Dog park etiquette: Part 1

Dogs look to their owners for leadership, even at the dog park.

May is here, and that means every mutt and his mother are dropping by the dog park. But judging by the manners on some of those pups, you’d think they (and their owners) were raised by wolves. Dear Labby’s got advice for navigating your thorniest dog park dilemmas.

You see someone fail to scoop

No doubt, if the offending party witnesses the act and blatantly shirks her doodie duty, that requires major zen on your part. Fight the urge to smack your gum indignantly and demand, “You gonna get that?” Instead, kindly let the owner know there’s been an incident. Keep it light, helpful even, like you’re doing her a favor: “Oh!” [giggle] “Look at Buster…I think he just went!”

Same approach had the owner been genuinely oblivious to the deposit. Your tone and body language should be such that a passerby catching only snippets of the interaction would assume you were pointing out an exotic flower — or a box of money — off in the distance.

You see someone very harshly reprimand her dog

There’s just no good answer here. And with “harsh” in the eye of the beholder, interfering can get downright ugly. Most owners will not be receptive of your parenting critique, no matter how delicately your phrase it. But for the pup’s sake, it’s worth a try: “I couldn’t help but notice you’re dealing with a jumper, just like my Oscar. I had the best luck with [insert suitable training technique here]…”

If the dog is clearly going to be better off removed from the situation — he’s in danger of physical harm or psychological trauma — this switches from a question of etiquette to a moral obligation. You must alert the authorities.

You see someone reprimand your dog

If the reprimand is warranted, consider the issue closed. For example, your Chow receives a stern “Ginger, no!” when she runs over to help herself to someone else’s stash of treats. Not only is the mild scolding appropriate, the other owner has helped reinforce the rule Baconettes are for good dogs who sit applies everywhere. However if the reprimand is too harsh, or simply uncalled for, step in right away. Offer a cordial, “Thanks, I’ll handle it,” and walk Ginger to another area of the park.

You’re left out of the dog-park coffee klatch

Chances are, this invite-only Meet & Greet looks way more interesting from the outside. The bulk of the conversation probably revolves around whose dog failed obedience class and where Coco was caught pooping. Count your blessings. If you seriously still want in, invite one or two of the park-goers to your place for happy hour. Tell them you’ve been wanting to discuss Vixen’s off-color greeting habits.

But wait, there’s more! Check out Dear Labby’s Dog Park Etiquette: Part 2