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Why is my dog aggressive at the dog park?

Why is my dog aggressive at the dog park?

When your dog lives indoors with you, it’s vital that they get exercise, but as a dog owner, you should be aware that your dog has other needs, as well. Just as with children, it is important that dogs learn how to interact with both other people besides you and other dogs. This scenario simply makes for happier dogs that you can have more peace of mind about.

Taking your dog on their daily walks may be one way for them to learn to socialize, but if they don’t encounter other people and dogs on that path, you may want to consider another way.

Many dog owners take their dogs to their local dog park to learn socialization skills and to play, of course, but in this scenario, you must be aware of the fact that you don’t only have to watch for other dogs that might get aggressive. You may be shocked to find out that your sweet canine companion can be the aggressor in some scenarios.

What would make your dog act aggressively at the dog park? What should you do if your dog begins acting aggressively at the dog park? Let’s look at the answers to those questions and discuss a few of the things you should and shouldn’t do at the dog park.

Why is my dog aggressive at the dog park?

So, you finally decided to try taking your dog to the local dog park. You weren’t there five minutes when you noticed your dog was very still, standing erect, as if “at attention”, and staring another dog down. You had never seen this behavior before, but they had never been around other dogs.

Still, you could feel in your bones that it spelled trouble, so you went immediately, got your dog, and took them out of the park, and by the way, you did just the right thing.

You still don’t know what provoked that incident, because the other dog’s owner was nowhere to be found, but it got you to thinking — What would make my dog act aggressively at the dog park? Well, there are essentially three types of aggression that apply here.

Dominance Aggression

With dogs, there is a natural social hierarchy that falls into place, but it doesn’t always fall into place without a bit of struggle.

Sometimes, when a dog wants to assert their dominance over another dog that doesn’t necessarily care to be dominated, there can be aggression. Your dog may be trying to assert their dominance over another dog.

Possession Aggression

Your dog may be possessive over a toy, their snacks, or even you. If another dog tries to take their toy, get a snack from you, or Heaven forbid, get you to pet them, your dog may act aggressively.

Predatory Drive

Dogs descended from wolves, so they still have an innate predatory drive. Since they are domesticated, it is dormant in most of them, but in some, especially those that were or are used as hunting dogs, that predatory drive is alive and well. It happens most often when large dogs play with small dogs. 

If the small dog feels threatened or afraid, the large dog can smell the chemicals they are giving off that show they are scared.

This can stimulate the large dog’s predatory drive. His play will become rougher. If the situation isn’t quickly controlled, the small dog can begin to vocalize their fear by crying out, which only stimulates the large dog so much that it can clutch the small dog with a tight squeeze and kill it.

This is why most dog parks have two areas — one for small dogs and one for medium and large dogs.

Why is my dog suddenly more aggressive at the dog park?

When your dog has thus far not been aggressive at the dog park but is suddenly so, there is close to a 100% chance that there is a single cause, and that cause is — fear.

Dogs, like humans, when they feel threatened or cornered, have a fight-or-flight response that can often end up in aggression. If your dog’s aggression has appeared suddenly, you should investigate.

The first matter at hand, though, is to remove your dog from the situation immediately and take them home, but while you are gathering your dog and your things, get a good look at the dog your dog was interacting with.

You will need to keep a very close eye on them the next time they are in the park with your dog, as they were probably the inciting party.

Why does my dog ignore me at the dog park?

While you are at the dog park, if you call your dog and they pretend not to hear you, it’s really aggravating. Plus, it can border, for some, on embarrassing. If you call your dog at the dog park and they ignore you, one of the following may be the reason.

Distractions and Overstimulation

The dog park is full of fun and new things for your dog to investigate, so especially if it’s their first time or two there, your dog may not really be ignoring you but may simply be quite distracted and overwhelmed with excitement. It may be a behavior that will dissipate over your next couple of visits to the dog park.

Negative Association

Your dog ignoring your command could be a type of negative association. If, when they are at the dog park, they feel that a punishment or something they deem as a negative experience will take place if they respond to the command to “come”, this negative association may be what causes them to hesitate in responding.

Positive Association

It could also be somewhat of a cat and mouse game. If your dog has realized that, when at the dog park, if they don’t immediately comply with the come command, they will somehow be what they deem as rewarded, of course, they won’t come when called.

So, if your dog ignores your come command or takes their jolly time responding, don’t love all over them when they do finally come, as this will only reinforce the bad behavior.

Lack of or Inappropriate Training

The importance of training cannot be stressed enough. Training will not only make life easier for you but for your dog, as well. If they do not understand what you are telling them to do, how can they comply? Training can also make your dog more endearing to family and friends. A well-trained dog is far less likely to jump up on your guest’s new white sweater and stain or snag it.

These are not the only reasons to train your dog either. What if you are playing catch with your dog and realize, only after you’ve thrown the ball all the way back up to the front fence, that one of the kids has left the gate unlatched?

If your dog notices that it’s open, they are likely to investigate and head out before you can get all the way across the yard. You call out for your dog to come to you because you know that there are only a few feet between the open gate and the busy street via the driveway.

Your dog being well-trained to obey your command is probably the difference between them being able to resume your game of catch and taking a trip to the veterinarian because they got hit by a car after running out into the street.

Also, most people cannot read an article on the internet and then adequately train their dog going by what they learned. A dog who has been trained incorrectly is harder to help than a dog who hasn’t been trained at all, so please, make sure you provide your dog with quality, professional training.

How to get my dog to be less aggressive at the dog park?

Your dog may get a little over-exuberant at the dog park, and that can be a serious problem if you can’t calm them down. Here are some steps you can take to curb your dog’s aggression at the dog park.

Expose your dog to the park correctly the first time you take them.

The first time you take your dog to the dog park, it may be a good idea to go on a day when it’s not very busy. You can use the Google Maps app to assess how busy your local dog park is at any given time. Open the app, and instead of an address, type the name of the park you want to look at.

When it comes up, tap the two stacked diamond-shaped boxes near the top right corner, and choose satellite view. You can use your forefinger and thumb on the screen and pinch or expand to Zoom or Minimize the picture and see how busy the park is that minute. 

Once you get inside the dog park, use a leash until you reach the area designated to remove it. At that point, do remove it because a dog on a leash cannot approach other dogs to socialize with them in a normal manner, and this in itself can cause aggression. Let them explore and become familiar with the dog park, so they will feel safe.

Use an authoritative attitude and voice when talking to your dog — delivering commands.

Your dog should always know who wears the pants in the relationship. Dogs understand hierarchy, and they need to understand that you are the boss, or you will always have problems.

Expel their excess energy somehow before arriving at the dog park.

Because pent-up energy is a common cause of aggression, if at all possible, do some activity where your dog can burn a lot of their excess energy before ever going to the dog park. Exercising before going to the dog park by going for a long walk is one great idea.

Do not let yourself get distracted while with your dog at the dog park.

While it can be tempting to talk on the phone, text, or even scroll on social media while your dog is socializing at the dog park, it is a very bad idea.

You should keep an eye on your dog at all times. You need to watch for aggression in other dogs toward your dog, as well as watching for aggression in your dog toward other dogs. Your awareness and quick action can go a long way.

Do not take your dog’s toys to the dog park or give treats to other dogs at the park.

Leave your dog’s toys at home. Other dogs will be tempted to play with a toy they’ve never seen, and your dog may get aggressive over their possessions. Your dog can also get this way if you are sharing their snacks with other dogs or if you are petting other dogs. 

Provide your dog with the adequate, quality training they need to be successful at socialization.

If your dog has been provided with adequate, quality training, chances are that you won’t have to worry about them becoming aggressive unless they are being baited.

Most people cannot do an adequate job of training their own dog, and reprogramming is much harder than simply training for the first time, so please, make sure your dog gets quality, professional training the first time.

Leave the dog park as soon as you see signs of aggression by your dog or another dog toward your dog.

The minute you notice signs of aggression in your dog toward another dog or another dog toward your dog, take your dog and leave the park. You can start fresh another day, but at this time, this has proven to be the best way to handle the situation.

Never jump between two dogs that are fighting, as you can easily get bitten. Good options are to use a dog deterrent spray or a water hose. Do not scream or become hysterical, as it will only make the situation more volatile.