Blue, my Standard Schnauzer, is young and energetic. He needs lots of exercise or he finds alternate ways to entertain himself, most of which involve the destruction of my shoes, flower beds, and other property. So, in addition to nightly walks around our neighborhood, at least once a week I take him to one of the local dog parks so that he can run off leash and use up some of his amazing store of energy.
Although I was concerned, at first, about turning Blue loose with a bunch of other dogs, what I have discovered is that dogs will generally get along amazingly well, if their humans will just leave them the heck alone. In fact, dogs get along much better than a similar sized group of humans would.
So how does that work?
First of all, when a new dog appears at the gate to the enclosure, most of the other dogs gather around to greet (sniff, smell, and otherwise assess) the newcomer. Frequently, a dog or dogs will pair off with the newcomer right at the gate and head off to play. This is completely different behavior from a human party where the latest arrival must find some way to approach others who are already engaged in conversation and risk being rejected. There are no outsiders at a dog party.
Another thing that I have noticed is that dogs are not afraid to do their own thing. Some dogs love to chase after balls or Frisbees, others like to run, a few like to just sit in the wading pool, and some love to wrestle with another dog. Blue’s favorite thing is to find a bigger dog with similar energy and “play rough”. At the dog park, nobody cares what anybody else is doing, because everybody is having a good time.
If a couple of dogs do happen to run afoul of each other, usually the simple curl of a lip is enough for both parties to decide to walk away. In several years of regular dog park attendance, I have only witnessed two instances of “dog fights” both of which were over in around 10 seconds without injury. Once a dog has said his piece, he gets over it and moves on.
Maybe we should all take a lesson from our pets and let our behavior “go to the dogs”.