Posts Tagged ‘dog parks’

The hidden dangers of entering a dog park

January 6, 2014 23 comments

DSC05342If there is one thing that drives me nuts at the dog park it’s dogs mobbing the front gate, the gate through which dogs enter and exit. There is so much energy at that front gate. The dog coming in is excited and amped up and the ones inside are excited and amped up and become even more so when they see another dog coming in who is in the same state.

When there is a mob by the front gate, I wait for the other dogs to leave. If they don’t, I ask their owners to come and get them. If that doesn’t happen, I leave and go to another gate or leave altogether. I won’t put my dogs at risk for an attack.

Last week I witnessed two dogs start to fight after an excited setter entered the park and several dogs mobbed the gate. The owner really should have waited until the dogs had moved away or until the owners moved their dogs away physically, but she didn’t. She probably wasn’t aware of the dangers in not waiting. As was expected, the excited setter was attacked by one of the dogs on the inside of the gate as soon he entered. And as the two wrangled a bit, several other dogs decided to join in. Fortunately for the dogs, the owners were close enough to intervene and did so quickly, but for a second there I thought it was going to devolve into something more.

Entering a dog park can be dangerous if an owner is not aware and does not plan ahead on what they will do if there is a mob at the gate. Given my recent experience, I thought it might be good to share another video from Great Dog Productions showing just such a situation at a dog park. I am also including the slow motion version of the same video so you can see how quickly things can turn ugly. Watch as some of the other dogs join in after a black and white dog jumps the doodle that is entering the park.

Here is the slow motion version of the same video. Notice how the Lab is pushed away from the gate, but quickly comes back when the black and white dog goes after the doodle. Also notice the little Westie who started to join in. Watch the body language of the doodle. How is he feeling right about now? Scared? Nervous? You bet.

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

December 15, 2013 21 comments

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. 

Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park

December 2, 2013 30 comments

Over the holiday weekend, my dogs enjoyed daily visits to the dog park. They loved getting to walk in the woods every day and to meet up with some of their old friends and hang out. Daisy is more comfortable exploring when she knows her friends. She knows what to expect from them and she knows they will respect her space.

Going to the dog park can be quite an eye opener for the new dog owner. Not all dogs have doggie social skills or a respect for other dogs’ space. You have to know what to watch for and have an understanding of what is really going on.

I have been known to intervene in situations where I feel a dog is in danger, afraid or in need of a little assistance. I am used to hearing people say “Dogs can work it out themselves.” or “Let them be. They’ll work it out,” but that is not always the case. We as dog owners have a responsibility to protect our dogs and to prevent them from harm. In some cases, that means not going to a dog park at all. In others, it means you need to be aware and know what to watch for in case trouble starts.

The video below was taken at a dog park and demonstrates some of the dog behaviors that every dog owner should not only be aware of, but also be ready to intervene in, if they see it. It’s worth watching if you do not understand dog body language. The commentator does a good job of describing what is going on. I have already shared it with my dog park friends, please feel free to share it with yours.

Black and White Sunday #63 – Big tree. Little dog.

November 30, 2013 12 comments


My thanks to our hosts for this blog hop You Did What With Your Weiner, My Life in Blog Years and Dachshund Nola.

Unfortunately, doesn’t allow Java script so I can’t provide a direct link to the linky, but you can join here.

Dog park safety – Do you know how to keep your dogs safe? (video)

October 21, 2013 18 comments

IMG_0536Ask most dog trainers how they feel about dog parks and I guarantee that most of them would say they hate them. I know many of my friends, who are dog trainers, have told me as much when I have told them stories about things that have happened there.

Perhaps the biggest issue most trainers (and I) have with dog parks aren’t the dogs, but the owners – they don’t pay attention, they don’t have control over their dog, and they don’t intervene soon enough. It’s one of the reasons I am so hyper-vigilant at the dog park. I want to know where my dogs are, where other people’s dogs are, and want to walk away from trouble before it begins. My dogs love the dog park, but I think they would love it less if I wasn’t so focused on making sure they are safe and having fun while they are there.

Being a dog owner means not only being responsible for your dog, but also being his advocate. If you go to a dog park, you better take this role seriously because if you don’t your dog, or another dog, could get hurt. Here are some suggestions on how to keep them safe:

  • Keep your dogs moving. The more they are moving and exercising, the less chance they will be engaged in trouble with another dog.
  • Intervene if you see more than one dog ganging up on another. Way too many dog owners don’t intervene when they should. This often leads to trouble and can cause a dog to be injured. If more than one dog is harassing one dog, it is not play, it is bullying.
  • Walk away when they excitement level between dogs at the dog park reaches a hyper level. When I see dogs overly excited, I take my dogs in the opposite direction. Overly excited dogs tend to get other dogs excited and pretty soon you can have over-the-top trouble. Better to stay away from that kind of activity.
  • If your dog is hiding between your legs, hiding under a bench or picnic table, or looks scared and unhappy to be there, LEAVE. A dog that is scared to be at the dog park is not a happy dog. Why would any owner force their dog to stay in a fearful state?
  • Make sure your dogs are well-trained and respond to your commands. If you don’t have control over your dog, you should not be at a dog park. Period. No one wants to deal with an unruly dog and an irresponsible owner.

Not sure what to watch for? Here is a great video that illustrates some of the behaviors you should be watching for at the dog park.  I highly recommend every dog owner watch it. 

Dog parks can be fun places, but it takes knowing your dog and knowing what to do if you see trouble. Not every dog wants to go to a dog park nor should every dog be at a dog park. Owners need to know what to watch for and to be an advocate for their dog and know when the dog park is not the best option.

Favorite Video Friday – At the dog park

September 6, 2013 9 comments

The state fair is over, the leaves are falling, and the kids are back in school.  Could it be fall? It’s seeming like it more and more each day. I’m not ready yet. I want to hold onto summer just a little bit longer.

I think the only ones happy about the change in seasons are the dogs. They enjoy the cooler mornings and chilly evenings. They like not having to pant as much.

The cooler weather makes for more fun at the dog park too. You never know what kind of craziness you will see. Have you ever noticed how funny dogs get when the weather cools off a bit? They play more, chase more, and act just a little more crazy than usual. Maybe that’s why today’s video appealed to me so much. It reminded me of what I will see more of as we head into fall.

Happy Friday everyone!

Dog park magic and faraway places

May 13, 2013 12 comments

IMG_2154When I was a child, I used to imagine what it would be like if I could transport myself to another land. It was always someplace magical and exciting. Sometimes it was a magic stone that allowed me to travel to a foreign land – Italy, France, Ireland, etc. Other times, it was the arch of the trees in the woods across the street from my house that became a magical portal to a magical kingdom. Almost always, my fantasies were fueled by the books I read, adventurous stories filled with heroes (and heroines) taking on new worlds and succeeding. What child doesn’t want to escape to another land once in a while?

I’d like to say that over time I grew up and stopped fantasizing about those strange new lands, those magical places where enchantment and wonder abounded, but the truth is I am still a dreamer. I still love the idea of finding a land untouched by human hand. Or, exploring a faraway place where the crowds of humanity and the craziness of the world can be forgotten. I like to imagine the America that existed before buildings blocked our view of the sky. I wish to revel in the beauty and awesomeness of nature before it was destroyed by huge machines and mass consumption.

I think that’s why I fell in love with the dog park where I first started taking my dogs five years ago. Back then the park was a magical place, filled with wonder and excitement. Birds sang their beautiful songs of love from nearly every branch. Squirrels and chipmunks ran from tree to tree, gathering nuts and leaves for their nests. The sun streamed down between the treetops, creating rays of light that would hit dewy spots of grass and make steam rise from the ground. It was truly a magical place. One could enjoy the sights and sounds of nature without feeling the full encroachment of man. No people talking. No dogs barking. Just me and my dogs communing with nature. I could almost believe we had escaped to another land.

IMG_2710But, as it is with all fantasies, reality has a way of seeping in. What seems magical to one will seem magical to another, and then another, and then yet again another. Soon word had spread about this magical place, the place where my dogs and I have walked quietly through the forest and listened to the birds singing from the trees, and as it did, the quiet solitude of the forest was replaced by more and more human voices and barking dogs. Suddenly what had seemed magical and private to me had become less so.

We still love our dog park, my dogs and I, but there is something different about it now. It has lost some of its luster. It has become more of the dog park it was always designed to be.

The fenced in forest, where the wildlife used to outnumber the canines, has become less magical and I feel less entranced. I am craving a new land to explore.  What does it take to find a private place to park your dreams these days? Where can one go to enjoy the quietude of the forest? Colorado? Montana?

Where do you go when you want that kind of solitude with your dogs?

Favorite Video Friday – Epic Corgi Beach Day

May 9, 2013 4 comments

I don’t know about you, but I am SO looking forward to the weekend. It might be a bit cold here in Minnesota, but the weather folks are promising 70’s and 80’s by next week. Do I believe them?

Do I have any choice? It’s either believe them or run into the night screaming and crying “Where is spring? Where is spring?”

In preparation of those wonderful sun-laden, bird-singing, flower-smiling, dog-digging promised days of spring, I thought it only right that I share a video to get us all in the mood.

And what could be better than dogs playing on a beach in California?

Corgis on a beach in California?


Happy Friday everyone!

Dog Body Language – Do you recognize some of these behaviors in your own dog?

March 24, 2013 25 comments

IMG_8800On Saturday, I happened to see an announcement for a Dog Body Language Seminar being offered by Twin Cities Obedience Training Club (TCOTC) in April. As an admitted dog geek, I am sure you can imagine how excited I was to hear about it. I love learning how dogs think and communicate. Understanding dog body language can be very helpful, not only as a dog owner, but for anyone who interacts with dogs on a regular basis.

I was even more excited when I realized that an old friend, Kate Anders, would be teaching the class. Kate used to be a trainer at the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) and now runs her own dog training business, Pretty Good Dog. She was also Jasper’s trainer when he was a puppy.

It’s because of trainers like Kate that I have learned so much about dogs and dog behavior. She, Colleen and Inga (all MVHS dog trainers) made it their mission to help us volunteers better understand the dogs we were working with. They offered special training sessions for the more difficult dogs and recruited a few of us more experienced volunteers to work with them. They also offered training seminars where we could learn more about dog behavior.

One of my favorite seminars to attend was the dog body language seminar. I probably attended it three to four times during my time at MVHS. It didn’t matter how many times I had seen it before, I always learned or saw something new I could take away with me. I can’t wait to attend this seminar again.

I wish you all could come with me but since I know most of you can’t, I thought I would share two videos with you that (hopefully) will give you a small sample of what I expect to see during the seminar in April. These are much shorter than a two-hour seminar, but I think you will find them really interesting. Plus, you can watch them at your own convenience and as many times as you want!

I would love to hear your thoughts on them. Did you learn something new? Have you seen your dog(s) display similar behaviors? What behavior do you see your dog display most often in his/her interactions with other dogs?

My thanks to the Zoom Room for creating videos like these for everyone to watch.

Dog Body Language

Dog Play Gestures

What my dogs did this weekend (in pictures)

August 20, 2012 26 comments

This weekend was quite a whirlwind. The weather was amazing so the dogs and I spent quite a bit if our time outdoors.

Here are just a few pictures of our weekend. What did you and your dog do this weekend?

Daisy enjoyed the Mississippi River

Jasper had fun chasing sticks

Lady was happy to check out a lot of new smells.

Mississippi River

Picture time! Daisy and Jasper are very treat-motivated.

Daisy and Lady waiting for their treats.

Jasper went sheep herding

Boy can he move!

The best part is that Jasper started to learn the importance of pacing himself. One doesn’t have to chase to control the sheep.

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