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Old 12-30-2012, 07:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Declining socialization opportunities

Iím looking for some feedback to determine how I can allow my dog to continue playing well with others.

Long story made short is my that 21 month old intact male shepherd, is getting a little more rowdy at the dog park. He gets really excited and vocal as we approach the park and he sees the other pups playing and it is sort of embarrasing because sometimes his hair on his back stands up. BTW, the hair between his shoulders are sooo long that they almost look like feathers ).
So I keep him on his leash as we enter the play area and of course all the dogs come over to greet the new guy. I tend to only release him if he seems to be ready to play, meaning hackles down, and he seems ready to chase for fun and not barking. He loves to run and play fetch with everyone else, and may be a little more vocal than I would like. The problem comes in when he focuses in on a particular dog, which usually would be one of the obviously more insecure ones in the group that displays some timid behavior, he will focus on that one and try to subdue him. By this I mean he will come out of what I would call a playful tone and focus intently on his target and pursue them. there may be some growling, but I am pretty much get into gear to put him back on his leash until he calms down. The same if there is a dominant dog in the park that wants to come over and assert himself. I know it makes some of the other owners nervous so I donít stick around working him on the issue for too long. He gets stuck with an on leash walk with me and no other doggies to play with.

Is this just his lot in life to not play well with other?
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:30 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Socialization doesn't mean they have to play with other dogs. I go to dog school for socialization. The dogs are in the same space and they learn how to behave with lots of people and dogs around them in different stages of training.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:45 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I agree with FlyAway, I've been really into NOT letting my dogs play with other dogs. They can go to plenty of training classes, have dogs over, go to other dog's houses, but they do not need to play with them. I think, in general, it helps them to be calmer (not lunging and pulling to get to other dogs because they want to play) and less aggressive. They are both very good around other dogs, can work around them, sniff other dogs, etc, but they don't need to body slam, wrestle, mouth, and act out of control. We save the high energy stuff for fetch and tug with me during training time and lots of hikes through the woods (their favorite!).
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:57 PM   #4 (permalink)
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You have a 21 month old (young adult) male intact GSD. Time to stop taking him to the dog park. Nothing good will come from it from this point going forward. YOU need to be your dogs best friend. He no longer needs "socialization" with other dogs. If you keep taking him, he may end up in a dog fight and you will be liable.
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Old 12-30-2012, 07:58 PM   #5 (permalink)
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This is interesting. I was just complaining to my dh that my 18 month old doesn't get to play with other dogs enough. She is reactive to other dogs but has had some good friends and does well at doggie day care. But I would really enjoy walking with her and some other dogs and their people. I love to watch dogs play together when they play well. Anyhow, I am curious how to give her the exercise she needs....nothing tires her out like a good romp with another dog. She gets socialization at several different obedience/freestyle classes. And we play fetch and take walks.....but I don't think I can supply all the exercise she needs myself. Maybe I am mistaken about this?
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I do go to dog parks, and have for years, but I'm picky about which ones, and I try to go when we coordinate to meet up with other owners and dogs we know from our training group and the trainer's socialization field.

1. If your park has double-gate access, I strongly prefer unclipping the leash in that area, then letting the dog into the park unleashed. A leashed dog confronted with a bunch of unleashed dogs is more likely to react, IMHO. The gate is the most dangerous point of the dog park. If my DH and I are together, one of us often goes in to shoo the other dogs away from the gate to make some space for ours to enter. Everyone does this at our socialization field too if people get there late--whoever is closest to the gate will shoo the gate-guarders away from it (no matter whose they are) to let the new arrivals come in peacefully.

2. This is a vocal breed. We have 16 of GSDs that play together at our socialization field, they all have different play barks, and some of the girls yap at each other like noisy teen-agers. They're simply loud. There may be 20-30 other dogs on the field, but the GSDs make more noise than all of them.

3. Hackles can go up during play, as a matter of excitement. It's not necessarily inappropriate--it depends on lots of other body language. That said, there's nothing wrong with asking your dog to sit and calm down before being released to play. Play as a reward is a great reward.

4. Kudos for not allowing him to bully the insecure dog! Our group at the DP would be supportive of you working with him to stop that--and frankly would intervene to stop him if you didn't. This is the advantage of going with a group I know and trust from the training field.

5. Now for the bad news: I think taking an intact dog into a dog park is bad form. Sorry -- it just is. A lot of parks forbid it. That doesn't mean tons of people don't do it, but the fights I've seen at dog parks often seem to involve intact males.
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Old 12-30-2012, 08:40 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You do NOT need for your dog to go to dog parks or even have 'friends' outside of the pack for the dog to respond well to meeting other dogs and behave. I never have taken a dog to a dog park, and haven't had a DA dog yet. I think that sometimes we create DA dogs by taking them to dog parks and having them getting into fights. A confident male may pick on less confident or challenging dogs whether it's intact or not. Since your dog is now an adult and is doing this, it's time to quit with the dog parks.
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Old 12-31-2012, 12:38 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Understood. Makes sense. Doggy parks no longer work. I plan to start some formalized training with him in the new year. Hopefully that should get him the stimulation he needs.
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