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They've opened a new dog park nearby and we decided to stop in this afternoon while we were walking in the park where it is located. Ben has had limited exposure to other dogs - he's learning but still hasn't quite figured it out. We'd been to dog parks a few times before, and mostly he was very nervous and didn't want to play with anybody so we'd stay a short while and then leave when he showed that he was ready to go. Today there was a young german shepherd female who was playful but submissive, so Ben got over his fear pretty quickly and showed he wanted to play. They chased each other a bit and all went well. Other dogs came in and there were sniffs all around and a little running, but not much real interaction. Ben wanted to play. He bowed down and growled and got some attention, but then the GS ignored him. Ben growled and barked and she played a little, but I could see she was starting to get nervous. He barked some more. None of the dogs wanted to play at that point, because they weren't sure where he was coming from. I could tell he was in play mode, but didn't know how to instigate it without barking and growling, which is counter-productive. Rather than risk the dogs getting aggressive, we left and continued our walk. We met several other dogs wandering the park and each time he wanted to play with them, so the experience was a good one - but I'm wondering if there is a way to discourage the barking and growling or do we just let the other dogs behavior do that for us?
 

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Maggie Mae's Mom Too!
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Dogs will give off many signals that are not really clear cut in our eyes, but what I have learned over the last year of exercising Tucker at the park is this: The dogs will work it out among themselves. You should not stay at a distance where your dog can pick up on your emotion ie: Nervous or anxiousness over an altercation or you will surely open the doors for that exact thing to happen. If your dog feels your tension, he/she goes into combat mode to protect your weakness. Friendly play battle can quickly escalate to unwanted behaviour based on your feelings. If Ben has limited exposure to other dogs, the best thing you can do is just what you did today... short frequent visits with short interactions with other dogs to build confidence and encourage friendly play. I see alot of nervous dog owners come into a dog park with their dogs leashed, which is the poor kiss of death for a dog... they automatically appear weak to the other dogs and are often met with aggressive behaviour. The moral of the story ( sorry, rambling) is to let the dogs work it out among themselves, if the behaviour is not wanted or appreciated, the other dogs will quickly assign a rank and file and your Ben will quickly learn his place in the line. It's natural pack mentality and happens pretty judiciously. Sounds like a good experience overall....
 
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