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Paying Attention at the Dog Park
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Paying Attention at the Dog Park

How many times have you seen dog owners not paying attention while the dog is getting into trouble? Too many times is the answer. This is one reason I encourage my clients to accompany me to the dog park with their dog. This way I can demonstrate how important it is to maintain good position or purview of our dog. If she's being dominated by another dog or if our dog is dominating one, we can act upon it, but only if (1) we observe it (2) we are in a position to respond. These requirements rule out owners sitting at one end of the park on a bench or constantly looking at their smartphone (who does that? haha), or too busy in conversation because it's our "social hour". I teach owners to keep parallel with their dogs by walking down the middle of the dog park. One should be moving with their dog as if you're a referee keeping a watchful eye on the game play. An example I use is a Hockey Referee, which I used to be for amateur kids and adults. Hockey Refs NEVER take their eyes off of the play and move to better position if need be. That said, you may need to walk backwards, turn sideways or finally move in if Ralphie is "mounting" Sampson! When one dog is mounting another from behind or positions his/her neck over the back of another dog, these are examples of taking dominant positions. Is it wrong for the dominated dog to scowl or leap towards the "offender" to stop the action? NO, the dog is simply communicating to the other to stop. I tell owners to let the dogs handle things if they can or will. If they cannot or do not, then it's our job as their Leader to move in calling "OFF!" and to interrupt the behavior, which may include physically (but carefully) removing him/her off of or away from our dog. This action reinforces the confidence our dog has in our abilities to provide "protection" or care for our dog. Just because we our at the dog playground and they are off-lead (leash) does not mean we refrain from leading our dog. Whether you are at home, outside on a walk, travelling in the car, socializing in a store or visiting the Vet's office, we are ALWAYS our dog's Leader.

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