Dog Park Trouble: Tips for Handling Over-Excitement or Conflict
September 13, 2011 •
By Carrie Boyko of All Things Dog Blog
Welcome to the last in my series of articles on the effective and safe use of dog parks. Today’s “What if” topics require one rule of thumb before you head out. Prior to visiting a dog park, your dog should be accompanied by you at all times, at least moderately well-socialized or young and in the process of gaining these skills, walked or exercised adequately to lessen his mental and physical energy levels, and expected to enter with good manners. If he demonstrates aggressiveness or dominant behavior upon approach, try again another day.
WHAT IF my dog acts excited in the car or pulls as we walk to the entrance?
If your dog is a veteran dog park visitor, he may gain a heightened enthusiasm upon arrival. This could be considered normal, but should not be encouraged. Offer no attention to this behavior and wait patiently by the car until he calms, before leashing him to walk to the park area.
Work to relieve this excessive excitement by stopping numerous times on the walk to the gate. Requiring your dog to display self-control over his excitement by sitting patiently will tell you he can enter successfully.
If Fido insists on dragging you to the park entrance beyond your control, return to the car and leave without any verbal attention. This change of course will send a message to your companion that will help to achieve the desired behavior, especially if it needs to happen several times before he gains access to the park again.
WHAT IF my dog becomes too hyperactive in his play style with other dogs?
You guessed it. This may be a situation when leaving the park is called for. If the excess excitement is just starting, you could offer one opportunity to sit/stay for a few minutes, serving to de-escalate the heightened state.
If this exercise in calming doesn’t do the trick, take Fido home and make sure he gets plenty of exercise and training practice before returning to the park.
WHAT IF my dog gets into a fight with another dog?
First of all, DO NOT try to grab your dog by the collar. This risks a bite, and it could come from either dog when they have both lost control.
Securely grasp your dog by the hips from behind, pulling backwards away from the fight. This approach is much less dangerous for you, while allowing you to assist in breaking up the skirmish.
Keep in mind that your dog and the other will have lost all ability to know what or who they are attacking or biting at this point, so stay alert to your dog’s state of mind and recognition of you as you get him leashed securely.
DO NOT start the blaming game. Unless you have an experienced dog behaviorist or trainer who was watching body language as the fight began, you may never know what the trigger was. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by starting a fight with the other dog’s owner.
After a significant outbreak like that just described, both dogs should be removed from the park immediately. Spend a couple of weeks getting exercise and playtime elsewhere before returning to the same location.
If medical care is needed, seek help immediately to avoid infection or worse.
WHAT IF I arrive at the park to find a dog present that has fought with my dog before?
Safety first, but of course, time does heal these memories. Use your intuition about how recent the problem was and whether your dog and this one have underlying issues with one another or the previous episode was just a fluke. When in doubt, go elsewhere for a walk or visit another park.
Got questions? All Things Dog Blog’s Ask the Dog Trainer columnists will be happy to address your specific issues as well. Feel free to get in touch with your questions at LetsAdoptaDogPark@gmail.com.
Carrie Boyko along with her spirited dogs, both large and small, is a veteran dog park enthusiast seeking to encourage dog owners to get out and socialize their dogs off-leash. You can read more of her work at All Things Dog Blog, as well as the other posts from this series listed below.
Read the Earlier Posts in this Series:
These tips in no way replace the expert advice of a qualified dog behaviorist. If your dog displays questionable behaviors or experiences trouble in socializing, please seek help from a professional.
Join the FIDO Friendly magazine pack and never a single issue of the one magazine your dog will thank you for.