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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is a long post, but I had an awkward situation at the dog park yesterday, and it takes a bit of explanation. I'm pretty sure I handled it wrong, and need some advice on the next time.

Dilly-Dally, my 40-lb., 1+ year old mutt (chow/retriever/terrier... I think), was busy playing with a couple other similarly-sized dogs, when she encountered a tiny (maybe 15 lbs. soaking wet) 3 year-old Mini-Schnauzer. They start by exchanging bows, a couple barks, and then start chasing each other around and wrestling. Not surprisingly, the Shnauzer gets tossed around like a rag doll. She lets out a very high-pitched yelp and runs away, with her tail between her legs.

My dog is not the least bit aggressive, but she is "size-stupid", and has trouble knowing when to stop playing. I make a grab for Dally's collar, but she's faster than me and keeps going after the Schnauzer. Eventually, I manage to snag her collar and get her back on-leash, but the Schnauzer is screaming and retreating between her owner's legs.

Here's where it gets awkward: the Schnauzer's owners were trying to reassure me the entire time that it was ok - "She does this all the time, she's just playing." They were actually egging my dog on while she chased theirs around. I'm pretty new to dog ownership (adopted just this past March), and they both have had dogs for years; a couple months ago, I would have taken their word for it, but I'm 99% convinced that this was not a normal play behavior. Given the pitch of the yelps (ear-piercingly high), the body language (tail curled between her legs), and the behavior (repeatedly racing back for cover between the owners legs), I think their Schnauzer was terrified, and was on the edge of a fear-bite.

I explained I wanted to settle my dog down, and took her for an on-leash walk around the park a couple times until she calmed down, then proceeded to play doggie masseuse (scratch behind the ears, belly rub, etc.) before letting her off-leash again. This time, she selected a more size-appropriate playmate, and the drama was over for the rest of the afternoon.

Looking back, though, I think I should have done more to explain their dog's behavior, but I didn't know how to do so without sounding like a condescending jerk. Moreover, my dog was the one being the 'aggressor', and I felt like I was in no position to criticize. What worries me is that the owners had mentioned that their Schnauzer did this sort of thing all the time. I just get the feeling that it's only a matter of time before the Schnauzer snaps at a less-friendly dog with less bite inhibition. Has anyone gone through this before? How do you handle it? What's the right thing to do?

Last, what can I do about Dally's propensity to wear out her welcome? She's not aggressive at all, but she has above-average stamina, and tends to keep playing after she's worn-out the other dogs. I've gotten good enough at reading body language to pull her away before trouble starts, but she's a lot faster than me and I'm worried I won't be able to snag her quick enough someday. I'd feel better if I could train her to stop on her own. The funny thing is, her 'Play-dar' is actually pretty good - she only starts play with dogs who are willing; she just doesn't know when to stop.
 

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The first thing you need to have on Dally is a 100 % reliable recall for thiose situations where you really need your dog to come to you no matter what. I recommend you go to www.dogwise.com and get the "really Reliable Recall" pamphlet and start doing this. When you have that Recall reliable and generalized, you might consider going back to the dog park. For now, because you do not have a RRR even in exciting situations, the DP shoud be off limits. You cannot expect to "snag" your dog when things get out of hand.

Another thing you should do, and do in more than one place besides home, is the Rev Up - Cool Down work which is a stickie at the top of the Dog Training Forum. This teaches a dog how to have self control.. or enought to reorient to you.

I personally do not bother to tell people who seem to know everything what to do or what is going on with their dog. At that moment they may have said things that were not for real (like the does it all the time statement). OTOH if that were the case, it is unlikely they would listen to you anyhow.. especially since your dog did the hurting.

What you did, (put dog on leash and then walk the dog), after apologizing, was probably the best thing to do.
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
Crap, now I really do feel like an idiot.

We actually do have a reliable recall; it honestly just didn't occur to me to use a 'come/stay' from four feet away. Come to think of it, the only outdoor recalls we've ever trained were from 20'-30' away; I don't think I've ever even tried it from under 10 feet. All of our indoor recalls have been from about 5-6 feet.

Actually, everything makes so much more sense now. Outdoors, I can call her from 20 feet away, and she'll come bounding back and sit at my feet, but if I go to her, she likes to run around me in short (3-4 ft.) circles until I sit down (usually exhasperated), whereupon she sits quietly while I put her leash back on. It's a game to her, and I've spent the last three months not only playing it, but actively encouraging it.

Ugh. Well, this is a bit humbling; here I am criticizing someone else, and I've not only been getting something wrong, I've been doing the exact opposite of what I was supposed to.

Stupid poetic justice.
 
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