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.