Since adopting our 5 month-old rescue puppy Nathan, Chris and I have spent a great deal of time at the local dog parks. Over the months we have met a number of interesting characters, most of whom fall into 10 basic categories.
The Frazzled Parent
At some point, a parent will show up with his or her stressed-out dog and under-stimulated child. The child will wander around the park, flailing its arms and sticking its fingers in strange dogs’ mouths, and is usually trailed by a long dirty scarf. When any of the dogs interpret these signals as I AM A TOY and proceed to treat him as such, the parent will scoop the child up and dangle him in the air, which will not help.
The Mean Old Man
Every dog park has a resident Mean Old Man who shows up with his Mean Old Dog and then sits scowling on one of the benches while his dog bites the shit out of all the puppies, behaviors the old man blames on the puppies his dog just bit, because they are “so hyper.” During the course of the resulting confrontation, and there will always be a confrontation, the Mean Old Man will likely use the phrase “you people.”
(most applicable if your dog is a Pitt Bull)
There are some people in this world who take one look at your clothes, or the color of your skin, or how much money you probably spent on your handbag, and decide what kind of person you must be. There are some people who do this with dogs as well, and a select few who do both simultaneously, at dog parks. Be prepared to encounter at least one for every fifteen normal people you encounter. Be prepared to see them recoil in fear from your JUNKYARD KILLER i.e. the 5 month old Pitt Bull puppy you just adopted, who loves to cuddle. Be prepared for them to pull their dog from the park because you have the audacity to expose the other dogs to the GANG ACTIVITY in which your dog is surely involved. Be prepared to ignore these people, because they are assholes.
The Helicopter Parent
Just like some kids’ parents fret over their every decision, and pour over all the mommy/daddy blogs because WHAT IF WE GET SOMETHING WRONG, some dogs’ parents fret over their every decision, and pour over all the doggie blogs because WHAT IF WE GET SOMETHING WRONG. At the dog park, these concerns manifest in pet parents who follow their dog’s every move, tell anyone who will listen about their precious angel’s age, favorite foods, bath schedule, and general fecal situation. Do something weird to their dog and helicopter pet parents will seriously cut you.
For some reason, people who don’t like dogs spend a great deal of time skulking around dog parks. You will know who these people are immediately, because they will approach you and proclaim that their dog experienced some horrifying trauma at the hands of another [your dog’s breed]. They will then to tell you how skittish their dogs are around all other dogs, not just yours, and then panic when your dog trots over to say hello. Their dog will try to bite your dog, and the Dog-Hater will tell you they told you so. But they do not leave. They will never leave.
For many, the dog park is a great opportunity to get outside and play with their dogs. For others, the dog park is a great opportunity to get outside and let other people play with their dogs. To help facilitate the play they’re not interested in facilitating, they will sprawl out on the furthest possible bench, and promptly begin making phone calls. When their dog begins to fight and/or mount every other dog in the park, the Benchwarmer will put their earbuds in, because all that commotion is distracting.
An occasional subcategory of Benchwarmer, the dog park Screamer is vigilant, authoritarian, and doesn’t take any shit—from 200 feet away. If they see their dog do something wrong, they will scream for him or her to stop. When that doesn’t work, the Screamer will scream for the dog to listen. The dog will not. After trying to collect themselves, maybe power down their iPod or Kindle, the Screamer will hop up and barrel over to their dog, where they will continue screaming about an infraction that occurred 45 seconds earlier. The dog will look around to the other dogs all like “wtf is this lunatic screaming about,” and all the rest of the dogs will chuckle, because none of them will remember.
No matter how mean or poorly socialized or morbidly obese their dogs might be, the Apologist will set the record straight. Their dog isn’t mean, he has an ingrown toenail and hasn’t been feeling like himself for the last two months. Their dog isn’t afraid of other dogs, it’s just that he doesn’t like the feeling of sand between his toes and would rather stand alone on the small patch of concrete by the water dish. Their dog isn’t morbidly obese, they think he might be part Boxer, which explains why his chest is so wide. Their dog isn’t currently beating the shit out of your dog, he knows exactly when to quit and is just playing. All that growling and flying fur is just for show, they’re having fun!
The Sign Ignorer
The Sign Ignorer just doesn’t give a shit. Is this a dog run designed specifically for medium to large sized dogs? Fuck it, we’re bringing in the Pomeranian. Does this dog park expressly forbid any unfixed dogs? Screw you, check out my dog’s MEGA BALLS. Does the dog park kindly request that any aggressive dog be removed from the run? Whoops, it looks like JoJo the big-balled Shih Tzu just bit off the German Shepherd’s ear, better download another e-book. If ever accused of breaking the dog park rules, the Sign Ignorer will just shrug and say the rules aren’t even real.
No matter how well you think you interact with your dog, or how quickly you think your dog might be learning, the dog park Know-It-All will gladly tell you how you are doing it all wrong, because they’ve trained a few dogs in their day and follow Cesar Milan on Twitter. Sure, their dogs are usually the most annoying dogs in the park, but that’s because their relationship is on a totally different wavelength that you just wouldn’t understand. Did I mention they follow Cesar Milan on Twitter? They totally do, and you really should think of following him too, because it looks like you could use some help.
Don’t see yourself/your dog park enemy on this list? Add yours in the comments!