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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey there!
I adopted Watson, an approx. 5 year old male who was rescued from a neglectful owner/family where he was a backyard stud dog who was extremely malnourished. He was rescued& neutered in Jan. 2021 & I adopted him in March of 2021. I have taken him to numerous dog parks (one fenced in, one non-fenced that is about 40 acres of open fields, and then over three miles of trails through the woods.
I was told by the rescue that either just prior to, or just after being neutered he ‘went after’ an intact male toy poodle who also had epilepsy. They said Watson looked like he was just going to sniff the toy poodle but then “he went after” the other, but he was fine otherwise & no harm. They also said that for a time after his neuter he was the ‘neuter police’ to all make dogs that he met while at the rescue.
Since adopting him, I have been vigilant when taking him out. It’s interesting how at the dog parks or while walking he could care less about some dogs but then others he makes ‘a beeline’ for them with his head lower to the ground.
I’ve come to realize he does not like being mounted and have learned how to separate him from dogs who will continually try to mount him because other owners are not watchful of their male dogs. He will tolerate the first mount or two but then after that he will low growl at them, but this dog kept coming back and Watson would become more vocal about his discontent.
My question is though- how to correct Watson from play biting smaller dog’s neck who show discontent. It sounds scary & because it usually only happens with very small dogs (whose owners say it’s okay to be in the big dog’s section because they have larger dogs too at the park). But sometimes on walks when he is leashed he will stiffen a little bit when sniffing and will go for the neck and the other dog will whimper before he even makes contact with them. Does this mean my dog has done something wrong? What is the best way to correct him since I don’t see anything wrong that he did other than he did a fast walk to the other dog?
 

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In your shoes, I'd stop playing with fire and expecting a dog with this one's background to get along with other dogs. Next time Watson bites a small dog's neck, the small dog may never get up. Stay out of the dog park unless it's empty or at least stick to those trails and keep him leashed and fend off other dogs who approach. Find other places and ways to exercise, train, and play with him. Dogs can lead perfectly happy lives without ever having other dogs in their faces.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thank you for the reply @storyist. After reading your reply I realized I needed to add some clarification. The reason he was in rescue for 3 months was because I adopted through a rescue where they do extensive behavior profiling prior to adoption. Being at the rescue for 2-3 months is their common procedure as they are not a kennel type shelter & they want to get to know a dog before placing them up for adoption in order to prevent matches that will not foster growth & success. They also like to include a rotation at a foster home with other dogs to see if they thrive better in companionship or away- which Watson was profiled as EITHER- he does not require a fellow canine companion, but he loves to play with dogs of similar size, indifferent to extra large dogs. In addition, an adopter must be on their pre-approved list & they will match you based upon your application, not 'what photo I picked'. He was profiled as being non-reactive to other dogs, and small dog selective due to the one incident I outlined above, which their trainer who observed the interaction said due to it being so close to the time of intake & neuter, was attributed to heightened stress levels. I do not own other dogs, and none of my family members or friends or even acquaintances own small dogs, so this was not a reason for me not to adopt Watson, and all the fenced dog parks in my area have size dividers.

Now, on to what I do with him at the park:
When introducing him to new dogs, he is leashed, not off leash (EVEN at the off-leash open dog park where they do allow long lines, which we utilize, for safety). We go to the fenced dog park when it is empty, and as new people show up, I introduce myself with Watson on leash, and explain what I know about him, but most importantly, what I don't know/have experienced with him. In the instances that I listed above, I removed my dog from situations where I felt uncomfortable with how other owners were handling, or not handling their pups, or in the mounting situation, when Watson made it clear that he did not want to mounted. (The dog who was mounting, was mounting the other two poodle at the park who Watson enjoyed playing with, and the owner would actually encourage the other poodles to yip back at their dog to 'teach him' how to play.... We left because it was clear that she was not going to correct her dog herself & Watson was going up the ladder of aggression, so I left). After seeing an owner like this, I do not want to be known as an owner who is negligent, or just 'brushes' off behaviors that are clear when my dog makes another dog uncomfortable.

In order to better keep myself, my dog, and just as equally, other dogs & their owners safe, what is the best way to correct my dog's behavior when he is on leash? Even when we are at parks where leashes are mandatory, and when I avoid busy times, there are at times always an owner who does not follow the rules, or respect the idea that not all dogs want to be approached.

I am avoiding 'playing with fire' as you say, and am wanting to be the best responsible canine parent that I can be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
^to add, what the rescue meant by "neuter police" was that he LOVES to sniff males longer than females, and preferred to play with males for longer periods of time after they were neutered than prior to being neutered. They did not use neuter police as a derogatory or aggressive term, which I did clarify prior to adoption as this is my first male dog. This is also why a male dog mounting my male dog was very off-putting at first until I did research into the behavior why.
 

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The only dogs that belong at "thunderdome" type dog parks are those that are both rock-solid unflappable and irrationally friendly to dogs and humans of all types. This rules out the majority of dogs. Even then, it's a good way to get parasites and other diseases.

If Watson is going to be around other dogs, it should be arranged playdates with dogs he's known to get along well with.
 

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Unfortunately, the best way to avoid this behavior towards small dogs escalating is to leave when one arrives. Whether that's move to a different section (in the large park) or leave the park entirely (in the smaller fenced ones). None of us can say for certain without actually observing, of course, but the neck biting doesn't sound like 'play' to me, given the reactions of the the dogs he does it to. It could be just rude, rather than aggression, but rude behavior in a dog park can escalate extremely quickly if another dog or dogs react poorly to it. This is also the strategy I'd employ with dogs he does the head down, straight line approach to - another behavior that's at best rude and highly confrontational in dog body language and could easily start a fight - or when there's another dog who won't stop humping him (this time it's the other dog being rude, but again, rude behavior from a dog who can't respect other dogs' signals and boundaries is risky in a dog park).

Yes, it sucks. But dog parks - especially small, fenced dog parks - create a chaotic, amped-up environment for all but the most easygoing dogs, and you can't control what other people do, how well they watch their dogs, or what dogs they bring (as you already mentioned). Small conflicts blow up because the dogs feel trapped (they can't get enough space from the other dog to feel safe) and there's nothing else to do except fixate on the other dogs. At least with the larger parks with trails and such, the environment itself is interesting and enriching to dogs, and they can keep moving while they meet and interact with each other (especially if you're encouraging this by walking the trails with them), so the intensity and energy is more diffused.

I'd also urge you to be cautious with on-leash meetings, especially if the other dog is off-leash. While you do have better control on-leash, it's a more stressful experience for the dogs because they can't engage in dog body language. For example, a polite dog greeting involves the dogs both approaching each other in an arc, so they meet flank-to-flank, rather than the way we tend to bring them in a straight line to meet nose-to-nose (this is also why the beeline approach you describe is rude and confrontational). I prefer never to have dogs who don't already know each other and get along to meet on-leash, because it's a tense and unpredictable situation. I don't know what the right solution is for your dog in this situation, but I want you to be aware so you can notice signs that this is stressing your dog out or making him more likely to be tense or rude.

There are ways to improve a dog's relationship with specific other dogs, but a dog park just isn't the place to do it. It's too unpredictable and volatile. I'm a big fan of parallel walking - letting dogs get used to each other by taking leashed walks together, far enough apart that they can't physically interact, but so they can get used to each other's presence gradually while having other interesting things to occupy themselves with in the meantime (the sights, smells, sounds, etc. of the walk).

I say this all from a place of commiseration and experience, as the owner of a dog who gradually escalated from just being a little insecure at dog parks to exhibiting rude behavior, fixating on other dogs, and giving inappropriate corrections (often to dogs much bigger than he was). I wish I'd taken his signals more seriously sooner, and now realize that he spent most of his time at dog parks stressed and on-edge. It wasn't worth the occasional really nice interaction he had with dogs he happened to get along with.
 

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I will boil it down even further.

1.) Most dogs do NOT need and do NOT want to be in dog "playgrounds" (dog parks). They are dogs, not children.

2.) Some dogs, like yours, are inappropriate for dog parks.

3.) Dogs should NEVER meet other dogs on leash (regardless if other dog is loose or also on leash). Leashed dogs are confined and forced to meet other dogs face to face which many dogs find Rude and so react accordingly.

4.) "Watson" is not a candidate for dog parks and greeting dogs on leash. Stop both activities. Someone is going to get hurt and a melee may ensue where several dogs and owners get hurt.

5.) MOST Rescues haven't a CLUE about temperament or how to evaluate temperament no matter how hard they try or what they "think." Most do not understand what they are seeing. They missed it in Watson's case and this is not unusual.
Footnote to #5) I have seen rescues euthanize perfectly fine dogs for resource guarding their food bowl. How about this rule instead (the one most of us older people learned when we were kids): Leave the dog Alone when he is eating and if there are multiple dogs, feed them out of reach and out of sight of each other.
 

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It sounds like your dog is, at the very least, dog selective and possibly leash reactive. This simply means that they have preferences and they likely won't get along well with every single dog they meet, which is perfectly fine. Leash reactive is when the dog gets frustrated or feels threatened because their movements are inhibited due to the leash. That also means that you, as an owner, have a responsibility to make sure your dog's preferences are respected.

Quite simply, you're not likely to "correct" the undesired behavior your dog has exhibited. Beelining for other dogs, biting their neck (if the other dog is whimpering, it's a signal to your dog that he's being too confrontational), and stiffening are all signs that he is uncomfortable, or being rude and confrontational. The best way to "correct" it is to not let him practice the behavior or feel that he needs to exhibit the behavior. Based on what you've described, I do not feel this is a dog best suited for dog parks where the dogs he encounters are unknown and possibly incompatible with him.

It sounds like your dog needs to be properly and slowly introduced to new dogs before playing, and probably should not be introduced on leash (Daysleeper's parallel walking description is what I would choose). You can't demand that everyone in the dog park introduces their dog to your dog this way, so that's why dog parks aren't the best choice.
 

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I have seen rescues euthanize perfectly fine dogs for resource guarding their food bowl. How about this rule instead (the one most of us older people learned when we were kids): Leave the dog Alone when he is eating and if there are multiple dogs, feed them out of reach and out of sight of each other.
I know that's policy with some public shelters, and they use those plastic hands to shove into the food bowl, so I suppose some rescues would do the same, but the many rescuers I got to know were most often the other way: not strict enough in their evaluations.

Anyway, it's a digression, but in defense of some evaluations I wanted to point out that one of the things that surprised me when I started doing rescue is how dogs can be very different in different environments. The woman I did rescue with and I often discussed this, how a dog that acted one way with people like us (boundary-setting and enforcing) would be completely different in another household with a softer, more lenient person.

Just as an example I had one dog returned to me because of her behavior toward men. Before the adoption she'd been in a foster home with a married couple and never had any problem with the husband or any other man. After I took her back, she never had a problem, even with male vets. So there was some difference in that adoptive home. My guess is Millie didn't have enough trust in the adopter, but of course I don't know.
 
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