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We recently moved into a new community. There is a small community park just outside our homes and a larger park with rides, swings and slides a few hundred feet away. This community doesn't allow any pets unless they are emotional support animals and requires them to be on a leash when outdoors.

There are a lot of people who keep dogs and let them run around the parks. I see dog droppings in the park often. Me and my children are afraid of dogs and consider them dangerous and dirty. I have thought about several ways to proceed but none without significant disadvantages.

I can talk to my closest neighbors and ask them to always keep their dogs indoors or on leash. But I know it would be very cruel to those animals. They seem to be very happy running around. Some dog owners' kids play with them and seem to be very enjoying. This would also create an exclusion between my kids playing in the park and the dogs and their owner's kids playing in the park, that I don't want. I want my kids to be friends with the neighbors kids, not looking out of the window waiting for their turn to play.

I can press on the administration to enforce their rules about pets on leash and being only ESAs. I see that pets are an integral part of many households here. I am very much afraid the owners would be left with strong negative feelings about my complaints. I may be able to live in a passive aggressive environment but I don't want my kids being perceived as intruders (who don't let them have nice pets) by neighboring kids.

I can keep a pocket knife or a pepper spray with me and my kids. We may feel a bit more secure about dogs running around, at least initially, but I think there would be a very undesirable incident very soon. Again, I may be able to bear it but I don't want my kids to experience the trauma from any such incident.

How can I convince my neighbors to not keep pets except truly designated emotional support animals and keep them on leash in public spaces, without any significant negative side effects?

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    Have you talked with these neighbors before? I'm wondering what makes you think your plan has any chance of succeeding, have those neighbors given any signs they may open to being convinced to change and start following the rules of the community? What interpersonal skills would you usually use to convince someone, and why do you think those won't work here?
    – Tinkeringbell
    Apr 27, 2023 at 8:52
  • I haven't talked to these neighbors yet. I haven't communicated with them, so I don't know with absolute surety about their plans to follow the rules of the community. I think (I am not sure) letting them know of my situation and requesting them to not let the dogs in public space without a leash might help. But I am afraid of the negative consequences, like mentioned in the original post.
    – paki eng
    Apr 27, 2023 at 11:29
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    Are you living in North America or Western Europe? It matters a lot.
    – DTRT
    Apr 27, 2023 at 13:52
  • @Johns-305 can you please guide me for both? I don't want to break the curtain of anonymity.
    – paki eng
    Apr 27, 2023 at 15:03
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    In the USA, it's expected (and in some areas required by law) that pet owners will pick up pet droppings. I don't know about Europe. I think that establishing the continent you are on won't damage your anonymity too much.
    – DaveG
    Apr 27, 2023 at 17:32

2 Answers 2

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I'm dog-friendly dog-lover old chap, but as much as I love to see a well-educated dog, I can fully understand people who fear them, and bad behaviours inducted by poor owners.

Is there anything you can do without annoying the neighborhood? If you think about enforcing the law and/or asking the community or condo/neighborhood board of owners/users, forget about it. You'll get nowhere past a few disapproving stares (at best) and some vehement rejection (or worse). You're one against a full bunch of people who enjoy what they're doing. They'll probably win and you'll be blacklisted.

Is there something different you can do without annoying the neighborhood? I think so. I've had to deal with family members or acquaintances whose fear of dogs was out of this world. This, you can't easily wipe it out. And it would require time you and they don't have. What you could do, is explain your fears and count on their parental sense of responsability. They have kids, as you do. They can understand what you both feel. They would also protect their kids and help them overcome their fears. You ask for their help as a community and as parents, you don't start and fight them with rules to enforce. You don't ask them not to do, which is usually the best way to upset the whole neighborhood. You ask them for help.

Starting this way, you'll not make any ennemy. In my case, what I've done was to set up some "dog-free" areas and time. So that the dogs would still be free to do things, walk, run and train. And, at the same time, they would do it far from the scared persons. It was either dog-time (20%) or human-being-time (80%). And that's what I'll recommend here. First, talk to a couple of parents. Explain the problem, focusing on your kids. Don't say what you think of dogs (consider them dangerous and dirty), don't blame the owners or the dogs, unless you want to ruin every future move. Say what you'd love to be able to do: share space and time. And carefully explain why: my kids and I are scared and I need to help them. I need to figure out a way to walk down the park with them feeling safe. How could we achieve that? Could you eventually help?

It has to look like small talk with neighbours. Then let the word spread around (because dog owners often talk when they meet, and any dog-related topic will rise) and wait a little to see if there's any improvement.

Work around a solution that involves a small area that would be dog-free at specific times, or a schedule where dogs would have to be under leash. Like: every day, from 05:00 PM to 06:00 PM : no dogs in the upper left corner of the park. Or dogs can be unleashed only after 08:00 PM. Anything that would give each side some freedom and safety. I'm still doing that when I want to "break the rules" in our park. I go when no one's around but other dog owners who walk or train their dog. Never do that with kids around. Never do that when people you don't know picnic. Respect goes both ways, but they'll never understand or have a chance to help/comply if you don't communicate with them. Be as diplomatic as possible when you explain your needs, and why you'd like to share time and space.

If there's a board of neighbours, with a monthly/quarterly meeting, it would be good to take the opportunity to explain. No accusatory tone.

From your comments, it seems like you don't know how to approach some dog owners and need a conversation trigger. I would just stop by two/three of them sitting on a bench and/or talking while watching the kids/dogs play, and ask a simple question like: "Hi folks, I see that some kids and free dogs are playing around. My children and I are really afraid of dogs, do you know of any place around this park/neighborhood where we could go? Is this place always crowded with dogs running freely? Any better time to walk around here? We're new here so we're kind of lost."

You don't blame them for their dogs or attitude. You give them an information about your family and ask for help/information. And you'll have to adjust your words to their answer, you're walking on eggs and don't want to upset a whole bunch of people.

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  • Thank you very much for the detailed answers. I still have some concerns, which I will write in this comment section later.
    – paki eng
    Apr 27, 2023 at 15:02
  • As per comments under your question: I live in western Europe, but having been living in North America for years, I'm pretty sure this wouldn't be so different.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 27, 2023 at 15:22
  • Thanks a lot. I really like this approach. The idea of giving up some time dreads me. Is there some way this situation can be resolved without us having to lose access to the public space? It feels discriminated to have times when we will not be or will be attacked by dogs if we go to the park. Also, you suggested to blame it on the children's fear, whereas I am myself quite fearful of dogs. Do you think the approach you suggested would still be good if I go with my fear along with my children's?
    – paki eng
    Apr 28, 2023 at 3:01
  • Oh there's no problem talking about your own fear. It doesn't do any harm, a fear is a fear, a person a person. You can say "we're both afraid", it's the same. The people I knew were all grown ups.
    – OldPadawan
    Apr 28, 2023 at 4:11
  • Thanks very much, OldPadawn. It seems helpful. Can you pleasego with me through it? I go "Hi, I am your neighbor from that apartment. I am afraid of dogs. Some dogs roam without a leash in this park and chase me while barking. It makes me feel scared for my and my kid's safety. Can you please help me with this?" I think they will first say sorry, but what do you think they will say after that. And what should I say after what they say?
    – paki eng
    Apr 30, 2023 at 2:04
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There are two problems: Dog mess and fear of dogs.

Everyone hates dog mess, including most dog owners. The good news is that everyone hates it and you don’t have to do anything. Others will. Imagine you see a dog doing his business. You say to the owner “you should pick this up”. They say “I forgot to bring a poo bag”. You know they are lying, and they know you know they are lying, and don’t care. Nothing you can do without a major confrontation. As a dog owner, I always carried spare poo bags. So I tell them “looks like you forgot your poo bag, but I’ve got one for you”. Now it is 100 times more difficult for them to refuse to pick it up without being obviously and very blatantly rude. So lots of people are in a much better position than you to solve this problem for you.

The other thing is fear of dogs. Trying to force your opinion on others will make you unpopular, succeeding will make you more unpopular. The best thing to do is to learn about dogs.

There’s a small number that you shouldn’t get to close too. For example, a Chow Chow is fiercely protective of their family. Stay away, they are fine. Look like a threat to their family, they will defend their family.

But most dogs, if you run away, it’s a game to them. Throw a ball, they bark and go after it. You run away, same thing. So you need training against the phobia so you don’t run away, and they will be fine. Now phobias are hard. That can need a professional to help. Or you can talk to the owner of some small to medium size dog, and let them introduce you to the dog. 95% of dog owners will only be too happy to help (wear old clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty).

There are three dogs where I found that kind of introduction necessary. Two white boxers, over four stone (30kg) each. They know me, they run towards me to play, they get a big hug, and they are good as gold. And the other is an English bulldog, over 20kg, and slobbering. A phobia would make that problematic. And remember that if you do something against the phobia, that will help you for life.

Dogs that you should fear are very very rare. And you would observe other people avoiding them if there are any. Still, avoid them, don’t run away. (Tip from a professional: Walk away at a 90 degree angle. That tells the dog you are boring and uninteresting. Never had to try this).

PS. Bringing a knife or pepper spray is a very bad idea. In the very unlikely case that you run into a dangerous dog, these will not stop him, they will make him angry. And you don’t want an angry dangerous dog. In addition it will make the dog owner very angry, and if they call the police instead of taking direct action, you are in trouble.

PPS. A few days ago I met a German Shepherd. He seemed to act quite aggressively. It turns out (according to the owner) that he had been mistreated as a young dog and was terribly afraid of any strangers. Following her advice, I bent down to him, talked to him very friendly, crawled his chin, and he was absolutely happy and friendly within two seconds.

PPPS: To keep yourself and your children safe (safer) you could look at a free online course at https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/dog-advice/life-with-your-dog/at-home/dog-and-child-safety . This tells you and your children how to recognise what a dog is up to, so you can act appropriately not to annoy it, recognise when it is annoyed and stop what you are doing, and recognise when there is a bad problem and walk away from it safely.

So this keeps both you and the dog happier and safer. There are limits, like someone pointing a gun at you and demanding your wallet, nothing you could learn here will help. But your chances of you and your kids being hurt will be reduced.

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    you mostly right on this but for one thing: "afraid of dogs and consider them dangerous and dirty". Following your advice is good for the fear of dogs but won't probably help for the filthy part unfortunately :/ and none of us can help overcome that part I believe, only the will of it and a pro.
    – OldPadawan
    May 9, 2023 at 14:26
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    "You know they are lying, and they know you know they are lying, and don’t care." I must say I have forgotten a bag many times when walking a dog an I have come back to pick it up after. It just makes me really sad and angry, that people assume that I am lying.
    – BagiM
    May 10, 2023 at 2:16
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    @BagiM It’s unfortunately rare. My rule was: Always two bags. In case three are needed (very rare), a lot of swearing involved and picking it up with a tissue. Then shortest way to a garbage container.
    – gnasher729
    May 10, 2023 at 10:05
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    Thanks for effort you put the to the detailed answer, but I think it's a bit diverged from my question. It seems to me that blaming myself for the fear of dogs isn't a good idea and puts an unnecessary burden on me, while the dog owners are themselves in violation of a housing policy. I have already considered this before asking the question, so I asked how to convince the dog owners not to bring pet dogs in the public space in the first place.
    – paki eng
    Jul 13, 2023 at 1:52
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    Summarized "just get used to dogs lol" is a very poor answer. Dogs are, especially seen from a kid's point of view, scary, smelly, noisy, unpredictable animals. With some exceptions. They definitely don't belong running wild in a play park.
    – CodeCaster
    Sep 2, 2023 at 9:16

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