Dog trains man

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Kenzo stopped visiting the dog park

We have never been a fan of the dog park. A dog park in Denmark is a larger park, usually fenced in, where dogs are allowed.

After not visiting the dog park for a long while, I started to pick it up again, but this time for another reason then just let Kenzo meet other dogs.

Study body language

Viva is a reactive dog. To help her, I needed to brush of my knowledge on dog body language and get better in recognizing the signals in other dogs that set her off. I made some visits to the dog park on my own and study dogs and how they react to each other. Next I would try with Kenzo again. As Kenzo is very well socialized, he usually tells me what the other dog is about. So the idea was to double check my observations of the other dogs with Kenzo's behaviour.

Let the games begin

So today, after a long time, I went to the dog park again with Kenzo. We first went to tracking class, so Kenzo had a chance to get rid of most of his excitement. There was a group of around 6 dogs right at the entrance. Kenzo did his thing not coming in right away and sniffing a little bit around on the other side of the fence so the other dogs could get used to him. Then we went in and he could start greeting the other dogs.

Shortly after a man comes in with his dog, walks into the middle of the group, took the leash off, went out of the dog park again, and sat down in his car. Let the games begin? I didn't stay around to see what would happen and moved away from the group with Kenzo. Just a gut feeling. And also the trouble started shortly after. The new dog started growling to one of the other dogs, which had 2 of the other dogs react with an equal growling threat. I don't blame the dog, it maybe was very uncomfortable for him also to be "dumped" in the middle of a group of other dogs. Luckily one of the owners could stop it by yelling high, and others started to get the group dispersed. Looking over my shoulder, the man was still in his car, looking like not to care at all what would happen with his dog, and the other dogs for that matter.

In a dog fight

Walking down the path we quickly met other owners with dogs, and after a while the group had swollen to around 6 dogs again. One was a little insecure and I also noticed Kenzo doing his best display of calming signals he had available for this dog in particular. Two seemed very self-assured and they had to check Kenzo out to see if this big male would behave nicely around their presence. It was a nice group of dogs, no bullies, and all behaving nicely. We walked like in a long line, so the dogs enjoyed running back and forth along that line.

A new dog was coming up ahead of the group, slowly and with stiff body language. Kenzo and some of the other dogs pretended not to notice him and with good reason. You can probably already guess it, he went up to meet the insecure dog. They stopped about one meter of each other and the eyes met, and almost instantly he attacked the insecure dog. Two more dogs followed in the blink of an eye. Owners where jumping in to get their dogs. Kenzo was on his way in, but he came on my recall (yes!). In all that confusion one person was not saying anything and didn't make an effort to stop the fighting. It was the owner of the dog that had chosen to attack. The insecure dog was bitten in the hind leg and whined very loud. Her owner then tried to step in between the dogs. She screamed to the man to get his dog, but he was doing nothing. Then she also got bitten in the arm. And finally, that made him get his dog by the collar. His only comment was that it was her own fault she should have let the dogs find out of it themselves.

What was I thinking

I will spare you the human aftermath. Just want you to know Kenzo and me left the dog park and will never return. My thoughts were with the insecure dog, and that his owner should not have taken him into the dog park. Same story with the owner of the attacking dog, he should also have taken his responsibility as a dog owner. But in god's name, what have I been doing there in the first place. Stupid. I put Kenzo in harms way and that's my own fault. No more dog parks now, final.



  1. WOW. Just when I thought I saw it all! I truly hope that the attacked owner will take legal action with the SOB?

  2. Aww. That made me cry.
    You know, it's ironic somehow that when you said recall, I thought about this - We promise all of our clients in puppy class, obedience, and even agility that having a solid recall will SAVE YOUR DOG'S LIFE AT LEAST ONE TIME.
    Kenzo's a lucky puppy that Dad is so good to him that he trained him how to come back even when there's a fight breaking out. That's amazing training. I wish there were more people like you.
    It's weird how gut feelings work, but my behaviorist would tell us both, "You have instincts for a reason; use them."
    Does anyone in your area teach Dog Safety Classes? If they do, you should go back to the Dog Park and hand them out. I almost had a heart attack reading that that lady jumped in (it's instinctual, too; we protect our young, even when they're adopted and furry.) Honestly, it could have been worse than a bite. I know that's a crappy thing to say, considering...a bite is bad. That's just messed up.
    The worst part of it all is that those owners make us look so bad. It only takes one bad owner to make us all look bad. A dog park is supposed to be a place where puppies go and socialize, be merry, and learn to play. There should never be a point in time when you have to worry about a dog attacking another dog. (I'm being unrealistic; dog fights happen for reasons we'll never fully understand, and they can happen between two of the friendliest dogs you've ever met, who love each other. And that's part of the issue, isn't it? We're unrealistic as humans, because we can't fathom some things.)
    I'm glad that you and Kenzo aren't injured. =[ And I feel terribly for that lady.
    You know... at the Doggy Beach, my trainer friend can spot a fight from practically a mile away - she's crazy, but she's dang good at what she does. She can be between those dogs (cutting off direct eye contact and redirecting one or the other) before you can even blink.
    Does the Dog Park have a supervisor, like a trainer who helps these things? I think they should; I'm sure they don't.
    ...The deal is that most of us aren't that perceptive, aren't that quick, and aren't that good at reading body language. It's like it doesn't register fast enough.
    I don't know.
    I'm ranting; this is a very upsetting article.

  3. Sometimes a dog fight can break out simply from too much adrenaline from a play.

    But that seldom happens.

    Usually it's because the owner didn't do something they should or did something they shouldn't :-(

  4. @Dog Mama
    She was following the owner to write down his license plate. I think she is.

    I take recall very serious like you. We are not there yet actually it is very difficult to train, but I know the situations I have to work on. But as you said, I was so happy he came, all those training hours and this little split second moment made it all worthwhile. I will definitely continue training recall even more, it is a lifesaver.

    Good idea about going back to the park and handout flyers, our dog training club is actually the nearest by. I will talk with ppl in our club about that. It will not make a difference for the owner mentioned in the post as you might guess, he seemend very impressed with himself and his "knowledge" on dogs :(

    Knowing body language is key, and it was what brought me back to the park. I will return to train that.

  5. Nice experiences.. a dog with no supervision AND a dog fight. I don't go to dog parks for the exact reason.

  6. We don't have dog parks in the UK and for the reasons you've laid out above, I'm very glad. You handled your dog so well; even the confident ones need their 'line manager' to guide them. The key is exactly what you do; to read the body language of the other dog and get your own dog out of there. Well done.

  7. I'm not quite as anti-dog park as everyone else seems to be, but I do fully agree that visiting one always involves risk.

    I only take two of my client dogs to the park (separately) because they're the only two that I think are good candidates.

    -They both are fully vaccinated and have no joint issues or other types of chronic pain.
    -They both are well-socialized with people, children and other dogs.
    -They both have excellent Recall and Leave-it commands, which I use to keep them away from the entry space and trouble in general.

    To me, those are the bare minimum requirements for any dog to visit the dog park. Too many people bring dogs who should never be anywhere near a dog park! They appear to mistake the dog park for a training facility and create chaos while there. And they also unwittingly make their dogs' behavior problems far worse in the process!

    The humans involved in this also bear a great deal of responsibility for what occurs at the park. The minimum requirements for the people at the park:

    -Only bring one dog. I don't care how wonderful your dogs are. You'll be watching every single dog at the park and it's far too much responsibility to think you can control more than one of your own at the dog park while monitoring the rest of it.

    -Be over ten years old. There is no place for small children at the dog park. Things happen too quickly and small children can easily be hurt by even friendly dogs engaged in boisterous play or chasing games. Children don't read dogs well and they are a distraction to the parent who unwisely brought them.

    -Be reasonably fit. You need to be able to control your dog, possibly to break up an incident and be steady on your feet. Why I see seniors who need help walking to a bench at the dog park, I'll never understand.

    -You have to watch your own dog carefully and stay close to him. Things happen quickly and it's your responsibility to control your dog. You should also be a reasonable reader of dog body language so you can prevent incidents from occurring.

    -You should have at least partially exercised your dog before you arrive at the park. Otherwise, he may be too excitable to safely use the dog park.

    -You should make at least one lap around the outside of the park before entering. If you don't like what you see inside, don't enter. You also should be prepared to leave immediately if trouble starts.

    -Similarly, you should keep an eye on the entry space. You can often spot the troublemakers (canine and human) right there.

    - I try to go at the least busy times of the week and day. So do most other good owners and walkers. It's just safer as it's less busy the more responsible dog owners also go at those times. I've also become familiar with most of the owners and dogs who use the Dog park when I do, which also helps. And we talk to each other about the dogs we don't all know so we're prepared. If you see someone you know and trust leaving the park because a new dog is entering, you probably ought to go too.

    If this sounds like the dog park is a lot of work instead of a relaxing way to kill a few hours with your dog, you're right! It is! If more people would put the work into dog park visits, we'd all have a better time in them. The dog park can be an asset if it's used properly, but often, it's used improperly.

    I absolutely understand why many people decide it's far better to socialize and play with their dogs somewhere else! :)

  8. Oh dear, I did not mean to kill the conversation about dog parks. Sorry if I did!

  9. I don't hope you did :) But thank you for these guidelines. They make a lot of sense. We all seem to agree that visiting a dog park involves risk. But in stead of trying to manage the risc I would prefer to avoid it.

    There is always a chance for something to happen that is difficult to manage. Something as simple as the wrong dog suddenly turning up around the next tree in the park (in Denmark dog parks are like small forests) can spoil any preventive measure.

    I am rather safe then sorry.

  10. @Kenzo,

    I agree.

    It's always a risk to visit the dog park.

    I only take the two best trained and best socialized dogs I know to the dog park. In two yrs, we've had one outright issue and a few things I saw coming and left the park.

    My own dog would be a nightmare at the park!

    But that said, for those of us who live in urban areas (we don't have fenced yards, don't have easy access to safe off-lead areas) dog parks are a necessary evil.

    They are always risky. I hope I gave some common sense guidelines to how to best use them if you choose to do so.

    But honestly, if I had other options for off-lead play, I'd use them instead of the dog park. ;)

    With my own dog, as she is NOT dog park safe, we have to go far away and find off-lead play spaces.


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