Dog Park Rant

Warning: This is just a complete rant about our awful experience at the dog park today. It was extremely upsetting.
We went to our dog park today. Callie immediately went off to play chase & had a blast. Lola was freezing, despite wearing her own coat PLUS Callie's coat, refused to play, and just stood around being miserable. I didn't want to leave because Callie was enjoying herself & expending a lot of her pent up energy, so I held Lola to keep her warm.
After a few minutes, a couple comes in with a bully type (pit or similar… hard to tell) breed dog and a retriever mix type dog. Callie rushes to the gate, and gets in the pit's face. The pit reacts with a growl & a snap at Callie (who totally deserved to be told she was being rude), very obviously reacting appropriately. He did not hurt, and had no intention or hurting, Callie, and she backed off. The male owner grabs the heavy duty nylon leash, doubles it & uses it to smack the dog in the face & tell it to behave. I was completely aghast & horrified. Did he not just see what happened? Callie was being rude, his dog told her to back off in a very appropriate way, and Callie did. There were no further issues. The pit was very dog friendly, played appropriately, and very eager to please his owners. However, he was scared of people. He would walk up to a person, eager to get to know them, but as soon as the person acknowledged him, he would get skittish, back off & bark. He would also bark at dogs walking outside of the park, but nothing annoying or innappropriate. I watched the male owner hit him no less than 6 times over a 10 minute period. He was hitting the dog for barking, being scared, being overly excited, and for playing rough. He was repeatedly told to go sit down by himself. I listened to the owners say, multiple times, "He's such a big chicken. He's so scared of humans. We don't have any idea why." I finally could bite my tongue no longer. I said, "I'd probably be scared of humans, too, if I got beat on the head with my own leash at unpredictable times." They then asked me to repeat myself, and then asked if I was a trainer. I said, "No, I'm not, but its pretty common sense that if you beat anything it will become fearful and/or aggressive." They inquired if they shouldn't be punishing their dogs for annoying behaviors. I replied, "Well, he's a dog. At a dog park. Being a dog. He is exhibiting normal dog behaviors. Hitting him for barking during play is cruel." The male owner retorted, "Its annoying. I don't want him to bark." I said "Oh okay. Well in that case, I think its annoying when you speak appropriately in social situations. From now on, I don't want to hear you greet a friendly stranger, so could you keep your mouth shut?" The couple continued to argue with me, and at one point pointed out that holding my dog is not normal dog behavior, and insisted "It isn't a baby!" I said "I realize this. Its actually a hunting dog. And I hunt with it. I'm holding her because she's cold." "Well that's not normal. You need to put her down."
Ugh! I tried to keep the conversation civil & adult; however, they kept cussing, insulting me, and generally just being jerks. They walked several feet away, and did that whole passive aggressive thing, talking about me loudly enough so that I would overhear, but not actually confronting me directly or having a real conversation. The woman even said, "I'd beat HER a$$ if I could!" I replied, "Really guys? Threats of physical violence? Isn't that a little immature?" They insisted I mind my own business & stop talking to them. I said "Why you don't you stop playing this stupid game of saying things within earshot & I won't have anything to respond to?"
This whole time, there are at least 30 other people, all pretending not to be watching & listening, surrounding us. And they just keep talking trash. Insulting me, asking me where I'm from because I'm "gross" and all sorts of weird random insults. I just tried to be civil & ignore them as much as possible. Eventually, I just moved to the other end of the park. A couple of people discreetly told me later to be careful because they couple is dangerous & shouldn't be acting like they do. I guess the group overall agreed with me, but apparently the couple is well known as a couple of jerks, but nobody has ever called them out on it. We stayed until Callie was done running around & started shivering & then left.
I love having the opportunity to let my dogs run free in a big open space with other dogs, and overall we have great experiences at dog parks. Today takes the cake. I don't know if it would have been better to keep my mouth shut, but I just couldn't stand by & bite my tongue while watching a dog be abused. It was such a confused dog, too. It obviously had no idea why it was being hit. The hitting was completely random & inconsistent; even I wasn't clear exactly what it was being punished for.
Some people shouldn't be allowed responsibility for the lives & well being of living beings.

First Basenji's

Ugh, I'm bristling just reading that. I'm sorry people are such jerkfaces. 30 other people, and nobody else was willing to say something? I think at my park (at least the little one where people could stand within earshot of each other), someone would have stepped in on your behalf. Or at least the dog's.

I'd like to think so, anyway, based on similar interventions in the past. But sometimes people are really disappointing.

I often think most people shouldn't even own a gold fish. I doubt what you said helped, but by jove the jerks needed to hear it. Good for you.

@Andrew:

I listened to the owners say, multiple times, "He's such a big chicken. He's so scared of humans. We don't have any idea why." I finally could bite my tongue no longer. I said, "I'd probably be scared of humans, too, if I got beat on the head with my own leash at unpredictable times." They then asked me to repeat myself, and then asked if I was a trainer. I said, "No, I'm not, but its pretty common sense that if you beat anything it will become fearful and/or aggressive." They inquired if they shouldn't be punishing their dogs for annoying behaviors. I replied, "Well, he's a dog. At a dog park. Being a dog. He is exhibiting normal dog behaviors. Hitting him for barking during play is cruel." The male owner retorted, "Its annoying. I don't want him to bark." I said "Oh okay. Well in that case, I think its annoying when you speak appropriately in social situations. From now on, I don't want to hear you greet a friendly stranger, so could you keep your mouth shut?" The couple continued to argue with me, and at one point pointed out that holding my dog is not normal dog behavior, and insisted "It isn't a baby!" I said "I realize this. Its actually a hunting dog. And I hunt with it. I'm holding her because she's cold." "Well that's not normal. You need to put her down."

Carrie, you were put in a difficult situation, because your compassion over-rode your ability to think clearly, because these people could theoretically slash your tires or follow you home to make your life miserable. With that being said, I'm so proud of you for sticking to your guns!

May I suggest that Next Time… because there should me a next time, lol... instead of pointing to their dogs fearfulness and their wrong approach to controlling their dog... instead, spark a conversation about your dog, and how you are amazed at the progress since.... XXXX. If they want to hear from you, they should ask what happened in XXXX that changed your dog's behavior? At that point, you are now an expert, and a counselor, and the next rescue coordinator. 🙂

@curlytails:

30 other people, and nobody else was willing to say something? I think at my park (at least the little one where people could stand within earshot of each other), someone would have stepped in on your behalf. Or at least the dog's.

I think people were trying to avoid drama, and after I was told to avoid those people, I realized maybe these people all already know them & how dangerous they might be. I know a lot of people overheard the couple cussing and threatening things, but I was pretty quiet, so I'm not sure many people knew exactly what was going on. And I guess the bystander effect maybe, too.

@DebraDownSouth:

DebraDownSouth I often think most people shouldn't even own a gold fish. I doubt what you said helped, but by jove the jerks needed to hear it. Good for you.

I agree. And regardless of the insults they hurled at me (way to prove you aren't abusive jerks… by abusing people, too, whatever), if it makes them stop & think, just for a split second "Hey, maybe we ARE causing our dog's fear, and maybe we could approach this differently", then I feel like it was worth it. And if they left with nothing, then at least maybe somebody else new to dogs learned something by eavesdropping. Its hard enough watching well meaning people unknowingly allow their dogs to be rude or misbehave (guilty of that one here... I'm relatively new, too), but its harder watching total jerks punish their dogs, thinking they know what they're doing and are justified. What really got me going was their attitude, too. They were quizzing one another on the other dog breeds, acting super knowledgable and ****y about being tough on their dogs to whip them into shape. Urg.

And thanks Patty, but as so often happens, my instincts override my common sense. I did manage to bite my tongue for several minutes, which was pretty good considering. Fortunately, I was in a very public place with a ton of people. I would have noticed them following me out. Not to mention, they were typical bullies. A lot of bark and growl, no bite. They couldn't even challenge me to my face, ganged up on me, did the passive aggressive talk loudly enough so I could hear without actually saying something to me thing. They were a lot of bluster. I think they were so shocked that I not only had the guts to stand up to them, but then didn't back down under their bullying, that they really were kind of at a loss.
This particular dog park has a "Pit bulls must be muzzled at all times" rule. I'm not positive what their dog was (they claimed it was an American Bulldog), but I thought about calling the police & claiming there was an unmuzzled pit bull at the park as I left, just to cause them irritation. But I decided I am more mature than that.

And besides, it wouldn't have been any fun if I hadn't watched the harassment they received from the cops 😃

Oh Carrie! I am sorry you had to go through that…and hopefully it is the end of it. Don't give up on the dog park, they can't be there all the time! And if you make friends with the other regulars at that time, chances are these people won't bother you again. That being said....what were you thinking??? Idiots who are embarrassed by their peace-loving, frightened dog...and show that by hitting him...aren't likely to change their behavior by being shamed into change. I am sorry for their dog, and yes, I would LOVE to help him, by helping them...but it isn't going to happen, and you can't put yourself in a dangerous situation.

This happens a lot with parenting too. Their are terrible parents out there, who aren't really hurting their children enough to call the authorities...but they certainly are damaging their children. Maybe there is a potential for change...but it is unlikely 😞

I would make sure you carry your cell phone, call 911 if they start up again… turn on video if your phone has it to record abuse.

@DebraDownSouth:

I would make sure you carry your cell phone, call 911 if they start up again… turn on video if your phone has it to record abuse.

Good thinking Debra. Callie, I am so sorry this happened to you. And I am sorry that no one backed you up. Spineless people and a couple of dog owners who have NO clue. Try to let it roll off your shoulders, but if you encounter these people again, let them know you will not hesitate to call animal welfare or the police. I can't believe that adults bully other adults. Bad enough when kids do it.

Thanks for the advice (especially the advice about making sure I'm careful & don't get myself hurt).
99% of our dog park visits are lots of fun, and generally speaking, I'm the one who has to be careful about my dogs being too intense, picking on weaker dogs, not listening to me, sitting on strangers' laps without invitation, etc. We will continue going because during the weekdays when its a little less crowded we have great experiences.
And I always carry my cell phone.

Makes you wonder why some people have dogs in the first place.

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