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Managing Conflict at the Dog Park – Tips for Making it a Pawsitive Experience for You and Your Dog

Photo Credit- Abigail R.C. McManus

Alvin Dog Park Picture

My husband and I are the owners of a super energetic 8-month-old Bull Terrier named Alvin. We live in a rowhouse in Baltimore City so taking Alvin on walks and to our local dog park is essential for all of us to remain sane. The dog park in our area is very spacious with lots of room to run, and there are a substantial amount of dog owners in our area, so there is never a shortage of dogs with which Alvin can socialize.

Since we began going to the park, I have observed two conflicts that frequently arise, which has inspired me to write this post.

The first conflict I have observed is the distracted dog owner. Most of the owners at the park are very vigilant of their dogs. However, there have been a select few who are busy talking on their cell phones, socializing with other dog owners or their friends, or watching the games on the athletic field that are next to the dog park.  The issue with the distracted owners is that they miss their dog going to the bathroom, so they fail to pick up after their dogs. Or they miss their dog bothering other dogs, and they don’t step in to stop it, which sometimes leads to aggression among the dogs. I have heard some owners make passive aggressive comments towards these distracted owners. I have also observed owners have a tense exchanging of words over these issues.

Tip #1 Try not to make assumptions about the other owner. It may be difficult to do because you might assume they care less about their dog than you care about yours because they are not watching theirs as much. However, if you voice this assumption, the other owner will likely get defensive which could escalate issues.

Tip #2 Make the owner aware in a non-aggressive manner. Rather than saying, ” Your dog went to the bathroom over there can you pick it up?” You could politely interrupt them by saying, “Excuse me I saw your dog go to the bathroom over there, I just wanted to let you know.” If they didn’t see it, they would likely be thankful for making them aware as some owners can get snippy when another dog owner doesn’t pick up after their dog.

The second conflict I have observed is the inexperienced owner in the dog park. These dog owners become frazzled if another dog continues to mount or keeps gravitating towards their dog. The owners usually don’t understand that dogs play with each other by sparring and wrestling around. Dogs can sense when their owner is on edge or uneasy which can, in turn, make the dog feel the same way. An anxious dog can quickly turn into an aggressive dog if they not careful. Again, I have observed the inexperienced dog owners glare and make negative comments at other dog owners which have resulted in some heated exchanges.

Tip #1 Research before bringing your dog to the park. It is important that you understand how dogs interact and socialize with one another.  By doing this, you will be more prepared for the situations as they arise. Also, it is important to know your dog. If your dog is anxious or aggressive, bringing them to the dog park may not be the best option as other dogs may increase these traits and potentially cause issues with other dogs.

Tip #2 Socialize with the other dog owners. Ask, “Is your dog friendly?” before allowing your dog to interact with theirs. Or if the dogs begin sparring, check-in with the other owners to make sure they are okay with it. Just by doing this can alleviate potential tensions at the dog park.

It is important to remember that pet owners consider their pets as part of the family and thus they can be very protective over them. Learning how to handle conflicts constructively with other pet owners can ensure happiness and safety for your pet.

If you would like to hear more tips for conflicts involving pet’s/pet owners check out our archived podcasts here: Animals-Pets


Abigail R.C. McManus


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