Today at the Children's Museum, Charlee and I did our second Dog Safety Demo of the summer for the museum goers and a separate show for the summer campers.
The program is interactive (and fun we like to think!) and Charlee helps the kids participate by giving out hints concerning dog safety.
Can you guess the first thing we covered?
Never touch a dog that is_______ (did you guess sleeping?)
After the show Charlee made some new friends on vacation from England. Fossie is holding her leash.
The second show was for the kids at summer camp.
I think all the kids enjoyed our visit as much as we did!
Dog safety demonstrations are free to qualifying groups! For a copy of the K 9 Safety Tips for Kids handout that the kids received today click here
Many well-known trainers and behaviorists have come forward to issue warnings about dog parks. Even off-lead puppy classes have come under fire. Why? Because people often don’t know how to recognize or respond to problems when they arise and can inadvertently do more harm than good.
Many owners treat their dogs like children. But would you let a two-year-old play unsupervised with significantly older children while you had coffee with the other children’s parents? Would you allow a toddler to wrestle, bite and annoy a senior citizen? Would you allow the neighborhood bully to repeatedly pin your child down without intervening?
Owners have an obligation to their dogs. They need to better understand their dog and know how to interpret their dog’s body language. Dog parks can be wonderful places for canines and humans but they hold the potential for conflict and consequences.
Watch out for the bully dog! It’s a fact of life—some dogs will attempt to bully or intimidate other dogs; some occasionally, some constantly. Some dogs don’t do well in multiple dog situations and may become aggressive. Some breeds are more likely to inflict harm. On one of my recent trips to a dog park a young female chased younger dogs down like prey animals. She bit their necks, rammed them and pinned them down. Many secondary fights broke out as the dogs collided with their owners in their attempts to escape her. Clearly this is the time to make your exit! Allowing your dog to be traumatized by the bully dog could make your dog fearful of other dogs and hamper future training.
Dog parks are not for every dog. Don’t take it personally. Just as some people don’t like crowds, some dogs are uncomfortable in groups. Keep in mind that your dog’s tolerance for time spent at dog parks may diminish with age, much in the same way your tolerance for crowds has diminished with age. In the case of Pitbulls, dog parks are not recommended past early adolescence due to the likelihood of dog/dog aggression.
Beware the ‘Resource Guarder’! Not all dogs are willing to share their playtoys or treats! Owners need to use extreme caution when playing with toys and handing out treats in a dog park setting.
Beware the Fence! An agitated dog on the outside of the fence can aggravate dogs inside the fence’s boundaries. Allowing the dogs to meet through the fence is not recommended and could lead to barrier frustration/aggression. Don’t allow your dog to run up and down the length of barrier on either side especially if other dogs are getting agitated.
Don’t allow dogs to congregate at the gate or exit. Allow newcomers to acclimate and have an escape route. Dogs need to be able to flee. If your dog has learned some obedience, by all means practice before you let them loose. Let the park be your good dog’s reward!
Protect your dog and be on the look out for trouble around you. Often times people do not read their dog correctly. If your dog comes bounding back to you and there are other dogs in hot pursuit, chances are he is looking for a little back up. Always be prepared to step in and protect a frightened dog.
Don’t take females in season to the park! Enough said.
Beware of intact male dogs. An intact male is often (but not always) a predicator that his owner is not responsible. Beware of more than one unaltered male dog in the park at a time; problems can quickly escalate.
Be aware that different dogs have different play styles. Help your dog choose friends that he is comfortable with. Some dogs like a paws off approach to play, while others live for wrestle mania. As dogs mature their behavior and tolerance levels change. Just because your dog played well with a dog as a puppy, does not mean they will be lifelong friends.
Do not take a sick dog to a public place. Just common sense!
Children should remain within an arms reach of adults at all time. Use extreme caution when bringing children to a dog park. Many dogs at the park have not been exposed to kids and even the best behaved child is unpredictable.
Use extreme caution when taking small dogs because ‘predatory drift’ can occur. Predatory Drift is when a dog’s prey drive kicks in an instant. It is often triggered by high pitched squeals, or small dogs running. It can be fatal to the dog who is attacked. In a dog park setting, other dogs may join in.
Do not assume that everyone else knows what they are doing! Dog ownership, like everything else, has its share of clueless people. I always hear lots of really bad training advice passed on at dog parks. Dog parks are a great place to practice selective hearing, (just like most of the dogs).
If your dog is getting to wild try ‘Time Outs’ and help him regroup. Try Leashing your dog and escorting him away from the group. If you have learned calming commands like “Settle,” this would be the time to use them. Once your dog relaxes, reward him with more playtime. If he remains agitated, call it a day.
Properly socializing a dog does not mean allowing your dog to run wild, as some individuals mistakenly believe. Socialization takes place when our dogs interact with other dogs in a safe, supervised environment. It occurs when our dogs have positive experiences with other dogs. And socialization takes place in a group training class where they learn to work and pay attention under your guidance. With proper socialization our dogs develop self control and bite inhibition. It is important for dog owners to learn how to read dogs’ body language on the road to helping their own dog become confident. Dog owners should exercise their dogs like they drive their cars—using common sense and acting defensively.
Portions of this article previously printed in the Casco Bay Weekly. Used with permission
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