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Tag: personalities

Dog park humans: A breed apart

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One of the things that strikes you if you spend any time at a dog park is the amazing diversity you see — in appearances, in personality types, in behavior patterns.

And that’s just among the dog owners.

Just as there is a vast array of breeds and mixes, shapes, sizes and behaviors among dogs, there are certain “types” when it comes to the human denizens of dog parks.

So let’s slap some labels on them, shall we?

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Yes, it is wrong. But as much as we tend to slap labels on dogs, it’s only fair to give humans a turn. All in fun, of course. We’re not criticizing any of them (hardly), just making some observations.

All the characters we are about to describe are fictitious, though based on actual observations over the years at dog parks in well over a dozen cities and towns. If one or more bears a striking resemblance to you, old or new friend, it’s purely coincidental. And any exaggeration or irreverence that follows is purely for the sake of humor.

In other words, don’t get mad at me.

DSC06870leashes1The Dog Talker:
This person is constantly talking to their dog — an ongoing one-way conversation: “C’mon Princess, you should you meet these other dogs over here. Oh look, there’s your little friend Barney. And look at this big boy. Do you like him? I think you like him. He looks a little like your friend Bowser, doesn’t he? Let’s play with him for a while before we go home for dinner …”

Often members of this type are also members of another type, making them doubling annoying. The Baby Talkers: “Yesums you’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. Did you step on a burr, oh poor baby, come here, let me see your little pawsie. Awwww, it’s OK little baby. There, there, all better now.”

There is one more sub-category of these talkers, and they are those who actually seem to expect their dog to answer them. They are prone to asking their dogs the same question repeatedly, as if, on the third or fourth asking, the dog is suddenly going to respond with words: “Are you ready to go home for dinner, Fluffy? Hmmmm? Fluffy, you want to go home for dinner? Does Fluffy want dinner? You want to go get dinner, Fluffy?”

The Experts: They can and most assuredly will tell you more than you want to know about training, about breeds, about care, about feeding, about anything. Sometimes they may actually have some expertise. More often, they haven’t a clue. Still, they feel the need to conduct mini-lectures that conclude with something like “And that is why dogs eat grass” or, “That’s how they came to be known as Lhaso Apsos.”

DSC06874leashes1The Device-obsessed: They are the largest, fastest growing group at the dog park, and one of the most dangerous, totally ignoring their dogs as they tap away on their little screens. They really should look up now and then. See your dog? He’s living in the moment. You should try it.

The Social Butterfly: Must meet and engage every dog, and every human, in the park. He or she flits about, asking your dog’s name, your dog’s breed, telling you about his or her dog, remarking on the weather, etc., before moving on to the next dog and person. One of these — they often being the sort that prefers a monologue over actual conversation — recently began talking to me, even though I was on the big dog side of the fence and he was on the small side. Without any response, or any acknowledgement from me, he continued talking, non-stop, to the back of my head, for 30 minutes.

DSC06948leashes1The Loners: They go to remotest corner, avoiding interaction and engaging, most likely, in some fetch — silently, relentlessly, repetitiously, and most often using one of those flinging sticks so their hands don’t get slimy. Both owner and dog, generally something like a German shepherd, seem to tense up if you or your dog approach. Often, the loner person has a loner dog, which brings up a point we’re not addressing here: How a dog’s personality comes to resemble its owners.

The Rescue Hero: The second, if not first, sentence out of this person’s mouth about their own dog is “he/she is a rescue” and it is followed by the dog’s tale of woe in its previous life. His coat was matted, his ribs were visible, he was a bait dog used by dogfighters, he was abandoned and left tethered at a Walmart. Often they weren’t involved in any actual rescue, but merely walked into a shelter and adopted the dog. But that’s OK. It still makes them good people. Just don’t expect sainthood.

The Action Hero: This is the young guy — perhaps an off duty firefighter, or someone who just left rugby practice — who rushes over to fearlessly break up any dogfights.

DSC06981leashes1The Date-seeker: He is there to meet some babes. He will lavish attention on your dog because he thinks you are cute. He seems so nice, but might he be a biter? Exercise some caution before going into a play stance with him.

The Over-protector: These people are constantly coddling and babying their (usually) small dog, hovering nearby and becoming alarmed if play becomes a little rough. At that time, they immediately pick it up, making all the larger dogs want to have at it even more. I’ve seen people show up with their dogs and spend their entire time at the park on a bench with their dog (who might be wearing clothing) on their lap.

DSC06847leashes1The control freak: This person is a strong disciplinarian when it comes to their dog, so strict that their dog is barely able to have any fun. Granted some people use dog parks to train their dogs, but even then said dog should have a little frolic time. It’s not boot camp. Sometimes, they seem to want to discipline everyone else’s dog too: “None of that now. Easy, eeeeeasy now,” they’ll say to other dogs. He or she commonly offers training advice to total strangers.

DSC06849leashes1The Poop-spotter: This person has uncanny peripheral vision — to the point he or she can spot any dog in the act of pooping, even if there are two dogs simultaneously pooping at opposite ends of the park. He or she then promptly informs the owner, “Hey, your dog just pooped, about three yards from the fence, to the left of that fencepost.”

The No Boundaries Dog Owner: These are the owners who clearly believe their dog can do no wrong: These dog owners let their dog get away with pretty much everything — digging, snarling, humping to name a few– issuing few corrections and generally only mild ones. They fail to notice signs that things are getting out of hand until it is too late.

No Boundaries Parents: These are even scarier yet, letting their young children chase strange dogs, run from strange dogs while shrieking, and hug strange dogs. These people might pose a bigger risk than even the Device-obsessed. And if you have a combination of the two, well, that’s a recipe for disaster. Often, with these people, their children listen to them with the same disregard their dogs do. No matter how many times they warn little Tommy to close both the gates when he enters and leaves, little Tommy leaves them wide open.

By now you are asking, well “OK Mr. Holier than Thou, which type are you? Or are we to assume you are perfect?”

Far from it.

DSC06880leashes1I am sometimes “the expert,” but only when an unanswered question is looming, and I am sure of my facts, and I feel the information will make the person I am conveying it to a better dog owner. If, while I am talking, they start yawning, or texting, I will stop.

Sometimes I am “the loner,” sometimes “the social butterfly,” depending on my mood — and my dog’s mood — that day.

Sometimes I’m the rescue hero, not the action hero because generally any fights will be over by the time I’m able to make my way over there on my wobbly legs. I will share the tale of where my dog came from, but generally only when asked and without taking credit for any actual “rescue” when all I really did was adopt him. Still, I’m happy to share, and feel it’s important to share, the story of his Korean past, sad as it was.

I’m not the Date-seeker these days, but I’ll admit that possibility may have been in the back of my head — if not ever actually exercised — in earlier times with earlier dogs. And, hey, it might still be lingering back there to a small degree.

Most often, I’m of the type I haven’t mentioned yet.

The Quiet Observer: This is someone like, say, a semi-retired journalist with time on his hands, skilled in observing human behavior, prone to eavesdropping, able to recognize the subtle differences between us, and aware that — above all else — they are what makes life interesting.

DSC06843leashes1So feel free to disregard all this, and just be yourself. It’s true, I’m far more tolerant with dogs than I am with people. Dogs can jump up on me, they can lick my face, they can sit on my lap. People, these days, get on my nerves much more quickly.

Even so, it’s not my place to tell them how — other than observing proper dog park etiquette — they should act. So I almost always stifle myself from saying anything out loud.

When a small child it is chasing my dog, screaming and trying to grab him, I will warn them out loud, “Hey, you might not want to do that.” But I try to not let negative vibes into my head, and try even harder not to let them out of my mouth.

But that said, Tommy, close the damn gates.

(Photos by John Woestendiek / ohmidog!)

Orange you glad your dog is yellow?

DSC06055Dog trainer Joel Silverman’s brought his road show to Columbia, Maryland last night, where he took some jabs at TV trainers who see dominating a dog as a cure-all for behavior problems.

“When people talk about being the leader right off the bat, you’ve just opened the door to jeopardizing your relationship with your animal,” Silverman told a crowd at Camp Bow Wow in Columbia.

How a dog is trained should be tailored to the dog’s personality, Silverman maintains, and trying to dominate a new dog in the first 30 days — before you’ve earned its trust — can easily backfire.

Silverman’s appearance was part of a tour to promote his book, released this summer, “What Color is Your Dog?”

While Silverman’s dog, Foster, stole the show — that’s him above delivering a letter to the mailbox — the Hollywood dog trainer and author stressed that getting to know a new dog and establishing a trusting relationship is the key to good training.DSC06056

In “What Color is Your Dog?” Silverman breaks canine personalities into five groups — red (off the wall), orange (high strung), yellow (mellow), green  (timid) and blue (overly fearful). One type of training, he says, does not fit all. “All dogs are different,” he noted. “What works with one won’t work with the other.”

Silverman is a career animal trainer, having started at Sea World in San Diego, where he trained dolphins, sea lions and killer whales. He worked for more than 25 years training animals for movies, TV shows and commercials. He was host, of ”Good Dog U” on Animal Planet.

Silverman said 90 percent of dogs fall into the orange, yellow and green ranges of his color spectrum. About 5 percentof dogs can be classified as red, and 5 percent as blue.

Dogs in the blue and green categories need to be motivated, while those in the red and orange range need to be calmed down.

The goal is to move the dog through training practices individualized for each type of dog and reach the middle (yellow) level.

Silverman and Foster are traveling the country in a large bus for the book tour, to which he’s added stops at pet expos, dog training centers and doggie day care facilities.

He said he and his dog have traveled 20,000 miles since March, visiting 60 cities.

What color is your dog’s personality?

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The techniques matchmaking services use to help humans meet their mates are increasingly being used by animal shelters, and for pretty much the same reason  — in hopes of ensuring lasting bonds.

The ASPCA’s “Meet Your Match” program has been adopted by at least 200 shelters across the country since it was created in 2000, including at the The Minnesota Valley Humane Society.

“The reason we started doing it is because many people come in for a certain breed of dog, and the program helps to gear people to look more at personality rather than breed,” adoptions coordinator Michelle Bauer told the Pioneer-Press.meet-your-match

The color-coded system matches dogs to adopters, based on an evaluation of both. Dogs are evaluated in five areas, including friendliness, playfulness and energy level, and then assigned a color — green, orange or purple.

The dog adopter, after a survey that includes questions about his or her own lifestyle, living arrangements and energy level, gets assigned one of three colors. Those dogs of the same color are considered the best matches, but potential adopters aren’t restricted to that choice.

Last year, 848 dogs were adopted from the Minnesota Valley Humane Society; 37 of them were returned. Shelter officials hope the program will reduce the number that are returned.

Dogs are divided into three basic categories: the high energy ones (couch potato, constant companion, teachers pet), medium energy ones (wallflower, busy bee, goofball) and high energy ones (life of the party, go-getter and free spirit).

My dog, I think, is a goofball, midway — or a little more — through the transition to couch potato, much like his owner.

You can find it all further explained  in a section of the ASPCA’s website.

The Maryland SPCA, not affiliated with the ASPCA, uses a similar system to categorize the personality and energy levels of its adoptable dogs. The dog above, for example,Davidson, a Labrador mix, is classified as a “swinging tap dancer … comfortable going on long walks or just lying around the house.”  He’s currently available for adoption at the Maryland SPCA.

(Photo courtesy Maryland SPCA)