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Discussion Starter #1
I have a black lab, whippet mix, a whippador if you will, who is the love of my life. She is so friendly and sweet and loves to do zoomies around the house. She is the perfect balance of active and sedentary and knows when she can be energetic and when she needs to calm down. I take her running every day, but I know she is a whippet so I also take her to the dog park so she can stretch her legs to full potential and get some good sprints in with other dogs. The first 10 times I took her, she was an angel. Lots of wonderful play where other dogs and her would exchange tackles and run around. It was lovely. Recently, however, she has been attacking dogs. She will be perfectly fine and then a new dog will come to the park and she will attack them. I have been taking her at less busy times so that I can arrange the dogs she plays with. Sometimes, unexpected visitors arrive though and I can't control it. Basically, I will outline what happens:
1. Arrive at dog park after run
2. Plays with existing dogs, zoomies
3. New Dog arrives
4. I hold her collar to allow the owners into the dog park without her bolting past
5. She attacks new dogs
it's not every new dog she attacks, just seldom ones. She has never done any damage, mostly she just growls and snaps and tries to stand over the dogs, but causes quite a ruckus and scares the other dog owners their respective dogs. I can't keep going to the dog park if she is behaving like this, but I also feel badly that I can't fulfill her full sprint potential.
If it helps: most dogs she has been set off by growl or snap at her first or are very timid
My problem is that she doesn't leave them alone, rather, she goes berzerk.
Other owners who have watched the attacks break out have commented 'it seemed to come out of nowhere' which is what i'm feeling like. Please help, I really don't know what to do.
 

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She may be dog-selective. It might be that she is getting stressed from other situations at the dog park or just due to frequent visits and is "taking it out" on dogs that catch her on a bad day.

But, basically, it sounds like the dog park is not a suitable place for her. That's OK, it isn't a suitable place for a lot of dogs.
 

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The solution is pretty easy. Stop going to the dog park. You're endangering your dog, the other dogs AND every person in the dog park every time you go. It's irresponsible to continue to take her there when she repeatedly causes conflict.

If you want her to be able to run, find a fenced large area like a baseball field and take her there after hours so that she can zoom about without endangering any other dogs or people.

This doesn't mean that she's a bad dog, by the way, or that you're an inadequate owner. Not all dogs are dog park material no matter how much effort you put into socializing, training, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Maybe! just makes me feel like I can't trust her, you know? I feel badly but I can't endanger other people's dogs, so I guess I better get good at sprinting and running long distances lol!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Agreed. I shouldn't have taken at all after the first conflict but I had hoped it would be an isolated incident. Great advice about the large area, I'll have to try that out. She sprints when something is chasing her or when she is being chased and she doesn't particularly enjoy fetch. How do you suggest I encourage her to get all her sprints in to keep her happy and healthy?
 

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If it helps: most dogs she has been set off by growl or snap at her first or are very timid
I agree with the others and want to add that the dogs you mentioned should also not be going to dog parks. Oh in a perfect world...

The thing is, many dogs naturally will growl, head flip, stiffen, or even do a quick snap to ward off another dog (or person) when they feel uncomfortable. That is totally within a normal spectrum of how dogs communicate. There are also many dogs who will simply stiffen, freeze, shut down, or walk away in the same situation. Again, totally normal. It is very nice, for people, when they have dogs that will show more passive signs of dealing with stress such as walking away. But not all dogs are like that. Similarly, all people communicate differently in times of stress and depending on the situation.

Dog parks do not facilitate appropriate interactions. Some very nice ones do. For example, the park near me (which I do not frequent because my dog is not a good candidate) is an island with rivers and trees. Basically, a tiny hike. This means people generally move away from the entrance (I presume) and there are far more interesting things for dogs to think about, ie. not fixate on the entryway every time a dog comes in. At dog parks that are basically a plot of dirt and grass, there is nothing to focus on except the entryway. Even if the dogs are off leash and there is room to move around, interactions at the entryway are always tense. There is still one dog crossing that boundary into the park, acting perhaps differently than how he might if given open space on all sides. There is still that crowded and rushed greeting. NONE of that is natural. Even some of the friendliest dogs would not 'choose' to put themselves in that experience. And if you watch the super social ones, even they often bound off out of the 'welcome committee' to create more space and be more calculated in their greetings. Don't get me wrong. Some dogs absolutely thrive in all of this. That percentage of dogs is very small.

So you have a setup that does not promote natural introductions. Here are other challenges that make dog parks frustrating for many:
-Barrier reactivity. Some dogs are super social and friendly but may get frustrated, over aroused, or even aggressive at boundaries. Doesn't matter how great with dogs that dog is. If you bring that dog to a dog park, you are taking risks and ruining the experience for others. The boundaries are built into how the park works.
-Over arousal. Some dogs LOVE other dogs, and don't know how to wind down. Or, maybe this dog doesn't know how to respect more passive body language and will push or chase a dog that is sending clear signals to stop. This is the dog that tries to bowl over or wrestle with every dog in the park and 'sometimes they play too hard and things escalate.' This is the dog that pushes the other dog that is ducking and cowering and running away then finally snaps... And then it's always that other dog that gets blamed. Doesn't matter how friendly this dog is. This dog should instead have playdates with appropriate dogs.
-Resource guarders. Some dogs are generally great with other dogs but protective of their people or a toy. Issues arise when their person socializes with other people in the park, creating a ring in which the dog will guard and ward off other dogs. Also, people who play fetch or bring toys to the park are somehow surprised when dogs fight after going after the same toy. This dog might be okay in the park, but no toys should be brought and the person should remember to keep things moving and not use the dog park as a social hub. If the dog will seek out objects like sticks and guard them, not a good dog park dog.
-Dog selective dogs. Most people think their dog is generally great with dogs when in reality a lot of dogs are selective. Things are mostly fine, until one day two dogs who are perfectly incompatible meet and a fight breaks out.
-Timid or shy dogs. These are the dogs who don't typically aggress or escalate, but aren't having a good time. The owners either don't know their dog isn't having a good time because the dog is accepting it and not lunging or snarling. Or, the owners know it and think the key to helping their dog is more immersion with other dogs (wrong, mostly). If and when these dogs do snap, they are often blamed for not being friendly.

That leaves dogs who are appropriate, who adjust play styles, who respect other dogs' body language, and who walk away rather than escalate in stressful situations. I always get a little jealous when I meet dogs like that :)
 

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Discussion Starter #7
what a thorough response! My dog definitely loves to play, but I guess she is selective! I will be staying away from dog parks after the incident and your recommendations. In a perfect world, a dog park would be lovely, but I guess I have to be realistic! Thanks for the response and happy new year!
 
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