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I have a 3-year old female dog and we go to the dog park every

day. As she has...
I have a 3-year old female dog and we go to the dog park every day. As she has gotten older my dog has exhibited less submissive behavior at the dog park and more confidence. She has also become a bit of a target for interested male dogs to mount. Some regular dogs have become a bit obsessed with her, and their owners have actually encouraged her to "tell him" or "let him have it", which I immediately try to correct. The balance I've struck is to let her on the bench at the park where these male dogs can't get to her and where I can ward off their advances rather than her take aggressive actions. I am concerned that this may be counterproductive, making her feel like "top dog". She has actually gotten very aggressive recently with male dogs that she doesn't know who are trying to sniff her. She doesn't bite but she snarls and barks and gets in their face. This happened today even though I was right there separating the dogs. She also got aggressive with a female dog that was trying to exert dominance on her, who was also snarling and trying to mount her with her hackles up (though her owner assured me this was how she 'played'). I am concerned her behavior will escalate and that she will become aggressive, but I do not know how to curb the behavior without exerting dominance myself. We obviously left the dog park immediately after both of these instances, but I don't know what to do. She loves the freedom to run at the park, but these behaviors seem risky.
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Answered in 4 minutes by:
9/9/2013
Anna
Anna, Pet Trainer
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 11,658
Experience: 40 yrs. training pet dogs and performance dogs in obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and therapy.
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Hello,

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a knowledge of canine behavior, and over 30 years experience training dogs as household pets and for competition. Some additional information will be helpful.

Is Lina spayed?

Do you know if the male dogs at the dog park are neutered?

Has Lina's behavior changed suddenly or gradually?

Have the other dogs always tried to mount her, etc.?

Thank you.

Anna
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

Lina is spayed--the other dogs are generally neutered. She has a more negative reaction to those dogs that she doesn't know well. Some dogs she will just let go to town on her because she knows them (there is a female dog who is spayed and a male dog who is neutered that I am thinking about in particular). Her behavior has escalated pretty suddenly. Her interest in play slowed dramatically around age 2, but she was never aggressive until dogs started mounting her at about 2.5. Even then she didnt show aggression unless another dog was trying to tackle her while the first dog was mounting her and she felt cornered. But even so she has only been aggressive 5 times in her life, all within the last 10 months or so, and twice of those 5 times in the last two days! And these past two times were more extended behaviors where she really got in the other dogs face, not just a small snarl to get her point accross.

Thank you for getting back to me. I’m working on your answer and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. (I am not a fast typist). Please don’t respond to this post as that can lock me out of the question. I’ll be back shortly. I appreciate your patience.

Anna
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Thank you for waiting. Lina is not being aggressive; she is defending herself. Humping occurs among dogs of both sexes for various reasons. When the dogs don't know each other, it is usually dominance related. They are trying to establish who is top dog, but when none of the dogs are particularly aggressive, the humping may well be the only sign of this you'll ever see. Humping, biting, and knocking down another dog are all ways of showing dominance. These are normal behaviors in dogs of both sexes, and intact dogs, as well as spayed/neutered ones.

There are other reasons for humping. Puppies will engage in humping behavior as play. Just like they play-fight and play-hunt, they also play mate. A female with a urinary tract or vaginal infection may have odors that induce other dogs to hump them. Some dogs simply hump in the excitement of play.

I suspect that Lina was very submissive to these other dogs when she was young, but as she got older, she decided she'd had enough. what she is doing now is defending herself from these displays of dominance in the only way a dog has.

Dogs know we are not other dogs. Lina does not think she is top dog when you put her on t he table. She knows all those other dogs are trying to dominate her regardless of where you put her. This is extremely stressful for her to have to deal with numerous dogs all trying to dominate her. It's best not to correct her when she defends herself. The owners of the other dogs should also not be trying to get her to go after their dogs. It is their responsibility to make their dogs behave, not hers.

The first thing I would do is have your vet check Lina to make sure she doesn't have a urinary tract or vaginal infection. That is a possibility, but not extremely likely since these dogs have been behaving that way toward her for a long time. This whole situation is not good. It is not a training situation. If the owners of the other dogs would teach their dogs a 'leave it' command and use it when they bother Lina, then training could help. Lina is not the one who needs training. Growling/snarling is a dog's way of warning another dog to back off. If that dog doesn't heed the warning, a bite may follow. Things can rapidly get worse if we humans start interfering. If you correct Lina for growling at the other dogs, she'll think you don't want her to growl. Next time, she may skip the growl and simply bite them.

I understand people like dog parks because of the freedom the dogs have, but a dog park is a very unnatural situation. In parts of the world where dogs have gone feral, packs form. The dogs know each other and their place. There is not a constant influx of new dogs. If there were, we would see constant fighting and jockeying for position. That's what can happen at a dog park. When we know how to read dog body language, we often see that some dogs are very stressed and unhappy at a dog park. The only running they do is to get away from others. The other dogs bother them. Some bullied dogs hide behind their owners. Some roll over and cower. Most will eventually defend themselves in the way Lina has.

I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I feel you deserve honesty. I doubt that Lina truly enjoys her time at the dog park. You cannot train her to let other dogs dominate her. She knows she hates their behavior. She knows you're not happy with her. That's a very stressful situation for a dog to be in. If Lina were my dog, I would not take her to the dog park anymore unless you know of a time when you're not likely to run into other dogs. She'd probably enjoy a long walk with you much more. Perhaps you have a friend or relative with a fenced yard where you could play fetch with her. You could enroll in an agility training class with her, which would provide exercise, time with you, and a way to increase her confidence. Going to a dog park is not a necessity for dogs, and for some it is no fun at all.

Because the problem involves multiple dogs, and it is not Lina's problem, there isn't much you can do about it. If all the dog owners agreed to a program of behavior modification, it might help, but most people don't go to the dog park for that purpose. In addition new dogs would always be coming in. Some trainers would give you a list of things to try, just to make you feel like you're doing something about the situation. I'm not going to do that because I think you would be wasting your time. My first choice would be to stop going to the dog park. The other option is to let Lina handle the bullying dogs in her way and hope nobody gets hurt if they don't back down and leave her alone.

If you have more questions, let em know in a REPLY. i hope that whatever you decide, it will work out well for Lina. She's not an aggressive dog, but a normal dog who is just defending herself.

Anna

My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!
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Customer reply replied 4 years ago

I am very satisfied with your response, and I appreciate your honesty. I'm nervous that the other owners will not see Lina's response as a normal behavior. She loves the dog park so much in actuality. She tells me when we don't get on the road by sunset and she actually is more likely to try to escape the house if she doesn't go off-leash. I run 25 miles/week, but when I take Lina she does not get the exercise she needs because I run too slow for her. I unfortunately do not have a fenced in yard for her to play in. The freedom of the dog park has been the solution to that so far. She loves to see all the people and will play with the regular dogs in her "pack". I have noticed her anxiety with new dogs more, so I think I will choose to continue to go later at night and remain mindful of her play. I know this is naive but I will try to find an alternative venue for her play in the meantime.


I do absolutely appreciate your response. It was complete and much lengthier than expected. Thank you for your time.
Best,


Jill

You're welcome, Jill. I understand about other dog owners. They don't see their own dogs initiating the problem with pushy behaviors, but when another dog stands up to theirs, they immediately think, "Aggression." If they are people who will listen, you could try explaining it to them.

We see the same thing among children in schools. I taught junior high science for a number of years. I always tried to be aware of subtle bullying. The bullies were smart and quiet about what they did. When no adult intervened, eventually the bullied child would strike out. Then they got in trouble for being aggressive. So the problem doesn't just occur in dog parks.

Since Lina has a pack she feels comfortable with, I think your solution of going to the park when they are present is a good one. I hope you'll both be able to enjoy your time there.

Anna

 

If you are satisfied with the information you've received, and don't have additional concerns, please take a moment to rate my answer. I don't receive credit for it until you do. Thank you very much.

 

Anna
Anna, Pet Trainer
Category: Dog Training
Satisfied Customers: 11,658
Experience: 40 yrs. training pet dogs and performance dogs in obedience, agility, herding, tracking, and therapy.
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Hi Jill,

 

I'm just following up on our conversation. How is your plan working out so far?

 

Anna

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Anna
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