‘I Don’t Think He Likes Pugs’: Local Woman Calls for Separate Large- and Small-Dog Areas at Spencer’s Run


By Abuk SABUK - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17385646

Saying her pug was attacked twice in the dog run at Waveny, a local woman last week asked parks officials to consider creating separate “large” and “small” dog areas within Spencer’s Run.

Kathryn Quirk told members of the Parks & Recreation Commission last week that her 1-year-old pug is “very friendly and she’s great with the other dogs and this one dog just jumped all over her and was very vicious” on two separate occasions.

“Fortunately my husband was there and he was able to grab her,” Quirk told the Commission during its regular meeting, held Nov. 9 at Lapham Community Center.

“He’s done this twice and I’ve watched him do it to another dog on a different day and I’m sort of reluctant to take her there now,” she said. “That’s a pretty big field and if they get loose pretty far away from you, the dog could be dead by the time you get there. And I asked the owner about [the dog] and he said, ‘He’s new to me. I just rescued him. He’s 10 months old and he’s going to learn.’ I don’t think he likes pugs.”

The comments came during a general update to Parks & Rec on Spencer’s Run. Commissioner Rona Siegel said there were 832 total dog memberships during 2021-22 at Spencer’s Run, about half of them nonresidents. Half of the dog run is sectioned off for seeding—Parks & Recreation Director John Howe said it would remain so well into next spring for the grass to come in—and that there’s been positive feedback about new signage regarding rules at the park. One rule that requires regular enforcement is a prohibition against children 10-and-under entering Spencer’s Run for safety reasons.

“We would hate for anyone to get hurt,” Siegel said.

Quirk said that there are “very few small dogs” who use Spencer’s Run.

“I meet small dogs in my walks all over town and I ask them [the dogs’ owners] if they take their dogs there and they say no they don’t,” Quirk said. “You would have a lot of small dogs if you had it divided. It’s very difficult with the big dogs … And there is nobody to complain to. There’s no one supervising. And there are other parks in the area, other towns, that do have under-35 [pounds] and over-35, and all of the professional dog daycares, they all divide the dogs.”

She added, “That’s a huge park and it easily could be divided.”

Siegel noted that Animal Control Officer Allyson Halm is the right person to contact for issues at Spencer’s Run and that Halm is highly responsive. Howe said that if Halm is not available then Quirk should call the police in event of an incident. 

According to Howe, officials discussed the possibility of separate areas for large and small dogs, but they ran into a practical problem in that Spencer’s Run has a single entrance/exit gate.

“You are still going to have to get into the dog park to get into the small dog area,” he said.

Siegel said she’s at Spencer’s Run four or fives times per day, that her own dog is “literally the mayor there” and that she would be happy to talk offline and accompany Quirk and her pug when visiting the dog park in the future.

“I think if there was a precedent where there were 47 complaints in even a year or one a month, and if we’re not hearing that from Allyson, which I have not, and I think [Recreation Office Manager] Bea [Watkins] and the Police Department, would have heard, too, it would make sense,” Siegel said. “But it does make sense to definitely respond to any issues, and to make Allyson and the Police Department aware.”

11 thoughts on “‘I Don’t Think He Likes Pugs’: Local Woman Calls for Separate Large- and Small-Dog Areas at Spencer’s Run

  1. Thank you to Mrs. Quirk for bringing this up. I would gladly use the dog park if they would divide it. I have a small dog that is good with little dogs and not with big dogs so we don’t use the dog park, instead we drive up to ridgefield to use their small dog park.

  2. Another thank you for bringing this up Ms Quirk. I have wanted to use the dog park, but our dogs are also under 30 lbs, and knowing pack mentality it isn’t safe for them to be around all of the large dogs that frequent there. It would be wonderful to have an area for smaller dogs!

  3. Just because people don’t go through the effort to file complaints does not mean there is not interest. I (a New Canaan resident), visit almost every day there, with a very active and social cavalier spaniel. And I would say 70-80% percent of the time he is the only small dog there. I have had at least a half a dozen moments where I was worried by the outsized and outnumbered frenzy that can happen. And as mentioned, the distance can be hard to cover if an emergency happens on the other side. But the space also allows you to get away if you need separation.

    If there was a section for small dogs, that made it more inviting for people otherwise concerned, that would entice more small dogs to come, I would embrace it. My dog and I both like all dogs of all sizes, but once in a while we have to leave. And I have seen it happen occasionally with others. I should note however, often it is the owner removing their misbehaving dog.

    I have been to Ridgefield, and to other parks. Spencer’s run is my favorite. The big space is awesome. The dogs are are great. But from a selfish point of view, as a small dog owner, I would like to have more dogs our size to play with.

  4. Although my golden has friends of all sizes, I see where this is coming from. After all, in the children’s play grounds – including New Canaan- there is often a separate area for the tots.

  5. There are two problems here. One is owners who aren’t in control or paying attention to their dogs. I have three friendly labs who have plenty of small dog buddies at Spencer’s Run, and we have had to pull them out and take them home when our boy lab gets aggression from other dogs whose minders and owners fail to act fast. The second is the perception that aggression has anything to do with breed size and not poor behavioral training. I’m unaware of any dogs being killed or seriously injured by “pack mentality” events in town, but if your animal is a problem, you should know this and sequester it accordingly. Not sure how New Canaan taxpayers would feel about paying to subdivide a park where most days pass without incident, but it’s not going to solve the problem of negligence and entitlement.

    • I agree with everything you said.

      Some owners, though nice and well meaning, are not aware or properly trained themselves. On two occasions I would be having a conversation with someone, and their dog would be crossing the line of play into aggression right in front of us. And I would have to actively step in to separate their dog from mine. That comes in all sizes and will happen in any park.

      If there is any case to be made, it is to have a place where small dogs and their owners can feel less threatened and perhaps more invited. But if cost is prohibitive then I get that too.

  6. Spencers Park is a little slice of heaven for my golden who loves to run and fetch a ball which I am able to throw by staying out of the way of others who are enjoying the park. Possibly I am oblivious to the need to reduce the size of running space by creating an exclusive small dog area. What I do see are aggressive dogs who are not controlled or removed by their owners, and that ruins the experience for everyone. The last time I went, a dog was “herding/trying to control” my dog who only wanted to run and fetch. That dog grabbed the handle of my “chuck it” and would not let it go while the owner sat a few feet away tapping on a phone. When alerted the owner dealt with that but not with his dog’s aggressive behavior which shifted to other dogs, as he went back to his phone. As far as pack mentality, I have seen groups of dogs running around and chasing each other which looks pretty normal and fun to me, and they do not take up all areas of the park. I have not noticed a particular small dog/large dog problem and I wish we would all value the large space created so pet owners can have some distance if they would like it. We are a kind and patient community, but we need to feel its ok speak up to owners whose dogs are poorly socialized. It’s definitely awkward. I’ve used the park for years and other than this, the atmosphere is relaxed and inclusive of dogs of all sizes. I wish the person who who presented the problem had thought to register her complaint to the amazing and community-minded folks who oversee the park. There have been aggressive dogs who have been asked not to return.

  7. Splitting the dog run is a fantastic idea and long overdue. Many of the big dogs often run roughshod over the smaller ones creating an uncomfortable space for all. The division of large and small at the park in Ridgefield works great. It shouldn’t be expensive to divide the Waveny dog run.

  8. I’m at the dog park quite often. The main problem I see (as Catherine mentioned above) is dog parents/guardians not paying attention to their own dog. The dog park is a place for dogs to exercise, play, and socialize. It’s our job as humans to make sure every dog is behaved and safe. If they aren’t on some days, it’s our responsibility to leave the park to prevent impending situations.

  9. I would also like to add that large dogs are not able to run around indoors due to their size and the dog park can be, and is in our case, the only way a large dog can get any exercise. It is clear at Spencers Run that all this running around takes a toll on the grass. Reducing the area where large dogs can run it will degrade that lawn even more and with greater frequency and turn it into a dirt (mud) park. I haven’t been to the Ridgefield dog park in a long time but when I lived there, I saw how that park (when new) turned from grass to dirt in no time at all due to overuse and it’s small size. It was a mud pit in poor weather. And the small dog park next door was grassy and green. There is a reason why Spencers Run is the nicest dog park around, and I hope there is real consideration of the actual exercise needs of dogs and how they get that exercise, before thinking of sub-dividing it into a lesser experience.

  10. I seeked out Waveney Dog Park because of the towns application/screening of the pets being permitted. Maybe they should ask for proof of socialization and other training before allowing the pet(s) in.

    My thought is more focused on the owners who lack manners. Oblivious that their lovely pet is pooping, digging holes and displaying aggressive/dominant behaviours. No real solution for their bad behaviour. But it does explains a lot about the pet(s) behaviour!

    ps. Rowayton Dog Park now has a small breed and large breed area.

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