When our dog Logan developed a Dog Park Nemesis and began getting in frequent dog fights, we knew we had to act. We needed to better understand his behaviour, triggers, and we needed some strategies to help us deal with the situation when it did happen.
Below are seven of the best strategies and techniques that worked for us to deal with dog park dog fights and good dog park behaviour in general. Online and book research has been a good resource along with working with our favourite trainer. Hopefully it will be useful to you as well!
7 strategies to help recover from dog park dog fights and prevent future aggression:
Understanding your dog’s temperament
Learning Logan’s aggression was coming from a place of nervous anxiety instead of being a cold blooded puppy-killer helped us see things more from his perspective and helped pick which strategies would be best suited to his level of aggression
Don’t leave the dog park after a dog fight
Although you may be embarrassed and even face comments from other people in the dog park, it is not the best thing to leave immediately after a dog fight. Psychologically it’s not great for you or your dog as you both have negative associations with your last moments next time. Instead of leaving, leash your dog once the dog fight is broken up.
Do not leave your dog off leash after a dog fight
If a dog fight stops and no one is hurt, it might be tempting to think it’s blown over and continue playing. Another fight can quickly occur and escalate so it’s best to make sure your dog is immediately leashed and you start practicing calming strategies. You may want to keep your dog on leash for the entire remaining time in the dog park.
Calm your dog down after a dog fight
It’s important to calm down your dog after a dog fight so the situation doesn’t escalate and bad behaviour is reinforced. Once the dog is under control and on leash, they can be put into a sit-stay and then down-stay until they relax. It’s important to remain patient and calm so you don’t project frustration and anxiety to your dog. Your dog can also be walked away to a different area of the dog park before relaxing if they are still reacting to other dogs.
Diffuse other dog owners by thanking them
Diffuse a tense situation with other dog owners by thanking them for their patience as you train your dog. You could also apologize on behalf of your dog and say you are working on that behaviour. Most people are very understanding and it won’t be their first dog park dog fight, but some people are just jerks and it’s not worth engaging them if they make any negative comments. Just focus on working with your dog and the situation at hand.
Understand your dog’s triggers
Dog’s are as unique as people in many ways so you need to put some effort into observing your dog and thinking over a situation in slow motion to piece together clues to identify triggers. In Logan’s case, he learned that the dog park is mostly “for” frisbee or fetch as we had been doing those activities so much in there. His main trigger was when he wanted to play fetch with us but another dog wanted to play with him. We’ve worked on this by switching up what we do in the dog park (sometimes it’s very boring now), and making sure he doesn’t have a lot of energy when we go there so he is less intensely focused on playing with us.
Go for a walk with your dog park foe
Another idea that has worked well for us is calming the dogs down after a fight and then going for a walk with the dog owner. This can be a bit of a social obstacle to overcome if you don’t know the person, but even just walking to and from the dog park together can be beneficial so the dogs learn to be around each other in a calm and controlled situation. We went on a walk with Logan’s Dog Park Nemesis and they both couldn’t have been better behaved.
If you have any additional tips, or dog fight experiences, we’d love to hear about it in the comments.