By Justin Lorentz
“Most unofficial rules are just common sense rebranded”
It’s an unofficial rule that when someone brings a toy to a park, their dog can’t be the only one allowed to play with it. I am fascinated by dogs that love to fetch, but it’s a double-edged sword. The dog can have an amazing time every time it’s out because its joy is in finding, retrieving and bringing back a ball. On the other side, that joy depends on the owner’s willingness to toss that ball over and over.
Bring that dog to an off-leash park and an interesting dynamic develops: the other dog(s) will eventually nab the ball. For my dog, ball theft is only meant to illicit a chase. If that’s ineffective they’ll get bored and release the ball. For other dogs it may just mean they bring it to their owner in hopes of a throw.
It’s an unofficial off-leash park rule that the toy you bring temporarily becomes the park’s toy until you leave. It’s a tough rule and I (like many dog owners I know) found it annoying to follow, so I stopped bringing toys to the off-leash park.
Dogs don’t need to have good recall or need to know how to drop a toy to join the off-leash park party. As a result, assume it may be tough to retrieve any toy you release into the park back from another dog. You can hunt for the toy on your own at the park, but the only time it’s OK to ask someone to get their dog to return the toy is when you either don’t intend to use it any more or you’re ready to leave.
It’s challenging when someone asks for their dog’s toy ball that is in your dog’s mouth, only to throw it again in the park and for your dog to grab it again. As Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. If your dog can’t have a good time without chasing its ball, consider using the ball in a less populated setting, or consider bringing multiple balls with the expectation that other dogs may temporarily nab one.