Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rough Day at the Dog Park

I took Pappy and neighbor dog Molly to the dog park this morning, and events turned very disturbing. Dog park regular, Jack, snapped up a ball that was being used by a big dog I didn't recognize. The stranger dog had played well with other dogs, but had snarled when they had shown an interest in his ball. In this case he locked onto the scruff of Jack's neck and three full grown men couldn't get him to release. I ran and got my bottle of water to dump on them, but he was completely unphased. It seemed like forever, but I guess after a minute or two we got them separated.

Jack wasn't wounded, and seemed fine in a couple of minutes. His owner was extremely upset, but was very conciliatory with the other dog's owners. She said that she thought it was just a case that the stranger dog had gotten caught on Jack's collar, but this was putting it kindly. She was going to take Jack to the vet just to make sure he was well.

That takes me back to the time that Pappy was injured in the dog park. I still tell myself that it was a play accident rather than an act of aggression. But the truth is I really don't know what happened. Even with my dog being the victim, I was pretty desperate to rationalize the whole situation as something that wasn't going to implicate the safety of the dog park. Because if the dog park isn't safe, what am I doing taking my dog there?

Of course this rationalization is less dangerous than the one that an erratically aggressive dog can be trusted at a dog park, no matter how much someone loves him. I hope I don't see the stranger dog again, because neighbor dog Molly plays keepaway just like Jack was doing. When you think about it, it's a pretty thin fabric of faith and good sense that holds the dog park situation together.

14 comments:

Jude said...

I think this is why a lot of doggie daycares don't let owners drop their dogs off with toys. They can tend to spark conflict. That would seem a good rule for dog parks too, especially for newer dogs and owners who've not been around long enough to judge well.

Pappy's Fella said...

Your's is a good point, and one I agree with. Someone had brought a toy to the park today, and other dogs kept taking it away.

In this case, the ball was one that was just around the dog park-- we have a lot of them in the enclosure. The dog had fixated on that ball, which is something Pappy does too. But Pappy doesn't get too out of joint when someone else snatches it.

3dogcache said...

The problem with small fenced in dog parks is that the owners hang out and chit chat, while the dogs "play". But what actually forms is a makeshift pack. And any pack contains aggression. It is the nature of a pack. And in this unnatural "dog park" that has boundaries, dogs naturally will become territorial. Is it really the stranger's dogs fault? Or rather, the people who think they can put up a fence to create an artificial area to let strange dogs learn to accept each other? Personally, I tend to stay away from all fenced dog parks. Even in Congressional Cemetery, which is a good 35 acres, I stay away from the owners who gather and let their dogs form a pack. A fight started this morning in one of the makeshift packs at the cemetery. And though toys will certainly enhance the probability that a fight will break out...it isn't the only cause.

Sorry, just never been a fan of the fenced dog parks.

Enjoy, 3dogs

Enjoy, 3dogs

Jojo's Mom said...

Just to update--- Jack is fine. No ruptures, punctures or sores. It seems pretty obvious now that out of the two of us, I was the more traumatized. We went to Congressional again today and he had a good time and even played with some large dogs--quite a brave guy considering. Also, in case anyone from Wheaton reads this, stranger dog's parents called me to check on Jack and offer to pay for any of his expenses. This won't stop us from going to the park, but it means that I have to keep a much more careful eye on my baby. Luckily, Jojo is never in these situations, as she's usually at my heels.

Jack and Jojo's Mom

Pappy's Fella said...

3Dog,
I've seen cases where I would agree with the concerns about pack behavior you describe, and this absolutely wasn't one of them. There was none of the overstimulation of dogs ganging up on a less dominant dog... there were simply no other dogs involved. Typically we all try and reign it in when one dog seems to be getting the worst of multiple dogs' attention... but they are faster than us. I have to say that I am a lot more comfortable when I know all the dogs in the enclosure, which is why I go early.

Jojo's Mom,
I hope we see you guys tomorrow. I'm glad to hear stranger dog's owners took it so seriously, and I am sure they love their dog because he seemed good around them. I'm still not persuaded I really want to see him at the park tho'.

macgoogle said...

Yes, toys really do increase the likelihood of a fight starting and usually the innocents get hurt too. While I can see the benefits of a fenced dog park (secure area where dogs can roam without the owners worrying about them being hit by a car), there are also downsides if the owners get complacent or if noobs bring dogs. We try to ensure that Texas stays on the outer rim or away from large packs because when fights break out, he has a really powerful fight-back stance and jaw muscles to match. He doesn't start the fights but if he gets bitten, he will bite back - and then he won't let go. Anyhow, that's one of the reasons why Texas is having a break from the bark park for now. We love him too much to let the carelessness of some naive human or untrained animal hurt him.

Texas's Humans.

Gus said...

Gussie's muzzer here: We have been unsuccessful at dog parks because Gussie is quite protective and so tends to hang back with me and not get socialized. And of course, if other dog(s) come around me, he becomes a snarling, darting terrier machine!

One on one is OK, even at home, but I get really nervous at dog parks. I wish I knew more about how he was raised/treated before we got him, because otherwise he is a pussy cat.

Pappy's Fella said...

Magoogle,
Thanks for your well-considered thoughts. I find myself getting a little "but our dog park is so different" defensive, but that's not always true. It certainly pays to be more heedful.

Gus,
I felt like you must yesterday on a walk with Pappy on leash. He can get snarly and agitated, and we came on a group of dog owners chatting on the path. In this case it was okay, but there's a lot of anxiety preceding the these encounters.

Dachsies Rule said...

I have no dog park experience since there are three of them and only one of me.
Maybe stranger dog's people were hoping to help socialize their dog and it got out of hand. It's a difficult decision if you don't really have friends with dogs but you want to expand your dog's experiences. Where else do you go to find dogs? Closely supervised "one on one" with different dogs could probably go a long way to help stranger dog ... but someone is going to have to offer.

Dachsie's Mom

Cubby said...

And there are so many dog owners without sense...

sad...

Pappy's Fella said...

Dachsies,
You've got one of the key points there. People bring a lot of brand new rescues to the dog park in hopes of bringing them out of their shells-- where else are they going to do it? But some of these dogs are verging on terrified or are pretty rough, and that's a bad place to be starting from. Truth is, as a new dog owner, I probably took Pappy to the dog park before I really knew what to expect from him.

Cubby,
It was a bad situation. But the sad thing is I can imagine too clearly the situation under which one makes these mistakes.

Angeerah said...

Unfortunately, we live in a city where there is no dog park. Finnegan used to love the one in SLC and I only saw one incident between two pit bills that was pretty scary. I think people need to be cautious, keep on eye on their dog, and make sure their dog can handle the dog park situation.

Finnegan's mom

Gayle said...

I was out of town and heard about the fight from Erik. Jojo's mom -- I'm glad to hear that Jack is doing well. I hope to see all three of you this coming weekend.

Pappy's Fella said...

Finnegan,
You do need to keep a handle on things, and it is so much easier when we are dealing with the regular crew at our park.

Gayle,
Erik was right in the scrum trying to break things up. In the end Jack seemed great the next day.