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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taking the Dog out of Dog Park

We are fortunate here in Ottawa to have a couple of beautiful dog parks where you can take dogs to roam free and run around off-leash.

As animal lovers and dog owners, we have always taken advantage of our close proximity to Bruce Pit, Ottawa's West End dog park. We have been taking Rudy there regularly for his entire life, and started taking him there when he was about three months old (he is six years old now). When Thing 1 was a baby and trekking over to the park was much easier than it is now, I used to walk Rudy there every single morning, seven days a week. I'd carry Thing 1 in my baby carrier and we'd hike through the trails with Rudy running free and following us through the woods.

It's a beautiful park. It encompasses several acres of wooded area, paths and open fields with plenty of room for hundreds of dogs to run free and play. On a weekend at mid-day, it is not uncommon for a couple hundred dogs and their owners to be at the Pit. Now that we have three Things, our excursions to the park are fewer, but they still exist.

We took advantage of today's beautiful spring-like weather to take the kids and the dog to the Pit just shortly before lunch. Things 1 and 2 are hearty enough to walk the trails now (at other times we have pushed them in our double stroller or pulled them in the wagon), and I carried Thing 3 on my back in her backpack. We were at the park less than ten minutes when we approached a group of people walking their Boxer. There were several adults and a young girl. I am always slightly timid around bigger dogs, as Rudy has had a couple of run-ins in the past where a larger dog has been very aggressive with him.

I should note that Rudy is a very social dog and is well adjusted and in tune with the "unspoken" rules of pet behaviour at the dog park. He has completed dog obedience courses and is very comfortable around other dogs. He is submissive and will lie down or roll over when he is hassled by another dog. He plays well with other dogs and is an extremely friendly pet.

Before I knew it, this Boxer was playing very aggressively with Rudy. I firmly said "Rudy, come" and tried to urge him away from the other dog - I could see early on this was going down a bad path. Rudy backed down and tried to walk away but the Boxer wouldn't have it and kept egging him on, jumping all over him. Within seconds he was starting to attack Rudy, biting at him and jumping on him aggressively. With Thing 3 on my back, there was no way I could bend over to pick Rudy up (something I have done in the past when he was attacked). The path was extremely icy. Paul had Things 1 and 2 by the hands and could also not let go because of the ice. We felt so utterly helpless. Eventually the owner managed to pull his dog off of Rudy, at which point the young girl with him states, within earshot of us, "Why does he always act like this?????".

THIS is what ticks me off. If this dog had exhibited aggressive behaviour in the past, why bring him to a public dog park and then proceed to let him off his leash? Why not keep him on his leash, put a muzzle on him, or - even better - STAY HOME?????? This is the third or fourth time this has happened to us in the past couple years, and I've just had it. Paul and I basically feel like we cannot go back. Irresponsible dog owners like this are making it impossible for families and friendly dogs to feel comfortable walking in this public park.

I've also heard stories of children getting bitten or attacked by dogs here as well, and there is no way I am going to put my kids in danger of getting hurt because some ridiculously careless dog owner brings his/her aggressive and uncontrollable dog to a public park. And, for the record, my children are typically belted into a stroller or wagon, although this was not the case today because the weather did not permit it. They have been well instructed never to approach a strange dog and they know well to never touch a dog they don't know.

Neighbours a few houses down from us had their dog attacked a few weeks ago at Bruce Pit. The dog (I'm not certain of the breed, but she is slightly smaller than Rudy, who is a 30 pound cocker spaniel) was mauled by a Pit Bull and was so terrified she ran out of the park and got lost. She was gone for 48 hours on two of the coldest nights of the entire winter. By some miracle, a woman found their dog, called them, and after several visits to the Vet, she lived and is recovering well. I thought about this incident this morning as we drove over to the park, and perhaps I lacked adequate judgment when I took my entire family over there today. To enjoy some time together and go for a hike on a beautiful, sunny, glorious March morning.

Thanks to the irresponsible, reckless behaviour shown by some Ottawa area pet owners, I truly doubt that we will go back. Get a clue, people. If you can't control your dog, or don't want to, don't take it to a PUBLIC dog park. And if there happens to be a next time, and one of your dogs decides to attack my absolutely precious cocker spaniel again, you can be guaranteed that I will a) kick your dog's ass, or b) take you to court.


Donna M said...

Sorry to hear about your outing issue! Hope Rudy wasn't too traumatized by the dog attack. I know it can be very upsetting to both dog and owners. Some people just don't seem to understand how to handle their dogs properly.

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

Oh boy, you are so right. If you know your dog has issues, then for goodness sake don't let you dog loose.

Good post!

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about this! My hubby takes Nova out every day at least twice a day. He is not leashed but only because Nova is known to actually defend smaller dogs, and save them! He only goes when he's commanded to by Kris, it's quite amazing.

dougnlarry said...

How scary! I'm glad Rudy is okay. How sad that you'll miss out on that because of irresponsible people. I agree that they had no business being there if their dog is known to behave like that.

Anonymous said...

Wow, so glad to hear that Rudy is ok as well as you guys!!

When we had two dogs, Hubby used to want to go there all the time, but I never wanted to for that reason. Although my dogs were always great with other dogs, I would never let them off the leash, nor would I want them to be around other aggressive dogs so that they would learn that behavior. We tend to stick close to home, letting them run in an empty field.

Since Cosmo left us last year, Mickey has now been a little more nippy towards other dogs, so you can be assured we won't be there. We think he blames them for taking Cosmo away (who he sits by the window and looks for every single day).

Oh yes and my friends son was bit there a couple of year ago!

Anti-Supermom said...

It stinks that your have to stop going because of an irresponsible dog-parent.

We have a great dog park around our house too, it would be great for us to drop off my kiddos there for a couple hours:)

Loukia said...

Must have been such a horrible experience, Shannon... you must have felt helpless, as you had all your children with you - dogs like that scare me, too. There are a couple of dogs in my neighbourhood (pitbulls) who are very aggressive and complaints have been made about them several times already. It scares me, because my kids play outside my mom's house a lot!

Cynthia said... about irresponsible! We had a large dog doing that in the park down the street. It actually killed another dog. They have since not been found.

Unknown said...

Ooooh, that makes me SO mad too. We don't currently have a dog ourselves but the scenarios that you described just make me want to scream. People ARE so clueless and well, selfish. I'm sorry you will have to miss out on taking your dog to that park. Not fair.

Kristen said...

OH Shannon! I am so sorry! That totally sucks!!

And I don't think you lacked judgement in taking your whole crew. Those other PEOPLE should have their ass kicked!!

I am on Rudy's side!

Landerson said...

Poor Rudy:( You know I've experienced the stress of an aggressive dog (may he rest in peace.) But you're right, it's absolutely the owners responsibility and not one that should be downplayed. Tear a strip of them next time!

Anonymous said...

I agree and vote for C) BOTH!! :-)

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. We have run in to this a few times with our beautiful, sweet one year old golden retriever at the dog park. So, I'm not interested in going back. Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

Did the other dog actually bite or hurt your dog or was the other dog just rougher in play than Rudy ?

If the dog was actually mean spirited, I agree but if this was just a case of dog one plays rough and dog 2 does not... the rough playing dogs should not be banned from the pit.

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