Dog park etiquette question

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Ari_RR
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Dog park etiquette question

Post by Ari_RR » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:47 pm

Hello!
May I ask for opinions ?

This question popped up in my mind earlier today, while observing my own boy (12 months, 90 lbs ridgeback Ari) at a dog playground.
It was a lazy late morning, not too many dogs.. Ari wondered around for a little while, then set his sights on this lovely girl - which involves following her closely, nibbling on her back, and so on. But she would have none of this nonsense, and corrected him.. once, twice, perhaps three times, but in the end he got it, left her alone and moved on. While this little drama was unfolding, both I and the girl's "mom" were watching, laughing, enjoying their interaction, both of us trusting our dogs to work things out (which they did), but at the same time staying close to them just in case.
Then another Labrador girl joined the party, and Ari switched his attention to her, with the same routine - following, nibbling, etc. The difference was that the poor lab-girl didn't seem to know how to correct him, and kept just running away, even trying to hide behind her "dad". Ari kept following her, lab's "dad" felt the need to interfere and protect his girl by pushing him away... so in order to allow the lab-girl a hassle-free visit, and to avoid a potentially unpleasant argument with her "dad", I thought it was best to take Ari away from the playground.

Now, here is the question, and perhaps this is a "Dog Park Etiquette" question  - if one dog is trying to assert his/her dominance, and the other dog doesn't know how to correct, which owner should take action first and take his dog away? We don't like bullies and bullying, and we want everyone to have a good time, that goes without saying.. But asserting dominance is not bullying, is it? Is it not a natural behavior for dogs? And if so - wouldn't the owner of the dog who doesn't know the technique of correcting be somehow responsible for teaching his dog this technique (perhaps by enrolling into an appropriate class for dogs)?

Cheers!
Eugene
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Miles, Rhodesian Ridgeback, b. Nov 2018

Erica
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Erica » Mon Oct 10, 2011 7:27 pm

Some dogs just aren't the type who will even air-snap at another dog. I know Opal wouldn't, no matter how much she was being bothered - when another dog went so far as to bite her (and then NOT LEAVE THE PARK, excuse me what), Opal just yelped and ran away as soon as she could (which caused every other dog in the park to chase her...thank goodness I had Onyx with me and was able to tell him to intercept the other dogs). I personally wouldn't take Opal to a dog park again - she never enjoyed it too much - and I don't know what the "proper" etiquette would be. However, if I had dogs that enjoyed the park and encountered a similar situation, here's probably what I would do:

If it's my dog bothering another dog that won't defend itself: call my dog away and move to a different area of park, play a chase game with him or something.
If another person's dog is bothering mine: body block, try to move to another area of the park, and if the owner still doesn't understand that their dog is bothering mine, leave the park.

Obviously there's a difference between playing and bothering, but...you don't know that the other person's dog has had the growl corrected out of them and will go straight for a bite. It's not a risk I'd want to take.
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jacksdad
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by jacksdad » Mon Oct 10, 2011 8:57 pm

First, what your dog was doing wasn't asserting dominance. it was being a rude adolescent. much like our own human teenagers can be.

Second, it's my opinion that you should have stopped the enter action between both dogs and your dog much sooner. doesn't matter if your dog is offering the most friendly play bow ever, if the other dog doesn't want to inter act, don't let your dog force the issue. sometimes it's ok to let the dogs figure it out, but in the two examples you give I would have errored on the side of caution and politeness and prevented further inter actions between your dog and the two dogs in your question.

I don't use the dog park all that much anymore, but when I do, I do NOT hesitate to step in ASAP on behalf of my dog.

Ari_RR
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Ari_RR » Mon Oct 10, 2011 11:59 pm

Many thanks, Erica and jacksdad. 

I agree that to err on the side of caution is perhaps the best approach, which does indeed mean stopping the interaction if not 100% sure that there is no potential for a confrontation.

But I don't necessarily agree with a suggestion that humans should step in on behalf of their dogs ASAP... Being an overprotective owner may not always serve the dog's needs. Good socialization skills in the end are based on self-assurance and confidence of the dog when in contact with humans and other dogs of all kinds (large, small, adults, puppies, teenagers, adolescents..). Having the owner stepping in ASAP, without hesitation, may in some cases prevent the dog from developing that confidence.

I am becoming less of a fan of dog parks too. Frankly, because it's too much work for me - watching my boy, making sure he doesn't cross any reasonable boundaries (yeah, he is a "wild hooligan" at 12 months old, and wants to push the envelope), watching other dogs to make sure there are no aggressive/dangerous ones around, etc... keeping an eye on humans too... But I also think that dog parks offer a great opportunity for him to "broaden his horizon" by interacting with different others, learning from experience, but most importantly to become self-assured and confident among other dogs. In many (if not most) cases aggression is a manifestation of fear. I hope that the more he interacts with others and gains confidence in himself - the less fearful, and therefore the less aggressive he will be as an adult.

With that said - thanks again, great food for thought. 
Let's see if we get more comments...

Cheers!
Eugene
Ari, Rhodesian Ridgeback, Sept 2010 - Dec 2018.
Miles, Rhodesian Ridgeback, b. Nov 2018

chay
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by chay » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:45 am

i agree its a bit of a balancing act, i think. on one hand, yes - letting dogs interact in their normal doggy way is good, and teaches pups about boundaries and rules in 'dog society' (echo jacksdad though, this isn't to do with 'dominance', just manners!)

on the other hand, these interactions can also be detrimental for OTHER dogs - dogs who aren't all that confident, may be dealing with fear issues, or are perhaps not 100% 'looked out for' by their respective humans...in this case i think we have responsibilities for not only our own dog, but for OTHER people dogs who might be being bothered by our dogs and stepping in to distract our boisterous pup allowing the other dog to get away with some grace. i believe stepping in at this point does not stop the fearful dog from 'developing confidence', but rather HELPS the dog by not forcing it to deal with something that is beyond its capabilities (at that point in time), if that makes sense.

kind of a different example but one i still feel applies - gypsy is really not a fan of small children, and i would NEVER EVER let a small child barrel up to her unattended in the thought that it would help her like children more, so i kind of equate this to other dogs too (if the dog in question didnt like other dogs, etc)


i guess for me dog park etiquette is: number one, look after my dog. number 2, look after the dogs my dog is interacting with. so if a dog is hassling my dog, absolutely ready to step in ASAP. but if my dog is hassling another dog, and i don't see a human ready to help THAT dog out - well i can be ready to step in for that dog, too.

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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by JudyN » Tue Oct 11, 2011 2:44 am

I think I'd have allowed the first interaction, though would have been watching like a hawk, but would definitely have called my dog away from the second interaction. There's so much variation in dog types which we have imposed by selective breeding, that you can't expect every dog to be able to cope with the attentions of every other dog. And the dog your dog pesters today could turn into a fear aggressive dog tomorrow.
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Sarah83 » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:08 am

lab's "dad" felt the need to interfere and protect his girl by pushing him away
A fearful dog can easily be turned into a fear aggressive dog because of encounters like this. As far as I'm concerned the Labs owner did the right thing in protecting his dog who was making it very clear she was frightened of yours. You should have recalled your dog as soon as you realised his behaviour was frightening her imo. I'd have stepped in in the first case, not because I'm over protective but because I don't feel it's fair to put another dog in the position of having to keep correcting my dog.

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Nettle
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Nettle » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:58 am

I don't keep my dogs to train and socialise other people's (unless I'm being paid for it) :twisted:

I can only go by what you have said, but I think what you saw and what was going on were two different things. Each time, your dog made sexual advances to an unreceptive b itch. One told him to get lost, and the other was frightened.

With three of my current dogs, one would have been frightened, one would have snapped at him until he backed off, landing a full bite if he didn't, and the third would have got hold of him, shaken the living daylights out of him, pinned him to the ground screaming and held him until he went limp.

But I don't allow these things to happen - the second I see dodgy body-langauge, I step in and protect my dogs. I don't need the sensitive one to become fear-aggressive, the masterful one to miss the early stages and go straight for the bite, or the very together very assured one to develop a taste for the endorphin-release achieved by fighting. Nor do I need a row with other dog owners.

You too would be better to research dog body-language (mouth on back is very rude) which is really enjoyable :) and manage any dog-to-dog interactions so that you control how your dog meets and greets - just as you would if you had a child who ran up to other children and kicked them. This isn't about dominance :wink: it's about manners, and kudos to you for coming here and asking :D
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minkee
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by minkee » Tue Oct 11, 2011 5:02 am

Further to this...

Scout doesn't often play around with other dogs (far more interested in her ball, the possibility of a ball, that if she looks at me long enough or does enough tricks she'll get a ball.....), but when she does, if they're playfighting a bit and running around, I usually am fine with it if she's the chasee and she looks like she's enjoying it. If she's the chaser however, I'll often call her back, and then based on what the other dog does (back off to its owner, plough ahead for more chasing, come up to sniff pup, trot off to do something else) I'll either move her on or release her to run around again. Am I being naive, do you think, in assuming that the other dog is enjoying the running around if they come back for more? I try to assess it every time, but there's always the possibility that I'm reading it incorrectly and the other dog is saying 'And don't come back!!' rather than saying 'Come back, come back!'

One bonus of her loving her ball so much, though, is that it makes a natural gobstopper, no need to worry about injudicious nibbles coming from Scout when she's running around with it in her mouth :lol:
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by JudyN » Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:14 am

minkee wrote:Am I being naive, do you think, in assuming that the other dog is enjoying the running around if they come back for more? I try to assess it every time, but there's always the possibility that I'm reading it incorrectly and the other dog is saying 'And don't come back!!' rather than saying 'Come back, come back!'
Rarely, Jasper will try to bundle a puppy who will squeal and shriek but when I call him away, the puppy will come back for more. I don't think the puppy is enjoying being treated as a squeaky toy, but its drive to play means it can't help itself.

Other times, Jasper will goad a terrier into chasing him. Being chased by terriers is his favourite game. Sometimes, however, the terrier is clearly thoroughly annoyed and is saying 'And don't come back!!' but Jasper will because he wants it to chase him again... and he has the speed that (so far) the terrier can't give him a nip on his hind legs.

Both of these I'd stop, and if I'm not sure I'll ask the owner of the other dog if they think it's enjoying the game (though quite often they think it's having fun when the body language is telling me something else).

So I'd say that you can't rely on the dog going back for more as meaning that they're OK with the interaction.
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by minkee » Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:21 am

JudyN wrote:if I'm not sure I'll ask the owner of the other dog if they think it's enjoying the game (though quite often they think it's having fun when the body language is telling me something else)
I agree whole heartedly with this bit! The whole situation happens very rarely these days, Scout wants less and less to play with other dogs. Usually the ones she does say hello to are a select few (that I have to purposely put away her ball for and tell her 'Go and be sociable!'). Such as the arthritic whippet x something that gets so, so excited to see her, woodles and wiggles and then gives up about 30 seconds in because he can't hack it anymore. Poor boy, he looks so happy but just can't keep it up.
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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Ari_RR » Tue Oct 11, 2011 7:58 am

A great suggestion by Nettle to research dog body language... I am sure there is plenty of information out there, perhaps even on this forum.

Eugene
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Miles, Rhodesian Ridgeback, b. Nov 2018

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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by Flyby » Tue Oct 11, 2011 8:04 am

Thing is, it's not just the dog who's socialising with unfamiliar boundaries. You are too.

When my RR was a pup, my priority 1 was getting him socialised. Figuratively speaking, you can get away with murder with a puppy, because he's a puppy. I actually went out of my way to have him meet as many dogs it was possible to meet. If Odin committed any faux pas, it was painless to say "Oh I'm so sorry, he's just a puppy with a mind of his own!" It was selfish I suppose, self centered definitely, but I've no regrets about doing that, because I see the benefits of it very day.

At a year old, your RR is still a puppy, but he doesn't look like one. I remember reaching the same stage with Odin, where once I would encourage Odin to go and say hello and be sociable, I found myself thinking, ok, now we're socialised, I'm suddenly a lot less sure I want you running up to say hello to strange dogs. I can't just assume the other owner will understand I'm in charge of a daft puppy, especially when that puppy is big enough to flatten their dog. You see your puppy, other people, and their dogs, see a Ridgeback approaching.

There's also the factor that once your puppy is socialised, part of you is so proud of your dog that you sometimes want him to meet lots of dogs just to show off to others how sociable he is! That's great if people are in to it, but a little bit rude and intrusive if they're not.

It's a development thing. As you move through socialisation, you need to encourage your dog to start showing some self restraint. It will start to come naturally anyway to a degree, but you can help it along. I'd maybe suggest taking treats with you on walks, and trying to distract your dog with treats and interaction while other dogs are approaching or are simply nearby, the thought in your mind being making sure you can always get your dogs attention, and he will hear your commands above whatever other distractions are going on.

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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by jacksdad » Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:21 am

Nettle wrote: the second I see dodgy body-langauge, I step in and protect my dogs.
this is exactly what I strive to do. it's not about being over protective and somehow handicapping your dogs development. it's about KNOWING your dog and what it can or can't handle from other dogs at this point in it's life. Just like you wouldn't throw a child into the deep end of a pool and just expect the child to deal with almost drowning, you don't "throw" you dog into the deep end of a social situation it can't yet handle and expect it to "deal" or "learn" etc. just doesn't work like that. Not if you want a well adjusted dog.

On the other hand if your dog is a confident dog and "throwing" it's weight around you shouldn't leave it to other dogs to "correct" your dog because they might not be equipped to do so. Or as Nettle's shared they might not show restraint in their "correction". Your dog is no longer a "puppy" so other adult dogs are going to expect correct behavior and some have the confidence to do something about rude behavior. which then risks your dog becoming dog fearful if that experience goes bad.

By learning to read my dog and catch his "enough HELP!" signals was step one for me. then progressing to the point I am able to catch his "ummm, not liking this, uncomfortable" signals before he gets to the HELP ME! point, I have been able to help my dog have positive dog/dog experiences which built his confidence to deal with other dogs.

So to prevent this all from being a negative "over protective thing, the key really is to first KNOW your dog. Then to work on your ability to read other people's dog. you will be surprised how little you need to learn while getting started before you really start seeing a glimpse of all that our dogs are telling us that sooooo many people miss.

here is one resource for learning dog body language that is on this forum viewtopic.php?f=20&t=2959
here is a good dvd you can buy http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/produc ... al-signals
Turid Rugass has done some great work on dog signals http://www.canis.no/rugaas/

I urge you to be open to the idea that NOT stepping in ASAP can also cause problems, significant problems that take a LOT of hard work to undo.

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Re: Dog park etiquette question

Post by jacksdad » Tue Oct 11, 2011 11:31 am

Flyby wrote: I actually went out of my way to have him meet as many dogs it was possible to meet.
There is risk to this strategy. the wrong encounters can undo your past success. you should shoot first for "quality" over "quantity".
Flyby wrote: If Odin committed any faux pas, it was painless to say "Oh I'm so sorry, he's just a puppy with a mind of his own!" It was selfish I suppose, self centered definitely, but I've no regrets about doing that, because I see the benefits of it very day.

At a year old, your RR is still a puppy, but he doesn't look like one. I remember reaching the same stage with Odin, where once I would encourage Odin to go and say hello and be sociable, I found myself thinking, ok, now we're socialized, I'm suddenly a lot less sure I want you running up to say hello to strange dogs.
The "puppy license" to get way with "murder" starts running out I believe in the 4 to 6 month range. At 1 year it's for sure expired. you can socialize your dog without it having to run up to every single dog it sees. just seeing and being around in a general sense other dogs is good enough for being generally socialized. save the more up close and personal encounters for dogs you KNOW to not be a risk and has been mutually agreed to be ok to approach by all involved.

The allowing your dog to run up to just any other dog teaches this is ok, and then has to be untrained when they hit their adult bodies. it would be better to teach the habit of not running up to other dogs, to make polite and calm approaches when it's safe and ok as the default starting point.

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