Growling at the dog park

She-Ra's picked up a new fun habit - growling at the dog park.

It's weird. She generally likes to just walk around and watch other dogs, exchange sniffing with other dogs, and join in the occasional chase around the park grounds. However, the past few weeks she's taken to growling when too many dogs get around her and start sniffing, or she goes to the entrance gate when a new dog shows up, waits for the owner to put them in and then runs along with them, snarling away.

She never bites or anything, but we're worried it might lead to that, or she tries to get "uppity" with the wrong breed of dog. Got so bad one night I picked her up and carried her out. Everyone in the park said it was fine, they thought it was cute, but I explained my feelings about it, and said we'd be back "when she can behave". (We've been back a few times, with fewer growling issues, but it's still happening.)

Relatives say it's aggression, and that may be, but we're thinking it's more an over-reaction to the situation. Rest of the time she's an angel (well, as much of an angel as B's can be 🙂 ).

Should we force-sit her when she's doing this kind of thing in the park? Any advice would be helpful at this point. She likes the park, as do we (she gets more of a workout), the regulars all like her and newcomers are curious about "that one dog", so we'd like to keep going, but I don't want to if she's going to behave this way.

You said she I understand they can come into heat in Aug. I know its only July but could that be the problem. Could be she tried of other dogs sniffing her.

Maybe next time you go take a leash and put her on it when she is bad and if you can have her sit down by you for a min or two maybe she will settle down.

Is she eating and drinking all right? No sleep changes?

Hopefully Pat will join in and give you some advise or some of the others.

Rita Jean

Dogs can pick up bad behaviors at dog parks. I had a bw that started butt biting that she picked up from another female B that bit her on the butt when she was very young.

Growling is a distance increasing signal. It makes sense that when lots of dogs surround her and start sniffing at her that she becomes overwhelmed and tells them to "give me space".

I agree that many dogs learn bad behaviors at the dog park. Can you redirect her before these things happen? Call her to you and walk with away from the entrance when a new dog arrives. Call her to you and walk away from the large group of dogs before she is surrounded. I really prefer dog walks to dog parks because keeping moving really seems to help. One, you don't tend to have those moments where all the dogs are crowded around a single dog. Two, the dogs need to keep an eye out for their owners, they learn to check in and that can make them easier to redirect before an issue arises. When you are at the dog park do you stand still or do you walk around the park?

Problem too is the people that frequent these parks congregate in a group to socialize, not paying attention to their dogs, then the dogs crowd around them, there's 1 water bowl and you get dog fights.

Since I don't do dog parks (with the exception of Ft. Funston every now and again and that was years ago), don't know if I offer too much. That said, I would agree that sounds like she overwhelmed when crowded and is trying to say, give me space. I don't think it is aggression and I think that lvoss suggestion about calling her to you when you need to redirect…. I would not put her on a lead in the dog park... most Basenjis are totally more aggressive on lead then they are loose... as they really have no escape from a situation.... If a new dog comes to the park, try and call her away and to you as they are coming in, instead of letting her run the show....

@tanza:

Since I don't do dog parks (with the exception of Ft. Funston every now and again and that was years ago), don't know if I offer too much. That said, I would agree that sounds like she overwhelmed when crowded and is trying to say, give me space. I don't think it is aggression and I think that lvoss suggestion about calling her to you when you need to redirect…. I would not put her on a lead in the dog park... most Basenjis are totally more aggressive on lead then they are loose... as they really have no escape from a situation.... If a new dog comes to the park, try and call her away and to you as they are coming in, instead of letting her run the show....

Problem is in a dog park, if it's busy there's so much distraction that you have to go get your dog, as they may not even notice you calling them. Growling and snapping is a very common reaction to dogs getting overwhelmed by a group or larger dogs overwhelming the smaller ones.

This issue is compounded by the fact that most people stand around like trees in a dog park so their dogs don't have to work to keep an eye on them and really have no good reason to check in. If you have a dog that is used to frequently checking in and being called away from play, it is much easier to redirect them when needed but it takes a lot of practice and reward before it will work in a situation with lots of distraction.

@tanza:

Since I don't do dog parks (with the exception of Ft. Funston every now and again and that was years ago),

Fort Funston is 200 acres so the the dogs and people keep moving and dog problems usually occur down at the beach area where they can congregate.

When snarkiness occurs at the park, we all get up and go for a "walkabout". The dogs all follow along and whatever they were tense about dissipates and they are sniffing and trotting along. This is a large park, it doesn't work as well in small parks as they can just watch you! If we stop, the dogs will sometimes continue their group walk around the perimeter of the park.

As said, growling alone is just a warning that she does not like what is happening. We allow ours to growl, and usually other dogs will back off, then all is fine. As I said on another post, there's some grrr in most every girl, especially if someone is sniffing a private part!

We're in Phoenix where it's now 115 in the shade. We try and divy it up between going for walks in one park (on lead) and trips to the dog park on other days so she's got a little variation. Pretty much everything has to be done after the sun goes down these days or she gets overheated (and so do me and the wife! 🙂 ).

We have tried calling her over from the gate, and that works…sometimes...depending on how intent she is on playing "welcoming committee". Other times I have gone to get her. We do try and walk to different areas of the park with her when we can (lots of people training their dogs so we try and give them some space), but I will fess up that some days we're "trees" like many other owners. Can't really say we're more of one than the other.

We like the dog park...it's a good one (because we've got some bad ones out here as well)...people are friendly and for the most part the dogs all get along. It's been a real education into seeing different breeds (Border collies apparently understand english 🙂 ), and I honestly think She-Ra enjoys going. Particularly if there are dogs more her size. So maybe we'll try leash walking around when she starts getting aggressive.

I would absolutely NOT leash her in an offleash park. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to prevent aggression. Once the leash is on the dog has no choice but to fight if a dog continues to approach when your dog is giving distance increasing signals. And the distance increasing signals will escalate, picture someone screaming profanity that would make a sailor blush.

If you can't redirect then it is time to leave for the day.

@lvoss:

I would absolutely NOT leash her in an offleash park. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to prevent aggression. Once the leash is on the dog has no choice but to fight if a dog continues to approach when your dog is giving distance increasing signals. And the distance increasing signals will escalate, picture someone screaming profanity that would make a sailor blush.

If you can't redirect then it is time to leave for the day.

I totally agree… which is what I said before... I would never leash a dog in an off leash park....

@lvoss:

I would absolutely NOT leash her in an offleash park. That is the absolute worst thing you can do to prevent aggression. Once the leash is on the dog has no choice but to fight if a dog continues to approach when your dog is giving distance increasing signals. And the distance increasing signals will escalate, picture someone screaming profanity that would make a sailor blush.

If you can't redirect then it is time to leave for the day.

To clarify: Leash walking outside the dogpark (it's part of a larger park).

Should have said that earlier.

That's fine and the she still gets a nice stimulating walk. I have seen so many people bring on leash dogs to the off leash dog park with awful results that I just had to say something. What is worse than the dog's cursing sometimes is the owner's since they seem to think that there shouldn't be any problem with the situation.

Dog parks are a tricky situation. You don't know who's going to be there and the temperament of that dog they bring. Some days are really good and some days are bad and you have to get your B outta there. And then you have people bring balls and some dogs get possessive and well you know what that means.

Yeah, when there is a bad situation, it's better to just leave and have a nice walk. When the dog park is good, it's great! When it's not good, better to be elsewhere.

Update: We've had better luck of late. There's still a few growling incidents but based on the situation we've been putting her down until she calms down or letting it slide if the growl was "justified". So we're kind of handling it on a case by case basis.

And she's become more playful at the park - getting involved in group chases/runs, being more sociable, actually letting other dogs sniff her, etc.

Our new hurdle is when people bring in treats to train their dogs. 🙂 All of a sudden they have more than just She-Ra commanding their attention. I'm thinking of bringing some of our own just to keep her attention away from the poor guys who are just trying to train their dogs.

That is great that things are going better. The treats are good thing. Have fun at the park and enjoy.

Rita Jean

Groan! Our park has a "no food or treats" and we gently point that out to people. The park is "play time" not class-time! We tell them that our Nicky is the "training tool" for the 'no treats in the park' rule.

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