Town Square

Mitchell Park Dog run snobs

Original post made by Dog owner on Jan 9, 2008

I have been taking my young dog to the Mitchell Park dog run for months now. Somedays there are many dogs there, others just a few. My puppy has had different experiences there; some dogs play by themselves, others play a little rougher, chasing each other around in packs. She has been "beaten up" by other dogs, pushed to the ground, and even run around with her tail between her legs. However, I have NEVER told anyone else how to handle their animal, or ask them to leave. I took my dog there today and there was only 2 other dogs there. A woman arrived with her two children and her dog. Her dog was smaller, and barking and growling alot. My dog was simply playing with hers. Chasing her around, nipping at her etc. The woman turned to me and asked me to take my dog and leave!!! I have NEVER been so insulted. First of all, my dog is in NO WAY agressive, and second of all, it's a public park! I have a few friends who have been present at the park when others have told owners they need to take their dog and leave. There is a large group of "popular" people who frequent the park often, seem to know each others names, as well as the dogs. I try and stay clear of many of them, as they will boss you and your dog around. I COMPLETELY understand if an animal is aggressive and is threatening the safety of you or your dog, but get real! YOU DON'T OWN THE PARK, no matter how often you take your pet there. It is public property and you AREN'T THE BOSSES OF IT!


Posted by Bow-wow, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 9, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Dog runs mostly require that owners be able to control overly aggressive dog behavior, but what most people don't understand is that there is natural pecking order behavior that occurs when dogs are off leash. It looks like aggression, and it is, but the dogs understand who is boss, almost immediately. Let nature take its course, unless you see a dog being severely mauled. Even mild neck-biting and nipping is pretty normal. Some dogs will actually expose their undersides as they submit to growls.

Posted by M, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 9, 2008 at 4:22 pm

I COMPLETELY agree. The people at this park have a very weird sense of self policing, it is more like self appointed dictator style of policing. You are obviously, like me, not one of the "cool" people with no sense of parity and justice.

I have also had several problems at this park. Sometimes, my dog is being pinned by dogs twice her size that are growling at her, and have their mouths around her neck and starting to shake her, I try to separate the dogs and get told "leave your hands off my dog, you really should not be here", other times she is running around and play bowing and bouncing and people say, "looks like you should leave, cause your do dog is bothering my dog and I don't want to take any time to deal with my dog right now as I am a lazy dog owner and want to blame everyone else for my problems".

I left Berkeley because I couldn't stand the self righteous nature of the citizens, and now I am starting to think this area is worse. What ALL of these people forget is this is a PUBLIC park and they have NO right to tell somebody to leave. If they really have a problem, they need to have the authorities deal with it and sort out who should be the one leaving.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 4:28 pm

As a park frequenter due in part to my kids' sports, I have noticed that the dog run at Mitchell Park is used much more than the runs at Hoover Park and Greer Park. I have seen dogs come out of cars parked at Hoover School, big suvs, etc. so I can't say it is because people walk there, but there are always lots of dogs at Mitchell and rarely any at the other two parks.

If you drive to a dog run, it might be worth checking out the other two runs.

Posted by peanut, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 9, 2008 at 4:41 pm

I agree that the Mitchell Park dog park is always full in comparison to Greer and Hoover. Unfortunately, right now Hoover park is under construction so the whole park (including the dog run) in closed. The Greer dog park, if you could call it a park, is VERY small and it more like a dog run since it is only about 15 feet wide. My dog gets more exercise in my own backyard.

I think Palo Alto needs to have a better area to let dogs play off leash, and that the Mitchell Park bullies need to be put in their place! The dogs seem to work out their own hierarchy issues, and the owners should stay out of it, and remember it is a public park to be used by everyone!

Posted by Logical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 6:23 pm


"I left Berkeley because I couldn't stand the self righteous nature of the citizens"

Sorry to say, but you left the "pot" for the "frying pan"

Posted by JP, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 9, 2008 at 7:12 pm

I COMPLETELY agree with "Dog Owner". There is a misconception that the dog run is a private park for the benefit of a select few. It seems to be forgotten that this is a PUBLIC park supported by ALL the residents of Palo Alto. There is also the misconception that dogs should behave like people. Dogs are dogs - they run, they nip, they bite, and occasionally, they growl. Of course violent or overly aggressive behavior cannot be tolerated, but normal dog play is, well, normal. Anyone not comfortable with such behavior should not take their dog to a park where other dogs are present. I have a small shnauzer who can easily be overtaken by a large dog. When he cannot handle it, I remove him from the situation, I don't expect the big dogs to leave just because my dog is smaller. On recent visits to the Mitchell Park run members of my family have observed other people being insulted or told leave for no reason other than the members present don't like the dogs and or owners arriving. There is a level of rudeness that is pretty disturbing, and I have heard from other people these experiences are not uncommon. It seems puppies are especially targeted - not for their aggressive behavior but because of their rambunctiousness. Unfortunately, "Dog Owners" experience is not limited to the Mitchell Park run, I left a park after a woman informed me my dog was too fat and for his health I needed to exercise him more. (According to our vet he is not too fat, and as for exercise duh- why do you think we were at the park)- I went to the park for a relaxing time with my dog, not to be dissed by a judgemental know-it-all. Dog runs are for dogs. People should focus on their own behavior -control their own dogs - and leave others alone.

Posted by Humphrey, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jan 9, 2008 at 7:45 pm

"I left Berkeley because I couldn't stand the self righteous nature of the citizens"

And you moved to Palo Alto???? You're kidding, right??

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 9, 2008 at 8:58 pm

FWIW, my spouse goes to the Mitchell dog park once a week and says she's never had anything negative happen there. Her experience is that the people are friendly and accomodating. That's not to invalidate the experiences of others; rather, just pointing out it is not all bad out there.

Posted by Doggie Play Area, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 9, 2008 at 10:34 pm

Yes, the dog run at Greer Park is ridiculously small. However, there is a large part of Greer Park which is left wild. I would suggest that dog owners start lobbying the City to have a much bigger dog run built on the naturally wild section of the park.

Posted by I hate cars, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 10, 2008 at 9:29 am

Palo Alto has the worse Dog parks I've seen and I've seen alot. I totally agree with the post; and stopped going to Mitchel Park years ago for these very reasons. Mountain View Dog Park at the entrance to Shoreline is fantastic and has nothing but great, nice, KNOWLEDGABLE patron. Go There!

Posted by not a dog owner, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2008 at 9:41 am

My sympathies are with the original poster.
However, at the same time, this is spot on for a Palo Alto experience...

Posted by PAly77, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:15 am

I do not have a dog, but my ssiter has two.
It seams that the PA parks can be uninviting at times!
However, the city of San Ramon has a model dog run.
Me and my son Race a lot of BMX out at Memorial Park, and we have observed that the San Ramon residents are very supportive, and friendly!
OF course it helps when the dog park has a good design. The San Ramon edition hast an area for large, and smaller dogs. With this in mind the pecking order playing field has been equalized! Er, of course this is based on personal observation only!
Good luck to all.

Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 10, 2008 at 11:24 am

Paul Losch from Palo Alto Parks and Recreation Commission here.

Please keep this discussion going. The Commission had a couple hearings about dog matters in 2007, and we intend to tackle this entire matter in 2008. Dog runs are a big part of this issue.

Our regular meeting will take place the 22nd January, Tuesday, at 7pm in the City Council conference room at City Hall. At that time, we will be finalizing our priorities for 2008, and there likely will be some discussion about how to involve community members with an interest in addressing the dog matter.

My beagle will not participate, due to a conflict of interest.

Posted by Duchesa of Midtown, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:03 pm

I agree with the complainers, and agree with the suggestion that the Mitchell Park dog park be divided in for small and one for large dogs. Its a huge area and should accommodate both sizes perfectly.

Posted by Dog sitter, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I am not a dog owner, but I have grown up with dogs and often dog sit and dog walk. The problems with the present dog runs are that they are not pleasant places for many reasons. Mitchell Park is well used and I have preferred Hoover Park, however that run is closed at present and we will have to wait and see what it will be like when the park reopens. Greer Park is hard to find until you know where it is and many people are unaware of its existence.

The other big problem with Mitchell Park is that it is dirt and not grass. Many dogs do not like to run on dirt and prefer grass, and the owners do not like how dirty the dogs get when running there even in summer, as they then have to get back into cars rather than walk home. Keeping grass in the dog runs should be possible.

I also think that an area should be made available where we can walk with dogs off leash. This need not be every day 24/7, but a few hours at weekends and perhaps one morning a week would be a great compromise. This could be well publicised and for those residents who are wary of off leash dogs it would only be one area and for such a short time overall that sharing the facilities should work.

Posted by Dogs-Run-People-Fight, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 1:41 pm

> The woman turned to me and asked me to
> take my dog and leave!!!

So call the police next time and let them sort it out.

Posted by Not everyone loves your dog, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 10, 2008 at 3:44 pm

I would not want the city to spend large sums on dog parks. Keeping dogs is a privilege and those who want them should pay for the amenities they request.
I know this is heresy, but the truth is, not everyone loves your dog, in fact, dogs in the public are often a nuisance.

Posted by Doggie Play Area, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Not everyone loves your dog; creating a dog play area is much cheaper than building tennis courts or installing a soccer field both of which have been suggested for the undeveloped area of Greer Park.

I see many empty tennis courts around this City, because the tennis lobby is very active. I see very little space given to dogs and their owners because the dog owners aren't as organized at lobbying the City as the tennis players.

Mitchell Park is always crowded with dogs of all sizes; we need to create another decent sized dog run at Greer Park, and I don't even own a dog!!!!

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Not everyone

The truth is that not everyone wants amenities for dogs. However, not everyone wants tennis courts, libraries, swimming pools, play structures, and so on. You may not want a dog park, but a dog part is for members of the community who want and use them. They are an asset which is reflected in your home value and the cost is written into property taxes. If everyone only got the amenities they wanted and paid for, our community would not be a community but a business park.

Let us have good facilities for those that want them and the benefits of which are for us all. Without dog parks, we would probably have dogs running all over the place (which some may say we have already due to the condition of the parks).

Posted by JP, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 10, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Not everyone loves kids either, but we still provide parks for them. The issue here is not whether Palo Alto should have a dog park, but whether the dog parks in existence are open and available to all members of the community. I do not think it would cost the city too much to post a sign advising users that it is a public park, and to respect the rights of everyone to be there. Absent injury or threat of injury, I don't believe anyone would consider calling the police to settle a dispute. Common sense and respect should prevail and anyone not happy with others present should be the one to leave. And to the previous poster - owning a dog is one of those quality of life things that people in Palo Alto seem to appreciate. The dog run is a fenced in area in the back corner of Mitchell Park. The dogs and owners that use this area are separated from the public, and do not create a nuisance for anyone. You do not have to like dogs to recognize that bullying behavior is wrong. I for one am grateful the city provides places for recreation and enjoyment for everyone - parents, kids, and dogs.

Posted by taxpayer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 6:13 pm

> I for one am grateful the city provides places for
> recreation and enjoyment for everyone - parents,
> kids, and dogs

Providing open space for residents (and their critters) is one of the functions of city government, isn't it? We should not be grateful for that which we pay taxes.

Posted by Member, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 10, 2008 at 7:53 pm

I havent been to Mitchell in a while because it is such a pit. I had to use it when my dog was a pup because of his energy level, but every chance we got we went to Mtn Vw, Foster City, Fremont and other places with better dog parks. This seems ridiculous given the taxes we pay in PA and all the other amenities we all pay for that serve only a few, ie. what percentage of PA residents have a plot in the community gardens, use the bbq's at Rinconada, play on the numerous tennis courts. Updating Mitchell, finding a more central place for another one and bringing things like water, shade, and separating big and small dogs is way past due.

As for self policing, a couple of times some old ladies got in a huff and said their dogs dont like big dogs (I have one) and they would have to leave if I came in with mine. I told them I wasn't leaving and they left in a huff. Too bad for them. Its a public park. However, knowing something about dog behavior, pointing out what is play and what isnt, is always helpful.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 10, 2008 at 8:20 pm


I knew we did our shopping outside Palo Alto and used other cities' libraries, but I didn't realise we were using other cities' dog runs.

What other amenities do we go outside Palo Alto for? Or would it be better to say what amenities do we stay inside Palo Alto for?

Posted by Arnold, a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:04 am

Palo Alto has some good restaurants.

Posted by DeOGee, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:05 am

In every PA dog park, official and unofficial, there seems to be at least one self appointed warden who loves to order other dog owners around and criticize them and their dogs. One of the traits common to those self appointed authoritarians is the belief that dogs should be expected to behave just like humans, and if they don't, they are bad and dangerous dogs and their owners are irresponsible. In the unofficial but popular Garland site(Stratford school now), the self appointed dictator is a British born woman who has a habit of bullying other dog owners and criticizing, rather rudely, their skills as dog owners. Most dog owners in PA are good people who believe in the 'love and let live' principle, but some are so insufferable that for the last few years I have been walking my dog around town while avoiding dog parks and dog runs like the plague.

Posted by Joanna, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 11, 2008 at 9:31 am

I agree with the original poster. I'd ignore those bossy types. They don't own the park.

Posted by z, a resident of El Carmelo School
on Jan 11, 2008 at 10:41 am

In the case of the Mitchell Park dog run in my experience, it isnt just one "self appointed warden." (although there may be, who knows, I'm not there 24/7) I have noticed, however, there is a group of regulars who feel they own the dog park. My friends and I have been there several times when they asked other patrons to leave because of their hyper-active dogs. The dogs who were asked to leave were not violent, agressive, or even very large, they were just younger dogs wanting to play. As far as ignoring these people, it would be wonderful if everyone could do that, but in reality, it's not an easy thing to do, especially when it is a group of people ganging up on you telling you your dog is dangerous and needs to leave.

Not to say that the Mitchell Park dogpark is all bad, I have had many positive experiences there, however I second guess myself everytime I think of going because I know there is a possibility of this group being there.

Posted by Toni, a resident of Community Center
on Jan 11, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Imagine the absurdity of attempting to keep a child from blinking, sneezing or crying when upset or sick. Imagine labeling the parent of a child acting out her natural instincts and reflexes as a bad parent and the child as dangerous. As a dog owner, I witness far too often other owners who absurdly expect dogs not to follow their natural instincts of establishing a pecking order or warning another pesty dog to back off. I really believe that people who expect dogs to behave like humans in a church meeting shouldn't be allowed to own dogs. My large, sweet natured and very unaggressive dog used to be pested by a small yapping dog whose owner never ordered it to stay away from my dog. My dog would very patiently allow that very annoying little dog to bark in his ear, which must have been very painful and jump on his back. One time, the little dog bit my dog's ear and my dog, blood running from his ear, emitted a couple warning bark without even touching the small dog. The small dog's owner went into hysteria, blaming my dog of trying to kill her "baby" and me for being an irresponsible owner. She asked other owners to put pressure on me to stop bringing my dog to the dog park and then proceeded to call animal services and file a complaint against my dog. My dog's reputation from then on in that particular park has been that of an aggressive, vicious dog and many of the regulars stopped even talking to me. Needless to say, I don't take my dog to any dog park in Palo Alto, since that type of behavior by dog owners is all too common.

Posted by Raza, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 11, 2008 at 1:58 pm

I have noticed that some dog owners in Palo Alto, far too many to my taste, tend to be very cliquish and give others the cold shoulder, so to speak. The park I used to frequent had a number of dog owners who seemed to know each other and socialized often. They tended to treat "outsiders" coolly or ignore them all together. When one of their dogs got involved in a real, or more likely perceived "fight" with an "outsider" dog, they would gang up on the outsider. I would hear gems like:"in this park we don't approve of aggressive dogs and irresponsible owners, so it would be best if you don't come here anymore, for everybody's sake". The group mentality was so pervasive, they would make it socially too uncomfortable for owners they didn't like to continue to bring their dogs to the park. Just like other posters above have mentioned, the common thread seemed to be that they misconstrued natural dog behavior like chasing one another or establishing the pecking order with deadly aggression. I once overheard one of the "clique" members berate a poor owner for not preventing his dog from urinating on her son's tricycle with all her friends clicking their approval of the dressing down.

Posted by Duane, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:28 pm

If a person tries to boss you, inform them that you won't stand for it. Let them know they do not have police power.

The attitude of a single person or group that tries to define or restrict normal dog behavior and ask you to leave is socially unacceptable.

Attend the Parks and Recreation Commission meeting of Jan. 22. Mr Paul Losch is one of the most reasonable men I've encountered and will listen to all presentations carefully and fairly.

Posted by jill, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:39 pm

It seems to be the owners of small dogs and vanity dogs like poodles that are the most difficult because they treat their dogs like humans.

Their dogs do not seem to learn dog language and they get in trouble.

In my experience dogs sort out their relationships bloodlessly and quickly if they are properly socialized at an early age.

By the way the dog park is a muddy disaster in the winter and a dusty disaster in the summer.

Posted by Raza, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

Duane, what you write is perfectly sensible, correct and reasonable, but in reality things don't work that way. Bossy dog owners who have unreasonable and often absurd notions of what dog behavior ought to be tend to stay that way no matter what you say to them. They seem to be extremely efficient at creating such an unwelcoming social atmosphere for those they don't like, that their victims usually decide that it's not worth the trouble and stop bringing their dogs. For some reason, cliques, group thinking and group mentality seems to be very common in our dog parks. Unfortunately, the Parks&Recreation Commission has no control over that.

Posted by Karey, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 11, 2008 at 5:10 pm

Don't know what to say about dog people who want to tell other dog people what to do, but what about the fact that Mitchell Park's dog area is dirt and not grass (yuck). It's dirt because it is oversubscribed. A lawn can't grow happily there with the number of dogs that use that area. How about wood chips?

Dog parks in general. I run my dog at my local neighborhood park because we can walk there, run around like crazy, and walk home. It would adds orders of magnitude of complexity/hassle to my morning routine if I were to have to drive somewhere to exercise my dogs. I'd love to have my city taxes help keep my morning routine simple and stress-free! I think my local park (like most) is too small to support a dedicated dog area - that would take away too much from the major usage by the neighborhood's kids (which IS essential - a tired kid is a good kid - I don't have kids but I can appreciate that kids are dogs too). I do like the idea of somehow formalizing the informal morning arrangement that you see all over the city, of dog people running their dogs in their local parks early in the morning and (trying to) staying out of people's way when doing so. I don't know how to do this "dog-hours-at-the-park" formalization while still guaranteeing no dog-vs-people incidents occur (although if parks welcomed dogs for example in the morning, would there be fewer people using local school yards to exercise their dog?), but I'd sure like to try to think of something. Reducing car trips would be nice. Supporting dog people who want their dogs tired out would be nice (a tired dog is a good dog). Increasing dog exercise area opportunities and decreasing conflicts that arise from oversubscribed facilities would be nice...

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 11, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Karey, that sounds like a good suggestion for Paul & Co. to consider at the commission. I can see challenges, but the green angle is pretty good!

Posted by Nancy, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 11, 2008 at 7:09 pm

I thought that this thread was more about the absurd behavior of some dog owners and not about finding more space for dog runs. Someone here mentioned the British born woman who is a "self appointed warden" of the unofficial dog park in the old Garland site. I used to take my dog to that location and found the behavior of that particular woman so rude, insulting and abhorant that I just stopped going there, as did at least 7-8 other dog owners that I know. She would critique people about their dog handling skills in a loud voice, admonish people for letting their dogs run "too fast" and generally behaved as if she owned the place and was doing the others a favor by letting them use the site. She has got to be the most obnoxious and rude person I ever encountered and for the life of me I cannot understand why the others allowed her to get away with such behavior.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 11, 2008 at 7:41 pm

How about some serious fees for dog licences. I think that the fee should be an annual rather than one time payment and that there could be an exemption for seniors and the disabled. If there was a licence fee which could pay for a dog warden who could frequent all parks on an occasional basis to check on behavior (from both dogs and their owners) and to check the licence tag of all dogs, it could produce some badly needed funding to improve the facilities.

Most dog owners I know are very responsible, but there is a lot of ignorance about how to look after the animals. Classes should also be mandatory for all those applying for a licence for the first time and then there should also be dog training classes too.

This may sound far fetched, but if this happened I feel sure that the dogs themselves would benefit more than anyone, but the community as a whole would be better off too.

Posted by GreenMeadowLarkLemon, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 11, 2008 at 8:38 pm

I used to go there too, but I found it to too cliquish to continue. I didn't really care what your dog's name was and when asked what my dog's name was I just made up different names. It seemed that most people were just dying to tell you what sort of obscure Labra-Doodle-whatever-mix special dog theirs was and seemed somewhat offended if you did not ask. What does it matter really anyway? They are just dogs for gosh sakes. I think it reflects the somewhat limited public social outlets that some of these long timers have left. I feel that if they have a tendency to get mayoral about the park just ignore them. What are they really hurting anyway if you just don't feed them?

The straw for me was some Nutjob's male dog went around to other new male dogs and did the alpha dog thing of quickly attacking my male dog, well my guy would have none of that and gave it right back to him reversing his dog's perceived alpha-dog status in an instant. NJ ran over screaming at the top of its lungs about how my dog is an aggressive dog and I need to take him out of there. Other dog owners piped up that NJ's dog started it but NJ could not control itself from that moment on. Out of concern for said NJ's safety I decided that life was too short for this kind of limp-wristed crap and I just let it have its safe little postage stamp of perceived reality. To this day when NJ's dog sees mine from across the street he flips out and barks off his head and tries to drag NJ across the street. Feel . . . leash . . . slipping . . . from . . . hand.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 12, 2008 at 9:44 am

many dog owners, as indicated by many of the comments on this thread, have no understanding of dogs and how and why they interact in certain ways. The apply to dogs the same standards and expectation they would to children, and freak out when the dogs behave in entirely different manners. Dogs use what some adult perceive as fighting or rape(mounting) to determine the pecking order, a process that's wired into them genetically. It's very rare for normal dogs to actually hurt each other, even when they play "rough". Owners don't do their dogs any favors by being so protective and paranoid about "rough" play. Some dogs, especially pit bulls are bred to kill game during a hunt and shouldn't be allowed to play with other dogs in a public place, but most dogs should be allowed to play and work out their pecking order without paranoid owners driving everybody else crazy. An owner who cannot deal with it shouldn't own a dog in the first place.

Posted by Love my dogs, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:06 am

I have very mixed feelings about this thread, and like to think I understand many of the points of view. There are some truly clueless dog owners out there, but there are also some very "knowledgeable" people who I simply don't agree with. Dogs are not people, and shouldn't be expected to behave like kids (who, lets face it, don't always behave as we'd like either), but they can be expected to not be rude to other dogs. I don't permit that in my own dogs, and if I know they can't behave themselves, I either remove them from the situation, or preferably, don't put them in that situation to begin with (although I know I like everyone have made mistakes in the past, and have learned my dogs limits through them). My dogs no longer go to off-leash parks, or are allowed to play with unknown dogs. But if those places hadn't been available when they were younger I probably would have killed them (not literally)--they needed to burn off all that young dog energy, and needed the socialization. And because of that I put up with other obnoxious owners. My dogs are older now, and luckily for them I have devoted the back yard to their play needs--I know that is a luxury not everyone can do. I also take them for 2 1-hour walks every day. Rain or shine. As my dogs are less than accepting of every other dog now (just as I don't like every person I meet!), they are always, always, on leash. And I resent the people in the parks who have theirs off leash because their dog is "friendly", and let theirs run up to mine. I don't like putting my dogs in a situation where they can not behave themselves. I also can understand that others in the park, no matter how friendly, or small, or whatever your dog is, are deathly afraid of dogs. That is their right, and shouldn't be put in a situation where they can't go to the parks because of off-leash dogs. Therefore, I really don't think, no matter the time of day, off-leash dogs should be allowed in parks, no matter the time of day. At least in an unenclosed space, like playing fields. We definitely need more enclosed off-leash spaces. And in addition to have one for "big" dogs and "small" dogs, I think we should also have one for young dogs (say under 2 years old), who tend to have different needs and play styles than the older ones. And if a dog is being obnoxious--humping every dog that comes in, barking at other dogs, nipping other dogs, they should be removed immediately. I don't care how "dog-like" that behavior is--you can tell your dog that is not acceptable, and they can learn that. If they can't, they shouldn't be in the dog park.

Posted by on the outside looking in, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:24 am

Sounds like we should shut down these dog runs in order to keep Palo Altans from fighting with each other.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

I was referring to a situation in which there are no other people in the park, only dogs and their owners. Dogs should always be on-leash when people are present in the park. I believe that unless a dog is clearly injuring another dog, they should be allowed to be dogs, including humping. Humping, which seems to bother dog owners in particular, is an extremely important and necessary process for dogs. It determines who is the alpha and who is the follower, even during a limited interaction in the park. Dogs are still pack animals in their evolutionary process and this is genetaically wired into them. Preventing it is cruel, unnatural foolish and is really no better than preventing a child from crying.

Posted by Ken, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2008 at 12:25 pm

A dog is not a toy and owners who think of their dogs as toys should not bring them to any place where other dogs congregate and frankly, shouldn't own them.

Posted by Love my dogs, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 12, 2008 at 1:04 pm

Chris--I actually agree with most of what you are saying. Including humping. The real issue is that all these behaviors fall on a continuum, which many people don't recognize. A play bark is different than an aggressive bark. And dominance/submission displays between dogs who are truly well-socialized is also fine with me (although I, not my dog, is always alpha). But there are some dogs that are so dominant/aggressive, that they really don't belong in a dog park. And this is the problem. Different people have different standards of what is ok with them. I tend to defer to the person who is least comfortable with "dog" behavior in these situations, at least as far as what I permit my own dog to do in public. The wrestling sessions my dogs have at home would truly scare most people in the dog park! And aggressiveness has little to do with breed. In fact, often, the most aggressive/least well-behaved dogs I see in Palo Alto are the small or "friendly" breeds....

Posted by Bow-wow, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm

Another good reason to license dog *owners*, with primers in animal behavior, nutrition, and care required. THis should be a two-hour online test, that requires some real study. The license should be cost neutral, with stiff penalties for non-compliance.

Posted by Chris, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jan 12, 2008 at 3:55 pm

Love my dogs-I completely agree with you that some dogs are too aggressive to bring to the dog park. Those type of dogs are easily identifiable by their behavior, just like extremely dangerous drivers who shouldn't be allowed on the road, and their oweners should be asked to refrain from bringing them to the park. The other extreme is the owner who think of his dogs as a fragile toy, expects dogs to behave like humans and panics at normal and natural dog play and pecking order determination. These kind of owners seem to be in the majority in Palo Alto and are truly insufferable-they should be asked to join the dangerous dog owners in finding alternatives to dog parks.

Posted by Lenora, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jan 13, 2008 at 8:57 am

I have to chuckle as I read all the comments. Unfortunately this happens all over Palo Alto. Everywhere you go someone tries to tell you what you must do. I have lived in PA for 42 years and finally decided the best thing to do was leave Ca. and move to parts of the US where I can be free from the SRPA and gestapo behavior. I was threatened by a neighbor for keeping my dog on a leash while walking at Garland school as his dog, off the leash attack my dog. I think it too bad where property is so expensive that so many people there ruin the community.
"Animal Farm"

Posted by Mandy, a resident of Professorville
on Jan 13, 2008 at 10:12 am

I have owned dogs while living in Europe, South America and the Middle East, and Palo Alto is the only place where you cannot take your dog out to the dog park without getting an earful from other owners on how misbehaved your dog is and what an irresponsible owner you are. All it takes is for one "regular" to dislike you or your dog and the other "regulars" will gang up on you and make you so unwelcome, that unless you have an incredibly thick skin, you won't come back to that park. I find it amazing that in every single park I took my dog to(he is large and quite docile and friendly), there were other dog owners who couldn't wait to let me know that I doing it all wrong and how I should be a more responsible owner. I had arrived to the conclusion that life is too short for that kind of aggravation and now I just take my dog on long walks around town or to the beach when I have the time.

Posted by Angel Eyes, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 13, 2008 at 11:24 am

I'm familiar with the English born tyrant of the Garland dog park. I would gladly rather have a root canal without Novocaine than take my dog to that park when she's around.

Posted by t, a resident of another community
on Jan 13, 2008 at 12:47 pm

so glad I no longer live in "shallow" alto

Posted by Angel Eyes, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 13, 2008 at 5:08 pm

A woman I know had lost her husband to cancer. Being childless and having no other family, she got a dog, mostly for companionship and started bringing him to her neighborhood unofficial dog park. It was also a wonderful opportunity for her to make new friends and feel less lonely. It being Palo Alto, it took very little time for some know it all regulars to tell her that her dog was "too aggressive" (it wasn't) and that she was not a "responsible owner"(she was). Regulars would shun and ignore her, and even most of the new friends she had made would start ignoring her as well in order to be shunned by the "regulars". Soon it became too painful and uncomfortable for her and she stopped taking her dog to the park. This kind of know it all attitude in which some just have to tell others how things are done because they just know better is so common in Palo Alto, it makes me want to leave and find a place where people live and let others live without having such total certitude about what's the "correct" way of do everything.

Posted by Sharon, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2008 at 5:15 pm

"started bringing him to her neighborhood unofficial dog park"

Where, exactly, is that "unofficial dog park"? to my knowledge, there are only official dog parks. Did your friend, and others, allow their dogs off leash? If so, they are breaking the law. I have no patience for dog owners who allow their dogs off leash.

Posted by Daniela, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 13, 2008 at 5:37 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by jdn, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 13, 2008 at 5:48 pm

How about using the triangular piece of land in Mitchell Park between the creek and the tennis courts and the back fence of the Unitarian Church as a separate dog run for small dogs?

Posted by Gerald, a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 13, 2008 at 5:50 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Welcome to Palo Alto, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Welcome to Palo Alto.... I don't have a dog but I have children and my experience on school playgrounds after school has been very similar to yours... People who feel that they and their adorable kids own the place.

I even had parents who had known my child for a couple of years but who had never talked to me come and talk to me for the first time ever only to yell at me about my child and how terrible my child was terrible to their precious offspring (whose behavior was in all respects quite similar to that of my child).

Palo Alto is full of snobs. Thank God there are a few nice people around too.

Posted by Logical, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 13, 2008 at 8:47 pm

Welcome To Palo Alto,

You hit on something I was considering posting in this thread. Replace "Dog" with "Child" and replace "Dog Owner" with "Parent"...

The thread is just as true in that context as it is with Dogs.....

Posted by Kenny, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 14, 2008 at 7:29 am

This thread is really not about dogs, dog parks and dog owners. It's about the condescending, self righteous, know it all attitudes of so many Palo Altans. You experience it everywhere- in the dog park, playground, schoolyard, etc. The Masters Of The Universe who just know the right way, what's proper and what's not, how things should be handled and they always have to tell and remind you of it and put you in your proper place.

Posted by dog owner, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 14, 2008 at 10:57 am

Like many people who made comments here, I'm sympathetic to the poster. This may be redundant, but if someone asks you to leave for a silly reason, why don't you just politely decline and move away so you don't have to continue the conversation? You have just as much of a right to be there as they do. You're not breaking any laws, and they don't have any right to bar you from a public space. Just say no - there's nothing they can do about it! If they're bothered enough by their dog's inability to get along with yours, THEY can leave. Why does it have to be more complicated than that? Who cares about what these domineering, self-righteous people want? Just choose peaceful non-responsiveness, and they won't be able to do anything about it.

Posted by JP, a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 14, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I agree "dog owner", however it is hard to stand up to someone when you are feeling ganged up upon. It is especially hard if your intentions are to do nothing more then have some pleasant time in the park with your dog and you are blindsided by someone making you feel like a creep. Furthermore, if you do stand up to them, you are opening yourself up to a confrontation which could really complicate things. No one wants to have some jerk label your dog as aggressive or violent - those labels stick even when untrue. You could end up having to defend your dog to the authorities if the confrontation escalated, particularly if it was your word against several others. Most people would rather leave than stay to deal with such a situation. Therein lies the problem. Nice people stay away from the parks, and the bullies end up with the park to themselves. As the postings show,a lot of people have given up going to the dog parks because of such behavior.

Posted by ban gangs in PA, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2008 at 1:21 pm

How about printing a copy of this discussion and posting it at the dog run. Maybe the 'gang members' will recognize themselves??

Posted by Dog lover, a resident of Midtown
on Jan 14, 2008 at 2:26 pm

I go to Mitchell park quite frequently for the last 4.5 years. My dog is big, but very friendly and completely non-aggressive. I was never told to leave, but it happened to me quite a few times, that when poeople saw me and my dog enter the park, they would give me a dirty look and left immediately. These were always people with small dogs. They seem to be afraid that my "beast" is going to crush their precious little babies. I think maybe it would be a good idea to have 2 dog parks- one for small dogs, and one for the big guys so everybody is happy. It seems around here, size matters :)))))

Posted by Mary, a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 20, 2008 at 10:13 pm

I have had almost nothing but wonderful times at Mitchell Dog Park.
I started going there about one year ago and found that almost everyone was helpful and supportive.

I have met some wonderful people who I now consider very good friends whom I am blessed to have in my life.
I agree that everyone is responsible for their own dog and their dog should be watched. If your dog is not reliable unaggressive, please don't come.
There will always be people who are never happy w/ anything or anyone.

The park needs help. It needs to be cleaned up and it would be wonderful if there was another surface than fine dirt for the dogs.
At dry times it becomes a puff of cloudy,dirty, dusty air that is unsafe for any living being to breathe.
Lights would be a wonderful addition; desired by many.

I have never heard anyone ask to be left; to take their dog out of the park. You must stand up to these people. If your dog is under control and just playing, nipping and "being a dog" just ignore the requests of crazy people or call the police.

Lets keep this park a fun, positive, accepting place.

Posted by Sparky, a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 21, 2008 at 12:10 pm

Mary, how do you reconcile keeping the park "positive, accepting" and your admonition that "if your dog is not reliable unaggressive, please don't come?" Accepting as long as they meet your standards, hmm?

As many above have posted, they feel that aggression is a normal part of dog behavior. But you don't agree. Maybe YOU are the one that shouldn't come. What do you think? Can you be positive and accepting of them?

Maybe instead of small / large, we should have "wimpy" and "rough" zones in the dog park? Heck, we could even have them in this Forum!

Posted by Dog Mom, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 3, 2008 at 8:52 pm

A friend who doesn't have a dog told me about this discussion so I decided to check it out. Frankly, I'm amazed. Maybe I'm a dog park snob and don't even know it. But my dog and I enjoy Mitchell Park, usually in the afternoons. I've found the people to be friendly, helpful and caring. And yes, we chat about the names and ages of our dogs, why we haven't been to the park in a while and all sorts of other topics that makes the experience neighborly and fun. If things appear to be too hyper, owners usually ask each other if it's ok and/or control their dogs for a time-out. If that's snobbish, so be it. I've yet to meet anyone who changes their dog's name, something for which I'm grateful.

Maybe experiences vary by time of day? In the past year and a half, I've only seen two "controlling" incidents: some kids were asked not to come in because they obviously weren't controlling their pitt bulls; and a woman brought her dog to the park to train it and obviously didn't like the other dogs attempting to play with hers. So the 2 other people and I shrugged and left them to their training. Were we controlling? I don't think so.

The park could be improved with lights for summer nights. And it gets very windy and dusty there. Maybe some bushes would keep the wind and dust down? Some advance notice in the paper about meetings have to do with the dog park would also be nice.

The dog park is one of the nicest and friendliest things about Palo Alto and worth a lot more to me than other services, schools included, that I don't use but still fund. Live and let live.

Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2008 at 5:17 pm

Oh for God's sake, what is this, a high school comment board? The 'cool' people? The 'elitist snobs'? The 'cliques'? Grow up people. It's a free country. Stay with your dog, leave with your dog. YOUR CHOICE. Who the hell cares what someone else has to say? If they order you to leave and you don't, what are they going to do? Put you name in a slam book or talk about you in gym class? If someone gets too aggressive about it, the dog park is monitored by the City, call the cops!

I take my dogs to the Mitchell Park Dog run five days a week, all different times. There are certain 'regulars'; the same people socializing for sure, but they usually keep to themselves. Like anywhere else where people congregate, there is usually a sense of community.

I do not know most of these people, nor do I care either way if I do. If I meet them, great. If I don't, that's fine too. I have met a few, they are alright.

There are certain people who take their dogs to that particular park with whom I know there have been problems. If you frequent that park often enough, you learn which dogs are more aggressive than others, which dogs may not be fixed, which dogs are humpers. Which owners are diligent, which owners feel entitled. You can make your choice whether to leave or stay depending on what you want for YOUR animal, not based on what others say.

I have seen people asked to leave, but only once or twice. They were people with dogs who were out of control, more than once taking down another dog in a particularly aggressive manner. More often than not, I have witnessed problems with dogs that could have been handled easily, if the owners had STEPPED UP AND TAKEN RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR ANIMALS. The dog park is NOT doggie day care. It is not a spot for you to take your dog off the leash then promptly get on a cell phone blabbing while your dog runs amok. They are your responsibility, and like children, they should be WATCHED.

While I read what others wrote in here, I can't help but remember when some saggy pants thugs came into the enclosure and let their pitbulls run amok. Note that was immediately after we saw those same saggy panted kids sitting on the little hill right outside the enclosure smoking pot that they brought the dogs in. They were stoned and thought the reactions of other owners were funny. This has happened more than once. I don't find it so amusing. Run off and be counter culture all you please, but NOT around my dogs. Thanks.

Speaking of pitbulls; think what you want about that particular breed, but one reason I use the Palo Alto dogpark is because I don't see as many pitbulls in there than anywhere else. Two weekends ago, I saw a pit attack another dog at Princeton-By-The-Sea. When the owner tried to rescue his dog, HE WAS BITTEN too. The owner came onto the beach and ran off before the cops could get there.

The next day my step daughter was walking HER dog at the perc ponds in San Jose, and a woman was screaming for help at their dog run...another pitbull attack. Regardless of all the fun facts we can spout off about friendly pitbulls we have known, the basic nature of that breed, along with that powerful jaw is one that cannot be ignored. I personally prefer to not have my dogs anywhere in the vicinity of pitbulls, as well as some of their owners.

That's just one of the problems that can arise. I don't mind if the users police the dog park a bit, because it keeps the problems that have closed down other dog parks to a minimum.

I have more of an issue with the people who bring in their small children, or allow their kids to roam into the enclosure without their parents. I have more than once seen toddlers walking around while dogs were dashing about in every direction. The dog park is a place for my dog to be able to run about off leash, I think it is reasonable for people to respect the posted rules and keep their children on the other side of the fence, or; seated on the benches AT ALL TIMES. The kids have the REST OF THE PARK in which to play. Let the dogs have their small space. Last thing any of us need is for our dog to knock over one of these children.

Last, another reason I don't mind a bit of user policing is when owners bring in dogs that are in heat. Years ago my friends large male dog went after a much smaller female in heat, causing her some harm. That cost my friend a bit of money, though in that case the fact that those people brought to the park a female in heat mitigated some of the medical bill. I have been present at that dog park when people have inquired of others about the status of the other dog's neutering. More often than not, the owner with a dog who will react negatively to the unfixed dog will be the one to make the choice to leave.

As with anything, if the City sees enough whining and complaining, (two Palo Alto specialties), they will begin to think of the dog park as a potential liability then simply close them all down. Dog parks are not a right, they are a privilege. Try respecting the dog park and take one some responsibility for your own dog and you will find, as I do, that you have no problems there at all!

Posted by Disgusted, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Oh and P.S. I have a large dog (85lbs), a small to medium dog (25lbs) and a small breed six month old puppy (11lbs), and all three run about with absolutely no problem. The mixed size dogs there mingle just fine 99% of the time. I have been a user of that park since 1993, that's 15 years of largely positive experiences.

Posted by Disgusting, a resident of Monroe Park
on Apr 8, 2008 at 9:35 am

To all you dog people chasing your little unhygienic beasts with your plastic bags of poo.

Why do you need that filth in your life?


Posted by Carolyn, a resident of another community
on Apr 8, 2008 at 10:58 am

Because they have pure and happy hearts, and so we play with them as though we were still that innocent ourselves

Posted by Merlinlove, a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Aug 1, 2014 at 8:57 am

This experience happened about 10 years ago with our now deceased lab--I took him to the Mitchell Park dog run and sat down to page through a magazine as he played. I looked up to watch him every 2 minutes or so, he was a very docile and friendly black lab who got along with all. One time I looked up and he was staring at me from OUTSIDE THE FENCE. Turns out some insane old man had, without any hesitation, let my dog out of the run because our dog was intact!!!!! I was in high school at the time and so called my dad. He rushed down and (rightfully) yelled at this guy. The horrible old man called the police (who basically told him he was crazy, my dad had every right to raise his voice). I was both embarrassed (I was a teenager) and proud of my dad for standing up for our family. Our pup could have easily wandered away and been killed by a car on the surrounding busy streets. So terrible and cruel of that stranger, it upsets me to this day.