Close X

Articles Highlight Human Misbehavior at Dog Parks

Whenever I walk my pal Buster I keep a mental map of the dog parks in town. I use that mental map to stay as...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Dec 3rd 2010


Whenever I walk my pal Buster I keep a mental map of the dog parks in town. I use that mental map to stay as far as possible from all of them.

The vast majority of people who accompany their canine buddies to dog parks are upstanding citizens. But then there are the others: dog walkers with packs of 20 off leash dogs not under voice command; people in denial whose dogs regularly start fights; drunks; incompetents. All it takes is one bad apple to ruin your day and your dog’s day.

Note that I have not said anything about bad dogs at dog parks. There is, naturally, no such thing as a bad dog. But there are people who don’t socialize their dogs, or who adopt rescues and allow them off leash before they’re ready, or who simply can’t be bothered to monitor their dogs.

On a nearly daily basis I treat dogs who have been injured–sometimes gravely–in dog park fights. Dog parks are brilliant ideas in theory. In practice many of them are seedy.

Human altercations are startlingly common at dog parks. Spats between canines can lead to battles royale among owners. A particularly choice conflict recently occurred at a dog park south of San Francisco. From the San Mateo County Times:

On Aug. 15, a 69-year-old Foster City resident got into an altercation with a 37-year-old South San Francisco man after she called his wife and mother-in-law names, according to Foster City police Capt. Jon Froomin. The man tried to restrain the woman, at which point she bit and clawed him, Froomin said.

The San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office decided not to file criminal charges. Assistant District Attorney Karen Guidotti said there was reasonable doubt as to whether there was some element of mutual combat or self-defense in the struggle.

The only thing more embarrassing than being a middle aged man who fights a 69-year-old woman is losing the fight. The article continues:

A couple of weeks earlier, a man was injured at the park after two dogs got into a fight. The man was bitten by his own dog while trying to separate the animals.

Foster City’s response to these incidents has been to consider placing limits on the number of dogs that owners can bring to the park. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Officials in Foster City are considering cracking down on dog owners who bring too many dogs to the city’s dog park.

The city’s Parks and Recreation Committee is expected to vote Wednesday whether to recommend to the City Council the passage of an ordinance that would limit pet owners to taking three dogs each to the off-leash dog park.

If passed, the new ordinance will cut down on people who cannot keep track of all their pack members. But it won’t address the root cause of dog park problems: people who simply are irresponsible.

Photo: spend much time at the dog park? By Rvervuurt.