An excerpt from Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly by Kellie Snider

I’m going to take a detour into an area frequently associated with dog aggression just to get this out on the table. Earlier in the book, I told you about a pet owner whose dog began to behave aggressively toward other dogs soon after being attacked by two dogs in a dog park, and that the dog had become pushy and growly with other dogs on subsequently visits to the dog park. My response to this owner was, “Don’t ever take your dog to the dog park.” I wasn’t saying that no dog should ever go to any dog park. I was saying that this dog should never go to any dog park. He had such a bad experience there that each visit was painful for him and further convinced him that other dogs were dangerous. There was no way to perform aggression work inside the dog park, where the behavior of the other dogs was hit or miss. It wasn’t safe, and it was likely to make the dog’s behavior worse. Dog parks can be great fun, but they can also be dangerous and a place of high stress for dogs. You’ll often see dogs in dog parks who are overly excited and too poorly behaved to be there. The fact is, many dogs don’t really need to have dog friends. Some dogs really benefit from dog friends, but those dogs are usually not the ones that have aggression problems around other dogs.

Dogs need their owners to protect them from situations that are too overwhelming for them. The social life your dog has with you is the social life that is important to him. Taking him to dog parks isn’t always in his best interest. My advice is to only enter dog parks when there are just a few dogs (no more than three or four) and the owners are actively watching their dogs. If any of the dogs in the dog park is wearing shock collar or is being a bully, leash your dog and leave. If your dog is a bully, definitely leash your dog and leave! This happens. Once my own dog guarded a man he’d just met from the man’s own sixth-month-old Golden Retriever puppy! It was terribly embarrassing, and I gave a quick apology and left. That wasn’t behavior my dog needed to practice. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, although it may be momentarily embarrassing. Just apologize if needed, and leave.

To learn more about aggressive dog behavior, purchase Turning Fierce Dogs Friendly from Whole Dog Journal.

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