Re: Overcoming a bad dog park experience. :(
I don't know if AVOIDANCE is necessarily the thing to do here. I mean, if it only happened once, that's fine, and does sound like the owner at least did something right away.
While you want to socialize the dog, there has to be some issues the dog should encounter, you know? I mean, it's not always roses in the real world, and I think SOME disagreements are healthy, and as such will exercise the dog's sense of discrmination.
Your dog may appear to have been traumatized, but at 9 months he's hardly scarred for life. If it were me, I'd take him back, because that can show him that it's not always bad to be around bigger dogs.
I used to abhor dog parks, until one opened near me. The first time I took my dog, she was 4.5 months. The park near me has a "big" dog side, and a "little" dog side. I first went into the "big" side, and all these dogs charged up to say Hello. She instantly looked to me for protection. Running away from them, tail between her legs, she basically kept her back against me the whole time.
I figured it was too much stim for her, so I then went to the "little" dog side, where although she was twice the size of every other adult dog in there, I could see she was not as nervous. She still ran away from the more agressive dogs, but I could see she realized it wasn't so bad. I kept going back to the park to the little dog side for awhile.
When I finally went back to the big dog side, again she'd run from the other dogs. It was sad to see a GSD running away all the time. I kept going, and soon she realized hey, they're not hurting me. Sure, there were times when other dogs jumped on her to assert who was boss, but it was only neck-scruff grabbing dominance posturing, etc., with no real harm done. She's submitted to some, but as time has gone on, she's 7 months yesterday, she has learned that things are not as bad as she once thought they were.
I've been there in total about 6 or 7 times now, which is not alot, but she's learned alot about being around other dogs, just from those few visits. It's interesting that she is displaying the epitome of a GSD's disposition. Mind you, I try to take this dog EVERYWHERE to discover new things and meet new people and animals. When she meets people in public, she'll act like she's dying to say hello to them, but once I let her say hello, it's over, and pretty much ignores them. Therein is her aloofness.
When she meets other dogs, she gets so DARNED excited, and in one on one's, she'll play to death. However, when there's several, she tires of it easily. In fact, now, I can take her into the dog park, and when other dogs come up, she does not seem to like it much. They'll try and get her to play, and while she will for a little while, she's not tearing it up like they are. She'd much rather do something with me. She'll fetch in the midst of 20 dogs running like banshees, and I can even work off-lead obedience with her. Pefect heels, downs, stays, and will even come immediately when called. People are amazed. I am shocked myself, 'cause I figured if I apply stress with heavy obedience training, upon releasing her, she'd go wild. But she doesn't she just jumps up out of her Sit, or whatever I have her doing, take a few steps, then come back, look up and me as if to say, "Next! Now what can we do together."
Interestingly, when the other dogs who want to play with her and interrupt us, it seems as though they're thinking, "Crap, I don't want to be anywhere near her right now, because that guy might make ME have to do stuff", and they quickly leave us alone.
OK, this long-winded response I hope might give you some ideas. Maybe you can take the dog back to the dog park and interact with her yourself, provided, of course, there are no REAL idiots there with super-aggressive dogs, and have no clue. As I said above, some dominance is fine, but bad attitudes are definitely out.
You could even take the dog and do some obedience OUTSIDE the fence before going inside. I do this every single time I go there. My dog acts like she's dying to get inside, but I believe denying this desire and working obedience teaches her self control, and to listen to me even under heavy distractions. But, once I go inside, she doesn't seem to care after a very short time. In your case, maybe the desire will help overcome the previous bit of trauma to your dog, because just like one bad experience can change a perspective of something, one really good can, too.
Obedience, Behavior, Personal Protection Training
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Maya vom Hinterland - whelped July, 2008