Hey Adam, my dog often gets attacked or threatened by other dogs in the dog park. The owners of other dogs seem not to be concerned about it and I always end up feeling frustrated and helpless.
So what do you do in these cases?
I pick up my dog and leave the park.
I understand your desire to create a safe environment for your dog and in some cases escaping dangerous situation would be the very right thing to do! If you assess that the situation is truly dangerous, then sure, pick up your dog and do whatever you need to create safety for both of you.
However, if you do this every time, even when the situation is not really dangerous but just a bit uncomfortable, there is a cost to it.
If only avoiding tense situations, your dog will have less of a chance to learn how to play nicely, share a space, and make new friends.
Secondly, the dog learns that the only safe place for it is in it's owner's arms or outside the dog park. The dog also learns that their owner is not confrontational, which usually leads to the dog feeling that he/she needs to protect their owner. When a dog feels that they need to protect their owner, they learn that they are alone at the dog park, left without any support system. This just reinforces their coping mechanism which is usually to cower or act overly aggressive with strangers and other dogs.
Do you suggest that I become confrontational with other dog owners and demand of them to pull their dogs away?
Imagine that you are in a wolf pack and you are being attacked by a mountain lion. What would you expect your pack leader to do in this case? Talk to a mountain lion's mom?
Haha. No. By the time they would talk to that mom, I could be seriously injured or even dead. It sounds like you suggest that I, as pack leader for my dog, step in and separate the dogs instead of trying to find their parents?
This feels uncomfortable. Am I allowed to touch other dogs?
Of course. If you or your family are in danger, it's your right to protect yourself and your pack. And this is a crucial moment where your dog can either learn that he/she has your support- or learn that he/she is all alone.
Can you please specify what exactly I can do in this case? Can I push away another dog? Can I pull another dog back if it is attacking my dog?
Whatever it takes for your dog to feel protected and safe. You don't need to be violent. In most cases it's enough for another dog to just see that there is a pack leader around who protects their dog.
I like to step in if I see my little Chihuahua can't handle the situation on her own and tell the instigating dog "she is with me". I actually tell this to them while I am pointing to my dog, and they get it. In some cases I needed to step in between the dogs and redirect the other dog away from mine.
Don't the owners of other dogs get upset?
Yes, they have, but the safety of my dogs is my top priority. I believe that your dog can begin to really enjoy the dog park when he feels that he has your protection there!
Disclaimer: The contents of this blog are intended for informational purposes only. The contents are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your vet with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition of your dog/s.
Photo credit: Jordyn Roach