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Discussion Starter #1
Oh, the dog park. I should say, our dog park is TINY and we go there at least once a day. I'm there every morning and I know most of the other owners I see. Dog toys are forbidden (except tennis balls at off-peak times...at the times we're there, the rules say "no toys of any kind). Biscuit is a female, spayed, 14 months old. Generally extremely well tempered and loving of all dogs and people, and we've never had any kind of resource guarding issue with her before at all. We've had her since last July.

This morning, someone had one of those fabric frisbees, and Biscuit got a hold of it. When I went to take it away from her (holding a treat in front of her nose), she REALLY did not want to give it up, and three other dogs came over and crowded around and barked, making Biscuit even MORE unwilling to give it up.

Eventually she let go in order to start a fight with one of the dogs that had been barking at her, an intact Lab male that Biscuit sees every morning and is never a fan of. She ended up cutting the Lab a tiny bit on his cheek. The Lab ran off and Biscuit ignored him thereafter. The Lab's owner (who didn't see any of this happen or help prevent it even though the dog park is TINY because he was wandering around on his cell phone the whole time...) seemed understanding and not angry, and said this had happened to his dog before, and the damage was really minimal, but I feel TERRIBLE.

What should I have done differently? Obviously this is why toys are banned, but they do show up at the dog park regardless of the rules. When we're at home (or anywhere other than at the dog park), Biscuit is fine with giving up her toys. She'll bring them back to me so I can throw them again. How do I convince her that it's OK to let go of things around other dogs too? Should I have somehow gotten rid of the other dogs, or left the park before trying to take the toy away?

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #2
<Bump>...anyone? I'm super worried about this, and the more I think about it the more guilty I feel for putting the Bisc in a position where she felt defensive like that.
 

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Well I think three dogs in her face barking could have provoked an incident with or without the toy. In a perfect world I would have asked the other dogs' owners to collect them while I got the toy away from my dog, but you don't really have control over how attentive other people are. In this particular circumstance I might try a few different things... one, you can straddle your dog putting a bit of pressure on her body with your knees and lower legs and hold her collar so she can't lunge at the other dogs and she is somewhat physically protected from them until the other owners get a clue or the other dogs lose interest. If my dog had never been a resource guarder and I was reasonably comfortable with her likely reaction to me doing so, I might have just physically removed the toy from her possession and put it out of sight in my pocket or something until everyone calmed down and lost interest. If whoever brought the toy wasn't willing to keep it put away I'd probably just leave after that.

That utter chaos is just not a good teaching/learning environment, sometimes you just gotta manage stuff the best you can. Then go home and work hard on learning where you can control and gradually increase the distractions.

I'm sure others will have other ideas for you as well.
 

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It sounds like she acted pretty reasonable with the Lab, honestly. I don't know many dogs who could just brush off three big dogs barking in their face. I wasn't there, so it is impossible to say really, but did Biscuit think you were engaging in tug with her?

If this kind of situation happens again, I would not try to force her to give it up if she really doesn't want to. I would take it as a lesson that you need to work more on 'give'. She may run around with it for awhile, but toys are much more fun if someone is playing with them with her. If it is a situation where you need to get the item away from her because the other dogs are going nuts and it is getting out of control, I would do as Sassafras said and straddle her with your legs, grab her collar with one hand and the item with the other and physically remove it from her. Then I would remove the toy completely from the park.

If you need to, scope out the park before you enter and pick up all the toys and keep them out of sight if it seems like it is going to be a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for responding. That's true, the three dogs would have put her seriously on the defensive (probably teeth snapping and hackles up) even without the toy. I was trying to physically take the toy from her when the fight happened. She was tugging and didn't want to let go. To be honest, I've never had her hold on to a toy like that before either. I was trying to trade it for a treat since she wouldn't give it up; maybe the presence of food escalated things? I know some dogs resource guard more about food, and some are more intense about toys...Biscuit has never really exhibited this behavior about either before, so I don't know what exactly did it this time. And since I was the one who was trying to take the toy, not the other dogs, I wonder why she lashed out at the other dog...maybe this was more a defensiveness thing than just resource guarding alone.

Straddling her is a good idea. There are definitely times when I'd like her to feel physically protected, even outside this particular situation. Most of the dogs are great, but just like anywhere else, there are always a few who forget their manners sometimes.

I felt like I had to take it away from her since it wasn't our toy, but before I tried to take it away, everything was fine and Biscuit was just running around happily with the toy in her mouth. Maybe I should have just let her keep it.

When we play tug at home, she always drops the toy when I tell her to. She'll even give up her prized antler (although if we're taking toy away, we always trade up with something or other). We've played fetch at this dog park with two or three dogs before on several occasions and nothing like this has happened. Maybe we should have some playdates and I'll work on "drop it" with another dog around.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
did Biscuit think you were engaging in tug with her?
Very possibly, although when we've played tug before, it's been in calmer settings like at home, and she's dropped it when asked.

The more I think about it, the more I think it was a combo of resource guarding and defensiveness. She's tried to tell that Lab off before so maybe she was saying "I've had it with you!" Maybe the cut was accidental; it seems like if she had really wanted to she would have done more damage. The fight resolved itself without human intervention. I would really hate to give up our dog park trips, even though there are so many drawbacks.
 

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Ah, I misunderstood, I thought she was stopped and the other 3 dogs had ganged up on her before you became involved.

If she was just running around with it and there weren't any problems between the dogs I probably would have just let her have it until she lost interest. IMO if you're going to bring a toy to the dog park (especially if toys aren't allowed) you're going to have to be prepared for other dogs to want to play with them.

I just think you ended up with a perfect storm of various small things that overstimulated her and she lashed out: not wanting to give the toy up, other dogs ganging up on her (and you), etc. Lesson learned, I don't think it necessarily bodes ill for the future.
 

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I agree that there wasn't a lot you could do in that situation. Neither you nor Biscuit caused the situation, the person bringing the toy did. Add in 3 big dogs barking in her face, one of them she already doesn't like, and it's the perfect storm of dog misbehavior.

Someone brought a stuffy to our park and Kabota stole it right off the dog and went running with it, then laid down to chew it and refused to give it back. I got it off him and we left, but it made me mad that someone else breaking the rules ended our park time.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Yeah, what a pain! There's been a rash of dog park toys lately. Maybe it's time to politely remind people about the rules and the reason they exist (although, maybe today's events did the trick).

There's one guy with a deaf dog who has been bringing a laser pointer to the dog park. I would have to leave VERY QUICKLY and pray Biscuit didn't see it. The one time we tried that with her, she was so obsessed we thought we had permanently ruined her. WTF is wrong with some people?

I think the Lab is generally sort of a rude dog, but I felt bad for him when he was sitting there all scared and forlorn and his owner didn't even notice his bloody face. Poor little guy.
 

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often dogs get along best with dogs of their own breed. different breeds have different play styles. the poor lab may be perfectly polite- to other labs. i've noticed kabota gets along best with the oodles of doodles we have around here. why, i don't know. he's no part poodle.

i truly hate it when people don't watch their dogs at the dog park. you have to watch them like a hawk. fights can break out in an instant, even if you're dog is "really friendly". in fact, whenever anyone says their dog is "really friendly", i get a bit tense. that seems to often be code for "has no manners at all and will incite your dog to bite". sort of like how "cozy" in a house listing means "so small you can hit the toilet from the front porch."
 

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I was going to suggest exactly that. I would work extensively on "drop it" AND "leave it". If she only does it at home, without other dogs around, she could use more training on it.

That is a serious combination in my house....when my lab comes out of the woods in our backyard with a bunny in her mouth and I yell, "drop it! leave it!", I expect results.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Thanks all. I think we're covering "drop it" in obedience school on Monday, so hopefully that will help.

This morning Bisc was fine at the dog park, if a little excitable, but then the toy-bringing dog (a Bernese) came in with the same toy, and Biscuit started obsessing over the toy, so we left. I told the owner that toys aren't allowed so please don't bring them but he didn't seem all that receptive. God forbid his dog have to put down the toy while they go to the dog park...?
 

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And ugh, it just happened again! This time with a squeaky tennis ball (someone found outside the dog park and threw it in, meaning someone had already tried to get rid of it). Biscuit eventually got it (she is the sort of dog that always ends up with the ball). I let Bisc keep it until I saw her snap a bit at a couple of beagles that were trying to take it from her. Then I grabbed her and took her into the "airlock" of the park, where she dropped it. I praised her and gave her a treat, then let her back in the park...but she could still see the ball outside the fence, and started guarding that part of the fence. I threw the ball further away and things seemed fine for a second, until one of the beagles got up in Biscuit's business and she made a very noisy snappy show of chasing him away. It sounded like an attack, honestly, but she didn't grab with teeth and no blood was drawn. It seemed like she was just saying "I REALLY MEAN IT, GO AWAY!" but really, I don't know if it would have escalated. We left the park right away.

I was surprised that Bisc showed aggression AFTER the ball was gone. Is that usually part of a resource guarding behavior? Or was this more like, this beagle was being rude and/or Biscuit wanted her space, and Biscuit was trying to tell him off?

Side note. It's very hard to practice "drop it" with other dogs around, since we don't have any other dogs and I'm not willing to bring high value treats to the dog park. Does anyone have any insights on any of this?
 

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If she was still fixating on where the ball disappeared to, then yes, the last incident was resource guarding. RG doesn't always end when the coveted object disappears. But if she was just milling around, the beagle could have been pushy enough to earn a loud reprimand. Or she could have been on edge from guarding the ball while it was still in her possession.
 

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Yeah, that seems right. She seemed to be going off to mill about or dig a hole or some other similarly productive activity when the beagle incident happened. I think she was just on edge. I guess these things are bound to happen, but it still fills me with anxiety.
 

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You could always do treat training just outside the gate? It may cause fighting inside the park, hmm. Not sure.
 

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You could always do treat training just outside the gate? It may cause fighting inside the park, hmm. Not sure.
Yeah that, but also I don't think it would have the same effect. Biscuit never would have dropped the squeaky ball today if I had tried to take it when we were inside the park, but she dropped it voluntarily outside the gate. Also, leash vs. non-leash situation.

I think we're going to sign up for another level of obedience school or for intro to agility. I can't think of another situation where we can be around lots of dogs with high value treats and I would feel comfortable with it, and we had fun in Basic Obedience. Plus we have 50% off the next level that we have to use anyway!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
So I have an update for anyone who cares! (Small subset, I realize :))

We have decided to stop taking Biscuit to the dog park in question, which is very small and Thunderdome-esque, because this resource-guarding problem was getting worse, not better. We realized that Biscuit seemed bored at the dog park and much less eager to go there than she used to. We had been visting this dog park twice a day for about six months, and it has astroturf, dirt, a couple trees, and really nothing else. It's also tiny. Biscuit would mill about aimlessly, sometimes running and playing with other dogs but sometimes not, and when she found an interesting stick/ball/plastic bag, she would try to guard it, and sometimes loudly reprimand other dogs that were nearby. This was happening more and more often, and we were worried that sometime soon it would either a) be more than just a reprimand or b) be directed at some really stupid person who tried to take the desirable object away themselves (this dog park is full of really stupid people). So we decided that convenience aside, Biscuit wasn't even getting that much exercise at the dog park, and it was getting more and more stressful to worry about what might happen.

We're not never going to any dog park again. In fact, we've been to other dog parks that are bigger and have more things to see/smell/do (plants, benches, toys, frisbees) and Biscuit has never shown this RG behavior there, presumably because when a resource isn't scarce, it's not worth guarding. If I throw a tennis ball for her she'll bring it back to me, and she won't even get mad if another dog fetches it and brings it back. The issue really seems to have been rooted in boredom. I'm a little disappointed in myself for not realizing the boredom factor sooner, but I guess this is part of the learning process.

We've been walking or running 45 minutes twice a day since the middle of last week (so about 5-6 miles a day, give or take), plus 30 minutes with the dog walker and some indoor or outdoor fetch games and training sessions. Biscuit isn't a retrieving fiend like some dogs, but she does enjoy it. She actually seems happier and more relaxed when meeting other dogs on leash since we've been walking more, and I do think this is tiring her out more. I was worried walking wouldn't be enough exercise, but what we're doing seems to be plenty. She also goes to daycare at least once a week. We're working on her outdoor recall as well. It's really strong at the dog park, but she hasn't generalized it to all outdoor locations. And we're going to sign her up for agility classes when the next "semester's" enrollment opens next week.

So I guess we're living testimony that even good, friendly, active, super-social dogs might not love Thunderdome dog parks, and certainly don't NEED Thunderdome dog parks to be happy!

Thanks all for the advice.
 

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I'm glad everything worked out.

Don't feel bad about Biscuit's RG. The last time I took Kabota to the groomer, I got a call 30 minutes later, could I please come right away. I ran all the way there (2 blocks, my joints aren't good) to discover that the groomer accidentally left her dog's bone on the floor (she was so apologetic. it really was just a stupid mistake), Kabota had grabbed it and when her dog got close, Kabota growled and snapped at him. The groomer was afraid to try to get it off of him (I don't blame her, why risk getting bitten when I live so close?) so she called me.

Kabota would not drop it on command, but he didn't growl or snap when I grabbed it from him.

Anyway, I learned a valuable lesson: no bones. Ever. Even the nicest dog has his triggers, I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Thanks for the kind words. I had been feeling sort of bad about it, actually. I can be a smidge competitive so naturally it's been a little hard to accept that my dog is not perfect. Of course no dog (and no person) is perfect, and that is ridiculous thinking! You're right though - Biscuit is so cute, sweet, and generally calm and well-behaved that when she showed a different side of her personality, I didn't know what to make of it. It's not fair for me to expect her to be triggerless, no matter how nice she is or how soft her belly fur.

Sometimes I wish she could just tell me what's wrong!
 
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