Separate Them Before They Start Humping: How To Prevent Awkward Dog Park Situations

by Frances Taylor

One in three people in his or her 20s is a dog owner. Just kidding! I actually just made that up. I guess it could be true, but don’t hold me to it. I can tell you though that if you own a dog or any other pet, you’re probably a much happier, calmer person who feels warm and fuzzy inside after hugs and cuddles with your pet.

This should be reason enough to get you to run out to your local shelter and adopt a pet today! If you are a dog owner, you are also probably very familiar with the painful social awkwardness that can accompany taking your dog to the dog park.

From an outsider’s point of view, a dog park may seem like an area where dog owners stand around while their dogs play and run and establish powerful canine loving bonds. However, as an insider, you know that going to the dog park guarantees that you will experience some sort of terribly awkward moment, which will have you ruminating over if not completely regretting this event for the next week.

Here’s how to prepare for the inevitability of social awkwardness (which according to statistics will occur when you have a handful of poo.)

Dress Appropriately

What you wear is important. Don’t wear nice work clothes and don’t dress like a wreck either. You might actually end up conversing with someone and you don’t want to feel self-conscious that your shirt bottom doesn't meet the top of your pants and there’s a whole lot of underwear in between. Dog parks are great places to meet new friends.

Wear something comfortable that can get dirty. It seems obvious, but when someone’s dog leaves a dusty/muddy paw print on your pants you don’t want to make them feel awkward and feel like they should apologize, and you also don’t want to pretend that you don’t care when those pants just came from dry cleaners.  My dog jumps like a kangaroo. I can’t apologize for this permutation of nature. When someone else’s dog jumps on me I don’t mind a bit because I am dressed one step away from looking like a crazy person.

Wear Nondescript Clothing

Also concerning what to wear is nondescript clothing. Only wear logos/cities/sports teams if you’re ready to talk about them. I wore my favorite Boston hat to the dog park one day and a cute guy asked me if I was from the city because he had just moved from there. I replied “No” (I just like the hat okay?) and couldn't follow up with anything interesting because I wasn't prepared for that kind of pressure. I can assure you the conversation died quickly after that and it was even more painful when neither of us left the park for a while.

Don’t Talk on Your Phone

Do not talk on your phone, especially if you’re the only one doing so. Everyone is listening and pretending like they're not. They are judging you and every word coming out of your mouth.

Don’t Be Bossy

Don’t point out when someone’s dog has done its business so they can go clean it up. That is rude and nosy. That person will always remember you for being rude and nosy.

Be Prepared

When someone makes small talk because both of your dogs are playing, be prepared with a few interesting things to say. Don’t divulge weird information like, “My dog loves to eat Band-Aids,” but say something thoughtful like, “Yeah, he loves to play like a puppy even though he’s 10.” This seems like common sense but when the pressure is on in moments of social awkwardness, you never know what kind of lunacy will fly out of your mouth. There is a different between "My dog is obsessed with squirrels" and “My dog has a thirst for squirrel blood.” Avoid making ostracizing comments.

Walk Away

Moments when everyone is standing around in awkward silence watching all the dogs play can be so brutal. When this happens, just walk away to another corner- do not take out your phone.  Instead, pretend that you’re getting a ball to throw or that you’re going to play with your pup separately. Suffice it to say, slowly walking away works in almost every awkward instance throughout life. In fact, if it’s extremely awkward, just get out of there. Run far away.

Dog parks are like lines at the grocery store. They are ordinary occasions for extraordinarily uncomfortable moments to occur. If you prepare yourself accordingly, say, by having a few pleasantries ready you can mitigate some of the social awkwardness that tries to swallow you whole.  These experiences can make you seriously question your ability to handle full integration into society. I can’t tell you what to do if you run out of bags though.

Photo credit: Getty Images