Monday, May 28, 2007

Dog Parks and Sensitive Border Collies

SUMMARY: In which we go to the dog park, twice, and Boost is overwhelmed.

I took the dogs to the dog park this weekend. Boost has never been to a dog park. I don't remember whether Tika ever has, either, but she's less skittish than The Booster.

The park I went to has a very large, interestingly shaped space with trees and rocks and different textures and levels and things. And it has a separate big dog and little dog area. The thing that was funny was that all the little dogs' owners brought them into the big dog area. I think maybe that's where all the fun stuff happens!

When we got there first thing in the morning, there were 4 labs (one a puppy), a couple of medium-sized mixed breeds, and a black brindle frenchie! Boost was very intimidated by all the other dogs, but she has a good friend, Elliot the black brindle Frenchie, who's the same age she is, and they've been playing together since they were a few months old. So guess who she picked out of the crowd and kept trying to get to play with her! Yup, the Elliot look-alike! He didn't mind her, but also didn't seem particularly interested, either. She did get him to follow her around a little bit, but then he just plonked right down on the ground, panting, and wouldn't move. Poor Booster.

After a while, and after some of the other dogs left, she played a little bit with the 4-month-old Lab puppy, and then when she tired THAT one out, she got one of the mixes to chase her like crazy twice around the park, which tired THAT one out, then we went for a 2-mile walk on one of those paved urban bicycle/jogging/walking paths that threads along the stream bed. It's a pretty popular one, and it was a nice day--overcast and cool, perfect for brisk activity. By the end of our 2 miles (1 out, 1 back), Boost was getting stressy about all the people jogging or cycling past, which I was thinking meant that she was finally a bit tired.

We went back to the dog park to get a drink; lots more dogs there this time, at least a dozen, and she was a little freaked. Ran to the nearest bench with a person on it, jumped up on the bench, and sat down and snuggled up against the person and then watched the dogs mill around her with some hesitant curiosity. But when I insisted that she get off the bench, she kept tucking tail and running and hiding under or behind one of the benches.

So we walked down around the corner to the far end, where there were just a couple of Jack Russell Terriers playing with their owners who were sitting on a bench. We hung out there a little bit and finally when one of the JRTs was alone, Boost got up the courage to approach, then they both did the play bow thing and started playing briefly. But that got the other dogs' attention, and the other JRT and a medium-small mixed breed came running over, and that did in her brain completely. Not only did she dive under the bench, but she showed her teeth and started snapping every time one of the dogs put its nose down near her.

I shouldn't have gone back when she was already tired and stressed about the walk, I guess. But I also think I should be doing more of that, gradually over time, if I could figure out a time of day when there wouldn't be many dogs there. I just hate driving 20 minutes each way for a 10-minute dog park session, you know?

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