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Dominance and the Dog Park

The popularity of dog parks has been a boon to urban dog owners who love to let their dogs run off-leash and play with each other. But any group of dogs seek to establish a pecking order, or dominance  rank. This is when problems can occur. Two dogs who are trying to be dominant (because they are at home) often fight. Sometimes one of them will give up quickly, but other times, the fight can be more serious. Owners often don’t know the signs of a dominance confrontation about to happen:

  • Mounting – many people think this is funny or cute, but if you tolerate it, you give your approval. When your dog is the one being mounted, he may feel that you’re not going to protect him, which can affect the trust he has in you.
  • Eye contact
  • Standing tall, erect or moving in a stiff-legged way
  • Putting the head over the back of another dog
  • Taking a ball or stick away from another dog
  • Chasing
dogs fight bit dogpark

A dog park puts a group of strange dogs together, so the first order of business (they think) is to find out who’s on top.

These signs can tell you which dog in a group is vying for dominance. If the other dogs have no problem with him/her taking dominance, there can be peaceful play. If another dog wants dominance, however, there can be conflict. It usually starts with growling and snapping. It may escalate from there to full-on fighting if the owners do not intervene.

Fearful dogs who are being chased can trigger a predator instinct in a dominant dog, especially if they vocalize. If your dog has gone still, is turning his head away from the other dog, and is showing the whites of his eyes (i.e., looking around by turning his eyes rather than his head), he is very stressed and may be about to bite. Don’t be shy about stepping in and giving a sharp, “No!” to a dog who’s being aggressive, even if it isn’t your own dog. Dogs often respond to authoritative commands from anyone, and if the owner is not going to control her dog, you are in your rights to step in.

Other signs that a dog is fearful or stressed

  • Lip licking
  • Tail tucking
  • Shaking off, like they do when they’re wet
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Standing with one foreleg off the ground
  • Freezing
  • Looking away
  • Whale eye (showing whites of the eyes)

What should you do if you notice a situation developing but it isn’t fighting yet? Remove your dog. Call her to you and play elsewhere, or leave the park and come back another time. If she won’t come to you, go get her with calm confidence and quietly take her away. If your voice becomes anxious, she may begin to protect you from the other dogs, which may escalate the situation.

One effective way to split up dogs who are fighting is for one person to grab each fighter by the back legs, like you would in a wheelbarrow race. If it’s not your dog, don’t let go of those legs until the dog’s owner comes to put a leash on the dog. You can do this if your dog is attacked by an off-leash dog around the neighborhood, too. If there’s no one else around, just grab the offender; the victim will likely move away once the aggressor is disabled.

 

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10 Reasons to Adopt an Adult Dog

10 Reasons to Adopt an Adult Dog

10 Reasons to Adopt an Adult Dog

When it comes time to get a dog, many people consider adoption over purchasing. If you’re one of them, why not look at adult dogs? Puppies are a lot of work, and adult dogs bond just as well as puppies. Besides, there are quite a few advantages to getting an adult dog.

  1. An adult dog has an adult bladder. Puppies can only be expected to “hold it” for as many hours as they are old, plus one. Therefore, a four-month-old puppy can only be expected to hold it for five hours. You probably plan to be home for the first weekend — even a long weekend — when you bring your dog home. But what about after that? Have you made arrangements to walk the dog or let her out every three, four, five, six or seven hours over the next six months? Is there someone home during the day with your dog. If not, consider an adult dog. They can be housetrained even if they’ve never been housetrained before. And best of all, the can hold it until you come home.
  2. An adult dog is past the puppy chewing stage. This stage, from two months to two years of age, is when much of the home destruction happens. Chewed cabinets, sofas, shoes, window sills, and clothing can cost you plenty. But an adult dog, given chew toys and bones to keep him occupied, is no longer in a chewing frenzy.
  3. An adult dog is as big as he’s ever going to get. With puppies — especially puppies whose heritage is unknown — you never know. My cousin got a “Beagle mix” who is now nearly 50 pounds. Many apartments have weight restrictions on the dogs they will allow, so if you rent, you may need to get a smaller dog. In addition, food, vet care and boarding are all more expensive for bigger dogs. If you’re sure you can’t end up with a bigger dog, get an adult.
  4. Adult dogs are better able to focus, and this comes in handy during training. Although puppies can and should be trained, ask any trainer and she’ll tell you it’s often easier to train dog who’s mature. And don’t give in to fears that an adult won’t bond to you, or that you can’t teach an old(er) dog new tricks. Both are false. Every day is a whole new day for dogs, and the bonding that takes place during training (or retraining) is every bit as rewarding as that with a puppy. Plus, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to take him out!
  5. What you see is what you get. Some dogs are very active as puppies, then mellow out considerably as adults; others are very cuddly and passive as puppies, then develop the energy of a squirrel on crack cocaine as they grow. An adult dog’s baseline personality is pretty well set, and shelters are full of dogs who became the “wrong” match as they grew up.
  6. If you’re a fan of a particular breed, getting an adult purebred might be easier than you think. Breed rescues take in dogs from shelters and breeders … dogs who may have lived in comfortable, loving homes prior to coming to yours. Don’t assume that all rescue dogs are street urchins with no training who will not withstand being on a leash or being brushed. Then there’s the added bonus of getting a dog who’s very “typey” and a good representative of the breed you like. Remember my cousin who wanted a beagle? Her dog (whom she adores, by the way) looks more like a smaller Irish Wolfhound. I loved collies all my life, and got a puppy from a breeder. His mom and dad were both gorgeous examples of the breed. He was a ball of fur with good coloring as a puppy, but as he grew, he began to show some conformation faults. His ears didn’t stand up. They drooped all his life. His back legs pointed outward, like ballerina feet. He grew and grew … to 90 pounds. He looked very gangly because of a very long back and high hips. His coat was so thick that our groomer, who had show collies, said he had three coats. Most people didn’t recognize him as a collie. Several people asked if he was a collie mix. Don’t get me wrong; I loved him dearly until the day he died. But as collies go, there are others who are better representatives of the breed. If you want a Papillon or a Pug that looks like a Papillon or Pug, consider an adult dog.
  7. The first year is a lot less expensive with a grown-up dog. All those trips to the vet to give your new puppy round after round of innoculations can really add up. A healthy adult should only need to go to the vet once a year.
  8. Most adult dogs are already socialized. Puppies must make mistakes and be corrected by dogs and humans to learn how to interact with others. Most adult dogs have already had run-ins with other dogs, so they know how far they can go. They want to keep the peace, and this is what socialization is about. The first time my young Lab got a correction from a Husky at the dog park, I could see her working it out in hear head. In hear world, everyone loved her, and everything was hers. But suddenly, she was put down hard by another dog. It was a necessary learning experience. An adult has been around the block and will be more aware in social interactions with kids, dogs, and you.
  9. Instant companionship is yours when you get an adult dog. Puppies have to wait until they get their last round of shots before they should be around other dogs. They can’t run very far, and are easily knocked around by kids and other dogs. They’re uncordinated, untrained, and must eliminate, eat and sleep often. An adult dog can go running with you today!
  10. If you’re adopting a dog to save a life, consider this. Most people get swept away by the cute factor of puppies. They come to shelters looking for puppies, therefore most puppies in shelters have a much better chance of being adopted than most adult dogs. When you adopt a dog, you’re saving a life. Why not save a life that’s running out of time, with fewer chances at being adopted? Many people say, “the dog knows.” Owners of adult adopted dogs often say that these dogs are grateful and happy dogs. One thing’s for sure; you’ll never regret it.
 
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Posted by on December 30, 2008 in Miscellany

 

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Take Your Dog for a Walk

If your dog is getting antsy, anxious or destructive, there’s one thing that can help more than any toy, training device, music CD or drugs: go for a walk. A 30-minute walk every day cures most dogs of most vices within a few weeks. Dogs are meant to roam. A house or a yard are confining to them. Letting a dog out in the yard does nothing to cure his “cabin fever.” You know how you feel when you’ve been in the house with the flu for three days? You need to get out. You need fresh air, sunshine, a change of scene, somewhere to go. So does your dog. So if you see him/her becoming restless, barking more, getting into things he/she shouldn’t, chewing up you bedspread, digging and being more aggressive toward others, start walking. You’ll be surprised what it does to not only burn off excess energy, but strengthen your relationship with the dog.

A walk will also focus your high-energy dog before attempting any task such as training, putting medication on, traveling in a car, etc.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2008 in Miscellany

 

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