|Usually it's my sister who did the bad thing! Not me, sweet Zoe!|
So we had an incident this week and because I like to keep things real, I'm going to tell you about it. Everyone makes mistakes and I ended up making one. I'm lucky we came out of the situation okay. Honestly, I wish I could tell you what I was thinking when I made this mistake and I'm still kicking myself for it. I know better than this but I screwed up anyways.
I've been walking my dogs separately this week, I'm planning on doing a post about it soon. It's been hugely eye opening for me and I've been really enjoying each dog for her own personality and I love the one-on-one time.
On Monday I was out with Zoe. It was the holiday and all of the neighbors were out, too. Lately, I have been feeling badly about Zoe never getting to meet new dogs because we always have Phoenix with us and she doesn't like other dogs. Zoe used to go to the dog park all the time before we got Phoenix and she had a ton of friends there.
|Zoe playing with her friend, Jasmine, the Great Dane|
|Zoe & Marley are best buddies!|
|Kisses from a bully puppy!|
Zoe is generally pretty friendly with other dogs but she's had a few dogs try to bully her in the past and she's had a few dogs go after her. She really doesn't appreciate rude behavior and she's not shy about saying "hey, I don't like that!"
So we were out walking and this "brilliant" idea pops into my head, why don't we head over to the dog park? It's nice out and she could run around off leash. Generally, I avoid the dog park on weekends and holidays (or whenever any of my neighbors are using it) and I know my neighbors dogs are pretty much all terrible. I know better but I did it anyways. I really wish I could do that day over again! Why You Should Avoid Dog Parks!
We get to the dog park and one neighbor is in there. He has a husky and a shih tzu. I've seen his dogs before and in the past I've noticed that they are a little barrier frustrated. They were barking at the fence at Zoe and they seemed too excited. The owner and I talked a little bit, giving the dogs a chance to calm down a little and I asked him if he would call his dogs away from the fence so I could come in. He came and got his dogs but had no control over them and the shih tzu began growling at him. This is where my gut was telling me to turn around and go away but I didn't listen. Why did I open that gate!? Sigh. I think the owner holding the husky back made him even more frustrated because when I opened the gate, the owner let go and the husky just bull dozed Zoe. It was one of the rudest greetings I've ever seen and it didn't turn out well. Zoe was instantly defensive and they got into it. Zoe actually ended up pulling out a chunk of his shedding hair.
So I yelled HEY!!! at them and they separated and everything was okay for a few minutes. The other owner was so nonchalant about the whole thing and because of his reaction to it, I doubt this is the first time his dog has gotten in trouble with another dog. Then he proceeds to tell me, "My dog is just a dominant male. All dogs are just trying to be dominant, you know!"
Bigger SIGH. Here's where I'm going to insert an amazing article on the Dominance Controversy by Dr. Sophia Yin. Basically dominance has been disproven by science. The scientist that came up with it and has sense retracted his research and apologized! I recommend reading the article. It's really good. (I have more resources available on the Dominance Controversy, just visit my training page.)
My take on the whole incident was this was a young dog who was too excited who didn't have dog/dog manners. He was also being a husky, his body language was overly forward and I don't think he knew any better. He is a husky who is not trained and is obviously not well socialized. He's probably not exercised enough, either. I never see them walk him and the only time he's out is when his owner sits with him the dog park. It's not his fault but his owner just thinking he's being dominant is not helping the situation. Dominance is not a personality trait.
|Ladder of Aggression|
Zoe was not being "dominant", either. She was responding to a threat. She was defending herself. She didn't know if that dog was going to attack her. All she knew was that she was suddenly being bulldozed by a bigger dog that she didn't know. Her response, in my opinion, was a bit over the top but I get it. Zoe has had other dogs go after her in the past and she's learned that rude dogs do not listen to her. So she has to escalate and be really loud, scary and bigger than the other dog to get her point across. I'm not saying it was okay at all. It was not good and I'm not happy about it. We are lucky that they stopped when I yelled and that neither dog was seriously injured.
I ended up apologizing to the owner and we left the dog park. There was no way they were going to get along, the husky kept poking at her and kept trying to bully her as she wandered around trying to sniff things. It was a bad situation and leaving was the only thing I could do. The other owner had no control over his dogs, he had no intention of even trying to control his dogs and it just wasn't going to work out. It's never a good idea to let the dogs try and work it out. Things just go from bad to worse so leaving is the best thing for everyone.
So what is my take home from this? I need to listen to my gut instinct. Dog parks can be okay places for some dogs but they are not for everyone. Small enclosed places with other strange dogs don't work for my dogs anymore. They can do Thousand Acres because it's a big place and they can get away from other dogs easily. We also go there at off times and I don't stop to chat with people. The interactions out there with other dogs are very short 5-10 seconds at the most. They sniff each other in passing and we all go on our merry way. In a small fenced area, there's no where to go. With dogs, it's fight, flight or freeze. In a small enclosed area, there are not many options.
I will no longer allow interaction with any of my neighbor's dogs and we will only use that fenced area if no one is around.
I feel very badly about what happened, for both Zoe and the husky. It's my job to protect my dogs and I failed her. The only thing I can do now is to try my best to make sure that never happens again. I'm sharing this with everyone so that you can learn from my mistake as well. Always listen to your gut instinct. If a situation feels wrong it probably is. Always be an advocate for your dog.
Have you ever had an incident at a dog park before? What did you do?