No More Toys

It’s so obvious that even the young girl at the park knew it: Taking toys to the dog park is a bad idea because the dogs might fight over them. So spoke the wise sage, who couldn’t have been older than eight.

And yet, for months (years?), I’ve been taking Cali to the park to play ball. She’s obsessed with her ball. Only her ball; she won’t touch any other ball. And when she’s there, she gets nervous if too many other dogs are playing nearby. They might take her ball. It has happened; and, with some dogs, it’s a challenge to get her precious ball back.

With all that I know about dogs, you’d think I would see the writing on the wall. Smell the coffee. Choose your cliché. I didn’t, until this morning, when Cali actually lunged at another dog.

Yes. Sweet, gentle Cali, who loves all humans and nearly all non-humans. Who wants to befriend the cats and birds and squirrels that Jana is trying so hard to chase. Cali, who comically crouches and grovels, trying to convince tiny Chihuahuas and toy poodles that she’s eager to play with or submit to — not harm — them.

Barley, who owns the above-mentioned wise child and their mom, is a goofy, energetic, one-year-old golden doodle. He’s at that precarious stage where he’s lost his “puppy license” but doesn’t yet understand all the rules of civilized dog play. When he gets out of bounds, the grown-up dogs at the park reprimand him rather than tolerating the puppyish misbehavior. Most are very appropriate; he usually reacts well, and the play continues. We are very lucky to have an extremely nice group of regular dogs and dog parents, and the dog play is nearly always healthy and energetic; I’ve rarely seen dogs behave aggressively.

Barley was inviting Cali to play. His energy might well have been too much for her; she’s pretty sensitive. But she usually just hunkers protectively over her ball and ignores the other dogs. Or picks up her ball and walks away.

At least, she did. Until today.

Barley ran by, seemingly trying to take her ball, and she jumped up and barked. She might have even growled a little. Cali!

I scolded her and was on my way over to leash her up and go when … she did it again! Barley’s mom was very nice about it, but I was mortified. Cali usually has better manners than that. And I should know better.

The truth is, I had been thinking about leaving the ball at home. I was not expecting Cali to lash out at another dog, but I was hoping to encourage her to play with the other dogs. When Alberta is here, Alberta plays with other dogs and tries to get Cali involved. It seems like such a great way for Cali to get exercise. A lot better than lying in the grass clutching her ball, anyhow.

So that’s it. No more toys at the dog park for Cali. And a big bonk on the head with a rolled-up newspaper for me.

3 thoughts on “No More Toys

  1. Given that dogs are generally considered mentally similar to a 2-3 yr old child, and given my education with 2 children, there are a few guidelines that are always worth remembering:
    1. They generally play well in pairs, but introduce a 3rd party and you may have problems.
    2. They are basically selfish. A giving lifestyle is learned over many years and so sharing toys may not be on their agenda at any given time.
    3. They may well be generally sociable but then, for no obvious reason, they dislike a situation.
    4. They are less trouble when the whole group is supervised…. even the ones you don’t know but who are playing close by.

    It really is like having kids all over again except that, in our Ray’s case, his mouth is bigger; his teeth are stronger; his jaw strength is commands respect! 🙂


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