tough call

The dog park is a weird place, socially.  There are definitely social circles, those people who go there every day, twice a day, bring a dog brush and run it through the coat of any dog that passes by.  Weird.  I have my does and don’ts.  Like don’t bring your lunch to the dog park, spill your fries, and let the dogs clean it up.  Not cool.  Don’t feed my dog a red vine because that’s what you give your dog as treats.  Don’t use that brush on my dog.  And my #1 peeve – don’t bring kids to the dog park!  The dog park is for dogs, not for kids to run around.  With kids around, I have to block Jack off from whatever half of the yard the kids are running around on.

Today at the dog park a dog fight broke out.  It happens, often with the big dogs.  After the fight broke up a man charged over to a woman and said “what’s your name?!  my dog’s bleeding, it was your dog.”  The woman apologized and the chow was bleeding from the ear, so the woman apologized.  However, since the man was aggressive in his approach, OF COARSE her dog lunged.  She was visibly shaken by this man’s approach.  He also accused her dog of biting his hand where he had a spot of blood.  He made her write down her name and information, and she was so upset she had to leave. 

I’ve seen this woman at the dog park before.  She has a pitt mix puppy.  And I’ve never seen a problem with this dog before.  The dog did not instigate the fight, just charged into the brawl when it started.  Here’s what I think, knowing that legally the woman whose dog bit is entirely responsible for everything – but you stick your hand into a dog brawl, it’s likely to get bit.  I’ve had to pull a pitt off of Jack before, Jack was obviously pinned under and the owner wasn’t budging so I took him by the collar and yanked so Jack could get out.  There have been times where one dog is obviously aggressive and the owner is not taking the right preventative steps, people at the dog park usually step up and let the owner know unless he/she takes responsibility for training the dog, the dog is not welcome.  Especially in Berkeley where the majority of dogs are rescues.   But by the same token, I accept there is a risk of Jack getting injured at a dog park in a brawl.  I also worry when he attacks, but if someone takes special interest in Jack I usually give them a warning not to approach him directly because he will get fearful and respond in a lunge.  So far the worst experience I had was Jack going after a man and the leash escaped me and the man bounced around and around and around which just instigated Jack.  The chaotic dance of Jack lunging and this man bouncing around went on for a good minute or so.  To top it off, he was blocking me from my dog so I couldn’t reach Jack and I was so pissed by this man’s reaction.  It’s one thing to train a dog, it’s another to train a person how to respond to a dog.  Anyway, this was just a tough call.  The woman whose dogs started the fight has a history of dog brawl instigations, and the worst part is, she stands back and yells which, in my opinion, increases the chaos level.  I admit, I have a good dog and I’m lucky.  Just like I would never get a car bigger than my Jetta because I wouldn’t be comfortable driving it, I don’t know if I could get a dog bigger than 30 lbs because I don’t have the emotional fortitude to deal with the stress level in training.  But I learned after several bad experiences with Jack that me getting stressed makes a situation worse.  What does work, I make eye contact, stay calm, point to my nose, and make Jack focus on my nose until whatever chaotic is occurring goes away. 

Dogs are dogs.  They fight, play rough, and it’s important to know triggers and what they best respond to.  But I was upset by the entire situation and unsure who was right and what was fair.  I hope the girl and her dog are okay, I hope this doesn’t keep her away from the dog park because it’s so important to start socialization early.  I understand how seeing your dog bleed can be jarring, but how you react is also important and returning the aggression on the girl didn’t accomplish anything.  When Jack is a little older I want to adopt a little brother or sister for him, but I know this situation will stay in my mind when we go through the rescue process again.

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