Home > Dog Behavior, Dog Park, Pet Safety, Pet Videos > Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park – Part Two

Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park – Part Two

December 15, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Lab being chased by three dogs. You can’t even see the terrier because she is so close to the Lab and harassing him with nips to his side and head.

Trips to the dog park have been pretty rare lately. A combination of whole “fall back” time change and the extremely cold temperatures has made it near impossible to get there, except on the weekends. On Saturday it was warm enough to stay for over an hour. We saw lots of our friends and some new ones.

Towards the end of our walk, I was chatting with one of our friends when I noticed a yellow Lab running across the field with an Irish Terrier in hot pursuit. I watched as they had a fun game of chase, taking turns on chasing and playing.

Suddenly, two other dogs joined in on the pursuit and what was a fun game of chase quickly became harassment. The terrier, already over aroused and excited, amped it up, and then the other dogs joined in on the pursuit. Soon the Lab was running for his life and had one dog nipping at his side and two others on his tail.

I could tell the Lab wasn’t having fun anymore – his hackles were up and several times he stopped and rolled on his back in hopes of stopping the hot pursuit and harassment, but it only led to the terrier nipping at him continuously while the other two dogs barked and lunged and barked and lunged. He quickly got up and started running again.

Realizing that someone needed to intervene, I yelled “Hey! Hey! Three on one is no fun!” and started walking quickly towards the dogs. My shout got the other owner’s attention and they started running towards their dogs to intervene too. A couple of owners made a grab for their dogs and pulled them away from the interaction. The Lab ran back to his owner for reassurance and just like that, the whole incident dissipated.

Afterwards, I couldn’t help but smile. It’s not often you see owners intervene like that on behalf of a dog. And yet in this case, all the owners intervened. It was awesome to see such involvement. I wish we all saw more of this type of owner behavior at dog parks.

Later, the Lab’s owner mentioned that he wasn’t sure what had happened because just before his dog had been playing chase very nicely. His comment was not surprising. All it took was an excited dog getting amped up and a couple other dogs keying in on that energy and joining in, and suddenly everything changes. It’s a great example of why owners must always be aware of what is going on and be ready to intervene if necessary.

This incident reminded me of another dog park video I had recently watched showing some great examples of dog harassment at a dog park and what happens when an owner intervenes. It’s a great reminder that we dog owners can help dissipate this kind of behavior by simply interrupting the behavior before it gets out of control. I hope you will watch and then pass it on.

Just a quick reminder – not all dogs should be at a dog park and not all dog parks are safe for dogs. You have to be your own dog’s advocate. Be aware. Be alert. Be ready to intervene. 

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  1. December 15, 2013 at 10:47 PM

    You are so right about this – things can go from zero to ninety in seconds at a dog park. That’s what is so frustrating about owners on their cells or too busy socializing. Great post!

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 6:22 AM

      I completely agree. It’s one of my biggest frustrations with dog parks. Thanks SlimDoggy!

  2. December 16, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    These photos are excellent, thanks Mel! When I started as a dog walker, I was correct to state a no dog-park policy.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:11 PM

      Thanks Natasha. Yeah. I feel the same way. I always preferred walking my clients in their neighborhood.

  3. December 16, 2013 at 8:01 AM

    It’s as if they reverted to a pack mentality and saw the lab as a weak one for running. Interesting, and a thing thing the owners got it handled.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:10 PM

      I think that often happens at dog parks Roxy. It’s one reason I don’t like Jasper to participate (he’s the only one who will join in) when there is a crowd. I call him back to me. Not worth risking trouble if one can avoid it.

  4. eileen
    December 16, 2013 at 12:05 PM

    This is so true I am reposting great tips

  5. December 16, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    Often, all it takes is one person standing up and declaring something not right. Others will almost always join in but are afraid to speak up first. You did a very powerful thing there and should be proud.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM

      I completely agree Kristine. Sometimes one person can make all the difference. I don’t know that I did anything big other than draw attention to what was happening. I am glad it got things moving and prevented something worse from happening.

  6. December 16, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    You can’t just go to the dog park, let the dogs go and forget about them. You need to be paying attention all the time to make sure they don’t cause trouble and no one causes them trouble.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:07 PM

      Amen Emma. I SO agree!

  7. December 16, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    We no longer go to dog parks because my dog loves to be chased but inevitably draws a pack of bigger dogs who overwhelm her and knock her down. Now she and I play chase in the house, sometimes when she’s stolen a pair of my socks 🙂

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:06 PM

      That is definitely a danger with dog parks and games of chase. It can be hard to catch the dogs once they get going. I like games of chase in our house too. 🙂

  8. December 16, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    I do not take my dogs to dog parks anymore… years ago, when Kyra was young she was chased by 5 large dogs, I got in the way and as she wrapped around me they took me out, tore the meniscus in my knee, the owner of 3 of the dogs quickly left the park. The other owners took me to the hospital and dropped my dogs at my house. Very scary situation.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM

      Holy crap Christine! That is terrifying. I do worry about the dangers of dogs running and try to be vigilant, but as you pointed out, it can be a very dangerous place too. I am so sorry that happened to you. Holy cow. I am sorry that owner just walked away as if nothing happened.

  9. December 16, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    That’s awesome to hear that the owners actually responded-we’ve seen too many times when the owners just sit there and don’t do a thing even when someone else is trying to head off their dog.

    • Mel
      December 16, 2013 at 10:04 PM

      I SO agree. I have seen that before too. I was pleasantly surprised.

  10. December 17, 2013 at 7:45 AM

    You know, this ties into something I have felt about kid play for all my decades of teaching. This starts at preschool. Instead of dumping them on the playground and expecting that kids “should work things out,” play really needs to be taught. I always wondered what would be the big deal about rotating “play buddies” every few days… Jeepers, a playground can be awful for a lot of kids… But what did I know, I was the childless art teacher!

  11. December 17, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    One of the best learning experiences I ever had was attending supervised play sessions at the SPCA. They had 3 volunteers who watched all the dog interactions in addition to the owners.

    I learned so much about how to head off problems before they started and what to look for.

    I wish everyone could have that kind of experience. It would make dog parks so much safer for everyone.

    Love these videos you’ve been sharing. They’re terrific.

  12. December 18, 2013 at 5:46 AM

    I really appreciate your videos because I’m such a visual learner. I haven’t taken Bailey to a dog park yet, and honestly, I don’t really want to. Bailey is a friendly dog and she plays well so she’s good for a dog park, but I’m not. Confrontation makes me very anxious, almost to the point of having a panic attack. I’ve stood up for her in the past so I know I would do it again, but just the idea of having to deal with inattentive and uneducated owners makes me anxious. I’d rather Bailey play with dogs that are owned by people that I know because I’m more comfortable with the dogs and their people. I feel like I can be a better advocate for her because I’m comfortable. Now, Bailey plays with my neighbor’s 6-month-old puppy (they’re the same size even though Bailey is 6 months older) and they play very well, but I think I’m going to start intervening more just to keep things in check. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and the videos.

    • Mel
      December 18, 2013 at 6:06 AM

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think avoiding the dog park, especially if you are uncomfortable there, is a very wise decision. I try to make sure people know that it’s not for everyone and not every dog park is the same. I am lucky to have a huge one, but most are not. I would not bring mine to one that was smaller for sure. It sounds like Bailey is doing well and having fun. I think stopping play occasionally to give them a break is also a great idea and it lets her know to reconnect with you from time to time too.

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