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!