As I read Facebook posts and comments, send and receive various emails and communicate with people in the community about dog and dog park issues, I am reminded many times that, unlike in Vegas, what happens in the dog parks does not stay in the dog parks. It is easy to spread information through personal conversations, emails and social media.
This can be a good thing. When I had a short conversation with Mayor Emily Larson recently she said she had been hearing good things about the dog parks. I was very pleased that people had been commenting to her regarding their good experiences with our dog parks. Let this be a reminder to let your mayor and city administration, councilors, employees and commissioners know how much you enjoy and appreciate the Duluth Dog Parks. Every good word and comment helps with creating and keeping a good relationship with the City of Duluth. Without ongoing partnerships with the city, our Duluth Dog Parks would not exist. Every good word helps.
It can also be a bad thing. This past fall there was a slight incident at one of our dog parks and each went on their way. One owner didn't realize that their dog was injured until they got home. They posted on their FB page about irresponsible dog owners (but didn't make it clear that the other owner didn't even know there was an injury). Many people commented on how dog parks were bad, they would never go, how terrible the other person was, aggressive dogs shouldn’t be in dog parks, etc, etc. The people commenting were basing their judgement on one person’s very short FB post. This post was shared and shared, continuing to spread fear and worry. It resolved nothing.
If something happens in the dog park, please address it at that time. If you are paying attention and watching your dog and others dogs you are more likely to be able to see if they are getting along or if one is looking stressed or being irritated. If that happens, move on. Walk to another area of the park and find a new spot in the dog park to play. Simply moving away does a world of good to keep irritations from escalating into something more. It is always an option to just leave the park. You can go for a short walk in the area or leave and return another time. One bad incident does not mean that there will be others. Usually it is a one-time thing.
Be kind to others using the park. Try to be understanding. We don’t know the back story of the other people or dogs. We don’t know who is newly adopted, who has arthritis and may be a little touchy, who came from a bad home, or who has been working diligently on social skills. This could refer to dogs or the people. Help newcomers that may be nervous. Move away from the entry area so others can more easily come and go. Shovel the entry so it isn’t slippery. Pick up poop so that it looks better and isn’t left for someone else to step in.
Remember that the other people in the dog park may be city staff or city councilors or city parks commissioners. They may be a particular person from a nearby town that I contacted to see if they would consider putting in a dog park (he went to Jean Duluth DP on both Saturday and Sunday and had a great time-yay). They could be from Visit Duluth or the media. Any person in the dog parks could be in a position to support and encourage our efforts to maintain and improve off leash dog access in Duluth. They could also choose to not support and discourage if they have a negative experience. Even though the dog parks seem like our own little world, people are watching. Let’s make a good impression. Be kind.