Why has my dog started getting into fights at the dog park?

Is he dominant? NO…

Why has my dog, who used to love other dogs, started to get into fights at the dog park? Is he dominant?

Dominant? Usually not. Few dogs are born wanting to get into fights. Fighting behaviour is evolutionary suicide. So why has my dog started barking, lunging, and biting other dogs at the park?

There could be many reasons –

He’s not feeling well. Dogs are very stoic and hide discomfort very well. Make sure he’s been recently vetted and isn’t suffering from pain ordominant aggressive dog illness. If he is ill, dealing with the medical condition can often make the behavioral issue go away.

He’s been punished by or around dogs – One of the dangers of using punishment training (leash corrections) is that the punishment is often paired near or around other dogs (leash corrections for looking at dogs, “training” classes where leash corrections are done around other dogs in class). This can also happen at dog daycares/dog walking services that use punishment (spray bottles, physical corrections, bark collars, etc.). Pulling while on leash can also cause this (the dog sees a dog on the street, gets excited, pulls towards it, and experiences neck pain and frustration – in a dog’s mind, the other dog is causing the pain).

He’s been harassed by other dogs at the park – Look closely at the picture of the Beagle. Does he look happy? He’s doing everything he can to get away from the pushy Ridgeback. If the Ridgeback doesn’t stop, the owner of the Ridgeback doesn’t recall his dog, or the Beagle owner doesn’t leave, how long would it take before the Beagle decides to bark and lunge to send the Ridgeback away? How long would it take before the Beagle decides he hates the dog park, hates Ridgebacks, and hates all dogs? If the Beagle fights back, the Beagle owner collects his dog and leaves – reinforcing the very behavior of fighting back.

Photo courtesy of Päivi Reijonen – view the entire set on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30096200@N08/sets/72157623555143141/

But I heard socializing your dog is very important! It absolutely is… BUT…

Socializing your dog at the park is a good idea, but it requires careful monitoring of his body language and selection of play partners. Our puppy socialization class teaches owners how to watch for these warning signs and ensures your puppy associates nothing but good things with other dogs. Overly rough play and bullying can just teach your dog to dislike other dogs. Young puppies also tend to be picked on and bullied by other dogs, which can teach them to be fearful of dogs – exactly the opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.

If your dog has already started exhibiting aggressive behaviours towards dogs, don’t delay and ask us for help. The longer you allow your dog to practice these behaviours  the stronger they become, and the harder it is to undo.

Want to discuss your dog and your specific situation? Book a phone consult with one of our behaviour consultants:

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22 Replies to “Why has my dog started getting into fights at the dog park?”

  1. My intact male boston terrier puppy (10 months) has gotten into a few altercations at the dog park; some of which he started and some of which the other dog started. Is this normal? How do I know if he’s reacting because he’s intimidated, fearful, etc? How do I ensure that the dog park isn’t a place that he feels the need to stay on the defense?
    Thank you

  2. Hello my husky is (2 years old) male, I also have another dog that is 5. I took them both to the park and as soon as I got there another husky started seeking him out and growling at him causing my husky to growl back. There were other huskys that my dog was playing fine with until that one husky started bugging my dog causing them to fight. They started fighting and then my dog became aggressive with to the other dogs growling at them and barking at them. He was doing fine.

  3. I have a spayed female great dane mix that is 1.5 yrs old and she has been having alterations recently at the dog park..I wanna say more often than not over the last 2 weeks that I have brought her – I bring her 2-3x a week. I noticed that a couple of times it began right at the entrance there was snarling and barking that she initiated and it caused a reaction from the other dog…which the owner still proceeds to bring in…then there is eventually a scuttle. I have taken the puppy class and they taught me that when play gets too rough try to grab by the collar and say gotcha and give her a little time out. That worked when she was a puppy, but now I fear she is associating the pain with dogs. I am at a loss on what to do. I love taking her to the park, but I really don’t know what is going on and I’ll admit I have not done a good job with recall training. She is hyperfocused on the dogs when she is at the park. Nothing else.

  4. Today I took my dog to the dog park that we used to always go to, but this time she picked at 3 fights. I’ve observed her before when we goto this park & already knew what she does & doesn’t like when interacting with other dogs–Personal space/bubble. Dislikes dogs being so close to her face or in her private area. Especially larger breeds or similar to her size. She also apparently protects me if I’m sitting alone, so no other dog is really allowed to go near me (yet she can run around & get pet by everyone ?)

    Due to my new work schedule, I haven’t been able to take her out there lately. It has been several months since I’ve associated her with dogs at the park. On weekends it’s usually just me & her going on walks through park trails. She’d sniff other dogs that passed our way but was okay then. She gets along with my roommate’s dog, I’ve also brought her around one of my friend’s dog & she hasn’t fought with him. She’s usually happy & plays with them.

    This aggression at the park today, is there something I need to do on my part to prevent her from lunging & biting like that again?

    1. my dog is the same way! I never know if he’s going to have a problem with dogs. He normally growls and shows teeth at dogs bigger than him. He’s not an aggressive dog and I hate being “That” dog owner. Hopefully, someone finds an answer to this problem!

      1. Same here. Now I tense up when other dogs come around as I don’t know how she will respond. She has been well socialized and this has slowly gotten worse. She is now 2 1/2 and I think it will be me alone walking my dog.

  5. We have an almost three year old male Aussie, neutered, who out of seemingly nowhere has decided to start fighting at the dog park. All of the time. Today he pinned and snarled at the sweetest little golden retriever I’ve ever seen, and I’ve had enough. What do I need to do to stop this asap?

  6. Hi! My Australian cattle dog mix is 1 year and 4 months old now, i rescued him from a shelter at 10.5 months of age (He was in a shelter his whole life up until i took him home). Ive had him for about 5 months now and started taking him to the park 3 months ago, about 3-4 times a week, and he was always very well behaved and never picked a fight. Just 3 days ago he started getting into fights with dogs at the park, mostly would hurt the smaller ones (cutting their ears, etc), and if i dog was larger than him he’d growl and snarl at them until they backed off. This happened very suddenly, he doesn’t seem to be in any pain, treats my other two roommates and i fine, generally behaved around the house.

  7. Hi, I have a 2yr old German Shepherd and in the park that we take her to, there is a pack of 6 or 7 dogs who regularly go to the park. she is one of those 6 or 7. She is the Alpha female in the pack and there is another dog, a husky named Batman, who is the Alpha male. She behaves very well with those 6 or 7 dogs however if there is another female dog who is above 1 year old and below 5 years old and a similar size to her trying to enter the pack, she will bark at them and pin them down. She doesn’t bite, just barks and pins them down. Is this something I need to worry about or is this just natural behaviour?

  8. My dog Jasper is a corgi and he is 3 and a half. He used to love dogs when he was younger but my sisters rottweiler showed dominance (through humping) even though they used to be friends. Ever since, Jaspers been aggressive on leash and especially towards large dogs.
    I thought bringing him to the dog park would help but instead of scaring them off like before, he chases them and tries to bite them because they come near him to get acquainted. He is getting worse as he goes to the park. Should I keep bringing him? Is it bad to punish him by yelling or holding him still a little? He never understands when i say a firm ” No.” so in urgent times I have to physically remove him to prevent injuries to other dogs.

  9. Hello. I adopted my dog 6 months ago and when I got her she loved playing with other dogs, but she is very high energy. We moved to a different state and our apartment complex has a dog park and she got into a fight and has been growling and playing extra rough ever since. When other dogs are around she does not listen to me and thinks it is a game when the other dog parents try to grab their dog. My dog is part greyhound so it makes it really difficult for me to grab her. I need help.

    1. This is exactly how my spayed female whippet mix is! When we first got her at 2, she was fine at the dog park and just loved to chase or be chased. She gets along great with our other dog. Then we noticed her playing more rough and fixating on dogs. Now when she sees a dog she won’t listen to us and completely obsesses over the other dog (even if it’s far away in the distance from the window). She whines and whines like crazy and runs around. Then when she actually gets close to the other dogs, she is pushy and puts her face right in their face and usually pushes them to play but then a fight happens. So I’m not sure what is going on. She is very high energy and loves to run and be chased. We’ve noticed also she plays the same way (bossy) with our other dog and he either walks away or plays a little. But maybe other dogs just don’t like that high energy play like your dog as well? She’s also very fearful and anxious at the vet or in certain situations like putting on a harness. She’ll snap and bare her teeth when anyone tries to put anything on her. So I can’t tell for sure if her excitement stems from fear in general? So confusing!

  10. Hi, I have a 3 year old unaltered male boxer. He’s always been really friendly towards everyone, specially at the dog park. Lately, he’s been having his ears and tail up while he’s really close to other dogs. Perhaps he’s challenging them, and has recently gotten into two fights. He only does this to certain dogs. What should I do??

  11. My 2 year old Dalmatian started being “dominant” ONLY towards intact males.

    This started before his neutering and continues even now.

    What he does is: His tail (actually his whole body) becomes stiff and starts calmly growling at the other dog but doesn’t try to either touch him or hump him in any way, he just tries to smell him and from what I understood ‘provoke’ him. But it doesn’t seem like he’s provoking the other dog to a fight, i think he want’s to see how much of a bully the other dog is.

    If the other dogs growls back, things are still okay, in fact if the other dog doesn’t attack mine doesn’t as well, so there have been many times where both of them would growl at each other and then ignore one another. But usually the other dog doesn’t like my dog’s intimidation and immediately attacks mine.

    But MY dog is at fault here and I don’t know if there is any way or even if it’s right to actually change him. Is there a way to make him not want to show his intimidation to other intact males?

  12. My dog (almost 2 year old terrier retriever mix) has starting picking fights the last 2 months. She was always the friendliest dog, but now we can’t take her to the park without her starting a fight.
    She plays fine at home with her sister, but has recently developed issues with new dogs.
    She seems to get protective over her sister and the two owners.

    She has recently had some knee problems but they never stop her from playing.

  13. I recently adopted a 6 year old Schnauzer from my mother’s cousin, she’s quite intelligent and has been trained in a few ways, these past two weeks she’s been here, she’s been a delight, last week I finally started taking her out on walks around my neighborhood which is home to two parks.
    Last friday’s trip she even made a friend, but this morning’s walk was almost a nightmare, she pulled on the leash in ways she hadn’t all week (she usually ends up pulling just to smell something and is not an aggressive pulling) but today she was dying to get to one of the parks and once there, any dog she saw, is a dog she began to pick up a fight with from really far away sometimes. Could she be experiencing any sort of stress I’m not seeing?

    1. Hi, I have an intact 1 year old miniature schnauzer, we used to go to the dog park everyday, but now lately he attacks a dog everytime without a fail. It started out with growling and initiated by him, it has now escalated to him biting 3 dogs. The only time a dog attacked him was because my dog initiated the heat. He used to only growl when dogs would sniff him/come near him and it’s only with certain dogs. Now he’ll sometime run and go out of his away to attack a certain dog that is not even paying any attention to him. I do have another dog but I don’t think he is being to protective because he doesn’t try to protect Ivy if other dogs try to mount her. I don’t want my dog to hurt any other dog in the future and also fear for his safety. I did try leash training and comfort/pet him and tell him it’s okay in a soothing voice when he starts growling, but I don’t think it is working since he has now bitten 3 dogs in less than a month. I bought a muzzle but am also hesitant to use the device. Any suggestions? Thank you!

  14. My dog is a half lab half pit. He’s 10 months old and we’ve been going to dog park for months. But lately he’s been getting into more and more fights. I don’t want people thinking he’s aggressive because he’s normally adored by everyone. How do I prevent the fight and how do is til them once started?

  15. When I take my 12 year old staffy to the dog park he continually tries to up end any puppies or smaller dogs. Nipping at their legs and neck until they are on their backs then he continues to nip at them. Frightening the smaller dog. My response is
    I put him on his lead and walk him away. This behaviour continues if I let him off his lead again.
    He isn’t like this with dogs his own size or larger.

  16. I rescued a dog about a year ago now, I literally have no info on his past or breed except he did not come from a nice place. I had him neutered in June (it’s December now) and the vet said he’s about two. He looks like a German Shepard x Border Collie. He’s very very tall, almost as tall as a Dane. If not. I have another dog a 5 year old Rottie who is the epitome of a perfect dog. She is amazing in EVERY WAY! I could not ask for a better dog. Anyways the mystery pup for the last week has been attacking other dogs at the off leash park. He’s so tall he pins them down and then bites on them. Nothing too damaging but it’s definitely not a wanted behaviour. I don’t understand where this came from. He is very dependant in my other dog, too dependant. And she puts up with him biting on her and pulling her around all the time. Could this be something from her putting up with his crap so he thinks he can do it all the time? I will be walking him alone until this is fixed and hopefully build his confidence to being alone.

  17. Hi, I have a 5 year old schnauzer mix and a 5 year old jack Russell mix. I used to take them both to the dog park every day in the past. In the last year a lot has gone on, I moved in an apartment with them. I’ve noticed they started getting really aggressive while walking them, I have learned they learned to be leash aggressive from me pulling them in, which I would do because they would bark and cause a scene. There were also a few incidents people didn’t have their dogs on leashes and they charged my little guys, scaring them. I just recently tried to take them to the dog park again even though it’s been probably a year since I’ve taken them, and before I could even get inside, they were growling from the other side of the fence. I decided to leave because I didn’t want any altercations. Why have they started doing this and how can I train them to be nice to other dogs?

  18. I have a four-year-old husky her name is Lucy when I take her to the dog park she seems to be the alpha ,she gets into dog fights with other dogs bigger than her and smaller doesn’t make any difference to her she got in a fight with a Rottweiler but I told her owner not to break it up because she might get bit other than that Lucy seems to be quite them down to earth husky .at home she’s an escape artist and tries to escape..She’s full of energy and lots of fun Lucy says have a nice day..

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