Too rough and rowdy at the dog park, help!

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  • #14587
    nevex009
    Participant

    My pit a one and half year old female named Nala. She generally gets along great with other dogs and even cats, but as of recently I have noticed her behavior towards some smaller/younger dogs while at the dog park is less than acceptable. The dog park is hands down her favorite place, and when I first got her she was excellent at taking her level of play up or down to match other dogs. However, the last few times we have had to leave early when she singles out a dog and demands they play rougher than the other dog and owner (and myself) are okay with.
    It might also be usefull to know it’s certainly not all younger or smaller dogs, it just seems to be the ones that get her too riled up and arent fast or strong enough to let Nala know when enough is enough. The problem than arrises that aparently I also am not able to let her know when is enough.
    Hope someone can help so we can enjoy the dog park again! The last thing I want to do is further the negative sterotype towards pitbulls in the eyes of the ignorant and uninformed!

    #16546
    KaylasMom
    Participant

    I will be honest with you, if the last thing that you want to do is further the negative stereotype of pit bulls, then I would no longer take her to the dog park. Keep in mind that if anything happens between your dog and another dog, YOUR dog will be the one to blame, even if she didn’t start it. If something does go wrong, whether or not the pit bull instigates it, the pit bull is usually blamed; every negative incident reflects not only on the individual dog, but on bull breeds as a whole. Not to mention that the pit bull WILL finish the fight and not back down.

    Dog parks are not meant for many dogs, for many reasons. Pit bulls and their cousins are known to be dog aggressive. Nala may be begining to head that way. When they are younger, they tend to be more forgiving with other dogs, but as they continue to mature (1.5-3 years of age), that is when the aggression could start to arise. Please don’t misconstrue that I am saying ALL bully breeds are this way, but it is common knowledge that dog aggression can be a potential issue with pit bulls and their cousins. It can happen at any time. You need to know what to loko for to be prepared. At a dog park, you won’t get the chance to know because of too many dogs and things happen at lightning speed.

    Being that pit bulls are in the terrier family, they have a high prey drive. Many larger dogs with strong prey drives see smaller animals as prey. They makes sounds and move just like prey would, which gets the larger dog all worked up. Soon, that worked up energy which may look like prey to you becomes something worse. An injured or dead small dog. I don’t think that you want that.

    Dog parks are just not the greatest place to allow a bunch of strange dogs to be loose. While dogs can learn good social skills at a park, they can just as easily learn poor social skills in these largely unsupervised situations. For example, a dog that is fearful around other dogs can become even more skittish in a large pack of rowdy dogs. That fear can turn into aggression to keep other dogs at bay. That dog then causes tension between others dogs and all hell can break loose at any time. To me, that sounds like what you are setting up Nala for. If she is acting this way now, things may very well escalate. Dogs in a pack act very differently than they do individually. A perfectly well-socialized dog of good temperament can be drawn into “pack behavior.” It is very true! I have seen it more times than I can count, and I have seen the horrible results in my vet clinic. I would say about 87% of the injuries that come through my clinic are the result of incidents that have occured at dog parks.

    There’s no way to predict or know the behavior of the other dogs in the group at a park. Many people take their dogs to dog parks with little understanding of their own dogs’ tolerance for other dogs. Many people mistakenly believe that the “dogs will work it out”, however this can occur in a way that results in injury or death. That is NOT working it out. They think that their dog gets along with every dog, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. What Nala is doing sounds like she is losing patience with other dogs. It may look like rough play, but sometimes those “signs” mean so much more. Dogs playing together for long periods of time in large groups with unstructured time or activities can result in inappropriate behavior, hence the “rough playing”. Some examples of inappropriate behavior that may develop or be rehearsed when unsupervised are: mounting other dogs, antagonizing other dogs, destructive chewing, and excessive barking. It sounds like Nala is antagonizing other dogs, which is NOT good!

    No matter how much good socializing and training you’ve done, your dog’s dog-tolerance can disappear if she is triggered into some kind of conflict. What looks like play to us, is conflict for others. If you don’t know EXACTLY what to look for (whale eye, tail placement, stance, foot placement, etc.) you are setting your dog up for failure. If provoked in a fight, some dogs will not back away from a challenge. Whether your dog is the victim or the instigator, a negative incident can result in future problems during dog-dog interactions.

    What you should do rather than continue to put your dog and the breed as a whole in harms way, is to attend organized playgroups. That way it is the same dogs day after day. Get some friends together who have dogs and play that way. That way there are fewer dogs and a lesser chance of an explosion to occur.

    #16547
    nevex009
    Participant

    Thank you for your response! Although very useful information, I was looking more along the lines of how to correct this problem and provide positive leadership to help Nala break this habit before it escalates. Sadly, you are right about staying away from the dog park but I don’t find that to be sufficient. She is still young and continued socialization is crucial whether or not it is at a dog park I still need to be able to trust her around all other dogs. Hopefully someone has some traing techniques that can help. There must be more I can do than simply removing her from the situation.

    #16551
    KaylasMom
    Participant

    You are right, continued socilization is a must, and it is a must until the day that our dogs cross to the Rainbow Bridge. But…a dog park is not the place for appropriate socialization. They are ok if the dog is already socialized to a certain degree. Correcting how she plays with other dogs is not something that you can just “correct” when there are so many differnet dogs that most people have not properly trained or socialized. Dogs all have different “play” styles, and trying to stop a dog from playing a certain way is not as easy as you may think it is. That is why I suggested taking her out of the dog park and arranging smaller play dates.

    Socialization can be and should be done everywhere. Get her out for walks! Walk with other dogs, then a small group play afterwards. Take her to kid’s games when the weather is nicer. People always take their dogs to their kid’s soccer games, etc. Take her to a local playground. There will be dogs there. Go to meetup.com and look for dog groups or bully breed groups in your area that are smaller with people who are looking for the same things. Take your dog places with you as much as you can. Take her to pet stores. Socialization occurs EVERYWHERE, and not just in a dog park. That kind of socialization can actually harm your dog’s social skills. That will just throw you backwards from where you really want to be with Nala. Many humane societies and shelters offer free socialization classes or doggie playdates. All you have to do is look around and ask. What about doggie daycare a day or two a week? At least there, it is a controlled environment, people are always watching the dogs and knowing what to look for, dogs are in groups that suit their personalities, all dogs are vaccinated and healthy, etc. It is a win-win for all! The key to proper socialization is a controlled environment. Dogs are everywhere, and where they are, socialization occurs! To have an extremely socialized dog means a dog that can go anywhere and be anywhere with anyone. By just going to a dog park, you are keeping her from the rest of the world! I can only hope that you do so much more with her than just a dog park. She needs to know how to behave around dogs outside of a dog park. Nala needs to know how to behave around dogs everywhere and not just the dog park.

    The dog park “teaches” dogs how to behave in a chaotic pack situation, but it doesn’t teach them how to act in other situations. That is why I am saying that a dog park isn’t always the greatest idea, especially if that is the only exposure she gets to other dogs. The dog park could turn her into a neurotic dog who cannot handle seeing a dog on the sidewalk in another area. That is not what you want. She needs to be socialized everywhere!

    Have you taken her to any obedience classes? PROPER socialization is definitely gained there, not to mention teaching you what to look for in personality changes and teaching your dog how to behave around other dogs. That would be the first step before ever setting foot in a dog park. Trainers can tell you if your dog is appropriate for a dog park, and what to do when you get there. You don’t just open the gate and let your dog in. That can be REALLY dangerous. But you learn these things in a class. Any type of dog class is acutally the best way to socialize a dog. You have people there who have control over their dogs, and everyone is on the same page. Many obedience classes also have play time afterwards! That is perfect. It is a controlled environment, unlike dog parks where dogs and owners run amuck. There are other classes out there, such as K9 Games that are not only obedience, but fun, monitored, and controlled interaction between the owners and other dogs. THAT is perfect socialization.

    The best way to “train” Nala is to take her to a class or two. Once you realize how she plays or is agressing, then you can go from there on if you want to go back to the dog park. Asking us how to train her won’t help like real trainers can. I am not trying to keep you from a dog park, as that is your personal choice, but from LOTS of experience, classes and small playdates are the way to work up to short stints at a dog park!

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