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.

4 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. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

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