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Old 11-06-2012, 04:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default First Time Dog Park Aggression

Hey everyone! I'm new here and I'm hoping that I can get some advice from veteran GSD owners or at the very least some input on what happened to me this morning. My apologies in advance for the long winded post, but I'd rather give more info than less so that you can make the most informed call.

I own a year old GSD/hound dog mix named Jack. He's an adoption so unfortunately I can't tell you his exact age. The vet estimates him at a year to a year and two months, no more. He's incredibly sweet and well behaved. He has been socialized properly during his puppy stage - I took him to meet new people, new dogs, new places (pet stores, different parks, etc.). As I was a graduate student and money was tight, I couldn't afford puppy kindergarten but I made sure to work on all the commands like sit, stay, come, down, leave it, etc. He did really well with most of them although he does still get distracted when there are other dogs around.

Over the past year, I moved twice. The first time was in-state to a more rural setting and more recently (two months ago) clear across the country to a big city. He's gone from living near a dog park where he would enjoy hanging out with his "friends" to being rather isolated in this new city. To add to that - I got him neutered upon our arrival here which meant 3 weeks of rest while the stitches healed. A further (unfortunate) development arose when they did his blood work for the neuter. Jack was Heartworm positive. He's undergone treatment and the subsequent month's rest (finished October 24th).

That whole time he's been rather isolated with only our other dog, Lola, for company. I decided to take him back to the dog park down here to see if we could get him back into the swing of having friends and enjoying himself.

I took him yesterday morning and he seemed to enjoy himself. I noticed some foaming at the mouth which I chalked up to a potential side effect with his meds. The vet seemed to concur when I talked to him. After this morning and some further research, I'm wondering if it was dog related stress rather than long term effects of the 10 mg of prednisone he was on.

So here is where it gets nitty-gritty. My boy has never shown any kind of aggression before. He's incredibly gentle with my young nephews (3 & 5) and incredibly attentive to my terminally ill father, even going so far as to walk beside him when my father starts to tremble and lose his balance.

We arrived at the dog park today and he was immediately charged by what I thought was a "welcoming committee" - 4 dogs, mixed breeds, his size or a little bigger. Two of them tried to mount him. Jack had his hackles raised and showed his teeth to indicate that he didn't appreciate the gestures. I thought that it settled the matter because both Jack and I walked away from the situation to diffuse a potentially nasty meet and greet. We continued walking down the park and it seemed like every dog who came to sniff him was walking stiff-legged and standing with pushy body language. Jack continued to have his hackles raised and would occasionally growl.

I started getting nervous with the entire situation and tried getting him to a clear area where I could leash him and leave because the air was definitely too charged with dog tension. Two other dogs came over and began trying to mount Jack as I was attempting to leash him to leave. Jack snapped at them and actively growl/barked showing marked aggression with the whole fiasco. He ran after a particularly pushy boxer while snapping and barking in what was a DEFINITELY aggressive manner. Meanwhile, I'm yelling "NO!" and trying to grab him while the rest of the owners in the park just looked on. (IMHO, they were completely useless and should have controlled their dogs as I was the only fool scrambling around trying to be a responsible owner.)

So - advice? thoughts? I don't want any aggression/aggressive behaviors getting a foothold as he's such a sweet dog. Am I just being an alarmist and nervous Mama? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm also hoping that you don't mind offering advice for a GSD mix. I'm not certain if this is a forum for just pure-breeds. If so, pardon my error. Thanks again!

Last edited by JacksMama; 11-06-2012 at 04:59 PM.
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Old 11-06-2012, 05:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I guess I'd look at it from a human perspective, how would you like all these people charging you, with 'attitude', and pushy behaviors?

If you've never had an agression problem with him prior, I can see this as him defending himself, going into defense mode. Sounds like the other dogs were ganging up on the 'new' kid, pushing buttons, and yours had enough.

Doesn't sound like a pack of a dogs I would want mine hanging with
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Old 11-06-2012, 05:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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This is why I don't do dog parks. You might end up with injuries or a dog that has issues from being attacked and I think it was just your dog defending himself if you have never had problems before
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Old 11-06-2012, 05:47 PM   #4 (permalink)
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The other dogs were being inappropriate in their greeting IMO. If that happened to either of my guys, they would have reacted more harshly than your dog. I take mine to a dog park but it's acres of land with numerous walking trails. The dogs seem to keep moving for the most part and I don't see that kind of behaviour. Perhaps you could try during a quieter time and see how he likes it. I don't blame him for reacting that way though. I would too!
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Old 11-06-2012, 05:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Thanks y'all. I guess I'm being alarmist. It was completely uncharacteristic with his normal happy-go-lucky self so I wondered if it might have been stress due to either illness or the moves. Thanks for the reassurances!
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I think your pup has gone through a great deal of stress in a very short amount of time. He's been adopted. He's moved twice. He's been neutered. He's undergone heartworm treatment. That a whole lot of things for your pup to deal with.

If he were mine, I wouldn't stress because of this one encounter. But I'd give him a little more time to adjust. Give him some security. He must have been giving out signals from the moment he entered the park that he was insecure and unsure. The other dogs picked up on that and zeroed in on him.

I'd go back to the beginning. Treat him as you did when you first got him. Take baby steps. Socialize him, take him (on leash) out and let him gain back his sea legs. Give him a chance to build confidence within himself. Create a schedule for him and keep him on it. Throw a party EVERY time he shows good behavior. Have your entire family join in. If you take him someplace and you see he is starting to stress, remove him from the situation.

Baby steps. Give him time.
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:03 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I agree with Jakota and fuzzybunny! If someone approached ME like that, I'd snap at them too!!!
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:08 PM   #8 (permalink)
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And BTW, ANYONE is welcome here. Purebred owners or not. And I totally agree with the above posts. Your poor pup was only reacting to lots of stress, trying to defend himself. I agree with Lilie's post.
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:13 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lilie View Post

If he were mine, I wouldn't stress because of this one encounter.

....

I'd go back to the beginning. Treat him as you did when you first got him. Take baby steps. Socialize him, take him (on leash) out and let him gain back his sea legs. Give him a chance to build confidence within himself. Create a schedule for him and keep him on it. Throw a party EVERY time he shows good behavior. Have your entire family join in. If you take him someplace and you see he is starting to stress, remove him from the situation.

Baby steps. Give him time.

Thanks, Lilie. I really appreciate this. I was thinking along the same lines although this is the first time I've had to deal with any behavior like this. As a "first time" dog owner (other than the dogs my family owned) and it seems like I'm constantly asking everyone for their advice! I'm aware that I have tons to learn. Thanks for the advice.
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Old 11-06-2012, 06:20 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JacksMama View Post
Thanks, Lilie. I really appreciate this. I was thinking along the same lines although this is the first time I've had to deal with any behavior like this. As a "first time" dog owner (other than the dogs my family owned) and it seems like I'm constantly asking everyone for their advice! I'm aware that I have tons to learn. Thanks for the advice.
Remember, you can control your dog but you can't always control your dog's enviornment. You pup sounds like he is a solid, well behaved dog. He's just dealing with stress right now.

There are tons and tons of great threads through out this forum that provide great ideas for games with your dog that help build confidence. Lots of videos, links etc. that are truly helpful.

Also - there are many, many mixed breeds on this board as well. The only rule we have is that you HAVE to post pictures! We love pictures!

Welcome to the forum! I look forward to seeing your pup progress back to his ole' self.
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