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Hello

So Storm is almost 5 months now, she has been in puppy classes for awhile, and is very well mannered towards people (for the most part, she has her moments.) She does well with puppies in her class and is very playful.

I'm wondering if a dog park is a good idea, my trainer recommends it at this point, but i disagree.

I want her to be able to wear off some energy with other dogs, but she seems a bit uneasy. Its hard to read her body language, she chases bigger, older dogs, tail wagging in the air, but when they turn around to chase her she gets submissive and shy. Sometimes she will lay on her back and i can see the tail is between her legs. I will get the others dogs to go away and then we leave. Am I setting her up for failure? Or is this a learning process. Its not like the other dogs are biting at her, they are just being naturally dominant towards puppies (in my opinion). There are instances where she will stop to submit while being chased but will eventually tumble because of the other dog jumping over her or butt slamming her (or running into her) She then runs to the nearest person (usually me) and leans against the legs. So I try to leash her and take her out but she will run back and hassle the dogs again. She doesnt cry or whine much, but she does the whole sideways butt movement thing, you can tell she is unsure.

This doesn't happen all the time, its just with certain larger dogs. (dogs that bark, grunt, or run FAST) I noticed that she is getting more comfortable with the dogs that used to be bigger than her.

Prior to this week, I introduced her slowly, letting her go in and sniff, watch, and then leave. We did this for about 3 weeks before this past monday. This is not a high traffic dog park, it is an ice rink and there are usually 2-4 dogs total. Some weekends there are about 5-8. These are the same locals that are there most of the time.

Should I wait a few more weeks/months? When we are alone in there she has fun chasing a frisbee, but dogs become alot more interesting when they come in.
 

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I do not go to dog parks.

What I do is meet up with a few responsible dog owners who I know and allow our dogs to play together and we also work on training while together.

This way I know the dogs and owners who my puppy is interacting with.
 

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Depends on the dog, depends on the park. If you've got a great open space park and she's not easily overwhelmed, she may be fine. If you got a small enclosed park with dogs that are not being closely supervised by their owners and are not that well behaved, then definitely not a good idea. You do need to keep her experiences with other dogs positive at her young age, and protect her from bullies.

I've taken dogs as young as 15 weeks old (Halo), but usually start around 4 to 4-1/2 months old. Our off leash parks are huge multi-acre areas and the dogs we encounter tend to be well behaved and well socialized. Because they're wide open spaces it's easy to watch other dogs in the distance and if we see any that are interacting in ways that we don't like we walk in a direction to miss them. Not all parks are like this, and there are plenty of horror stories about bad dog park experiences.

With Halo, she's extremely confident, interacted well with other dogs in her puppy class, and had her big brother there to back her up, so we were pretty comfortable with the idea. We did keep her on leash for awhile, just to make sure she'd stick close, but she was absolutely fine. She chased her brother around while he ran for tennis balls and greeted a few other dogs we passed in a friendly way. I put her in daycare twice a week at 15 weeks old too, the minimum age they'd accept, so she could have supervised socialization with other dogs without Keefer being there so she didn't become too dependent on him.

Here she is on that first day, sitting for the ball with Keefer next to the path by the water, which is where most of the traffic is. You can see there's a big meadow off to the side, with lots of room to run around rather than being crammed together with a bunch of other dogs:

 

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I use the local dog park, and I've yet to have a bad experience. Lots of nice owners, lots of friendly dogs. I think if you're willing to be 100% on top of things, it can be a very positive experience.

However, I would not take a puppy to one. A bad experience at such a young age could have a serious effect on your puppy's temperament. I'd wait until she's at least a year old before I'd try the dog park.
 

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I do know most of these dogs, and they play with each other fine. Like I said, these are locals who are there everyday. They can get their dogs to heel away from Storm if needed. I see thats its Storm that gets the other dogs to respond hyperly and to eventually overwhelm herself. Even with my buddies two labs who allow the puppy behavior; Storm gets super playful by jumping all over the place and will eventually nip at their heels if they dont pay attention to her, and the labs snap to correct her.

I want her to learn dog play behavior (puppy classes are only once a week, with minimal play time...mostly training), but I don't want to create fearfulness if this is indeed a negative experience for her.
 

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Akbar has never been to any puppy class and he is perfectly fine meeting other dogs, in fact loves meeting other dogs.


I do not take my dogs to any dog parks because I do not trust people with dogs I do not know. Too many bad things can happen. But I would go if there was a place like cassidys mom has.
 

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This is why I like my set up the best.

I know the dogs, know the owners, know what and what they won't do in different situations.

I actually went out and met these people before I had my puppy out playing with their dogs. I walked up to the group, introduced myself, explained my situation and they invited me to bring Stark who was about 14 weeks old at the time out to play.

They play nightly (pretty close to every night) and all get along great. Every now and then a new dog will join for a play session or two. We also take our dogs into the city and do training as well as training during play time. It is great!

I am extremely lucky to have found 'our pack'.

I think it is a win-win for me. I also go to a lake weekly when it is warmer out and hike twice a week with Stark so we meet plenty of new dogs doing that as well. Include normal run ins during walks, out at petsmart, obedience class, agility class (different set of dogs), and just meeting dogs who live in my apartment building, I think we have socializing with other dogs covered and more.. lol.
 

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I do sometimes go to dog parks with my adult dog(s) but I would rather find some type of play group or something with a puppy. With a dog park I'd be worried that if there was an incident with a puppy it could result in a long-term fear or issue.
 

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Originally Posted By: elisabeth_00117What I do is meet up with a few responsible dog owners who I know and allow our dogs to play together and we also work on training while together.
But where do you take them to play?

Around here the only places it's legal to take your dog off leash you're going to encounter other people doing the same thing with their dogs. So you either have a big yard where you can properly exercise them at home (ours is itty bitty), you take them off leash in a place where it's not allowed, risking a ticket, or you go to places that are designated as off leash areas, usually regional parks. Many of the smaller city and county parks don't allow dogs at all, and those that do it's on leash only. We really don't have a choice - it's impossible to exercise our dogs without taking them somewhere else.
 

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Quote:
I'm wondering if a dog park is a good idea, my trainer recommends it at this point, but i disagree.
You answered your own question. Trust your instincts.

Puppies play differently than adults. They need either peers to correct them or well socialized adults. Elizabeth's idea is a good one. A very well run day care might be an option too (as long as the staff is experienced and not just run by underpaid inexperienced kennel workers).

Some training schools offer supervised puppy play (Puppy Party or something like that) apart from classes. These usually cost about $5-10 dollars for 30-60 minutes of play time. If this trainer doesn't, then another training school might. Or you might be able to find a school that offers puppy classes where the emphasis is on play; so you take this class for "skill," the other for play -- because both are vital for a well socialized obedient dog.

GSDs tend to do herding behaviors that can really annoy other dogs, especially if they're not in wide open areas like CM has at her dog park.

My trainer offers Day Camp where dogs get personalized training, a bit of hanging out (where they learn to chill, so they learn to be independent and self entertain), and they get some *supervised* (by trainers) play with dogs that are appropriate playmates of different ages, sizes and breeds. My puppy has playmates selected for him. My adult dog is one of those well socialized adults that can work with nearly any dog (no matter how rambunctious), teach them appropriate play skills and canine body language, and still have fun in the process. My kids LOVE going to their training sessions because it's always a different set of dogs to hang out with, but they definitely have their friends too. And it's not very expensive for me.

If your trainer doesn't offer something like this, perhaps she can recommend a facility that does? A couple of the training schools in our area offer Day Camps. It's not a unique concept.

Often, I can't get *everything* I want from one trainer. I definitely have a specific trainer and facility that I do my basic work out of. But they can't fulfill all of my needs. So I go to other trainers or schools for other things that they don't offer. Celo's my 4th dog I've trained this way, and it works out great for me.
 

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I used to take my dog to a dog park once a week. The last time I took her a new person came in (it was normaly a bunch of us regulars) and let lose his dogs. His dogs starting attacking the other dogs and all he did was sit back and laugh. After that I never took her back again. Now I do meet and greets at different friend's houses for play time in back yards.
 

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Originally Posted By: Cassidys Mom
Originally Posted By: elisabeth_00117What I do is meet up with a few responsible dog owners who I know and allow our dogs to play together and we also work on training while together.
But where do you take them to play?
There are a few areas. I am lucky to live in a city that has MANY hiking trails that are all over. Most of them allow dogs to be off leash. We do a lot of training there.

We also have a school about 2 minutes away from our apartment building where we let the dogs play off leash, it is totally fenced in and secure. We have encountered many police here as well as HS in this area and all said that as long as they were behind the fence and that we continue to clean up after our dogs, they don't see a problem with us using the area. We're lucky.

Our apartment building also has a off leash green patch, which I don't allow Stark to be in off leash, I use his 40' lead here because it is near 2 roads and not fenced. I don't trust him to not wonder onto the roads, both of which have heavy traffic. Usually he is the only one on lead but I don't care. I feel safer this way.

You can also ask locals who have larger properties (farmers, landowners who do not reside on the land) for permission to use their land as long as you clean up and respect the property. I do this for tracking. I contact the owner and usually 9 out of 10 times they are okay with it as long as we continue to clean up after ourselves.

There are a lot of possibilities, you just have to keep looking.

The only dog parks around here are itty bitty ones where all the dogs are crammed intogether, nothing like what you have at your disposal.

If there were acres and acres, I might try it once Stark was older, but there is nothing even remotely like that around here. The largest one is less than a soccer feild.
 

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I found this ice rink to be the only local area i can let my puppy run off leash. The other places are very big and I don't want her there yet. I do have plenty of alone time at the rink to play ball or train, but this is a public place and other dogs are allowed.

My original question though was if this behavior is typical and a learning curve. I don't understand how a dog can grow up and get along with other dogs without any open socialization. Once a week puppy classes do not seem enough (And yes, I take her everywhere with me, She sees tons of people, tons of other dog walkers, etc etc.) Its her play style that is confusing me, and im sure is confusing to other dogs.
 

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Originally Posted By: Cassidys Mom
Originally Posted By: elisabeth_00117What I do is meet up with a few responsible dog owners who I know and allow our dogs to play together and we also work on training while together.
But where do you take them to play?
Around here, enforcement is pretty lax, unless someone complains. So I can take my dogs into a fenced in baseball field at my local park for example. There's a group of folks that take their dogs to the park every morning at 8:30 (and another group at 6pm) and do exactly that.

Camper & Boni used to join in with them. But with puppies and sick dogs, I stopped going. But it was a contained area (the dugouts don't have gates, but the owners monitor those), and the dogs were too busy racing across outer field to worry about taking off.

We'd just stand there with our coffees, watching our dogs, chatting a little, and freezing.


I watched that group from outside the fence for a long time before I decided to join them. They invited us, but I wanted to be sure my kids would be safe.

So it depends where you live. Much of my area is pretty darn laid back about dogs, which means we're running into off-leash dogs ALL of the time. I guess we take the bad with the good.

Grover was bitten at a dog beach on a Saturday by a weekend warrior dog. It was a bad bite. It just takes one poorly socialized overly amped dog... She was an adult and bounced back ok. But if that were a pup, it could have been worse.

I don't like dog parks as a general rule, and I would NEVER take my dog to a dog park on a weekend. Then again, Camper was bitten as a 5 month old by roaming loose dogs up here. But I do think it affected him for a long time. I think that's why I'm so protective
of my pups now.
 

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Quote:
want her to be able to wear off some energy with other dogs, but she seems a bit uneasy. Its hard to read her body language, she chases bigger, older dogs, tail wagging in the air, but when they turn around to chase her she gets submissive and shy. Sometimes she will lay on her back and i can see the tail is between her legs. I will get the others dogs to go away and then we leave. Am I setting her up for failure? Or is this a learning process. Its not like the other dogs are biting at her, they are just being naturally dominant towards puppies (in my opinion). There are instances where she will stop to submit while being chased but will eventually tumble because of the other dog jumping over her or butt slamming her (or running into her) She then runs to the nearest person (usually me) and leans against the legs. So I try to leash her and take her out but she will run back and hassle the dogs again. She doesnt cry or whine much, but she does the whole sideways butt movement thing, you can tell she is unsure.
THIS ^^ sounds like perfectly normal puppy behavior. The other adult dogs aren't being "dominant." They're just being exuberant adult dogs.

It's hard to know without seeing it, but it sounds like your girl is a bit shy. Not that she lacks a lot of confidence, but just that she's a bit shy. That's normal in GSDs. Labs come into the world expecting the world to love them and they bounce into everything that moves screaming "PLAY WITH ME!" Shepherds hold back a bit, and young shepherds are cautious. They're a lot like human toddlers at the beach. They want to rush into the water, but as soon as the tide washes in, then the toddler runs back toward the safety of shore.

The difference though, is that the human's mom doesn't say "ok, well, if you're afraid, we can go home now." Nope, she says "it's ok, Trevor. You can go out there. The water won't hurt you." And she watches as he approaches the water again. What you're doing (if I read your description correctly) is you're packing up the sand pail, towel and sunscreen and moving on. I wouldn't do that. When my pup is in a play group and tries to hide behind me, I don't say a word. I just move away from him. If he keeps trying to hide. I keep walking away. If he lies under a chair, I let him stay there. I don't say anything (words are reinforcing to him). He's watching the other dogs, seeing how they play, noticing what they're doing and that no one is being "mean" or getting hurt.

Eventually, the other dogs are too fascinating. He'll get up and give it another try. If he gets intimidated again, that's ok. He tried. I'll wait him out. At the end of the session (I try to make sure I end the session when he's at least somewhat adjacent to the other dogs), I reward him profusely. Some dogs will take a day or two to get over their fears. Some may take a month or two. But as long as they can run to us and we take them away from what scared them, they'll never go back in on their own.

Are big dogs scary to puppies? yes. Even pups who have "siblings" at home can be afraid of strange big dogs at first. (In fact, pups with siblings are often shyer starting out). But our dogs need to be given a push to stick with it. My adult beagle (the one I mentioned above) was so shy that I had her do private lessons where all the trainers did was introduce her to the calmest gentlest dogs that they had access to. And Meri would desperately run and hide. Meri was wild and feisty at home with my adult GSD and adult beagle mix. But with strange dogs, she was a weenie. But we kept at it. I had her in two puppy classes, took her to every Puppy Party I could get to, and did two of these private lessons every week for 6 weeks.

Finally, Meri blossomed. It's like a switch flipped. She realized that other dogs were fun, and she could control the flow of play. And she became the dog that the trainers use to socialize other dogs.

So stick with Storm's socializing. Keep putting her in situations where she has to interact with other dogs. Don't let her back out just because she's afraid. If the situation is safe, just let her be. To use a tired old metaphor, just keep putting her back on the horse... eventually, she'll realize it's fun to ride, and that she won't even fall off!
 

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So stick with Storm's socializing. Keep putting her in situations where she has to interact with other dogs. Don't let her back out just because she's afraid. If the situation is safe, just let her be. To use a tired old metaphor, just keep putting her back on the horse... eventually, she'll realize it's fun to ride, and that she won't even fall off!
I am going to continue and avoid some of the wilder dogs. I don't take her home every first time she gets scared. It just happens ALOT in one visit. Eventually enough is enough. I just dont know if shes getting use to the other dogs or what. Like i said...she'll run at them, turn around...get chased...get scared...run to me or some other human... then do it all over again. Sometimes the intesity is a bit much and thats when i leave (or the other owners feel bad and they leave). For example, I dont like seeing my dog take 2-3 tumbles while running away and than praying that the other dog jumps away to avoid crushing her. But no matter what happens, even if she yelps... She'll start chasing again the second the other dog turns around.

I dont priase or comfort her when she comes to my legs, normally i start walking or play running...then she'll go under a picnic table and use that as a safe zone. So in that sense, I feel like im not "protecting" her when she feels unsure.
 

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I think most of the dog parks around here have rules against having dogs in until they've completed all their puppy shots and are current on all vaccines required by law. You should familiarize yourself with the rules before you enter a dog Park.

I think you should consult your vet for his opinion on what vaccines he recommends for your area before you go to the dog park. Your vet might also be able to consult you to let you know if there are any dog parks in the area to steer away from. I would recommend Frontline plus before going to the dog park.

Puppies can be a real hit at the dog park. At first it can be somewhat of a mob and almost overwhelming but the puppies almost always turn it into a game; though at first there may be some fearful reservations. Usually after the puppies realize that the dogs at the dog park aren't aggressive; the puppies usually go around and initiate play and socialization. They are very good for stirring things up and getting dogs to run and play. Socialization at a young age can be very good for your dog. It can also burn a lot of energy out of your dog and build a lot of confidence up.

Dogs will play bite other dogs; it's just that well behaved and socialized dogs don't apply any or much pressure when they bite when they are playing. Well socialized dogs know to back off if a dog yips in pain.
 

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Originally Posted By: elisabeth_00117There are a few areas. I am lucky to live in a city that has MANY hiking trails that are all over. Most of them allow dogs to be off leash.
Well, that's sort of my point - if YOUR dog is allowed off leash, so is everyone else's. (Not picking on you here, just making a general point.) I was just curious because that doesn't sound any different than the regional parks I take my dogs too, except perhaps there may not be as many people (and dogs!) frequenting yours at the same time as we have in this very densely populated area. People usually say it's better to socialize with a few hand picked dogs, and I agree, that's great - but where do you GO where you won't inevitably be around other unknown dogs if nobody in your group has a bunch of land for you all to get together on?

Quote:You can also ask locals who have larger properties (farmers, landowners who do not reside on the land) for permission to use their land as long as you clean up and respect the property. I do this for tracking. I contact the owner and usually 9 out of 10 times they are okay with it as long as we continue to clean up after ourselves.

There are a lot of possibilities, you just have to keep looking.
Nobody here has larger properties. There aren't any nearby farms or land with nobody residing on it except for public land, the open space regional parks, where we (and anyone else who wants to) can take their dogs off leash in certain areas. It's great to have these parks, we love them, but the reality is that you will be exposing your dogs to lots of other unknown dogs, there's just no way around it. Either that, or they live their entire lives on leash any time they're away from home, which sucks when "home" isn't big enough to even throw a ball for them.

Quote:The only dog parks around here are itty bitty ones where all the dogs are crammed intogether, nothing like what you have at your disposal.
We do have some of those little dog parks too, and I don't go there. We are very lucky to have the kind of places available that we do because land is so expensive here that most people have very small lots. The only way I'd use the other kind is if there was one within a block or two where I knew everybody who went there and they all had nice dogs, or I could go at times where it wasn't heavily used. Most of the problems you hear about at dog parks seem to happen at that kind of park, where pack behavior forms and the people are often standing around socializing and ignoring their dogs.

Again, not picking on you Elisabeth, I just think that many people don't understand that there are fewer options for some people depending on where they live.
 
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