Socialize your dog before visiting the dog park
I’m having a problem with my rescue dog, Bella, who is a 3-1/2-year-old Pitbull and Shar-Pei mix. When I take Bella and her two other furry friends to the dog park, she gets very aggressive with other dogs. Suddenly, out of nowhere, Bella will pounce, growl and snap at another dog who is not even paying attention to her. I can always yell and get her off the other dog, but a few minutes later the same thing will happen with another dog.
She has always had this issue, but it’s more frequent now. She does not fight with the other two dogs at home. Can you give me any insights as to why she’s doing this?
— Freddi Davi, Huntington Station, New York
While dog parks might look like great places to socialize dogs, they are actually places where already well-socialized dogs go to play and hang out with other dogs. Dog parks can be much too stimulating for some dogs. Bella might even feel overly protective of the other two dogs in your pack.
Even though the behavior seems to appear out of nowhere, there is likely some subtle communication going on between Bella and the other dogs that you’re not picking up on. It’s a good sign that you can call Bella off another dog with your voice. That shows she listens and can learn.
Skip the dog park for now and provide Bella with a more relaxed environment where she can learn how to meet dogs, one-on-one. Once she masters that skill, you can try the dog park again – maybe without the entire pack at first.
Keep in mind, dog parks aren’t for every dog. Don’t get bummed if it’s just not her thing. She may prefer long walks with her pack than socializing with other dogs.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to [email protected]. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal
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Cathy Rosenthal (aka The Pet Pundit), CHES, CFE
Animal Welfare Communications Specialist
Cathy brings more than 35 years' experience in the animal welfare field. She is a sought-after speaker, Certified Humane Education Specialist, a syndicated pet advice columnist, an author, a publisher, and of course - a loving pet parent.