Do you visit dog parks? What sort of dog park personality are you? I often visit parks with my dog Chilli and love to observe people and their dogs. It seems to me that they fall into one of these four types… (Please don’t feel offended by my descriptions 😉
Dog Park Personality 1: A member of the Social Pack
This dog owner, the socialite of the dog owning world, attends the park to talk to their doggy park mates. They tend to congregate together, usually towards the centre of the park. They can often form large groups. One social showman, usually in the larger pack of socialistes, may enlighten the others as to why their dog is doing what they are doing eg. “He’s humping because he is in control of all the other dogs.” Their advice need not be correct.
Smaller groups of socialites will often walk in their groups around the circumference of the park, their dogs accompanying them. They verge on becoming Fitness Fidos (see below).
Socialites like to chat. Their dog may receive the occasional glance, but will usually not be scrutinised nearly as intently as every new person that enters the park. They will let any person outwith the socialite group know when they have, either deliberately or unintentionally, broken the dog park etiquette eg. “Your dog has just poo-ed. Aren’t you going to pick it up?”
Pros of the social pack: They can provide great companionship, especially if you need a bit of local gossip. They tend to know all the dog owners in the park. They also are great at passing on news about dogs, about the local area and can even be termed “social lubricants” along with their dogs.
Cons of the social pack: They are focussed on their own needs and being social. They chat and chat and fail to notice when their own dog has poo-ed or gets into a scrap with another dog. They are all about themselves.
The social pack could improve by: Keeping a closer eye on their dogs. Inviting people on the edges of the park to join a small socialite group (large groups may be daunting).
Dog Park Personality 2: The Fitness Fido
The wannabee athletic dog walker, likes to jog or walk swiftly around the dog park. Their dog will often accompany them, trying to keep up with the pace. Those dogs who cannot keep up will often join the Social Pack in the middle of the park.
The Fitness Fido may also engage in other sports, especially in their teenage or younger years. They may kick or throw balls, fly kites, play on swings or any other athletic activity that normally does not involve their dog.
Most dogs who are regulars in the park accept the Fitness Fido. Should the Fitness Fido enter a new park where the dogs are not used to joggers, they may be in trouble, however, as uninitiated dogs may get over-excited by their movements. It may also be difficult to take up athletic pursuits other than a gentle jog, as sets of push ups or sit ups tend to attract unwelcome canine companionship.
Pros of the fitness fido: These people are great for active dogs eg. working breeds, as they often provide sufficient exercise for their dogs, unlike the socialites. Their own health probably benefits too.
Cons of the fitness fido: They may not pay much attention to their dog. The older, infirm dog often find it hard to keep up with their energetic owner. When the dog poos, they have to double back to pick it up – if they have even noticed!
Could improve by: Attending to their dog needs. Exercising without their dog if their dog cannot keep up.
Dog Park Personality 3: The Training Terrier
This dog owner is all about their dog. They may not be training their dog, although many cannot resist asking for a “Sit” every 60 seconds, but they will be entertaining their dog – usually with an educational or environmentally enriching component involved. They will throw the ball for their dog to fetch. They will then fetch the ball themselves, when their dog does not.
This dog owner tends to travel alone, accompanied solely by their dog. They may occasionally link up with one or two other Training Terriers and will happily give their accompanying dogs a treat from their treat pouch but only if the dog sits when asked.
This owner will be all too happy to give out advice to the Social Pack or the Fitness Fidos but would really rather have the park to themselves. A few dedicated Training Terriers may actually book out the park or conduct their own training lessons.
Pros of the training terrier: They care about the needs of their dogs and this is paramount to them, more than their own needs. Their dogs will always be able to be recalled.
Cons of the training terrier: Their dogs are rarely allowed to simply have fun.
The training terrier could improve by: Being aware of the needs of other people and dogs using the park. Watching where they throw the ball!
Dog Park Personality 4: The Lone Wolf
This dog owner is not particularly social, not particularly energetic and not particularly into their dog. They can be spotted walking alone around the park, accompanied by their dog (or the dog may go off on their own pursuits) or they may simply stand with their backs to the wall or fence. They may listen to music through their headphones or speak on their phone, often for the entire walk! They may look at the social pack with longing or with disdain. They rarely approach.
Dogs of the Lone Wolf often look at excited as their owners, in other words they look like they would rather not be there. Alternatively the more attention-seeking dogs of the Lone Wolf may take their boredom out on other dogs, jumping all over them or jumping up at other owners.
Pros of the lone wolf: They are exercising their dogs, even if it not terribly exciting for their dog.
Cons of the lone wolf: They look unapproachable and so other dog owners tend to leave them alone (difficult for those owners who gravitate towards being a member of the social pack!)
The lone wolf could improve by: stepping out of their comfort zone every so often, as there are benefits from talking to other dog owners. Changing up their walk to keep their dog amused. Training their dog for mental stimulation or even simply talking to their dog.
Well, have you recognised yourself and other dog walkers in your local dog park?
Which dog park personality am I? Well I can be all of them at times. I am certainly a Lone Wolf, as I often walk the streets with my headphones on, but can turn into a Fitness Fido in the park with elements of the Training Terrier thrown in. When I see people who I know, I can join the Social Pack. Who are you?
And remember that dog park etiquette is relevant to all types of dog park personalities.