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Dog Park Nemesis

Logan Australian Shepherd roaming in dog park
Australian Shepherd frosty dog park
Logan extreme cold weather dog parking

Australian Shepherds have a lot of personality and Logan is true to his breed. He is the sweetest, most playful guy, but has an anxious nervous temperament that we work on. He is great with nearly all dogs, but just hates bouncing large puppies.

We can usually control the situation by distracting Logan or moving him away, but occasionally it turns into a terrifying dog fight. The situation is nearly always the same: Logan doesn’t want to play with the puppy but the puppy really wants to play with Logan. Larger puppies are adorable bouncing around and normally are really gentle. Logan is a miniature and a slight dog at 14lbs and gets intimidated by the pushy puppy that is already bigger than he is. Our beautiful, mostly well behaved, dog transforms into a fluffy demon in a blink of an eye. He snarls and growls and jumps and bites at his victim’s neck and face.

Logan Australian Shepherd playing with Chuckit Flying Squrriel in dog park
Logan’s dog park favourite is the Chuckit Flying Squirrel

When this first happened, I was in total shock. I ran towards Logan which intensified his bad behaviour. I think he thought that I was coming in to back him up in the fight like a loyal wingman. I reached down and grabbed my swirling snarling demon and ended up with a bite and some scratches. Not to mention an overwhelming feeling of embarrassment for having the “bad dog” in the park. Normally the other dog reacts very passively and luckily doesn’t hurt Logan… although he is asking for it.

Logan is sometimes very wound up afterwards, and sometimes he just calms down and looks like he just had the best time. I would love to know what he’s thinking, or be able to communicate to him in English: not cool little dude! It used to happen so infrequently that you could nearly dismiss it as growing pains, until Logan met his dog park nemesis.

When they first met, the chocolate lab puppy and Logan got on great. Logan’s favourite thing at the time was to be chased or chase another dog around the dog park. Logan and the puppy chased each other for a long time and played nicely while I spoke to the guardian and learned the puppy was only a few months old and was a rescue. Logan eventually got tired but the puppy didn’t and it turned into a pretty scary snarly Logan attack.

Australian shepherd dog park beach Kong squeeze bone
The Kong Squeezz Bone is great for dog parks with water: Logan loves it, it floats, and comes in lots of contrasting colours

It was surprising because they had been getting along so well and then a sudden dog fight. I leashed Logan and left the park after saying sorry to the puppy’s guardian. I felt embarrassed and disappointed in Logan and disappointed in myself for not understanding what happened or having a clue what to do in the situation.

My main concern is the most obvious. Logan gets hurt or, absolute worst case scenario, potentially even dies. There are a lot of other worries: I worry that the behaviour will start with other dogs, not just large playful puppies. I worry that Logan will really hurt another dog. I worry that he might have to be put down because he hurt another dog. I really worry that he might bite another human who is trying to bust up and dog fight and get their dog to safety. I worry that Logan will be reported and have to be put down ultimately because of biting dogs and people. A lot of these concerns would be a long way down the road, but without trying to work on this situation, these are real possible outcomes.

Australian shepherd dog park chuckit green zipflight frisbee
Dirty Logan after a session with his Chuckit Zipflight Frisbee. It’s a great light Frisbee option for small dogs and is used in the video below.

Having the chocolate lab puppy live so close and frequent the same park was a blessing as well as a curse. At first, I avoided the dog park whenever I saw that puppy in there, not wanting to even get into the situation in the first place. One day when there hadn’t been a dog fight incident in awhile, I grew confident and went into the dog park with the puppy there. It didn’t take long before it turned into another dog fight. Logan definitely recognized the dog and got aggressive pretty much immediately and with no provocation from the puppy. The puppy really seemed to have done nothing to deserve it. Again that day ended with both me and Logan leaving the dog park with our tails between our legs. That’s when I realized we really had to do something serious about this.

Over the past year with some research and expert advice we’ve been working on a number of strategies to control Logan and understand exactly what’s happening so we’re better prepared to deal with dog fight situations as they arise. I learned that leaving the dog park right away was probably the worst thing that I could do, and I since have had plenty of practice since conquering that feeling of embarrassment which goes a long way in keeping both me and Logan calm and in the dog park. Training and learning to understand your dog better is always a work in progress, but we’ve gotten a lot better and we’re a lot more confident in off leash situations now.

I’ve written a post with the 7 most useful strategies to deal with dog park dog fights we’ve learned through our research and train. If you’re experiencing any of the same issues with your dog, you may want to check that out. Hopefully some of the approaches that worked for us will work for you as well.

If you have any thoughts about this article, we’d love you to leave a comment.

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