Ugh... dog parks...

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allieb87's picture
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So I took Herm to the dog park today to try to get in some more exercise. We walk two times a day and I have a fairly big yard but I'd like for him to be able to run more. I'm not generally terribly enthusiastic about dog parks because you just never know what type of dog or owner is going to show up while you're there. They're just completely unpredictable. Plus, even though Herman is well-trained, when we get in situations where he becomes very excited he just doesn't respond as quickly leaving me with less control.

Everything went fine for the first ten minutes or so until a new dog arrived. It looked like some type of smaller Lab mix. Herman was bigger than him but not drastically bigger... certainly more athletic though. Anyway, Herm is quite macho and so was the new dog. They postured around each other for several minutes and played pretty rough and I hovered close by waiting to diffuse a situation should it arise. Well, the new dog started humping Herman's head which is obviously a sure fire sign of a dominance struggle. The other owner did nothing--just stood and watched while continuing to chat on her cell phone--and I started thinking that we may have to pack up and leave. But I didn't have time to get him out. After more prodding and posturing, Herman decided to really dominate the new dog and took him to the ground barking the whole time. The new dog whimpered loudly but there hadn't been any biting. At this point the owner FREAKED OUT. I was already doing my best to stay on top of Herman and get him out of there but she started SCREAMING at me to grab him by the hind legs which is what you would do in a dog fight. It was clear to me that neither dog was hurting each other but I was anxious to get out of there so I got Herm by the hind legs and got his leash on him while the new dog continued to try to hump Herman. The owner dramatically announced that she thought her dog was hurt and that I should pay the vet expenses. I glanced over at her dog who was now humping a smallish Golden. He looked fine to me. I told her that he seemed fine, that I was sorry for the incident and that we would be leaving. She just glared at me.

I know that because Herman IS capable of doing real damage to another dog, I have more responsibility in situations like these than a Lab owner probably does. But to be fair, unless we're talking about a 2 lb Yorkie, most dogs have the potential to really hurt another dog and all owners need to be alert. It was frustrating to watch this woman do NOTHING but scream which of course just further agitated the dogs. Yes, Herm's bark is intimidating and so is his size but I really feel that she had equal responsibility in everything that transpired. I left feeling pretty pissed. I wonder if some of her reaction had to do with the fact that Herman is a Dobe. Or maybe it had more to do with the fact that she isn't good at reading her own dog. Argh!

Obviously, we won't be going back to the dog park. I want to continue working on socializing him but that can be challenging since he came to me as an adult and not as a puppy. He has a great temperament but I honestly can't predict how he will react to every dog that crosses his path. Any suggestions for socializing in a more controlled environment? He doesn't have an issue with 90% of the dogs that we encounter--it's really only other dominant males.

I know this post is super long. Kinda needed to vent. My suggestion is to avoid dog parks but maybe others have had more success?

Lori's picture
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Stories like this everywhere are why I have never taken Rocky to the dog park even though I know he would love it.  He's loves to play but unfortunately most owners are moron's.  They won't have a clue how to read a dog's actions and assciate what might happen next and the fact that she's on the phone not paying attention to him says most of it right there. 

 

I wouldn't worry too much about it, your dog didn't bite him so there's really nothing that can be done even if she wanted to.

Lady Kate's picture
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Dog parks seem to be a bit of a controversy.. Did NOT have a very happy experience with Sofia when we took her.. She did not run, she did not socialize, she just hovered by the owners and seemed totally disinterested in all the other kids..It seemed more like a 'people park' than a dog park.

Allieb~ I PM'ed you as I was having computer problems and could not reply. IMHO you did the perfect thing. Interesting similarities between Herman and Sofia

I'm not a huge fan of dog parks at all for this very reason. I think for the most part they are accidents waiting to happen. We just had a new one open down the road from us I would love to be able to use it for exercise but wont take the chance.

The lab owner did a few things wrong in this situation. The hard part is because you own a Doberman anything that happens such as her dog yelping will automatically be the Dobes fault in most others eyes. It is just the nature of the breed unfortunately.

One thing that I want to make aware to you in case you don't already know is the fact that male Dobermans are notorious for being male to male dog aggressive. This is one of the main reasons when trying to purchase a new Doberman from respectable breeders that they will not sell a male to your home if you already have another male. Doesn't even matter what breed the other may be or whether they are neutered or not.

This next portion is not directed to you at all but more of an educational point for any others that may read this. In our breed standard which is the blue print for our breed it has a section on temperament. A direct quote from it " An aggressive or belligerent attitude towards other dogs shall not be deemed viciousness" My point in adding this is we all need to remind ourselves that these dogs were not bred to be Golden Retrievers, or Labs (although in the area that I live in Labs are the highest on the list to bite lol) I think to many times we forget what breed we own and what is bred into them.

allieb87's picture
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I think you're absolutely right about a degree of aggression being inherent to the breed, rnddobermans. And the added thing I know I have to keep in mind with Herm is that since he's a rescue, he comes with a certain degree of unpredictability. I don't know how he was socialized as a puppy or what kind of breeder he came from and I also don't know what kind of traumatic situations he could have been exposed to to trigger aggression. New situations are tough and this was a new situation for Herman. Also, I don't know if an overwhelming desire to hump EVERYTHING is listed in the breed standard for Labs but I've certainly encountered a lot of Labs with humping issues, lol. Bottom line though, you're right that the we have to be aware of the breed standard and sensitive to situations that might be especially stressful for Dobes.

Lady Kate, so sorry Sofia had a rough time at the dog park as well. She and Herman do seem to have some things in common--probably has to do with the fact that they're rescues. And btw, I'm not entirely sure what the bicycle thing is about either but apparently it isn't uncommon. A lot of people tend to think it has something to do with the movement of the wheels. Maybe prey drive?

Well, I can tell you I've raised the boy I have here that is 11mo old he was born and raised in my home. He was socialized to the hilt and had specially planned daily events structured into his daily life from birth. Long story short he had one bad encounter with a skater at 12 weeks old and absolutely hates bikes, motorcycles,and skateboards. I can tell you what I did to desensitize him to it if you like but we still have to work on it here and there. The prey drive that you talk about could very well play into as you mentioned above. Romeo has a TON of play/prey drive and we have to channel it in the right direction.

 

As far as the humping thing, dogs do it for different reasons. One of the main ones is dominance or control. They will also do it when they don't want a particular game to be over. I've experienced this in great detail with my boy I have now. He gets so excited when I work him in Schutzhund that when I put him in the car he is humping the air. NOw keep in mind that he is put away in the height of the action while he is in full drive, this keeps them wanting more. He also demonstrates this same behavior when we are working in obedience. I always quit when my dogs are in full drive that way they anticipate and want more making them a very willing worker. I want the fantastic obedience scores and such and to do so working and training in drive is the ticket. Now of course my females don't show this kind of behavior which I appreciate! Romeo on the other hand we work in short segments to work him in total drive. Tonight I brought out a new stool that I'm teaching him to step up on and then he will move around the thing to the left and right without taking his front feet off. this teaches him control of his body and how to get it in with his rear (competition obedience stuff) well he was so excited to be learning something new that the second I put it away he was on my leg trying to hump away. Part of this was excitement and part of it was because he wanted to control  the situation and when the play was over.

Herman responded today in a matter that MOST male Dobermans would, I would not fault him one bit for that. This is in his making they are not Goldens like most people would like to make them. He did what was appropriate in that situation for the breed.

If you need help with the bike thing let me know I can share what I did with Romeo.

Lady Kate's picture
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RnD, Does this mean we should be expecting a  litter of Doberstools.????.

You know I'm kidding. thank you for your serious posts and wonderful information\.

OMG .. Romeo is indeed a wild child!!

Doberstools.. I don't care who you are.. that's funny!!

allieb87's picture
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rnddobermans, I know lots of dogs hump for lots of reasons but I've just encountered a lot of Labs who tend to persistently hump other dogs. I was trying to make a joke... just not a super funny one ;-). Chihuahuas seem to have a humping thing too. But yeah, my other dog, Eddie, humps the air when he's done with agility training as well. My mom has a standard Poodle who never humps anyone or anything EXCEPT redheaded women. Bizarre.

I don't know if I'm skilled enough to work on the bicycle thing with Herman by myself. Since I know it's a situation that triggers an aggressive response, I would worry that it could get out of hand. I've had dogs my whole life but Herm is my first Dobe so I'm still learning the ropes on some of the training stuff. Basically, I've never gone past sit, down, stay, wait, come, etc. before. Eddie does agility but it's more about working on his giant stubborn streak (Dachshund thing?) than competing. We actually went to a friendly mock competition at my obedience school and after MONTHS of practice Eddie just planted himself on the ground and ate a bunch of grass while refusing to go through the course much to everyone's amusement. What I do right now when Herm and I are on a walk and see a bicycle is get off the main path onto the grass. Then I have him go into a down and wait until the bicycle is gone. What sucks is that there's a lake by my house with tons of great walking trails but there are so many cyclists around that we just can't go.

Lady Kate, if rnddobermans should be expecting Doberstools then my mom should start preparing for a litter of redheaded Poodles!

nupe's picture
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And this is why I DONT DO dOG PARKS...DAMN OTHER owner you encountered didnt  know crap about dogs or dog body language. The close I get to parks is early in morning letting Buddy run off leash on baseball field, I also have a a retractable leash to let him stretch legs a little in park just in case another dog shows up. Thats all I need is for something to happen with Buddy and another dog...and here comes the
"Litigation Queens and Kings".

 

 

Lady Kate's picture
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Allie.... Would those be Doberdoodles?? 

oh the joys of owning and living with males LOL! This is why I PREFER my females!

To make matters worse right now Paris is in heat and it is of course driving Romeo nuts. To top this off this month will be crazy busy. My daughter her husband and son are coming to stay for a month, my other daughter whom is living with us for a short period of time is due to have a baby at the end of the month and throw Thanksgiving in the mix. Does anyone envy me LOL. I was planning on boarding Romeo at the end of the month for a few weeks while the new baby comes home and new mom is getting used to everything. I may have to bump this up  a tad, will see how bad it becomes.

Lady Kate's picture
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Ohhhh poor Romeo... Geeez Des, he's only living up to  his name!!!

Sounds like you have your hands full... I have an

Why don't YOU find a nice cozy hotel somewhere far far away...

Seriously.. I do envy you.. No one will come to Baja as they're all too afraid of the non existent banditos... Haven't seen family in so long, I hardly recognize the babies..I miss them especially during holidays

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Not a fan of the dog park. Actually, I like the park idea, it's the people that come there that annoy me. I only took Ziva one time, when she was about 6 months old, because the closest dog park to me is 20 miles south of my home, in another town.  I was there on some business and had Z with me one day, so I drove by it and looked around.  Nobody there at all, so I let her out and we ran around and over the little creek there and Ziva was enjoying all the sniffing she was doing. We were getting ready to leave and I could see up ahead near the entrance gate a couple getting out of their car with two Lab mix dogs, much bigger and older than Ziva was.  I put Ziva's leash on her and walked her all the way over to the side fence, out of everyone's way, and as soon as these two Labbies got inside, their owners took their leashes off of them, they spotted Ziva and ran over to her with "that look" in their eyes.  It was like they had decided to double team against her, and she wasnt doing anything but walking on her leash.  The dogs circled her, neck hair standing, acting like they couldnt wait to tear into her. The owners stood there smiling like they were so proud of their bully boys.  I asked them if they could please get their dogs away from us, because we were trying to leave the park.  They did, but looked at me like I was some sort of idiot.  I just didnt want to have any sort of dog scuffle going on, and thought it was best to totally avoid any possibility of one happening.  We havent gone back since then.

allieb87's picture
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Agreed Ziva's Dad. This was Herman's first and last time. Because my Docker (Dachshund/Cocker) Eddie is smaller he used to go quite a bit but I eventually realized that the small dog enclosure they have at our park is even WORSE than the big dog enclosure. Like I said above Eddie is stubborn but he is trained. Well, a lot of the small dog owners don't bother to train AT ALL so the enclosure was basically a free for all. I thought that by taking Herman very early in the morning I would avoid a crowd but it didn't work out. No more.

gingersmommy's picture
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allieb87, my husband and I had a similar experience.  Took the dogs to the dog park only once.  They have a "big" dog side and a "small" dog side right next to each other.  No one was in the small dog side and these people brought their little dog into the bigger dog side.  This thing was very high strung and kept going after Ginger, chasing her, just being a pain in the a**.  Finally, Ginger got spooked and came and sat right against my leg.  I was going to hook her and Lexie up to leave and the little dog was still going after her.  The owner was right there watching the whole thing.  Finally, Ginger had had enough and in an instant pinned the dog and was posturing over her throat, but not biting.  The little dog was screaming and yelping.  Of course, Ginger was perceived as the aggressor, even to the people who had watched what was going on.  I couldn't believe it.  I guess she wasn't supposed to react like she did (!) but Ginger tried very hard to extricate herself from the situation, even coming to me for protection - until finally she had to react.  There are too many ignorant owners at the dog park for it to be safe.  No one ever wants to admit when their dog acts inappropriately.  I think it is a climate ripe for something bad to happen. That was our first and only trip.

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I've actually had the exact opposite experiences than most of you. We've taken bluff to the dog park as soon as he was up on all of his shots. He was about 20 lbs. at that point (one of the smaller dogs). He's made a lot of good friends, some of which are also puppies but some of whom are very stable adult dogs. It seems as though most of the dogs at our park are under a year old and a majority of their owners are very on top of their dogs. This makes it really easy, and we've never had a problem with aggression or behavioral issues. The one problem that we've had is that our dog park is not fenced. It's a series of trails and then it opens up to a very large field where all the dogs play. On the one side is a road. Most of the dogs know not to go anywhere near the road (the way it's set up is the owners are basically blocking the entrance to the road) but there is this one very small dog who just runs deliberately into the road. We've only encountered her once and we go quite often, but when it happened I almost had a heart attach because Bluff was chasing her. Yes he knows to come once called but is a little sluggish with the response at the dog park. Needless to say Bluff ran close to the road but came back when called and the other dog just kept running. The owners didn't care and were actually laughing at my reaction. It made me really sad to see them laugh because people fly down that road and I didn't think it was funny at all. Once that happened we left, and now we keep an eye out for her. Also there are a few dogs who are attracted to Bluff's posts but their owners correct them as soon as they even seem as though they're interested in his ears.

But on a side note: when we first started going we met another dobe (Gunther) and his owner. He has had Dobermans for over 30 years. Gunther is about a year old now (Bluff is 4 months) and he's been a great source of help and information. The owner actually came over to our house to help us learn the taping process, and Gunther shows Bluff how to act like a respectable gentleman :)