Ah, the dog park. It’s a paradise for dogs—green grass, plenty of room to run, and things to sniff—and a complete social nightmare for humans. When it comes to awkward and uncomfortable interactions, the dog park is just a step below making a visit to your local state license branch. You will be stuck inside a relatively small area with a random selection of odd strangers.
Preparation is key. Here is a list of six individuals you will likely meet at the dog park and ways to deal with them.
Their dog is as old and bored as they are. Seriously, their dog would rather be sleeping at home. Instead, it parks it in the shadiest, quietest place in the park and doesn’t move until it’s time to go home. The Bored Retiree frequents the park every day, for hours at a time, usually leaving before noon—likely to use their senior citizen discount at their preferred café, or to golf, or to fish.
Your Gameplan: You have two options. Figure out what the Bored Retiree loves to talk about and pretend to listen while he or she jabbers, or simply walk to the other side of the park. Remember, this person is having the time of their life. They are enjoying old age and they don’t give two hoots about whether or not you are interested in being their friend.
This person is a special type of dog owner. Their dogs are always neutered and totally sissified. If it tries to play with another dog, Helicopter Parent will run over to stop it “from using its teeth”—or its nails, or its feet, or its tail. Another dog approaches Helicopter Parent’s dog? Watch Helicopter Parent freak out—“OMG THAT DOG IS ATTACKING MY DOG.” They might even blow their super loud and annoying dog whistle to break up the “fight.”
Your Gameplan: If your dog is a jerk or bully—or has any teeth at all—keep your dog as far away as possible from this person’s dog. It’s likely Helicopter Parent will do all the work for you—most of them keep their dog at their side and don’t allow it to venture far.
This person can usually be found sitting on a bench or chatting on their phone. Their dog is probably super energetic—like Champion Frisbee dog material. It’s too bad Lazy Owner isn’t going to get up and play with it.
Your Gameplan: Lazy Owner’s dog will steal your dog’s ball while you’re playing fetch, but you’ll feel too sorry for it to get mad. Don’t bother confronting Lazy Owner. Remember, this person is lazy and they’re not changing. In this case the best thing you can do is simply nothing.
Thinking about taking home that cool ball that doesn’t seem to belong to anyone? NOT SO FAST. Feeling a little too lazy to pick up your dog’s latest turd? BETTER THINK TWICE. New person strolling into the park? THAT DOG HAD BETTER BE UP TO DATE ON ITS SHOTS.
Your Gameplan: Unlike other dog park patrons, the Whistleblower cannot simply be avoided or ignored. Wherever you are, you will notice and be subject to his or her complaints and ranting. The best thing to do is (lightly) humiliate this person to help them temporarily realize how ridiculous they’re being. Bring the coolest dog toy you can find to the park. When you walk out of the park, Whistleblower will likely ask you if that’s your toy. Then, BAM, pull out your Petsmart receipt. That should keep them quiet—for a couple minutes.
The Showoff has some fancy ultra-rare dog breed. In fact, you’ll probably never see another dog like it for the rest of your life. Pet it if the owner allows you. It’s your only chance. This person tells the story of buying their dog like it was the Quest for the Holy Grail except their story is about finding a dog with the most perfect genes for health, intelligence, and being freaking awesome.
Your Gameplan: Become deeply interested in the Showoff’s token dog breed. If you can’t manage genuine interest, then feign interest—you are likely the only person who will notice the difference.
What if you try all of these options and nothing works? Well, don’t get too glum. You’re at the dog park—remember to just have fun with your dog! Also, I guarantee the clip below will cheer you up.