Saturday, February 23, 2008

Puppy Parent Profiling

Belmont Shore is pretty much puppy paradise. Dogs are welcomed almost everywhere you go: the banks, the boutiques, the outdoor cafes. The pup population is so high that you have to be careful not to trip over the many courtesy water bowls that clutter the sidewalks on second street. Despite the overwhelming pro-dog vibe, it's important to remember that even very well-trained dogs still need to be carefully supervised whenever you go into a public area (both off-leash play areas, as well as during on-leash outings.) Your own dog might be friendly, patient, gentle, and obedient... but you can't control the actions of other dogs, and (even more importantly!) of other people.

The great majority of the pet parents I meet are considerate, respectful, alert, and responsible, however it's important to remember that not all dog owners are alike. Some are kind but careless, some are delusional, and (sadly) some are just... creepy! I'm always hesitant to participate in "dog breed profiling," but, in my book, humans are fair (& funny) game! Here are some problematic archetypes to look for when out and about with your dog:

"The Desperate Housewife": That well-intentioned and otherwise wonderful woman who seems preoccupied with chatting up the other fabulous puppy parents. Often seen with a retractable leash, cellphone, and Starbucks in hand. Doesn't notice that her dog has peed on your shoe, stolen a pack of cigarettes, and devoured (yum! delicious!) another dog's poo...

"The Macho Man": The serious-eyebrowed guy who has overly assertive gestures and posturing, yells at his dog, or uses physical punishment in any way. Often spotted playing tug-of-war, and accompanied by a sidekick to impress with his disciplinarian training techniques.

"The Kid-at-Heart": That superhyper, overly-energized, extra-demonstrative child (or adult!) who's nonstopfidgeting or running around, screaming, jumping, and/or generally freaking out. Prone to talking really fast, in a continual high-pitched tone. Very animated and tends to want to hug & kiss every canine in sight.

"The It's Cool Dude": The waaaaaay laid-back guy who's completely cool with everything. His dog is quite frequently off-leash, and pretty much anything his dog does is OK with him (including jumping on you, growling at your dog, chasing neighborhood cats, knocking over your latte, knocking over your infant...) He's often spotted sitting or shuffling slowly about, repeating: "oh, it's OK..." followed by: " dog just loves people ... my dog just loves other dogs... my dog just loves playing..." etc.

"The Codependent": That supernice lady with the dog that seems glued to her. She usually prefers to carry her small breed. If she bucks tradition and has a larger breed, the pup is often rightrightRIGHT by her side, sometimes darting behind her legs (barking & snarling, retreating... barking & snarling, retreating.) Often seen flustered and embarrassed, apologizing for her dog's cranky behavior, muttering things to her dog like: "you're really grumpy today, aren't you?... it's alright, it's alright... settle down now..." and muttering things to surrounding humans such as: "he's usually not like this... he's really tired today... he's actually a really sweet dog...he's harmless..." etc.

The above descriptions are somewhat exaggerated stereotypes. But believe me, mildly less extreme versions of these people (as cartoony as they seem) are all over the place (some of them might even be your closest friends, co-workers, or family!...On a bad day, some of them might even be YOU!) I must admit that I, myself, am prone to sudden "Kid-at-Heart" outbursts of superhighenergy giggly fast-talking...

Awareness is everything, and by observing a pet parent's demeanor, you can better anticipate the kind of supervision your dog might need in your combined company. When arriving at any public location, take a look at those around you, both canine and human, and adjust your level of interaction accordingly (based on your observations, intuition, and your individual dog's temperament.)

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