Beach Dogdom III

On my routine evening strolls along one of the most gorgeous beaches I have seen in my life, I watched the typical sunset “scene” and pondered the life of the dogs that lived and played in this quaint little surfer town.

From what I could tell, most surfers and other beach worshipers came out either early in the morning (before 10 am) or around four or five in the afternoon and stayed until sunset. I assume this is because of the midday heat and sun, but the happy side effect is that the same kind of schedule for activity is perfect for the crepuscular habits of dogs, and they too mainly frolicked either in the early or late hours of the sun’s company and saved the hottest part of the day for lounging in the shade and dozing off.

I thought about the Golden pups that I’d met earlier in the week: such lucky little fluff balls (and boy were they fluffy!). Even though the town I was visiting is just a sleepy little village in the forest, these pups were getting a great head start in life and tons of socialization and training.

For example, here are a few of the things I encountered regularly on my typical ninety-minute beach stroll: people of all shapes, sizes, and nationalities speaking many different languages, lots and lots of babies and toddlers, four-wheel drive ATVs, surfboards, water (the sea), people in diving masks and with snorkels, horses, music and musical instruments, bicycles, motorcycles, baby strollers, monkeys, enormous iguanas, coconuts, all kinds of crabs, people in various yoga poses (that must look really strange from a dog’s point of view), cars and dogs, dogs, and more dogs.

Most of the people these pups meet are friendly – hard not to be in such a lovely location- and most of the animals they meet are sociable too. These pups encountered so many people on the beach each day! They were greeted, handled, and played with by so many vacationing strangers and all of the dog loving locals too.

And it is not just at the beach where dogs are welcome, most stores and restaurants in the area are open-air and rather dog-friendly as well. I saw many a dog at the feet of his/her person at all types of eating and drinking establishments and even the local grocery store. It seemed every business had it’s own canine mascot and I honestly don’t think I passed a home without at least one resident dog, often with two or three.

Dogs seemed to be a part of the natural rhythm of “my” village and their presence was as accepted as that of any human being. Don’t get me wrong, the dogs had boundaries and rules to follow, they were expected to wait for their surfing owners, not chase ATVS or horses (with varying degrees of success), to come when called, to stay when told, and not to jump up on people. All and all these dogs met and often exceeded the expectations by also being incredibly friendly but not obtrusive or too pushy.

As this little Costa Rican village demonstrated, the more dogs are included into the daily life of a community, the more learning opportunities they have, the better behaved they become, better canine citizens, because socializing and following society’s rules becomes the norm, taken for granted, and it just works.

The more dogs are excluded from public places the less training, practice, and socialization they get, this lack of experience and opportunity can lead to either lack of appropriate manners for public places (how can they learn proper public manners when they are not allowed in most public places?) or frantic and frenzied behavior when finally (rarely) in a public place, or both. It becomes a vicious cycle, dogs can’t go to many public places to socialize and train, and therefore are not very well socialized, trained, or accustomed to being in public places, places they are not welcome because they are not well mannered, socialized, and trained.

Dogs who get out in public and meet people and learn manners from and early age (and frequently) know how to behave in public and are generally not a public menace. I have found the same thing to be true throughout Europe.

I wish America was more dog friendly and that dogs could live among us successfully in our communities and not just in our homes and a few parks (fewer by the day it seems). I believe that responsible dog owners who train their dogs and get them out in public as well behaved ambassadors can lead the way to more doggy freedom both in the U.S. and abroad. So please get out there and lead by example: train and socialize your dogs everyone, and lets make the rest of the world as dog friendly as my beautiful Costa Rican beach!

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