Sunday, May 22, 2011

Arlington May Ban Children From Dog Parks

Dogs at play... maybe.

From the free newspaper know as The Washington Examiner comes this article:

The Arlington County Parks Department is considering banning small children from its dog parks.

Children under the age of 8 would no longer be allowed in any of Arlington's eight dog parks under the proposal. Children between 8 to 14 would have to be supervised by an adult at all times.

The rule change, said Keith Fred, who helps sponsor the Shirlington Dog Park, is needed to protect the children, though there have been no reports of a child being hurt in any of the parks.

What's next, banning short ugly women?    I kid.  Actually I am conceptually for this ban (yes, both of them).  

I do not think small children should be allowed everywhere, and I do recognize that small children are probably "an accident waiting to happen" at a dog park.

That said, I assure you a lot of the adults that go to dog parks are accidents waiting to happen as well. And yes I actually go to Arlington dogs parks, which are a varied thing from quite excellent to pretty dubious, depending on which one you go to.

Here's what happens too often at these dog parks:   People bring every manner of medium-to-large dog imaginable (small dogs tend to stay away from dog parks), and let them loose.

Some of the dogs are old and arthritic, some are young and boisterous, some are well-socialized, and some are fresh from the pound and pretty clearly overwhelmed.

At the entance gate to many of these parks it's like a gang rape, with every dog in the park pushing in to knock and butt-sniff whatever new dog has showed up. This might be 20 dogs at once pawing and pushing at the ass of a new dog still at the feet of his or her owner. Does that sound like potential trouble? It is!

Too often people bring large dogs with no manners to the park, let them loose, and then act shocked when their 8-month always-biting Border Collie is knocked over and pinned to the ground (or worse) by a Pit Bull or a Shepherd that has had enough.

Dog parks are a fine idea (I am all for them), but they are also an "accident waiting to happen" for a lot of dogs and novice dogs owners, as well as small children.

Here's an idea: How about a simple set of signs with a simple set of rules, guidances and procedures so that new dog owners can learn the value of settling down over-excited dogs, learn to control their dogs better as they enter and leave, and learn how to handle dogs in the event that altercations do occur (because they will)?

Sometime the best solution is not legislation, but education.  

And yes, by all means, explain that bringing small children to a dog park is not a good idea. Go ahead and ban little kids if you think it necessary. But more work needs to be done when it comes to dog park decorum, and not all of it can be done with a simple ban on small kids. Owners need more guidance -- and the regulars need more social permission (hence the signs) to instruct the new fools.


Ruth Hansell said...

There are signs at dog parks in the county where I live. People continue to do stupid, dangerous things in spite of them.
I once saw a woman bring a toddler to a dog park, set the child down, then proceed to try to give frisbee lessons to her dog. Within seconds, there was a literal swarm of dogs circling around the woman and her toddler, while her very nervous dog was being scolded.
I walked towards the woman and baby, scattering the dogs and breaking up the swarm as I went. She looked at me in total surprise when I said, "Your baby might have gotten hurt." Then she left, which I'm sure was much safer for all three of them.
You can't fix stupid.


Gayle said...

I'm one of those people who generally speaking are not in support of off leash multi user public dog parks.The main reason for that is being unable to answer the question of "what are these parks for?" and how that differs from "what they are actually used for?"

If you were to poll people who actually visit these dog parks you'd usually find that their reasoning is socializing with other dogs and exercise. That's great in concept except that what it turns into is really overexcited dogs being turned loose together and let the games begin. I've been inside a few dog parks that reminded me of chumming sharks. A ton of large dogs jittering at the gills waiting for the blood/toy/new dog to hit the water while their clueless owner sips a starbucks. In some well used parks this leads to a body count where some fool brings a puppy, an elderly dog, or a small dog and get a lesson in why nature favors the strong.

Most dogs in reality don't need a dog park. They'd do just fine with an engaged owner with a bike or a ball. They don't need to be bullied or be a bully to fifty other dogs. No dog ever died from not regularly sniffing the butt of another dog but a fair number have picking up the diseases and developing behavioral problems with other dogs at the dog park.

The better dog parks cropping up are single use 1/2 acre fenced lots where you can go play ball with your dog without worrying about the guy with the dog aggressive husky who "is just excited to see a new dog."

Rick said...

Dog parks are like retractable leashes: "Don't try them at home. These are only for use by trained professionals."

Donald McCaig said...

Dear Doggers,
Since my sheepdog trials are interspersed with research, I often find myself with 2/4 dogs in cities. Often the easiest-to-find and physically safest place for them to run off-lead is the dog park. I google/choose by reviews. My dogs and I have been in dozens, some good, some so dog-dangerous I turned away at the entry gate. Since I insist on mannerliness by and toward my dogs, I have ruffled feathers and on occasion employed the BIG VOICE. I haven't needed to use the BOOT but will if I must.

If I lived therelar city I would probably find better venues for offlead exercise but they are a godsend to travelers.

Donald McCaig

PBurns said...

I have never written this story, but I will tell it now....

A few years back (that's more than 5 years, but less than 15) I had Trooper at the dog park and a new person arrived with TWO white German Shepherds. He was not from the neighborhood.

Neither of the dogs had on collars of any kind, and for a variety of reasons I suspected trouble. See my post on cutting reading sign >>

In any case, Trooper was far and away the smallest dog at the park, totally well socialized and relaxed; very phlegmatic.

I watched those very amped up Shepherds coming into the park like a hawk, though. I knew what kind of man this was -- what those dogs were all about. And sure enough, as soon as the dogs got through the gate, one of them went straight to Trooper and tried to kill him. As fast as you can say "Bob's your Uncle," I had that dog in the air by his tail, flipped over on its side, my boot jammed hard on his neck and shoulder (its tail still in my hand), and a six inch gravity knife out of my pocket and opened up in my other other hand. "MOTHER FUCKER," I yelled, "get your dogs OUT of here or I will field-gut your dog and then I am coming after you."

The nice suburban white folks at the park were stunned and speechless. They knew me (a good thing) but it had happened so fast, most of them did not know what had actually happened. All they knew for sure was that I was ready to open up a dog like it was a chicken. I released this fellow's punk dog with a powerful kick, and both the man and his two dogs quickly left. No police were called, and afterwards one or two people asked "what had happened," but most were too scared to even know what to say.

These folks had NO IDEA that a dog fighting man had showed up at the dog park to rip up some pet dogs for the fun of it. This fellow had crossed the river for that purpose, and simply got to the wrong park with the wrong man on this particular day. Two dogs with no collars was part of the "tell" for those of you who read sign, but there was more. I was prepared to be wrong, but I was also prepared to be right. So yeah, dog parks can be great places, but they're like bars ... anything can come through the door at any time.


bestuvall said...

The perfect dog park is one that you rent by the hour ( half hour.. whatever) for your dog ALONE or with ones you trust.. poop bags provided.. trash bin.. heck you could have a hot dog stand and and doggy treat stand.. old unused tennis courts would be perfect for this.. I would pay to take my dogs .a gate that locks.. oh and lights at night ( until a reasonable hour) that you pay for .. bliss to know that your dog will not be mugged by some stupid person who brings Fifi and turns them loose while they chat on the cell phone or text..

JL said...

I loved the off-leash park we had before it was developed and "improved." It was a 60-acre park with wide open areas under power lines and wooded, semi-natural areas with trails. The park district allowed local dog owners to use it when a group formed to maintain a poop patrol and arrange for poop removal. The open areas were mowed a few times per year. People with social dogs tended to meet up under the wires and throw balls for a group of dogs. Those with less group-oriented dogs walked the perimeter or the wooded trails. Worked very well for a very wide range of dogs and owners.

Then the park was developed. The off-leash area is now 8 acres under the powerlines, which I realize is still large, and the rest contains soccer fields, skate park, kiddy playground, and some walking trails. I don't use it much as my 15yo is too frail and my 2yo does not suffer fools gladly.

seeker said...

Hooray for you, Patrick! Wolf packs do not play with other wolf packs. I never take my two to these doggie fight clubs because I know as soon as some dog starts it with Abbott, Bridget the homicidal bitch of the west would do her damnest to kill whatever hurt or scared her bro. One abused and one abandoned, they never learned to play nice with others only within their pack, and at 9 and 5 I think its too late. JRTs are not polite at best. Someone would be killed, maybe my dog, maybe someone elses dog or maybe just someone else. I love my leashed walking group, but not parks. I see no reason to tempt fate.

Debi and the TX JRTs

smartdogs said...


I had a similar experience at an off leash area in the small, redneck town where I live. In this case the macho man with the collarless, ready to scrap little pibble ran into an alpha bitch with a loaded handgun and a pair of enormous leonbergers.

When the dog charged my boys stood tall, brave and confident while I did the same and pulled my gun. He panicked, dove, grabbed his dog and CARRIED it (at a full sprint) away from us.

Always be prepared.

seeker said...

While this is not about dog parks, I thought it might be of value to someone here. A friend of mine was jogging this morning with his JRT. An Akita, who was normally chained, had gotten loose and attacked the pair. The Jack fought back and is presently at the vets with severe abdominal lacerations (her entrails were exposed) The man is still at ER last I heard with puncture wounds on his knee and leg. Vet has said dog has very good chance of survival because of quick response by owners.
There is no safe place. Any neighborhood can have that one loose dog or even a fox or a coyote. Carry something to protect yourself and your dog: tear gas, walking stick, whatever but be prepared. It can happen to you.

Debi and the TX JRTs

Jenn said...

People don't read the signs. The Phoenix park I go to, on Grovers, has signs banning kids and un-neutered dogs. I see both every time we go there.

People let their TODDLERS roam around and interact with the dogs. That's just NUTS.

Michael said...

I was in charge of one small, over-crowded, urine-soaked, political nightmare of a dog run in NYC's Washington Square Park for several years. We knew that if a child was hurt, even accidentally by a running dog, the dog (or his owner) would be blamed. Park rangers helped us to enforce the "no kids under twelve" rule. After all, children had there own playgrounds and our dogs were most definitely not welcome there.

TravelingBiker said...

I think if they try that they'll discover pretty quickly that you can't discriminate against people in this country based on age or familial status. It violates the constitution.

PBurns said...

People are discriminated against all the time due to age... thank goodness. You cannot drive at just any age, vote at any age, drink at any age, marry at any age, etc. The Constitution is not a national suicide pact. Familial status? What? What does that have to do with keeping short children out of dog parks? Not a thing.