This past weekend, we tried to take our dogs to one of the less busy dog parks in our city. We've found this one works out pretty well for us-- fewer dogs means a better experience overall for everybody, I think. This really stems from one of my dogs' social ineptitude when it comes to greeting other dogs. He's too gung-ho. He wants to great everybody, get right in their faces, and sometimes give them a nice sniff on the butt, or a hump or two. Usually, it's the getting right in another dog's face that doesn't go over too well (and occasionally the un-welcomed humping). Now, I'm no dog body language expert, but when he runs up to another dog and "gets all up in their grill," I really don't think he's being aggressive...just overly excited. Some dogs don't appreciate this excitement and I think they do see it as an attack. Here comes a ~70 pound Australian Shepherd at full speed... I don't blame them for getting a bit up-tight.
Anyhow, this little problem is what led us to going to the less busy doggie park. But this weekend, things didn't work so well. As soon as we got in the park, he ran up to a dog that was either an Irish Setter or a Golden Retriever (it was more red than gold) and it growled, bared teeth and moved away. The owner took notice, but then Jax kinda ran on to pee on something. Round 2 wasn't as good. He decided he wanted to get to know the stranger a bit better and ran after him/her. The dog eventually turned and went off. Prior to this, Jax was not growling or showing teeth, or anything. But when that dog responded as it did, he was on the defensive as well. When he started in with the dog, our other dog, Apollo, a Husky, started in to help protect his brother. The other dog's owner starts yelling at the top of her lungs "STOP IT STOP IT!" and using her little ball thrower to try to separate them. Ryan went in and just grabbed our two, as the second owner of the other dog was yelling "Whose dogs are these?!?" Ryan was right there...we don't leave our dogs unsupervised at the park. The woman ended up yelling, "We're leaving! We're just going to leave!" Thankfully, none of the dogs were hurt--it really didn't get to that point.
Ryan ended up putting our two on a leash and we walked around the park... I wanted to just leave, because I feel if you have to keep your dogs on a leash at the free-reign park, you shouldn't be there in the first place. I feel like such a failure when my boys behave badly at the park...but I get defensive of them as well. I don't like for people to think they are bad or aggressive dogs, or that they are starting fights. They're not the kinds of dogs that start fights...they want to have fun and run around and meet the other dogs. I've decided it just depends upon the chemistry with the other dog that will determine how things go at the park. I know I'm rationalizing, but if another dog can't handle my dog's overt friendliness...don't both dogs have problems? I feel like I've failed my dogs and am a bad dog owner when things happen--but how do you keep a social butterfly from being so social? I wouldn't know how to correct this behavior if I tried. And then there's the problem of him actually learning that other dogs don't like it when you get in their faces... I really doubt that you can hurt this dog...and if you can, he still won't connect the "I'm hurting" feeling with "Oh, maybe I shouldn't do that again" thing...especially in the social setting of the dog park.