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Dog Park Woes

Hi, everyone!


This is Gracie!

She's a pound dog, about a year old, and I've had her for 2.5 months now. She has been adjusting to our family well, and although she doesn't excel in obedience, we have yet to have any big problems with her. I think she is a pointer cross of some sort, but i'm nearly certain she has a bit of Jack Russell in her. She is very high-energy, goes after squirrels obsessively, and has a lot of those borderline neurotic ticks that are characteristic of the terrier.

Anyway, she gets walks/runs daily, which I think is substantial exercise because she behaves well in the house. She also gets consistent obedience training, knows how to sit, lie down, stay, wait for her food, wait to go out the door, etc. She is working on walking obedience, which usually goes well but gets interrupted by squirrels every now and again. I really like taking her to the dog park, but she is extremely vocal about her play. She is not aggressive (although sometimes she acts protective of me), but acts very dominant, singles out a particular dog, and just barks at them nonstop, even if they show her their belly or start to play with her. When she gets in this mode, my commands fail to snap her out of it. She also makes it pretty hard for me to catch her, though we've worked a lot on coming when called. It's really annoying, not only to me but especially to the other owners. She sometimes scares the other dogs too. I thought that maybe she could work it out on her own, but it's just getting worse and worse, perhaps because she is getting more comfortable with me.

I know a simple solution would be to nix the trips to the dog park, but I think the social time is important for her, being a single dog and all (hah). I also know how much the dogs love their play time there and hate to take that away from her. So, my question is, has anyone here dealt with this problem before? Any suggestions for things I can be doing to better get her attention?

Thank you! I look forward to your input.


I would look for a certified, positive-reinforcement trainer and enroll in some group classes for socialization. Your dog needs to work on recall before she goes back to the park, in my opinion. If you cannot call her out of play (or bullying another dog) she could cause a fight or get involved in one.
Hit send too soon:

http://www.apdt.com/petowners/ts/ I would start with searching here, but this is not a guarantee that they are a positive-reinforcement trainer. Make sure you talk to the lead trainer, ask them what methods they use, and what tools are allowed in their classes (if they include choke, prong, or shock collars - run!).

I enjoy classes that include offleash play time, but only when done responsibly. My trainer is not afraid to group certain dogs together, ask a particular dog's owner to recall them as often as needed, etc. to keep play fair and fun for everyone involved. If there aren't such classes available, I would try to exchange numbers with classmates whose dogs are friendly and trustworthy, and socialize my dog with them instead of strangers at the dog park.
Thank you! That's very helpful. I'll look around at trainers in my area.
Agree with jiffypopp that group classes are a good idea for socialisation - if you can find someone to do on-lead side by side walking to practice calm interaction that would probably help too, and then if the park is a good one, you can always go back later when her social skills are a bit more advanced.

'Dominant' is a difficult word. It sounds to me like she's more over-excited - and perhaps a little frustrated? Maybe she wants to play but doesn't quite understand how to do it? That seems to be quite a common problem for younger dogs that haven't had lots of social interaction.

I feel your pain on the recall training : am at a similar stage with my young dog. He's not a barker but EVERYTHING in the entire world is SO exciting and distracting! *sigh*.

April 2014

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