There isn’t much of an argument whether or not the death of small dog Lola at a dog park, is tragic. However, there is a bigger picture beyond this incident and the discussion of separating small and large dogs in dog parks. What are the traits and personalities in different dog breeds that demonstrate aggression, and at worst attacks on other dogs and even dog owners? Dog parks don’t have global etiquette regulations or personality tests, but generally are open freely to all dog types at an owners discretion. This play at your own risk factor implies a benchmark of knowledge of dog breeds and personalities that park goers should be aware of.
Dogster breaks behavior down into 10 simple personality traits and the top 10 ranking of breeds for each trait based on user submitted data. Two personality traits on Dogster’s list stick out above the others as dog breeds that may have problematic behavior in a social setting such as a dog park: most anxious, and least playful. Perhaps knowing your dog isn’t playful is enough to know they don’t belong at a dog park, but is this really the only factor in things that could cause aggression during canine socializing? Lola’s story is evidence that listed personality traits may have little to do with the true etiquette or demeaner a dog displays.

According to the American Kennel Club and Dogster’s rankings the breed that attacked Lola a Mastiff, is usually calm and lazy, not aggressive. This brings us back to the importance of the owners responsibility to know their pets behavior around other dogs on an individual basis and to determine whether or not they belong in a public space where other dogs are at risk. It’s crucial to be aware that directories and websites providing information about dog breeds are referring to the relationships between owner and pet, not between the dog and other breeds.

Whole Dog Journal suggests the key to proper dog park etiquette and creating a safe place for dogs to play is dog park culture. Dog park culture is not only the culture of the dog owners with each other but how owners handle their dogs with other dogs. Dog park culture is essentially giving the dog park a community feel where owners know what’s allowed and when someone is stepping out of line of proper etiquette that the dog park culture community stands up and takes the appropriate action to create a solution to the problem.

Along with creating a community, part of the dog park culture includes awareness of what is acceptable dog behavior in a public space around other dogs. Whole Dog Journal provides their list of acceptable dog park behavior that includes the following:

  • dogs should be friendly, without being overbearing, or bullying.
  • dog should be reasonably confident and social.
  • dog should not body-slam, mouth, jump on kids, or mark (leg-lift) humans in the park.
  • dog should be responsive to basic cues – at least “come when called,” “sit,” and “leave it/off,” to prevent him from harassing others.
  • barking should be kept to a reasonable level, both for the comfort of other park users as well as nearby neighbors.
  • dogs should be healthy and non injured with all standard immunizations up to date.