We prefer to go to structured off leash field exercises that our trainer does -- he blocks out a dog park early in the morning through the city park service, only his alumni and current students are allowed there, everyone does what he says, no toys, and if any dogs are rude (e.g., humping), who ever is closest verbally corrects, and if that doesn't work and they're trying to start something that could turn into a fight, they get swatted lightly on the rump with a soft leather leash before it gets very far. Nothing ever escalates when it gets nipped in the bud -- even hard stares aren't allowed. Chasing a tiny dog like Tim described would trigger the dressage whip loudly smacking the ground by the chasing dogs, using the sound and the surprise to snap them out of the prey drive. Even the people aren't allowed to shriek and squeal -- you talk quietly as you walk the perimeter (no sitting, no phones, no reading), or you talk like a boss and correct something going on next to you (and if you can't, you get out of the way for the ones who can). Everyone also knows that it's therapy
for some of the dogs who are learning how to tolerate other dogs and learning to mimic the pack -- and the trainer is very focused on using it that way for dogs who need it, so people just kind of understand and try to support the owners of "works in progress" because we have been there and made it through to the other side. He does limit the number of "unstable" ones on the field at a time, so that those can absorb the energy of the stable pack -- too many unstable ones wouldn't work.
Here's a video about some trainer I don't know who uses the technique D. Russell pioneered:
For all those who think dog aggression isn't fixable, D. Russell's life of training proved that it absolutely is! This documentary about D. Russell has lots of film footage of the "master" conducting it -- and interviews with him while he was alive. He described it as "poetry in motion": https://www.mcsquaredoodles.com/blog...review-dog-man
It's not easy to get the exercise right, but when it is done "his way," it's a really beautiful to observe -- we've had up to 16 GSDs, and at least as many other random breeds, large and small on the field for one glorious hour of "just being a dog." This newsletter has an article in D. Russell's own words about the exercise, and the importance of letting the dogs teach each other ("The Contrary Dog Trainer") -- it's a good explanation of why it works for people who think it's nuts to put that many dogs on a field together off leash, even dog reactive ones:
At the dog park, we try to go with friends and keep to ourselves. All of us are right in the mix of it with our dogs, and we all trained the same place. Other dogs can join in our games (as we're having fun)...if they're nice. If they're not, we run them off if a verbal correction doesn't get them to be nice. A group of confident, experienced dog people shoo'ing them away really does work. We may get called "snobby" by other people there, but so what? Our dogs just expect us to keep the jerks away because they trust us to be in charge. (It probably helps that one of our group members is a SWAT officer, and NO ONE is messing with that big human, even if he's not in uniform and they don't know his job.)
The nice thing about organizing a meet up with friends is that our dogs know each other, they romp, and if anyone gets too rough, no one's feelings get hurt if someone else corrects your own dog for getting out of hand, or if someone elbows you and says, "Get in there." Everyone we hang with knows how to use their deep, serious voice and our dogs who know that voice means business.
FWIW, I learned how to "dog park" years ago, when we were young newbies with the help of the dog park's "boss lady" who had a pack of Shepherds that listened to her well -- all the dogs in the park did, in fact. She was right in the middle of the romping, refereeing, she had the "I'm the boss" vibe that the dogs respected, and she corrected in deep, guttoral tones that they understood were corrections. It only took one word, and even stranger dogs broke off bad behavior because her timing was flawless
-- nothing escalated around her because she spotted hard stares, intent to hump, and all the stuff that is early-warning of a "crap starter." The one time one ignored her, she stomped between it and the other dog squared her stance and stared with a hard "NO"...and it then decided to slink back to its oblivious owner. Most dogs wanted to appease her, and not just her own! When your park has that
lady (or you become that lady) problems are a lot less likely to happen.