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I am getting different advice about a situation that

frequently occurs at the dog...
I am getting different advice about a situation that frequently occurs at the dog park. A large dog will start to bark or approach a small dog and it looks like the situation could escalate. I have always thought it was wrong to pick up the smaller dog and hold them away from the larger dog. It has been said that this torments or agitates the larger dog and thereby escalates the situation. that holding a squeely or crying dog over the head of the agatated dogs is like teasing them. Does this manuver actually help the situation or is it more likely to make it worse?
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Answered in 20 minutes by:
9/18/2009
Dr. John
Dr. John, Texas Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 12,237
Experience: Over 14 years of clinical veterinary experience
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Hello. Thanks for writing in. I think the first thing to address is to make sure no dog aggressive dogs are allowed in the dog park. When you get a dog that is aggressive to other dogs or tries to herd other dogs (usually this is just an instinct of certain breeds), they not be anywhere near a dog park. Since these type of dogs can be unpredictable, you have to consider the welfare of the owner, since that will cause the most legal problems if there is a dog attack on a human. When introducing 2 dogs at the same time, it may be best for the owners to be with them and keep them on leash until they can get acquainted. If they seem fine with each other, you can let them play off leash. Depending on the dog, seeing the smaller dog squeal and flail in the owner's arms can cause some aggression. I don't think it is a good idea to hold the smaller dog over the larger dog's head. If they think a situation is about to arise, it may be a good idea to alert the owner of the large dog. If they can get that owner to get control of the larger dog, picking up the smaller dog shouldn't be a problem, but they should just walk away after picking up the dog. I would be careful about doing it too fast. If they snatch the dog up and run or walk very quickly, there is concern about a larger dog attack at that point. The question definitely leaves a lot open to the temperment of the larger dog and can definitely have strong points either way. I am of the opinion that dogs who even have the smallest trait of dog aggression shouldn't be allowed in dog parks. It may even be a good idea to have a separate section for larger dogs and a separate section for smaller dogs. I know some dog parks around here have done that, and it makes people more comfortable. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Hope this helps.
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago

Your answer is just a tad too general. I am not talking dogs with major agression issues, just every now and then a dog just does not hit it off with another dog (no real difference than with people-lol). I am looking for a couple of good references to use to convince a stubborn owner that picking the smaller dog up can actually make the situation worse. Not allowing the dogs to work it out, as long as there is no imminent danger seems to make for a better long term solution. If they don't work it out, they may never be able to be at the park at the same time without escalation of their issues.

I also must respectfully ***** ***** the leash part. In my park going experience, bringing a new dog into a park on a leash has created more problems then letting them run loose with the others. the dog on the leash is new and nervous, the new dogs come forward to sniff and greet and the leashed dog feels trapped and may get snarly.

As far as seperate areas, I am currently fostering a 68 lb female pit and an 8 lb terrier mix. You should see how great they play together :)

I am sorry. I don't have specific references that you can use. I will opt out, though, and see if someone else can help you out. Good luck!!
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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
After a follow up exchange with Texas Vet he decided to opt out of my question as he did not have the specific information I was requesting. I was looking for professional references that I could quote in my argument against picking up small dogs involved with larger dogs at an off leash dog park. If someone else can provide this information I will gladly pay, but otherwise I would request a refund to my credit card.
NancyH
NancyH, Dog Expert:Rescue, Train,Breed,Care
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 31,958
Experience: 30+ yrs dog home vet care & nursing, rescue, behavior&training, responsible show breeding, genetics
Verified

Here is the issue, picking up the small dog. swooping it away and screaming, or yelling is apt to trigger prey drive in some dogs. Some dogs will back off when they realize a human is involved and some will not because they are so focused on 'getting it' with their prey drive turned on.

Usually the big issues between large and small dogs have to do with the larger dog's not seeing the small ones as dogs or the small dogs having an overly enhanced view of themselves in terms of their 'size' and pack status or dominance levels. A little dog with good dog manners can do much better than a small dog with a 'big attitude'. But a lot of big dogs see 'small and furry' and think cat or squirrel not 'other dog'.

Leashing can work well but it depends on how big the dog park is. The smaller parks don't really have enough territorial room for a leashed dog to be seen as 'away' and 'no threat' etc. like a really big park does.

So now for the problem - if you can't squeal and grab and swoop which are all perfect examples of normal primate/human behavior what can be done in this situation? Putting a barrier between the big and small dogs is one possibility. I like using a pop out umbrella which not only startles the bigger dog but screens the small dog from view.

In the dog park itself there should be safety areas where a small dog can go but a big one cannot. These can be straw bales, cement pipes or blocks, low benches etc. Think about what might work that would let an owner put a small dog out of reach and put themselves between a big dog and their pet.

A distractor may work - a ball to toss to distract a big dog or a squeaky toy to re-engage that prey drive elsewhere, or a shaker can to pull the dog's focus off might also work and not be too hard for owners to carry.

If there is a big dog that repeatedly has an issue with small ones (or vice versa) you might want to ban that individual from the park until manners courses have been completed.

Some parks in my area have specific small dog hours or days, large dog hours or days and then mixed time. They even have puppy socialization times where only baby pups are allowed. That lets people choose if they want to deal with dogs of other sizes or not without excluding dog families that have both big and small dogs.

For you, if you are supervising, a cheap pop out umbrella, a towel to shake and put between dogs to break that focus, or even something such as a plastic bin lid or a flying saucer type sled of plastic to make a barrier may work.

As I have a mixed pack, back when I was out walking dogs in the city when an aggressive dog approached I'd put my small dog behind me, step forward and say 'don't you DARE!' to the oncoming dog. I'm pretty alpha so that worked for me where a barrier or a place to go to may work for others more safely.

With the dog's brain in mind short term leash up of the dog presenting the problem with some basic obedience command as 'punishment' for 'bad' behavior might work to remind the dog that it has to have manners to get the free run time it wants. Dogs can be taught to ignore smaller dogs if the owners are willing to do it to get free run and play time.

Please let me know if you want anything more addressed. I'll be back on later today - have to take my 'dogasaurus' out for a run with her 'munchkin' buddies!

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Customer reply replied 8 years ago
We have seen an influx of owners at our park who are really not "dog savvy" and they are definitely not alpha personalities. they also can't distinguish between play growling and having a good time wrestling and truely agressive behavior even if dogs are the same size ! couple this ignorance with a small dog/big dog situation and these owners frequesntly make matters worse. what I am looking for are articles that I can copy and take with me to the park and hopefully educate these people before their actions create a situation that leads to injury or a dog being banned from the park.

Not only a dog injury but a human injury could be the out come of the pick up and scream situations. Once aroused a dog may do collateral damage trying to get 'prey'.

It is hard to consolidate down a lifetime of dog observation and training for newbies to the dog interaction world but there are some resources out there.

Good book here

http://www.dogwise.com/itemdetails.cfm?ID=DTB918

Dog park tips page

http://www.dogwise.com/video/park_tips.pdf

more here

http://nycdog.org/NYCdogFreeserver/DLdocs/Poster_Apr06.pdf

and here

http://www.whole-dog-journal.com/sample/a_bark_in_the_park.html

But providing areas where the small dogs can be out of reach of a bigger dog is a plus as long as humans can retreive dogs out of the space.

Tunnels such as a barrel with the bottom cut out are fun and another type of safety zone.

Another article here

http://www.spca.com/petcare/item/137

and here is some good stuff on dog body language

http://www.wagntrain.com/BodyLanguage.htm

http://www.doggonesafe.com/dog%20communication.htm#Learn%20to%20Speak%20Dog

http://www.dogscouts.org/uploads/Dog_Body_Language_101.pdf

And if you do have dog knowledgeable people coming to the park how about a series of park 'seminars' for quick introduction to basics of dog park safety?

NancyH
NancyH, Dog Expert:Rescue, Train,Breed,Care
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 31,958
Experience: 30+ yrs dog home vet care & nursing, rescue, behavior&training, responsible show breeding, genetics
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