Friday, July 10, 2009

Back to the Crime Scene

Last night, for the first time in many, many months, we went back to Silver Lake, the park containing the small, dirty, dog run where I made my biggest mistakes as a new owner.  Of course, now knowing better (and given Marge's new-ish fears about other dogs) we stayed away and instead frolicked through the open green lawns, where not a soul was to be found.

I don't intend for this to turn into an anti-dog park post, but I do have some thoughts about my experiences there. On the one hand, I think it did help Marge in some ways.  There were times where she had a ton of fun and socialized well with other dogs, and even some people. I met lots of nice people and dogs.  However, it took a near-attack back in the late winter for me to realize that the dog park is not for us.  There are too many unpredictable dogs, it is too small, and a lot of people just don't know what they're doing.

Why did I avoid the park itself outside of the dog run for so long?  It is a nice park, with lots of trees and open space.  But, I think I just didn't want to see it.  I felt like an idiot for the longest time for having endangering my dog.  What if she had gotten hurt?  What if it created behavior issues?  I don't think Marge's current fears are linked very closely to whatever experiences she had there, but you just never know. 

When we got there, Marge knew where we were, undoubtedly.  She started whining in the car.  I don't know what kind of whine it was, but she was eager to get out.  As she soon learned, this trip - and any trip to this park from here on out - featured a 20' long leash and the open range of the Silver Lake lawns, and not the dog run where we used to go.

It was a mostly relaxing trip; a toddler kept trying to run up to us, his father barely stopped him, but when I asked the man if his child would like to give my dog a treat instead, he declined.  Bizarre.

There were some doggie distractions, too. A beagle was nearby braying his little heart out as he sniffed, and while Marge was interested, she was responsive to me.  A Pug/Beagle walked close by us, too, and Marge was almost indifferent about it.

We wandered up close to the dog run, albeit keeping some distance, and Marge neither moved towards it or away from it.  There were only two dogs in there - which left me wondering if our old friends got scared away by out-of-control dogs just as we were.  When both dogs had left, I allowed her to move closer and sniff.

And that was really it from the evening.  It was a fun time. We spent an hour in the park, and she ran around for almost the entire length of that time.  When we came home, we were both exhausted and passed out on the couch together until 2 AM.

Just as a disclaimer, although I don't think THIS dog park is good for THIS dog, I am sure there are good ones out there.  I can't imagine I'll ever opt to use one again given the things I now know and have experienced, but I suppose, like all things, they have their place in some people's lives.

 Now just some training information/upcoming things:

  • Been working on back crosses all week.  She can do it better when she's on my right side as opposed to my left.  She is getting better with each day, though, and I hope to be able to do backs over jumps at class next week.
  • Been keeping up with Rally to some degree, too.  Working primarily on pivots.  Need to work on attention, too.. I feel with all the behavior mod stuff we've been doing, the nice heel that she had back in April for the CGC is pretty much kaput.  Still waiting to hear when the run-through will be at the Agility field, though it's looking like we most likely will not be trialing in August.
  • Would like to start having Marge meet some new people again, even if it's just treat giving.  Again, this is something we did to death during the CGC, but haven't done as much of lately.  Since our last Petsmart visit was successful, I'd like to go back during the next week or so, again during a quiet time of the day.  Although the smaller stores would generally be better for actually talking with people, they usually scare the heck out of her.  So, Petsmart it'll have to be.
Going to have a pretty busy few days ahead of me, so I might not be around much.  I hope all of you have a lovely weekend!


Sue July 10, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

We don't do dog parks either. We don't really need to with our big yard, but I don't trust the other owners. I worry about whether the other dogs have been vaccinated and will the owners really watch their dogs and keep them under control. I don't want my dog frightened by someone else's carelessness.

PoochesForPeace July 10, 2009 at 1:48 PM  

Im glad she had a good experience this time. And it definately sounds like she had energy!

Golden Samantha July 10, 2009 at 6:22 PM  

Overall, I have been very lucky that my offleash open field dog park is so full of dogs and people we now know well and who are responsible owners. Truly lucky. But we go lots of other places too - our area is a dog lover's paradise I think, for we have a lot of different choices. But I understand your feelings and early on, a couple of years ago, I went to two different closed in dog parks and had a bad experience, so I really understand. Great about all the training news! What talent Marge has, and that you have as trainer!
Hugs xo

Astrid Keel July 11, 2009 at 3:26 PM  

I have had a similar experience with Brownie. She is not the right dog for our dog parks. she's a bit insecure and hyper, a combination that makes her the target for many dogs. I always hear a ton of horror stories regarding bully breeds in dog parks, but ironically, the three dogs that have nearly attacked Brownie were all purebred labs. Like you, I am an inexperienced dog owner, and I cringe when I remember those incidents. I should have known better! It is my job to protect Brownie and I failed miserably.

Now, I only go in when (1) there are no dogs (to work on off-leash stuff) or (2) I know the dogs there. She has had a great experience there with two rotties who treated her gently but firmly. They didn't allow her to nip uncontrollably at their ears and let her run around with them. Long story short, we rarely go to the dog park anymore just because I don't trust other owners to be in control of their dogs.

Cinnamon and Mint July 11, 2009 at 6:50 PM  

I understand how you feel. It's always a dilemma whether or not to let the dogs off the lead when there are other dogs around. Actually, Cookie has been attacked and bitten once. And he has become very shy and cautious since then. So, I always try to keep a close eye on other dogs' behaviour whenever I let my dogs off.

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