that time of morning are wonderful. The dogs are mostly balanced and just want to play and run around with their friends. Every once in a while, someone new shows up with a dog that has never been to a dog park before and has minimal socialization in other settings. We either integrate them quickly into the pack, or the owner and dog leave in a hurry, the owner embarrased by the inappropriate actions of his/her dog.

This morning I had a totally different type of human to deal with. This person and his "friend" have been coming for the last week or so with their two small old dogs (pug and peke or shih tzu mix). This person, whom I will call Bob, tries to get all the other dogs in the park to come and interact with him. His rational is that all dogs love him. Bob tries to prove this by chasing the dogs down and then holding them while trying to get them to accept his petting.

My Husky mix Ruth was having no part of Bob and let him know it. The first day he persisted until Ruth growled at him and then ignored him to chase her ball. Brynda licked him in the face a couple of times, but mostly just stayed away despite his efforts to encourage her to jump up at his face and lick it. Micah won't even acknowledge that Bob exists. Even Jake, who loves men and thinks they should all be his bosom buddies, doesn't like Bob and stays away. Today I noticed that none of the regulars would go near Bob either and made wide detours around him as they raced madly about the park.

But does Bob notice this? Does he pay attention to his own dog? The answer to both questions is a resounding no.

This morning Bob decided that he was going to entice what to him was a new dog in the park. Stanley however isn't new to the park, he just doesn't come often. Stanely is one of "my" dogs (he took behavior class) and he and his owners actually live within two blocks of Deena and I and have become good friends.

I don't actually know what actions Bob took before I noticed what was happening - I was paying attention to Brynda and Micah running with Bandit and watching Ruth share her ball with Brownie. When I did notice, what I saw was Stanley, foaming at the mouth, frozen to the spot he was standing on, whale eyed and "huffing" at something. Stanley was more stressed then I'd ever seen him in the six months I'd known him and his owners. Normally, Stanley is a very friendly, mild-mannered dog. He came to behavior class because of hyperactivity which no longer exists. He is however, slightly shy around strange men.

I looked along Stanley's line of site to see Bob. Bob was stalking Stanley, his arms and hands out in an "I'm going to capture you" position, barking at Stanley and staring at him straight in the eyes. I took immediate action and yelled "HEY!!! Stop that right now". Bob yelled back at me "NO, I'M PLAYING WITH HIM LEAVE ME ALONE". Well that devolved fast into a shouting match, but at least I got his attention off Stanley and his owner distracted him with a ball.

At the end of the shouting match, where I accused him of abusing Stanley and he insisted that dogs need to be played with and me saying that staring at a dog straight in the eyes is NOT an invitation to play, Bob decided that he wasn't going to win the argument. He started parroting back to me exactly what I was saying to him. His final parting words, shouted as loud as he could shout, before I just threw my hands in the air and walked away was "No wonder you're single".

Where the heck did that come from? What does my relationship status have to do with how to interact with a dog?