Today I took my boxer Harlow to the dog park. She made friends right away – poodles, Labrador retrievers, greyhounds, border collies and even pit bulls. They get to acquainted by sniffing each other and a little rough-housing. Then, Harlow and one new friend Jack, a Jack Russell terrier, took turns chasing each other around the park. She tends to roll over and play passive with the smaller dogs…seems to know their weaknesses and compensates for them by playing gentle. We humans could learn a lot by really paying attention to dogs in the dog park.
How did I know Harlow’s new friend was named Jack? Well, Jack’s owner kept looking up from his phone and saying, “Jack, come on back here” and “Do you need some water, Jack?” and other such things, but Jack’s owner never looked at me or said anything to me. I have had some converations with other dog owners at the dog park, but I have found that, more often than not, the humans do not talk to each other. They expect their dogs to meet other dogs, but often owners keep their distance. People care so much to socialize their dogs, but do they do it only because they have been told it is good for the dog? When we’re working and socializing, our dogs are home sleeping. And then we take them to the dog park where they socialize and we “sleep” by looking at our phones or following our dogs around.
In a Psychology Today article, “Butts and Noses: Secret Lessons From Dog Parks,” Mark Beckoff PhD declares, “I often hear how happy people are that their dogs are free to run here and there or free to be dogs when they’re at the dog park. Often, they say this while they’re constantly calling them back to them even when the dog is simply sniffing here or there or looking for a friend. They also call them to break up play when they think it’s gotten out of hand. You call this free?” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201505/butts-and-noses-secrets-and-lessons-dog-parks
The world is our park. We are smart enough to go outside of the cage and yet we still don’t always communicate with each other. They say that a dog’s demeanor or behavior feeds off its owner, so maybe trips to the dog park should be a group effort where you and your dog are there to meet and talk to other dogs and their owners.