smalllittlebulldogs asked: Hey, thanks for the follow. I really like your blog. ~Nate
Thank you! :) Same to you, I am always excited to find other dog blogs to follow!
Thank you! :) Same to you, I am always excited to find other dog blogs to follow!
So, as an aspiring photographer, it’s really difficult just starting out. I’m trying to get my name out there by word of mouth, and by offering prices that just can’t be beat considering the quality of the work. I’ve been thinking of getting some part-time employment. A little extra money can’t hurt, especially with three dogs and a hamster to look after. I still haven’t gone to any training classes with my dogs, and I wanted to start Helo in a class early. It’s never too late, but the sooner the better!
I’ve been considering other options as well. Right now I just can’t afford the equipment that would make my life as a photographer much easier. The laptop that I retouch on is crapping out on me. I doubt it will last a few more months. It’s just old and reaching it’s end. I need a new one, but the one I want is between $800-$1,200 (depending on whether I get the one from newegg, or the one from Best Buy). Then I’ve been wanting to save up for a new lens better suited for portrait-style photography, and close-ups.
I’ve been thinking about joining a program at an animal behavior college to learn more about canine behavior, and whatever else they may be able to teach me (I’m very interested in dog nutrition as well). Then I also considered a vet tech program, but training would be more rewarding for me, personally. If I don’t do anything with animals, I’d go into either web development or graphic design. Honestly, though, I would be happiest working with animals. I just don’t see myself making very much money as a dog trainer.
I know several dog trainers in the area, and most of them volunteer their services such as at the Merrimac Dog Training Facility where I’d like to go. The ones who get paid work at a pet store… I wouldn’t mind offering my training services free to help the animals (that alone would be extremely rewarding), but I still have bills to pay at the end of the month, and several mouths to feed.
I really want to start volunteering at the Animal Aid Society again, and I also thought about going into wildlife rehabilitation. Again, volunteer work isn’t going to pay the bills, and I’m not getting enough photo shoots to live off of photography alone.
My fiance is also looking for other employment. Working for my dad is the worst thing he could have ever done, but it was just supposed to be temporary until he got back into a drafting position. He could get into any company because his skills in drafting and design exceed the expectations of someone his age, but he just hasn’t put in any applications. Apparently he’s “taking a break.” I can understand that. He used to work 65hrs a week, making $16.50/hr. The income was nice, but it was a lot for him, and he was getting burned out after almost four years of the same routine, with barely any time for himself to relax. Plus his boss was an ass, so when a good excuse came around, he took it as a way out.
But now he’s not even making minimum wage. Every month it’s a hassle to make sure his $600 truck payment gets paid, along with his credit cards and the monthly bills. It’s really a big difference, and we’re still not used to it. I know money isn’t everything, but if you can’t pay your bills, you’re on the street. I have three dogs to feed, plus my fiance and myself. And by my late twenties, I’d like to think about having two-legged kids for once! I want to get this house rebuilt before then, and actually have a privacy fence around the backyard so the dogs can hang out more outside on a nice day.
Ever since my mom died, everything went downhill for my dad and he isn’t doing anything to pick it back up. He’s just letting his company rot, and although we’re trying desperately to help, we just can’t take it anymore. We’re not getting paid for the work we do. I’ve been answering his phones, and my fiance has been doing the jobs — and it’s hard labor, not desk work. We’re tired of not having any money.
I need to figure something out. I’m not giving up on my dream as a photographer, but for right now I think it would be best to pursue another career until we can get back into being financially stable. Money can put a lot of stress on a person, and I think it’s one of the reasons I’ve been a butthead these last couple of months to my dogs and everyone around me.
I think I might put in an application at an animal boarding facility — preferably a family owned business, but there is one nearby that I’ll probably check out. I’ve boarded my dogs there a couple of times, and actually will be keeping them there overnight this Saturday. That might be a good time to ask if they are hiring. I think I would have an impressive resume for that kind of work.
Being a dog trainer can be pretty lucrative, especially if you become specialized in several areas (agility, obedience, aggression, etc.) I’m working on becoming a dog trainer myself, and I have a BSc in animal behaviour. I’d suggest skipping the degree for now. (I actually got mine because I wanted to get my PhD and become an ethologist and professor, but my health took a downturn and here we are.) You’d be much better off doing an internship with a trainer in your area. This will get you lots of hands-on experience where your mentor will correct your blind spots and show you new training techniques. If you can’t find someone willing to take you on, many trainers I’ve met have started out in places like PetSmart. The only really redeeming quality of these stores is that you’ll be able to meet a lot of people and build your customer base while collecting a steady salary.
Alternatively, have you considered opening a dog boarding place or doing dog walking? With as active as you are with your dogs, dog walking or boarding sounds pretty natural. (A tired dog is a happy dog, after all!)
I would actually LOVE to have my own dog boarding facility (it would have a limited capacity as I would love to have a piece of property for my house and my boarding facility where the dogs could be treated like my own, so the owners are at ease when they go out of town). I’m actually interested in applying to work at one (as I mentioned in my earlier post).
Either that, or as a receptionist at a vet clinic (I’d like to make more than $8/hr). As for training, I’d like to understand basic obedience, and maybe aggression. If I do an internship, would I be able to become certified from that? I have a friend who was taught by another trainer, and now she is certified. I sent her an email and asked if she knew of anyone who might be willing to work with me. I would also like to volunteer at the Merrimac Training Facility, and maybe move up to rally and/or agility training!
I don’t see myself being able to board dogs anytime soon, especially since my fiance wouldn’t like it (if it were done at the house). He’s not a big dog person like me, I guess! I think dog walking and training would be right up my alley. I could even set up a local dog socialization group (I already formed a meetup group where we get together once a month at the dog park, or for a walk — it’s been really nice).
I used to live to convince people into spaying or neutering their pet.
It used to thrill me, the challenge, breaking down their argument, sharing the facts, seeing minds change or, usually, protest what they believe to be some sort of liberal conspiracy.
I have lost my enthusiasm for the actual fight.
I, instead, am just overwhelmed by the facts. I can’t heave a truth bomb as far as I used to be able to. Knowing, seeing, being involved in too much of it, having met and forgotten more pathetic animals than I can even remember, I’m, undoubtedly experiencing compassion fatigue.
I’ve seen people do evil, awful things to animals. I have gotten there in the nick of time to keep puppies from dying. I have also gotten there too late. I’ve lost count of the number of dead animals I’ve put into plastic bags. I’ve lost count of the number of parvo puppies I have seen, but I have seen about a half dozen survive. And though after the first one, I swore that I would not lose count, I have been a part of more euthanasias than I could recall; Though I have cried over, drank to forget, and ruined relationships blabbing about all of them.
And, the thing is, all of that stuff, every last bit of it, all of the dreadful and disgusting things I have seen and all the torment every neglected animal has experienced, could be prevented if we didn’t have to argue about spay/neuter.
So, I’m sick of it.
In fact, recently, I hopped from one role in the organization where I work to another. Specifically because my current role involves, literally, presenting a surgeon with an anesthetized animal ready to be sterilized.
Without being a surgeon myself, this is the closest I can get to the end of the process I have fought so hard to promote since I, stupidly, picked working with pet dogs to be my “career path.”
It’s actually quite relaxing. It’s like a part of me that worked really hard can retire.
So, in case anyone is inclined to ask me, ever, why they have to neuter their damn dog, here ya go:
Spay/neuter is BASELINE standard of care for all pet dogs. It’s bad medicine to advise a dog owner to keep their pet dog intact.
For REAL advice on dog behavior, and why neutering is essential to your dog’s longterm health and success as a pet, talk to REAL experts on the topic. For crying out loud.
Dr. Ian Dunbar (the inventor of puppy training and the godfather of positive dog training)
Dr. Patricia McConnell (the academic translator of dog behavior —the literal dog whisperer)
Dr. Karen Pryor (the backbone of clicker training, which is now the main tool used in precision training for complex activities on all sorts of species)
Dr. Bruce Fogle (author of “The Dog’s Mind” in which he explains the chemical process an unaltered dog must go through to control its body, all of the time, versus that of a castrated dog)
And even if there are valid risks, albethey minute, associated with neutered a dog, WE (dog nerds and professionals) ALL TRULY KNOW THAT THE MAIN REASON TO NOT NEUTER A DOG IS THAT THE OWNER IS UNEDUCATED ABOUT THE REASONS THEY MUST NEUTER THEIR DOG.
Many, many, many, many more dogs die prematurely because they were not neutered than will ever die, or even become unwell, because they were neutered.
The torment that an intact male dog must go through, with his incredible sense of smell, knowing, his whole life, that there are ladies out there who need him…
Check out Craigslist “Lost Dog” postings some time. Or the flyers inside any vet clinic or shelter anywhere, in any community, in any region.
90% or more of the lost pet dogs, anywhere, are intact males.
80% of bites are inflicted by intact males.
The average dog in a shelter in any community is young intact male.
Bad things happen to boy dogs allowed to keep their testosterone.
They are testosterone drunk, unable to focus on anything, truly, other than the smell of that girl dog who walked by two days ago, or was maybe a mile away a few hours ago.
His sense of smell + testosterone drive = a fella with a lifelong case of blueballs, in constant torment, agitation.
Neuter your dog, and you will see that, suddenly, his loyalties are truly with you. His focus doesn’t have to be diverted, he’s, now, alive to be your pet, not to perpetuate his species.
You cannot have it both ways. You cannot allow a dog, whose focus and adoration you want, to have the drive to procreate. Or you will always be the second-most important thing.
And, besides, it just shows the world that you know enough to have a dog.
Get real, neuter your dog, and quit projecting your own insecurities onto a helpless, hormone-driven creature. Do your boy a solid and give him a break from the torment of anxiety-fueling testosterone.
I couldn’t agree more.
I’m often contacted on “How do I correct my dog when he growls?”. My answer is always the same. You don’t.
Now, I’m not saying you should praise your dog for growling because I’m not. However, what I am saying is why would you take away the most obvious warning sign there is to a bite? That’s like taking the ticking away from the time bomb. It’ll still go off you just don’t know when anymore.
Heal the cause, not the symptom.
Burn this saying in your memory. Remember it everytime your dog growls. Growling is just the symptom not the actual cause. And if that’s not the cause then what is?
- Fear/ Uncomfortable
- Precious Resources
If you are able to fix (note I said fix and not correct) these underlying causes you will have a happier dog that has one less behavior problem.
This is an excellent piece of advice. I’m fascinated to have the chance to experience this type of situation with Helo, as he tends to show these warning signs. If the other dogs don’t back off, he will bare his teeth and even snap or pursue the dog that makes him uncomfortable (usually a very annoying dog who insists on harassing him). I usually try to get Helo’s attention away from the obnoxious dog, and lead him to a safer area away from the other dog where he can relax.
Helo is turning six months old, but I can’t stress enough to the public how important it is to socialize your dogs! I hope that with more socialization, Helo will grow more comfortable around dogs who like to bully. Sam, for example, is great at avoiding these types of dogs. She will ignore them until they get bored and leave her alone. Helo, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to understand that by reacting, he’s getting the other dog even more excited and likely to continue annoying him.
Helo is not aggressive, but he does get very frightened when a dog overwhelms him. He will first run away with his hackles raised and tail tucked. Usually the dog is the kind to follow him and ignore his body language. Helo will then start to growl and bare his teeth at the dog. If this doesn’t defer the dog, Helo will actually start snapping at the dog.
As the owner, I am responsible for “fixing” the situation — even if it’s someone else’s dog causing the problem, you can’t expect them to correct their dog’s unacceptable behavior. In my experience thus far, it has been other people’s dogs annoying mine and the owners don’t do anything about it (which is most likely why the dog behaves the way it does in the first place). One of these days their unruly dogs are going to mess with the wrong dog, and someone’s going to get hurt in a nasty fight.
The sad part is that it could all be avoided.
If I leave Helo in a situation that he is clearly uncomfortable with, his fear is likely to become aggressive in the future. I have been trying to make all of his experiences with other dogs as fun and enjoyable as possible. I lead him away with a new distraction if I see that he is getting uneasy around a particular dog. Once he relaxes, we can try to go back (usually by then, the dog ignoring his warnings will have found a new dog to annoy so that Helo can play with the better behaved dogs).
I don’t believe in keeping dogs outside unless they are working animals (livestock guardian dogs, for example). But my dogs LOVE to be outside. I mean, if it were up to them, they’d be outside all the time. Obviously they aren’t, but after like, an hour or so inside they’re at the door, begging to go out. They love to run and play with each other, they love to lie in the sun (or the shade), and they love to roll around in the grass.
Anyway, we had a pretty nasty nor’easter last night, and it’s gross outside. We hadn’t had rain for a while before the storm, so at least the ground isn’t saturated, but it’s still all muddy. Yesterday, my dogs were freaking out because they couldn’t go out in the rain. They just sat at the door whining, and when we let them out to do their business, it was incredibly difficult getting them back in again. Today is not rainy, luckily, but I don’t want them rolling around in the mud so they’re inside and they hate it.
Does anyone else have dogs like this? Do you have dogs who just LOVE to be outside? If so, how often and for how long are they allowed out? I don’t want to just leave them outside for a long time, but they also are not alone- they have each other to play with- and we have a perfectly secure fence. They have lots of room to run and play and they just seem miserable when they can’t go out. Does anyone else have dogs like this?
My dogs LOVE to be outside, too. If it were up to them, they’d probably stay outside. Unfortunately, our property isn’t fenced in so the only time they go out is to go potty, or to play on a nice day when I’m willing to play outside with them (or at least supervise to make sure they don’t get carried away and accidentally go out into the street). Generally they avoid the road, but you can never be too cautious. I just couldn’t leave my dogs outside without being present because I have to know they are okay!
I used to say that even if I did have a fenced in yard, I probably would never leave them outside without being out there with them, but recently I’ve been dreaming about the day we finally tear down this house and rebuild it. I really want to put in a privacy fence around the backyard so the dogs can go in and out whenever they want. Normally Sam and Helo want to be where ever I am, so I don’t even know if they would go outside without me to begin with.
I think even if I did have a fenced in yard and let them out, they’d probably do their business and sit at the door waiting to be let in. God forbid I’m not in sight! At least two of them are attached to me at the hip. Motley could care less if I’m around or not. She would probably love the extra freedom, and get the others to run around with her like they do in the front yard for a bit during potty breaks.
But we also go to the bark park Mon-Fri from 3PM to sunset if the weather is nice. I don’t know if I really want to go today since it rained all day yesterday and is probably wet and muddy. I don’t feel like giving them baths tonight. It’s such a chore! And if they come home dirty, they’ll have to sleep in their crates because I don’t want muddy dogs on my bed!
My fiance’s mom lets their Beagle out several times a day to get some fresh air. They also don’t have a fenced in property, but they have a tie-out in the backyard and on the front deck. Lexi normally lets them know when she wants to go outside, and when she wants to come back in. Typically she’ll relax outside, lay in the sun for a bit, and when she’s had enough of the great outdoors, she’ll bark and paw at the door to be let inside.
I think that when I finally have a fenced in property, I would let them outside a few times a day for at least thirty minutes to an hour each time. That seems like a reasonable amount of time, especially considering they get 2-3 hours at the dog park Mon-Fri (if the weather permits). Fortunately, none of my dogs really like bad weather so they are perfectly content to stay inside when it’s raining or storming… Snow, on the other hand, is the best time to run around outside! Sam especially LOVES the snow, and will even go out in a blizzard, but try to take her out to potty in the rain and she’ll pee right there on the steps! LOL!
We suspect she licked off the remains of chocolate ice-cream from Tim Hortons. Since last night she’s been shaking, vomiting and has diarrhea.
We’re taking her to the vet at 3:00.
I hope your dog will be okay. Every dog reacts differently to different things. I hope your dog’s reaction isn’t serious. I’ve known dogs over the years to get their mouths on chocolate on more than one occasion with no adverse effects, but I’ve also heard horror stories of dogs becoming very sick and even dying from ingesting even a small amount of chocolate.
As a kid, my family’s Rat Terrier would get on the coffee table whenever we’d leave the house, and she would carefully take Hershey kisses. She would unwrap them under the dining room table, eat the chocolate, and then roll the foil up into a ball. She ate chocolate all the time until we found out about her stash of wrappers and had to put a cover on the candy bowl. She was very well behaved, so we never suspected that she was getting up on the table! She was always a healthy dog, and was put to sleep due to very old age several years later.
You would think that in small quantities, it would be okay, since you can give a little bit of chocolate to small animals like rats, to help with stress and anxiety. However, I’ve always read that no amount of chocolate is okay for a dog to consume. What makes it dangerous for dogs is the chemical compound “theobromine” found in cocoa. Dogs metabolize it slower than humans. Some dogs can handle it better than others, but chocolate poisoning generally consists of vomiting and diarrhea. Toxic amounts can induce hyperactivity, tremors, high blood pressure, increased heart rate, seizures, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest.
Well, I woke up in the middle of the night and inadvertently stumbled across my first tick of the year.
As a child whose parent has Lyme, this is like my worst nightmare. Well, to be fair, all bugs.
What’s annoying is I can’t even determine where it came from or if it just found its way into the house.
Curse you, Texas!
How do you guys prep for Spring/Summer? And do any of you Find it’s necessary to check the dogs after the dog park?
I don’t know if the ticks are really out and about yet over here in Virginia, or I just haven’t seen any yet. I don’t really do anything to “prepare” for tick season, other than apply K9 Advantix to my dogs. Some people don’t like using any kind of chemicals on their pets, but I’ve always used K9 Advantix and have never had a bad experience with it. I can honestly say that ever since I got my first dog less than two years ago, I have never had any problems with fleas or ticks. I’ve had to pick less than a handful off of Sam over the last year and a half that I’ve had her, and that was when I wasn’t keeping up on the K9 Advantix every month.
I live in a very heavily wooded area with lots of wildlife, so I know the ticks definitely get bad out there. My dad has gotten more ticks on him in this area than my dogs! I’ve had Motley since last August, and Helo since January — I have yet to find a tick on either of them… Even at the dog park, I don’t worry about checking them for any fleas or ticks because K9 Advantix is supposed to repel them. Sam has been going to dog parks since I adopted her, and has never gotten fleas or ticks from other dogs in my experience thus far. Even in our wooded/marshy neighborhood, Sam loves to be in the bushes and has never seemed to bring any bugs inside with her.
If you’re worried about Emma getting Lymes, you can have her vaccinated for it. Sam and Motley have been vaccinated for Lymes disease, but I have yet to get Helo vaccinated. It definitely doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side! Also, K9 Advantix has an improved formula (K9 Advantix II) which kills all life stages of the flea. Most of the retailers around here don’t even sell the original anymore, and instead sell the K9 Advantix II. So far it works just as well as the original K9 Advantix.
For my birthday this year, in lieu of a party or fancy dinner, I had a bunch of friends come over, eat pizza, and play with my dog. Specifically, they helped me teach him how to be a good host – no jumping on your guests, Batman!
Batman was very good and we showed off all our commands (sit, down, shake, heel, “to the Batcave”). One thing my friends kept saying was, “Wow, you give a lot of treats!” Which is true, I give a lot of treats over the course of the day. The treats I like best are those that are small enough for him to eat in a second or less. Zuke’s Mini Naturals in Salmon flavor are a particular favorite of his -– they have 2 calories each, which is good if you’re watching your dog’s weight.
But my friends weren’t worried about Batty’s waistline so much as, “What happens when you don’t have treats? Won’t he stop performing on command?” My answers were, “I always have treats,” and “Yeah, eventually.” This drew some consternation, as my friends thought Batman shouldn’t be doing it for the treats, but for praise and love. This surprised me a little. I mean, he’s a dog. He works for food. Would you work for someone who didn’t pay you?
Praise is nice for Batman, but not as good as treats. And petting is not particularly valued in the dog world. Dogs are not primates. You don’t see wolves in the wild patting each other on the head for a job well done. Batman will tolerate my hugs, but he doesn’t particularly enjoy them, and he sure as hell isn’t going to work for hugs. That’s like being paid in Schrute Bucks. Your love is not legal tender in the dog world. Sorry.
Also, remember that we ask our dogs to do a lot of things they wouldn’t do in nature. Like “shake” and “sit pretty.” Heeling is a classic example. As Michael Ellis points out, dogs don’t naturally trot in a straight line with their heads pointed up at the sky. Treats help lure the dog into position, and help develop muscle memory, so eventually this unnatural position feels normal to them.
For example, I’m guessing I’ll need treats or a toy or something Batman wants to work for in order to get him to do a sphinx down (a straight down from a stand, where all four legs go down at once and the back legs are neatly tucked under like a sphinx) for the first 100 or so iterations before he does it on command reliably. He’s already starting to go into a sphinx down instinctively when he wants something from me (usually his yellow ball). It would have been a lot tougher to teach him this without treats at the start — both to get his attention, and to lure him into the precise position.
Maybe there are people who can raise puppies and train them perfectly using praise and pets alone. More power to them. I am not so arrogant to assume that just because I can’t do it, then no one can do it. But since this blog is called Batmanimal, let’s talk about my insufficiencies some more.
Batman will work for my praise if we’re home and he’s not distracted by better offers. But if we’re out on the field, with a bunch of different dogs running around us, I would not rely on praise alone to get him in a perfect heel. In a situation like that, he has to want — really want — what I’ve got for him, and hugs don’t cut it.
That said, some dogs will work for the sole purpose of pleasing their humans -– I’ve seen it happen with people who share a special bond with their dog, and it’s really lovely. But it takes time, and Batman’s been here for 3 weeks. I can’t expect him to be a devout member of the Cult of Jennie already.
In the meantime, there are treats and toys, and no aversive techniques or punishments, ever. No yelling, no choke chains, no hitting, no nose-bopping, no anger. What does that do? It establishes a powerful association in his mind: “Whenever this person is around, good things happen to me, and only good things.”
Am I bribing him to achieve this positive association? Hell yes. So what? What is the alternative, really? Not give him a treat when he holds up his end of the bargain, out of a misguided human principle that he “should” want to do it for nothing?
It’s important that Batman sees me as a fair leader. Being fair means, you do something for me, and I do something for you. And it all happens in the moment, where the transaction is valid. For us, that means a lot of treats because we train constantly. It’s only a minute or two at a time, but we train at various intervals from sun-up to sundown. It might seem like a lot, but by the time he grows into an 85 lb mass of muscle and fur, I will be glad I worked with him so much at this age.
I really like your point of view. I have a very strong bond with one of my dogs, but all three seem to want to please me regardless of the reward. However, I agree that hugging and petting do not represent natural canine behavior. In fact, hugging can be very offensive to some dogs. I always try to get others to realize how much we humanize our dogs, but a topic as simple as giving treats instead of love and praise makes so much sense to me that I can’t believe I never thought of it before.
It could be because my dogs are happy to do what I ask whether I have a treat in hand or not — although they definitely pay a lot more attention when there’s food involved! Or because my dogs seem to be ecstatic when I love on them. But what I like about your opinion here is not because it seems like a more natural way to reward your dog or that it’s an effective way to boost their motivation, but because I think working for what you receive is a good concept for any dog to learn.
You have a great attitude toward dogs, and what happens when they play. I wish more people thought like that. Then I wouldn’t have to worry so much. But people just do things without thinking about the consequences- bringing small dogs into large dog areas- and then if anything happens to their dogs, it’s everyone’s fault but their own.
Thank you! I kinda wish more people felt the way I do, too. The problem with people is (like you said) they’re always right, and everyone else is wrong, or they just outright refuse to open their minds up to the different possibilities. It feels like such an accomplishment to now have even the slightest taste of what challenges owners face when having large or giant breed dogs. From now on, I’ll think differently when it comes to large breed dogs and even small breed dogs. There really is a huge difference between the challenges these dog owners face. I’m fortunate to be at a medium with my own dogs. The concerns of little dog owners and large dog owners are less of concerns for me and my mid-sized dogs. Our challenges are completely different!
I have an Eng. Mastiff, a Dogo Argentino, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and an English Bull terrier, so I tend to get the short end of the stick in many ways.
I do find that people type cast my dogs when they go to the OL park from time to time but have the most issues with DOGS type casting my boys. It seems that every dominant male dog feels the need to pick a fight with the biggest male in the park, which tends to be my English. He gets bullied all of the time, and owners always assume that since he is big, he can take it. Truth be told, he gets very upset and scared of the more dominant dogs and I always have to intervene.
On the plus side, I have had my ASBT at the OL on numerous occasions with his muzzle on (he has minor aggression issues as well as it is the law in my province) and people have had a rather shocking positive response to him. After explaining why he has the muzzle on, instead of being worried or upset that I brought him in, they have, for the most part, been very supportive.
Over all, I am lucky to have the park that I do, since I always feel welcome there with my big boys and people generally tend to enjoy seeing the bigger pups play with their little ones.
My personal issues with the dog park, size aside, is children and dominant dogs. Let’s start with the latter.
As mentioned before, dom males always tend to seek out my Eng. at the OL to challenge him. One day, I was at the park with my boys and had two other large breed pups from one owner harassing my dog. The owner himself seemed pleased with the idea that his boys were challenging my mastiff and watched as I struggled to keep the dogs from a fight. Wanting to avoid confrontation, I took my mastiff to another area of the park, at which point he relaxed and started engaging with other dogs. All of a sudden, I feel something on my leg and look down to see one of the Dom. males pissing on me. As I yelled at the dog, the owner turned and looked at me then laughed and called his dog over. I was FURIOUS and was not the only one in the park that was upset by this obvious showing of dominance. Instead of engaging in a little human dominance battle, I took my dogs and left the park. People need be a lot more careful about the dogs that they choose to bring into OL parks. I have discontinued bringing my Dogo after one visit in which he was acting dominant and borderline aggressive with another male, and I know that because of my decision, the dog park is a safer, more neutral place.
And now for my BIGGEST pet peeve. Children at the dog park. Some of you might read that and think it completely absurd that I think children should not be allowed in OL dog parks, but here is my reasoning.
First off, pack instinct and prey drive. I have seen mothers with BABIES in the off leash by my house… BABIES! Dogs tend to understand the difference between humans and prey, but babies are not humans to dogs… they are crying, loud, smelly, strange beasts that look easy to eat. Plain and simple. AND if, god forbid, a dog was to see a baby as prey at the dog park, say by becoming over stimulated by the baby crying, and then attack the child, the commotion of it all would drive the other dogs to join in. I have seen this pack attack instinct with my own dogs and even dogs at the park. You may have too, when the whole park of dogs’ are ganging up on one yelping pup and taking it a little too far, just egging one another on. Same thing but with a baby.
Secondly, I have a fearful dog… fearful is an understatement actually. My English Mastiff (yes the 160lb male), Max was a cruelty case that I adopted 6 years ago. He was beaten and neglected for the first 8 months of his life and because of this, is afraid of all humans, especially children. Although smaller and seemingly less intimidating, children’s body language and movement is terribly confusing and unpredictable for a dog. Because of this, Max becomes petrified when there is a child in the park. Unfortunately because of his size, children always want to come up and pet him at which point I tell them about his fears and to keep distance from him. More common than not, the parents are no where to be found. Parents tend to think that every dog at the park is bomb proof, little do they know that it is not my dog that is the danger to their children, but the other way around. I hate nothing more than being forced out of the dog park because my dog is trembling at the hands of unattended 5 year olds.
It’s against the rules to allow children inside the park that I go to, and I think it’s a rule that every off leash dog park should enforce. There’s a small playground nearby where kids can play while the dogs are within the contained area of the bark park. Of course, not every parent obeys the rules and on only a couple of occasions did a child come into the park with the parents. Fortunately, no accidents occurred but children and especially babies can easily get hurt in a dog park. Not just by getting knocked down, but due to different dog’s natural instincts.
My Australian Cattle Dog used to have a problem wanting to chase and bite the heels of children (this is how she came to be mine). I worked with her on this behavior and she does a lot better with children so during these two incidents where a child was in the park, there weren’t any issues. But that’s not to say other dogs don’t have similar herding instincts, a strong prey drive, or simply just don’t do well around children.
I’ve known dogs to become protective of babies before, and turn on other dogs in an act to be protective. And like you said, screaming babies can set off that instinctual prey drive that some dogs tend to have and cause serious life-threatening situations. I don’t think a lot of these parents understand that some dogs don’t do well with children. Since their dog does okay with kids, they assume that other dogs do, too.
At the same time, I understand how this can happen. I never thought of the exclusive challenges that giant dog owners may face until having a discussion about it with a giant dog owner. Since I don’t have a giant dog, there’s no way that I could have opened my mind up to the possibilities. And until I had first hand experience with a herding breed who had the strong drive to nip children, or a dominant female who was leash aggressive — It would have never really occurred to me that these problems existed.
I never would have thought that unfriendly dogs would be walked into pet stores — you automatically assume that every dog out in public must be nice, otherwise it wouldn’t be out in the public. But this is not the case. I didn’t really understand this until I was put in the position of socializing a dog who was leash reactive. These dogs may have their issues, but who doesn’t? Just because some dogs want to herd children, or others are a little aggressive, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to go out in public!
You said you took one of your dogs to the park with a muzzle on, and that the people were surprisingly supportive about it. That’s fantastic! I think that each individual’s dog park experience varies on the people who are actually there. As long as everyone is being responsible for their dogs, the chances of a problem should be avoidable. At my park, everyone seems to know their dogs like the back of their hands. There are hardly ever any problems, and if something does start to happen, we usually catch it before it does.
Even when it comes to dominant dogs. Like I said, I left a park once because two dogs decided to bully my dog until she was cornered. A cornered dog, no matter how friendly they are, can turn aggressive real quick. Can you blame them? Fear is usually the fuel. I can understand why you’re cautious with your English Mastiff. If put in an uncomfortable position, dogs will sometimes lash out in their defense. In a lot of cases, it’s not their fault, but they usually get the blame anyway.
I’m fortunate that most of the people who go to my dog’s park are pretty knowledgeable about dogs and know their own dog’s behavior really well. I haven’t had any problems in the past at this dog park, but not every dog park is as peachy as mine. I still will not go to that other park where my dog was bullied. Not because of the dogs, but because of the people who allowed their dogs to put mine in a corner.
With bully dogs, I’m fine with them being at the park as long as their owners are responsible for them and correcting them when they’re being an ass to another dog. There are a couple of bullies at my park, but I don’t see them often enough to have a real problem with them. I’ve grown confident enough to confront people now whenever they aren’t intervening in their dog’s misbehavior, or when they decide it’s a good idea to bring children into the park. Even folks who like to bring food — food is such a bad idea at the dog park.
Apparently one day when I wasn’t there, a family had decided to bring their dog, their child, and their lunch and have a picnic inside the dog park. This is absolutely ridiculous. You would think these people would have some common sense. Sometimes when you confront these people they are friendly and understanding, and other times they are complete jerks. I usually stay calm at the park, and approach people with a friendly, positive attitude. It seems to be a lot more effective than just barging towards someone and demanding them to do something about their dog.
Sometimes I have even stepped in to distract other people’s dogs. The time I spent volunteering at the dog shelter really helped me build confidence around different dogs. At the park, I use the same techniques I used at the shelter to disrupt unwanted behavior — I clap and shout at the dogs, usually while approaching them. I do this as loudly as possible, and usually it surprises them enough to stop what they’re doing. Fortunately there haven’t been any severe problems where clapping and shouting just wouldn’t be enough. But there’s always that possibility. I think people should be confident enough to take control of other people’s dogs when their owners fail to step in if need be, not just for your dog’s sake but the sake of other dogs as well.
I think anyone who brings their dog to the park should be confident, and understand that there are risks involved. As I’ve said before, I don’t think dogs are constantly trying to establish leadership over the pack but I do think they will find a way to establish structure among themselves. This is where you get puppies testing older dogs, and males (particularly in tact males) taunting other dogs. I think that no dog should be allowed into a dog park without being spayed or neutered. This only makes total sense to me because it can reduce the chances of a dog displaying aggression. I’m fortunate to have two dogs who somehow always manage to avoid trouble when they sense it coming. Sammy literally displaces herself away from problem-dogs and bullies. She seems to do a good job at that.
It’ll be interesting to see how the new puppy does at the park. I’m fine with other dogs correcting him for being obnoxious, which is most likely how he’s going to act on his first day at the park, but some dogs will skip the correction and go straight for the kill. It never hurts to ask other dog owners if they think their dog will be okay with a puppy running around. If I see that Helo is trying to annoy another dog who is acting out more aggressively than necessary for a warning or correction, I’ll be quick to guide him away from the dog and into a safer situation.
It’s so important to observe the park and determine if you think it’s a good day to let your dog hang out or not. If there are children around, you can either ask the parents to take the children out or you can come back another time. If you have an especially large or small dog, and there are several dogs of the opposite size, you may want to try again later. If you recognize a common bully, be prepared to have to confront him, or just leave the park. Unfortunately, no one ever wants to have to leave the park because of other people’s negligence, but sometimes it’s better than starting a war or setting your own dog up for failure.