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Is this normal dog behavior?


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I take Rocky to the dog park sometimes.  He mostly ignores the other dogs.  But sometimes a dog will come up and will sniff and sniff.  He will stand stiff-legged and the dogs will circle around each other sniffing.  But then one of the dogs (sometimes Rocky) will bark at the other (a warning?  or is it aggression?) and the other dog will bark back.  This is accompanied by lunging at each other.  At this point Rocky will put in high pitched yips like he's being hurt.  Today I yelled at both dogs (including Rocky) to "knock it off" and Rocky immediately followed me to another part of the dog park that didn't have dogs in it.  The other dog's owner called her dog too and the dog didn't follow us.  So. . . dd thinks this is just a normal dog thing.  But I see warnings about not having aggressive dogs in the dog park and wonder if I'm being a bad citizen or if it is a real dog fight waiting to happen.  What do you think?  

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It's really hard to say w/o seeing it, but to me it sounds fairly normal.

 

When dogs meet, it's typical for them to stand sideways to each other, or nose-to-tail, or circle.  Avoiding direct eye contact is a good thing, as that's generally interpreted as an aggressive thing by dogs who don't know each other well.  The barking/lunging could be an invitation to play.  Different dog breeds/mixes have different play styles and personalities.  For example, the sporting breeds do lots of body slamming and usually have no concept of or respect for personal space.  The herding breeds like to chase but don't typically enjoy other dogs getting into their space or slamming into them.  Those are generalizations and so won't be true of every single dog, of course.  But the point is that when two dogs meet there's often a lot more nuance than just . . two dogs meeting.  They're trying to figure out if they like each other and could play well together.  Sometimes it's kind of like two people from different cultures who only have a few words or hand signals in common trying to get to know each other while avoiding doing anything to offend.  I hope that made sense, I'm not sure I'm explaining it well at all.

 

But from what you've posted I wouldn't be concerned about Rocky's behavior.  Just keep tabs on what he's doing at the dog park (like every owner should).  As long as he readily breaks away and follows you, then it sounds to me as if he's doing okay.

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I agree with the meeting illustration. I would wonder if the barking is an invitation for play or an act of defense. In any case, stopping the whining/hurt sounding bark right away is a good call. Distracting him by bringing him to another part of the field is another good call. You're breaking the routine and giving him an alternative. Keep it up and eventually he'll forget about that whining/hurt part of his routine. 

 

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I agree with the meeting illustration. I would wonder if the barking is an invitation for play or an act of defense. In any case, stopping the whining/hurt sounding bark right away is a good call. Distracting him by bringing him to another part of the field is another good call. You're breaking the routine and giving him an alternative. Keep it up and eventually he'll forget about that whining/hurt part of his routine.

:iagree:

 

I think you did the right thing by separating the dogs. Why take chances when it's so easy to just walk away, right?

 

Also, not every dog wants to make friends with the other dogs at the park. One of our dogs was like that. I truly don't think she realized she was a dog. ;) She wasn't aggressive with other dogs, but she wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of them.

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:iagree:

 

I think you did the right thing by separating the dogs. Why take chances when it's so easy to just walk away, right?

 

Also, not every dog wants to make friends with the other dogs at the park. One of our dogs was like that. I truly don't think she realized she was a dog. ;) She wasn't aggressive with other dogs, but she wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of them.

 

I had a dog like that years ago.  She wouldn't acknowledge in any way the existence of another dog.  She'd go to the vet or groomer and walk by two or ten other dogs and not pay one iota of attention to them.  It was as if they weren't even there.  It was actually kind of funny.

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Yeah, I think the other dog wanted to play.  And I think that Rocky sort of wants to but he's also scared (thus the sharp yipping sound like he's hurt).  He's been attacked before while on a walk  - he was on a leash and the other dog came out of nowhere and attacked him.  Since then he's become wary.  

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Our Golden Retriever fits right in with Pawz description. He is definitely a body slammer and he is a LOUD player. He barks and growls when he wants to play (he will do play bows while barking and growling) so I think other dogs understand but it can freak out their owners.

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I have a defensive yelper too. My best guess is that yelping is her way of getting out of a frightening situation since she only does it when dogs much larger than herself try to play more aggressively than she is comfortable with.

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