As someone who takes many dogs, including my own to dog parks, this used to be the question on my mind when walking through the gate. Now, I realize I’ve been asking myself the wrong question all along. The real question is, are these responsible pet owners at this dog park?
First, I am not alone as a dog owner who does not want every rambunctious dog to tackle my pal when we’re entering the dog park. Yet, so many pet owners are not paying attention to their dogs but rather talking with other people in the park, on their cell phones or taking a nap on the bench!
Once inside the park, this is a time for owners to be on heightened awareness, watching their dogs interactions and controlling their misbehavior. Unfortunately, more times than not, dog owners with a dog who has over rambunctious, bordering aggressive behavior is either distracted or in denial that their dog is about to create a bad situation.
There seems to be more distracted people with poorly socialized dogs who lose control of (or make no effort to control) their pets. These people, who often have a cup of coffee in one hand and a cellphone in the other (and a leash in none), chase haplessly after their dogs who run to greet, tackle, or pick a fight with another dog. Occasionally, as the chase or attack occurs, the people yell their dog’s name and, in turn, the words “My dog is friendly!” Ha! Really people?
By this time, it’s usually too late. The next thing you know, people are scrambling to damage control and often times sadly, a dog gets seriously hurt. Sometimes, even people who try to stop the attacks.
Just this weekend, at one of the so called “friendly dog parks”, I witnessed an owner with a highly charged and aggressive dog, sitting and chatting with someone while his dog went after and attacked 3 different dogs. I watched him sit on the bench, laughing at this, like it was amusing instead of frightful.
One by one, pet owners leashed their dogs and left the park. As I did the same, I looked back to see the wrong person and dog still inside the dog park.
Come on pet owners, show a little respect and awareness. A dog park is a place to bring social dogs. Not aggressive dogs. Dog parks are a place where the dogs get to play and interact, not the owners. Owners, you’re there to make sure all dogs have a great experience playing, socializing and exercising. Do it for yourself on your own time!
Dogs are a lot like humans. They all possess unique personality traits, emotions and behaviors. No two dogs will react the same in any given situation or when around other dogs. Here are some common triggers to watch for aggressive behavior in dogs.
Many dogs take guarding their home and owners very seriously! Territoriality is an extension of resource guarding, when the entire home and property become a valuable resource which the dog wants to guard from intruders at any cost. Resource guarding is natural behavior. Dogs that resource guard will view approach by other dogs or humans as a threat to what they perceive to be valuable. This may be it’s home property, the owner, a meal or a toy, or a preferred sleeping space.
Other dogs can trigger aggression in your dog for a variety of causes. Inter-sex aggression is aggression toward dogs of the same sex. This tends to be most common in dogs that are sexually intact and are generally resource guarding for reproductive advantage.
Type-specific aggression can occur when a dog has a socialization deficit with dogs of a particular body type (large, black dogs for instance) or a history of negative experiences with a dog of particular body type. Or, behavior-specific aggression. Dogs, like people, cannot be expected to indefinitely tolerate even the rudest behavior of other dogs. Many dogs will not hesitate to use their voices, body or teeth to tell a rude dog to “back off!”
Movement can trigger aggression in dogs. Because dogs are predators, they are hard-wired to chase after and bite at things that move quickly and unpredictably. Animals which move quickly (squirrels, birds, cats, etc.) are frequent triggers. Human triggers for motion reactivity include biking, jogging, skateboarding, or moving automobiles.
Frustration is another common cause of dog aggression. Frustration creates stress, which contributes to aggression. Frustration aggression often shows in relation to barriers including leashes or fences. The dog may want to check out a person or dog on the other side of the fence but becomes frustrated because he cannot. He may redirect his aggression toward a familiar human or animal as a result. If barking always worked to get attention but suddenly the owner begins ignoring the barking, the dog may experiment to find out if nipping is a more effective way of getting attention.
Dogs can be aggressive to specific groups of people with certain common characteristics such as men with beards, small children, people in walkers or wheelchairs, individuals with altered mobility, even individuals wearing a certain cologne or perfume.
The predictors of dog aggression vary widely. The most important thing to remember is a dog’s response to a stimulus will be effected positively (create a positive, happy response) by the number of positive experiences the dog has in the presence of that trigger, particularly during critical periods of development such as when they’re a new puppy!
Aggressive behavior is always a good opportunity for teaching a dog new tricks! Positive ones!