Dog Park Observation: Who’s Protecting Who?

Dog parks aren’t really my thing. I love the dogs, and it’s easy to have a pleasant conversation with most of the people hanging around. But there’s something about all of them being together in a small area, everyone wanting to play and flirt and fight or flight, that causes a hectic, sometimes neurotic energy.

My dog, Mowgli, had a few bad experiences with a big dog these last few months. When I began noticing he wasn’t his normal self around other big dogs, I decided to start taking him to the dog park every now and then to socialize.

There is this small mutt that comes almost every day, at least when I’m there. She’s the sweetest dog, but also very shy around the others, who started pushing her around and getting too rough.

Her human didn’t seem to notice or mind, because she never did anything about it. In a dog’s mind, their human is their pack. Either they’re the leader, or you are. Now whoever is the leader has the responsibility of looking out for their pack and helping them out when they need it.

The same goes for other animals. You’re in a herd-of-two with your horse, in a flock with your birds, etc.

What I imagine was going on in this little mutt’s mind was that the woman she thought was her leader wasn’t protecting her. So why should she trust and follow her? This mutt has to fend for herself or else she’ll get hurt!

Sure enough, around the fourth time I went out to that park, the little mutt was growling and snapping at other dogs. Constantly grumpy and not socializing at all. Her human just commented that she might have to work with a trainer: “I don’t know why she’s acting so aggressive! She never used to do that…”

You can see these sorts of things coming. Protect your “pack.” I’m all for dogs playing rough, and I understand that’s not a big issue, so don’t over-protect them. Just keep an eye out and stand up for, or separate, them when you see them getting bullied around. It’s your responsibility to take care of your partner.

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