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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Pixie was attacked twice at one of our local dog parks last weekend. The first was by a Rottweiler and it was very scary. Its owners got it off Pixie before it landed a bite. I sat there feeling helpless, I was on the other side of Pixie and had no idea how to stop it. The next day, she was attacked again by a big dog, not seriously. The dog was overexcited, not vicious. I got between them and pushed the dog off Pixie with both hands.

I talked to Pixie's trainer about it to get his advice - turns out his own dog had just been in a bad dog fight the day before at another neighborhood dog park, both dogs had puncture wounds. His wife had taken their dog to the park. He said if he had been there, he would not have gone in the park, because he would have been able to tell the Lab that attacked their dog would try to dominate. He told me a couple of the signs to look for - a dog walking on its toes, and a dog that repeatedly sniffs other dogs' butts. The dog that attacked Pixie on Sunday was toe-walking, I could tell as soon as it came in that it was overly excited. In fact, both times I had a weird feeling - now I know to pay attention to that.

On Friday morning we were at the park again, and a big dog came in and kept going around sniffing the other dogs - I'm talking 6 or 7 times, really excessive. I got in between Pixie and the other dog a couple of times, facing the other dog, and it stopped sniffing. My trainer told me this would let the other dog know that Pixie is protected. Now I wouldn't do this with a dog I felt uncomfortable with (like that Rottweiler), in that situation I would just leave the park immediately. The best thing is to get out of the situation before it turns into an attack. With the dog on Friday morning, I chatted with the owner for a minute after I got between Pixie and the other dog. The owner said his dog is part pit, but that it's not a dominant dog, that it gets scared when it first comes into the park, but then calms down. That let me know the owner doesn't understand dogs - first, his dog was trying to dominate all the other dogs, and second, a fearful dog will often try to dominate and attack. We left immediately - I had a bad feeling about it, and listened to that instinct.

All of these experiences this week made me realize how often dog owners don't understand dog behavior, and don't take responsibility for their dogs. Not only Pixie's encounters, but Shea's (my trainer's dog) fight too. The Lab owner apparently refuses to accept that her dog had any responsibility (I think she wasn't watching her dog, and didn't see it attack Shea), and according to neighborhood rumor, it's not the first time. I need to learn more about pack behavior and dominance, and really keep my eyes open (and listen to my instincts) not just at the park, but on the street. There is no way I could have stopped that Rottweiler attack without getting hurt - I'm thinking I should carry some pepper spray just in case.

I'm wondering if any of you have had to face this. I think we're in an unusual situation on the board in that we live in a city, but I know we're not the only ones who do. And I know that you all walk your dogs, and some of you go to parks. Do any of you worry about this?
 

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YES. living in san francisco, we have many dog parks (there are more dogs that children in this city, not kidding) and most of them are off-leash. but people ignore leash laws anyway. we tried out 2 or 3 dog parks until i settled on one near the house that has the nicest dogs and people. something i've noticed: if the park is fenced in and relatively small (an acre or less), more attacks occur. my theory is that some dogs get territorial there, thinking it's their space, and owners with dogs who are not well trained go there since it's fenced and they don't need to worry about recall, commands, etc. at any rate, most owners just seem to sit there and watch while their dogs are attacking!!! this infuriates me. most of the time, the dogs will work it out and go about their business, but you can tell when they're not going to let up. i'll intervene and grab the attacker's tail, pulling him off. this is the safest method (unless they don't have a tail). shaia used to get attacked quite a bit as a puppy because she is so super friendly and social that it borders on annoying to the some (esp older) dogs - she'll run up and bound around, jumping in their face, which i could understand would be annoying to some :wink: i worried it would make her aggressive, but she's totally fine. at any rate, in our city at the dog parks, people talk, and if you are known to have an aggressive dog, it is your responsibility to keep the dog leashed, or someone will make sure that happens - animal control will be called. in the meantime, my best advice is to try out a few different parks or areas in a park if you have that option. wouldn't it be nice if we could send all dogs' OWNERS to obedience/behavior training? :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yes Mary, I was particularly interested in your experience since you're in San Fran. I think your theory about small parks is a good one. All our nearby parks are quite small, unfortunately, no choice there. I hadn't heard about tail-pulling, thanks for the tip.

I don't mind dogs growling or snapping at each other, that's happened to Pixie a bunch of times, because she's very friendly, on the small side, and sometimes pesters dogs to play with her. That's all part of the pack organizing itself. It seems like this past week, when I've told other dog owners about Pixie's attacks, practically all of them have war stories about their dogs being bitten. Scary!

I've also learned this week that there are a few dogs that are notorious for causing trouble, and the other owners eventually will ostracize that owner to the point where he/she has stopped bringing the dog to the parks. So I guess there is some informal policing going on. Yes, it would be wonderful if every owner had some training in dog behavior!
 

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I take Denver to 2 offlease areas daily
I know the majority of dogs that go there so i am comfortable.
Whenever a new dog comes in Denver is not allowed to meet this dog
until I say so. If the other dog is on leash, that tells me something
immediately, either the dog has lousy recall or has a problem with other
dogs. In the case of the latter i stop and call from a distance to the
other owner about whether there dog is friendly or are we going to have
a problem. I commend owners who tell me straight off that their dog is
male aggresive or whatever the reason and then Denver and i go the other way. If it is a recall issue and I am assured that the dog is friendly then I meet the dog first by telling Denver off and then when I am comfortable Denver can meet the dog. Denver does not approach a new dog without looking at me and waiting for the words, "Go say Hello"
Unil then he is told off and waits to see what I will do.
 

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We had an experience with Cali being attacked at the dog park too. It was definitely a territorial issues. A group of dogs (regulars, I learned later) arrived, charged her and rumbled her, resulting in a nip to the tummy that tore a nickel-size piece of skin away. It was very traumatic. She often cowers a bit upon entering the dog park as she and any other dog that arrives has to "run the gauntlet" so to speak until the dogs sort themselves out. On the occasion of the attack, we were in the middle of the park minding our own business! I now assess the dog park before entering. If there are a lot of dogs we often don't go in. Also, I keep my eye out for the signs of aggression. It's so hard when by nature our doodles are gentle, loving souls.

Good luck with future visits to the dog park. It took awhile before we went back to try again. Sorry so long.
 

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Sheila said:
I don't mind dogs growling or snapping at each other, that's happened to Pixie a bunch of times, because she's very friendly, on the small side, and sometimes pesters dogs to play with her.
haha, shaia is the exact same way (minus being small). then when she gets snapped at, she'll either flip on her back to show her submissiveness, or she'll just keep going back for more! :roll: but yes, i think people talking at the parks and in the neighborhood dog community is really helpful here in SF. our neighborhood is pretty conscious regarding dog behavior so that we can keep our stores and cafes and parks dog friendly!! anyway, i keep waiting for shaia to stand up for herself when she gets picked on, but she seems totally unfazed. on another note, recently here in SF, pitbulls have come under vicious attack (pun intended), as they are implicated regularly in both dog and human attacks. there was some legislation in the works to BAN pits but it didn't pass. the whole pitbull stigma is a sad one - they are so sweet but in my experience, they can also be unpredictable. it's actually rare to see them at parks anymore and landlords often won't accept them if a renter has one. anyhow, i digress - what was my point? i think something along the lines of relying on the community to do the policing, like you mentioned. if it gets too out of hand, call the animal cops on 'em!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Wasn't it in San Francisco that the two dogs attacked and killed the neighbor? Were they pits? I'm not particularly prejudiced against pit bulls or rottweilers, but those are breeds where the neck/jaw are particularly strong, so if there is an attack it's very difficult to stop it. And people who want aggressive dogs favor those two breeds. So I will be more cautious around them.
 

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those were actually Canarios, which is a large mastiff type from the canary islands (in spain i believe) bread to be guard dogs. there are stories like that all the time involving pits, sadly. i don't want to be paranoid but i kind of look out and avoid them too - those locking jaws and all!
 

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Wow I'm shocked to hear of so many issues. The parks we go to rarely has anything more than play going on. We have maybe witnessed 4 "fights" in the 1.5+ yrs we have been going. Maybe there is something to the smaller park theory (ours are pretty large).

We were at a romp today where there were at least 30 doodles + 10-20 non doodles and there were 1-2 small squirmishes, but they were quickly stopped.
 

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its weird to find this post today. went to the dog park, a friend was there for awhile before me, and she said there was a pit in the park. On leash and aggressive towards other dogs coming to meet him. She kept telling others to call their dogs away as if it was their fault! its a DOG park!! Anyway we avoided the area and someone asked her to leave. It was an in tact male who seemed to attract other dogs. Why she brought him to the dog park during a busy time we will never know. I had Parker attacked by a pit, my friend had a worse attack years ago by a pit. I know some are good but i feel unpredictable and i dont want my kids in harms way and im nervous. Sorry if im a prude. Ive met some great friendly pits btw!
 

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P.S. I hate to stereotype, but the few fights we have witnessed have involved pits as well. I also don't think all pits are bad (we have been at the park with pits and had 0 problems), but I think they require more training than some dogs and not all pit owners realize this.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I agree about the body language, and that it's really about the owners. Whether it's a pit or a Lab or whatever dog, it really comes down to how well the owner has trained and socialized his/her dog - and whether the owner is tuned in to what's going on.

I like the way you're training Mija to check in with you before greeting anyone on walks. I don't know if that's practical for us, as sometimes the street is so crowded we are literally dodging other pedestrians/dogs, but I'll have to think about incorporating it into our walks.
 

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It's really interesting to see all your comments about socializing and recall espically. I'm getting a doodle puppy this summer (that's why I'm here), but I also have a 15 kilo very sweet little terrier mix who is 10 years old. I got her when I was 16 and socialized her VERY well (she was at the barn with 10 other dogs or so every day and met new dogs on a regular basis.. she was also with me all the time)... but I had a really tricky time teaching her to come. I quickly learned not to get mad if she didn't come (or else she never would) and we got through it all right. Today she definitely knows what I want when I ask her to come, and about 99% of the time she's perfect, but every once in a while she stills runs off if something else is more interesting.

She was also attacked by a large dog on the beach in Florida when I was in University and she was staying with my mum. Ever since then she is quite scared of large dogs and as a result is agressive towards them (she's never like this with small dogs since she's not scared). I am also a little ambivolent about large dogs after witnessing a horrible rotweilter attach while volunteering at a humane society. Sometimes I worry that she pics up on my anxiety and that contributes to her response. It never goes anywhere since she is not really an agressive dog, but I'm always afraid that if she presents in an agressive way to the wrong dog it could go very badly.

Needless to say, I am VERY careful in dog parks. I pick dogs for her to play with carefully, speak with all dog owners before she meets them, make careful introductions. She really loves other dogs and loves to play!
I also try very hard to make sure that my body language doesn't add to the anxiety of the situation... but sometimes it can be hard to be careful with out making her anxious!

I would warmly welcome any advice on how to ease her fear with larger dogs.. and how to make her come 100% of the time instead of 99%! As I said, she is already 10 years old, so perhaps she just is what she is!

The other thing I would welcome advice on is how to ensure that our puppy doesn't pick up on any of Gab's weaknesses (or my own mild fear of larger dogs) and mimic them. We are planning to take the new pup to formal obedience classes (Gabby just had three or four informal classes with a puppy trainer when she was little and I continued myself with very good sucess.. she is one of the best behaved dogs I know apart from these two weaknesses), and to make sure that the puppy has opportunities of meeting lots of other dogs. I would like to read up (before we get our puppy) on how I can ensure that he or she doesn't pic up on Gabby's fear and learn to respond in the same way...

Any training suggestions or reading suggestions?
 

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I don't live in the City but just across the bay in Alameda. We have a fenced off-leash dog park and most of the time its really great. Rosie even has a group of regular doggie friends. Only a couple of times has their been an issue with aggressive dogs. Usually, the owners are nowhere in sight because they use the dog park as a "dog sitting" service. Rosie is really good about getting the heck out of dodge when a dog picks a fight but they have ocurred near us and we've stepped in to save another dog. You can always tell the ones that are going to start trouble, their tail is rigid and held way up in the air, in addition to walking on their toes and the excessive butt sniffing. There was this lab-mix at the park a few weeks ago and it went from group to group picking fights. The owner was never the one to break up the fights and didn't do anything to discipline her dog. I gave that lady an earful after I had to pull her dog off of Rosie's friend. Its quite difficult to pull two dog apart while your dog is trying to hide between you feet. After several people got after that lady about watching her dog, she left. Its just sad because the dog isn't bad, it just has the bad luck of having an uneducated owner.

As for pit bulls, I think that people with bad dog owning attitudes are drawn to the breed. Bad owners are the reason behind dogs that behave badly. We have several pits who frequent our local dog park and they are very sweet and play very nicely with Rosie. There was a day before we had Rosie, that my daughter and I were walking on the beach. This man had a young pit bull (under a year) and it was barking, pulling on the leash and acting very scary. That man laughed that I pulled my daughter (she was 3 at the time) behind me. He thought it was cool that he had a dog that scared a woman and her child. I walk up the beach and then called the police since dogs are not allowed on the beach anyway. In my opinion, even if that man owned a cocker spaniel, it would have acted the same way because the owner encouraged that behavior.
 

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As for pit bulls, I think that people with bad dog owning attitudes are drawn to the breed. Bad owners are the reason behind dogs that behave badly. We have several pits who frequent our local dog park and they are very sweet and play very nicely with Rosie. There was a day before we had Rosie, that my daughter and I were walking on the beach. This man had a young pit bull (under a year) and it was barking, pulling on the leash and acting very scary. That man laughed that I pulled my daughter (she was 3 at the time) behind me. He thought it was cool that he had a dog that scared a woman and her child. I walk up the beach and then called the police since dogs are not allowed on the beach anyway. In my opinion, even if that man owned a cocker spaniel, it would have acted the same way because the owner encouraged that behavior.
I could not agree with you more.
 

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Great topic. I am lucky that I am in a small town and the chief of police comes to the dog park regularly with his dog so those that have aggressive dogs have actively been banned from returning. Also, you can get to know the dogs that won't play nice and avoid them.

We have played with some lovely pit bulls so I am not against them as a breed. My neighbor behind me got a pit / pit cross and her two young daughters are so inappropriate with the dog, teasing it and such, that I will not let my kids or dog near it as one day it is going to have had enough. I wish this gal had some dog sense or would at least read a book.

I have seen the tail pull technique work well to pull two dogs apart safely. Another tip is to take a cheap plastic water bottle with you to the dog park - one that will let out a good stream of water when you squeeze it. Aim for a spot the will get both dogs wet. Often this startles the dogs enough that they naturally will pull apart or they are distracted enough it's easier to break up a problem without putting yourself at risk for getting bitten.

Also I know everybody has different tolerances for what is "aggressive" behavior. Those with two doodles who wrestle all the time probably understand a lot better what is play versus fighting. Dante loves to wrestle but we have found very few people at the dog park that think this is okay behavior. Even if the other dog he is playing with is the one that keeps coming back to Dante and wanting to wrestle, often the other owner thinks they are fighting and need to be broken up. I'm okay to let Dante wrestle as long as the other dog is okay with it and enjoying the behavior as well. Dante has been well socialized and will not wrestle with or continously bother a dog that wants no attention from him.

Heather
 
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