Tips for a Successful Park Visit
- Play Bow: front legs & chest down while rear is in the air; this is a solicitation to play.
- Exaggerated, Repetitive Movements: leaping or spinning.
- Lateral Movements: side-to-side movements, not forward or backward.
- Relaxed, Loose, Curved Bodies: rather than stiff and straight.
- Mounting: a social behavior that has a wide variety of meanings. It can be a sign of confidence, an invitation to play, or a nervous habit in a dog with limited play skills. Intervene only if your dog is a habitual mounter and is annoying other dogs.
- Chasing: some dogs love to chase, others love being chased. Interrupt behavior if it lasts more than a couple minutes at a time, the chaser becomes stiff and fixated, or the dog being chased looks stressed.
- Neck Biting: a form of wrestling that involves gently mouthing the neck, face, & ears. Often seen when dogs are tired and lying next to each other.
- Pinning: if a dog pins another dog to the ground during play he should relinquish control fairly quickly. Intervene if a dog pins another and freezes on top or refuses to let the other dog up.
- Body Slamming: a form wrestling play seen in larger breeds where a dog will knock into another dog. This type of play should be monitored to make sure the dogs aren’t getting over stimulated.
- Cat-Like: smaller dogs will often bat each other with their front paws and use quick movements to spin around one another.
Any play that is allowed to continue uninterrupted for too long has the potential to turn into inappropriate behavior.
- Bullying: one dog picks on another dog in an intense manner. You may spot this behavior by noticing signs of stress in the dog being bullied or by watching for these behaviors in the bullying dog
- Prolonged chasing or stalking
- Body slamming that frightens rather than induces play
- Cornering or crowding a dog
- Not letting the dog get up after being pinned down
- Pack Behavior: serious behavior problems can occur when dogs form loose packs. These dogs can easily attack a weaker dog.
- Rough Play: when dogs have different play styles rough play can be perceived as rude and aggressive.
- Stalking: stalking behavior can start out playful, but if allowed to continue for a prolonged period it can become excessive and turn into a form of bullying.
- Excessive Barking: some vocalizations are normal during play, but excessive barking is a sign of arousal levels being too high and can create stress in the park.
- Persistent Mounting: dogs mount for many reasons including arousal, playfulness, confidence, nervousness, and anxiety. Intervene if the dog being mounted looks uncomfortable or the dog doing the mounting becomes fixated on one dog.
- Over Stimulated: when dogs are in a high state of arousal you may notice dilated pupils, high pitched vocalizations, repetitive barking, pacing or excessive jumping.
Fights & Scuffles
- Stay calm. Most fights end within a minute or two on their own.
- Advise other park patrons to leash their dogs and move away from the fight.
- Never reach your hands into the middle of a dog fight.
- Distract and divert (try a loud whistle or blast of water).
- If any dogs are hurt exchange contact information. Each party is responsible for damages or injury caused by their dog.
- Once a fight occurs the adrenaline levels of the dogs involved, and many of those who witnessed the fight, will be raised for several hours. All dogs involved in the incident should be removed from the park to cool down.
- Take your dog to the vet if bitten. Bite wounds are often more serious then they appear because the damage on the surface of the skin is usually less severe than the injury to underlying tissue. Bite wounds often become infected.
- Go to your doctor or urgent care if bitten.
Fight Prevention - What You Can Do
- Pay attention to your dog. Be aware of where he is and what he is doing at all times.
- Stay close enough to intervene if needed. Break up packs of dogs. Don’t allow one dog to bully another.
- Keep walking. Walking defuses tension and reduces conflict. Avoid the temptation to stand around and chat or sit in one place for very long.
- Leave the park. Some days it’s just a bad mix. Go for a walk or come back later. Trust your instincts! If it doesn’t feel right—leave.
- If your dog is repeatedly involved in scuffles think carefully about why you are coming to the park and if it’s a good environment for your dog. A professional trainer can help you evaluate the situation and work with your dog.