Dog Park Etiquette
Like all social settings, dog parks have a specific set of etiquette owners and their four-legged friends are expected to follow. The specificities of this etiquette often shift depending on the location. There are obviously different regional norms and specific rules put in place by the owner of each park. With this being said, there is one general rule every patron should adhere to regardless of regional norms. Respect what other owners say when it applies to their own dog!
When it comes to most things, no one knows a dog better than its owner. This includes temperament, dietary restrictions, etc. For example, if another owner said, “Hey, I think our dogs are agitating each other,” it’s probably best to listen to them and separate the dogs. They can obviously tell when their dog is getting agitated. Which makes it a bit of a no-brainer to just separate them. They know their dog and you know your dog. It isn’t rocket science.
Our friend, “Katie,” owns three dogs with extremely sensitive stomachs. Two of them have specific food allergies on top of their sensitive stomachs. Needless to say, Katie kept her dogs on pretty strict diets. If you’ve ever had a dog with a sensitive stomach, you’re well aware of the consequences of them eating something they aren’t supposed to. It’s nothing short of horrifying.
Katie took her dogs to a dog park where “everyone unanimously agreed to not give other dogs treats unless their owner was okay with it.” Probably a good rule of thumb, especially in Katie’s case. Unfortunately, etiquette tends to go out the window when kids enter the equation.
The kids in question belonged to a man, “Matt,” who also frequented the dog park. Matt was well aware of the “no feeding other dogs unless it’s cool with the owner” rule. The problem was, while he followed the rule, he never scolded his kids for feeding random dogs, Katie’s included.
Katie had quite a few altercations with Matt over his children feeding her dogs. Obviously, “kids will be kids” doesn’t go very far when it results in your dogs liquifying themselves around the house for hours on end. It would be one thing if Matt’s kids were giving out treats designated for dogs but this wasn’t the case.
Like most parents, Matt felt the need to bring an abundance of food for his kids for every outing. More times than not, his kids wouldn’t eat all of the food he brought for them. The problem was they opted to give their leftovers to the dogs running around the park. This could result in something a lot worse than Katie’s dogs having upset stomachs depending on the food.
Things came to a head when Matt and his children showed up at the dog park with an entire loaf of bread as a snack.
Inevitably, Katie looked over and saw Matt’s kids feeding her dogs part of the loaf of bread.
Completely fed up, Katie approached Matt’s daughter and said, “Stop doing that, please. You shouldn’t be giving strange dogs food that belongs to you.”
She completely ignored Katie. Matt’s daughter was around seven, which is absolutely old enough to understand when an adult was speaking to her. She just didn’t think she had to follow the rules.
Running out of options, Katie called her dogs over by her to get them away from Matt’s kids. His kids followed them and continued feeding them slices of bread.
Katie looked over and saw some owners scowling at Matt’s kids, others were just taking their dogs and outright leaving the dog park.
Enough was enough, Katie approached Matt and said, “Hey, you need to control your kids. They know they aren’t supposed to feed other dogs unless it’s cool with their owner and your daughter blatantly ignored me when I told her to stop feeding my dogs.”
Matt responded, “Sure, Karen. No one should have fun around here when you’re around.”
There are plenty of real Karens in the world who deserve to be called out, Katie is not one of them. She knew all too well not wanting some guy’s kids feeding her dogs human food didn’t make her a Karen.
Rightfully furious, Katie retorted, “At least I can keep my animals under control. Wanna pay for my vet bills? Get your kids to stop.”
Matt responded, “No one but you minds. Go get a social life and maybe you wouldn’t be so insufferable.”
Katie gestured to the scowling owners around her and to the parking lot where others were leaving and said, “Oh yeah, I’m definitely the only one that minds.”
After saying what she had to say, Katie gathered up her dogs and left the park. She realized Matt was not going to take any of the social cues from other owners. He had even blatantly tried to blame her when she approached him.
Katie knew it was going to take something a little more extreme to get the point across to Matt and his kids.
The next time Katie went to the dog park, she brought a box of cupcakes and gave them to the other owners and the kids they had brought with them.
When Matt and his kids came up to get a cupcake, Katie closed the box.
Of course, Matt immediately grew confrontational and demanded, “Why does everyone else get cupcakes and we don’t?”
Katie responded, “Because you need to be taught a lesson about giving and receiving food. Teach your kids to only feed your dog and I will be more than happy to share my food with you.”
Needless to say, Matt was not happy. He gathered up his kids and left the dog park.
Katie repeated this a few more times as she had leftover cupcakes from her birthday, one of her dog’s birthdays, and the birth of her niece. Every time, she would close the box when Matt and his kids approached.
Matt grew angry every time and rather than telling his kids to stop feeding the other dogs, they would just leave.
Finally after about the third time, one of the owners approached Katie and asked, “Don’t you think you’re being a little vindictive?”
Katie responded, “No, if I had to spend one more day cleaning up the Hershey squirts from my dogs because of Matt’s kids I was going to lose it.”
The owner retorted, “Sure, Matt’s a complete prick who doesn’t control his kids but why punish his actual kids for him being stubborn?”
“His kids are well aware they aren’t supposed to be feeding the other dogs. I’ve even approached them and told them to stop. They’ve seen how Matt has spoken to me. They think they don’t have to respect what I say either,” Katie responded.
“I just think doing this makes you no better than Matt,” said the other owner and they walked off.
Do you agree with the other owner or do you think Katie was justified in excluding Matt and his kids from the cupcakes?
Thoughts From Reddit
One commenter agreed with Katie’s actions and said, “You are not being mean to the kids. You’re simply not being generous. Seven is old enough to read and follow signs.”
Another commenter agreed but with a twist, “Giving a treat, gift, or favor to everyone in a group except a couple of people is not merely ‘not being generous.’ It is targeted exclusion. Katie is justified in her exclusion, which is fine, but don’t pretend it isn’t exclusion.
The reason Katie isn’t mean is because the behavior is justified, not because it’s inherently not mean. If she deliberately brought cupcakes for everyone except one guy and his kid for no good reason, Katie would be in the wrong.”
Katie really had the people on her side, another said, “It’s exclusion yes, but the guy and his kids had also excluded themselves from the social agreement everyone had about not feeding dogs without owners’ permission. If they wanted to be included in the social activities they should abide by the rules of that society. Not pick and choose which parts to be involved in.”
They really started to pile onto Matt with another commenter saying, “Rules are made, even informally, to help everyone get along easier and fairly use resources. Rules also keep the peace.
Matt not only didn’t respect the rules of the dog park, he seemed to want a special exclusion, just for his kids. If he wants to teach his kids to be pricks, that’s okay, I guess. Feel free to teach them how other people react to pricks though.”
This is the most united I’ve ever seen Reddit, another commenter replied, “You shouldn’t even pet a strange dog let alone feed one. My dogs have sensitive tummies as well so I feel your pain on the vet bills. Maybe you’re being a teeny tiny bit vindictive but in my honest opinion, he shouldn’t have been such an prick.”
Thoughts From The Author
I completely agree with the commenters. If Matt wasn’t going to stop his kids from feeding the other dogs, Katie was completely in the right to teach them a lesson herself. Props to Katie for finding such a levelheaded way to teach the lesson. Most dog owners would have justifiably lost their marbles on both Matt and his kids. Meanwhile, those little demon-spawns just didn’t get a cupcake like everyone else at the park who could follow simple rules.
It’s not an unreasonable request at all to not want people feeding your dogs. Thankfully, my dog is a literal garbage disposal but I have family members with dogs who have sensitive stomachs. If I were in Katie’s position with one of my family member’s dogs, I would drop them off at Matt’s house and see how he likes it.
Now to single out Matt for a moment. To put it simply, Matt is the worst. Everyone knows someone who doesn’t control their kids. It’s nothing short of infuriating. Why have kids if you’re going to let them be everyone else’s problem? You had the kids, Matt. Discipline them!
Also, the way he handled Katie confronting him completely rubbed me the wrong way. He responded to the simple request of “tell your kids to stop feeding my dogs” with defensiveness and aggression. Not a great look, Matt. Literally, all he had to do was tell his kids to stop feeding the other dogs. Nothing crazy. However, Matt resorted to personal attacks and tried to assert his dominance on a fellow dog owner instead of simply disciplining his kids. He deserved so much worse than not getting cupcakes.