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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all! I haven’t posted since my introduction, but Opal and I had an incident at the dog park today, and I’m looking for some feedback.

We spent an hour walking around the park, mostly by ourselves. This is a 66 acre park, and a lot of it is wooded. So it is easy to walk for 5-10 minutes and not see anyone. However there is an open field where more dogs and people congregate. After an hour of walking around the park, I let Opal run around greeting the other dogs. She went up to one man, started sniffing his legs pretty intensely, and then following him around and barking at him. I could not call her off of him until I got about 100 ft. away, at which point she ran after me. After that, she started barking at all the dogs and all the people we encountered. I’m just wondering if anyone has any insight into this? We have worked with a behaviorist for dog reactivity. Is this something I should contact a behaviorist about before taking her back to the dog park?
 

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I agree with Tom. Some dogs bark their excitement. Some bark as a demand for play. The whole experience may have just been too stimulating for her and/or she didn’t know what to do with herself.

Some other questions:

How old is Opal now?
What have been her experiences with other dogs and strange humans thus far? Has she attended puppy classes?
What prompted you to contact a behaviorist initially? And have you and Opal made good progress since then?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
That’s a good point. That’s a very important detail I missed. I think I would characterize it as aggressive. My best interpretation is that she was trying to warn the man or chase him off. It scared me a little.
 

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One time, out of the many, many times I’ve been at parks with my dogs, one of my dogs did this, singled out a person and barked aggressively. We left immediately. Partly because I did not want her to rehearse the behavior, but also because I trust my dog, and I trust dog instincts more than my own. She had never been reactive before, and she never was again. Was he a “bad” man? I’m happy I didn’t find out. Now she was older, about 3 at the time of the incident, but still…
 

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Do you think fatigue had a anything to do with it?

From what Ive observed with Basil on her playdates... there's a time limit where her behavior starts to go downhill after around 40-50 minute's. I kind of equate it to a toddler needing a nap. It's normally when she gets the 3rd round of zoomies in a play session that she's forgot her brain and she starts wrestling, or biting her bff's ears... Being a "bad girl", not listening to me, and being a general pest.

The super furparent thing to do is to end the session right before that point because you've hit the good points of the outing and things will just start to go downhill.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
PeggyTheParti- I do think it’s possible that she was overstimulated. She had just observed a minor scuffle between two doodles and had probably met 20 dogs up to that point. The fact that she just started barking at everything afterwards too made me wonder if she just lost her mind cause it was all too much.

Opal is 10 months now. She hasn’t had any super bad experiences with strange people. Mostly, she loves them immediately. She seems more wary around men, checking in with me a lot or dodging pets on the head offered by men. There was one other man with whom she did this same thing (barking in a warning way) months ago. But to be fair to her, there was another dog that was also barking (for 5 minutes straight and from a distance!) at the same man from the second he entered the dog park.

She did attend puppy classes. There were only two other puppies in her class, both very small. I would not say it was a high quality puppy class, and she did not get enough socialization from a young age. She has been rushed by off leash strange dogs 4 times in her short life. We’ve had to alter our walking paths several times to avoid homes where owners leave their dog off leash. She also had a dog kind of bully her (following her around and knocking her over) at another dog park that we no longer go to. We took a long break from the dog park because of this. Eventually, the behaviorist recommended this large park and so we have been going there. When she is off leash, she is cautious with other dogs. She still doesn't like being rushed. It seems to me that she just has boundaries and doesn't hesitate to enforce them.

We contacted the behaviorist, because Opal was stealing items to get my attention and then guarding them. This has gotten better, but we were told we are going to be in management mode with this for a while. We also worked on dog reactivity while on leash. She has made a lot of progress with this, but we still have a ways to go.

Starla, it did occur to me that she might have sensed something about this man. But then, she has a history of reactivity, so who knows.

Basil_the_spoo, I've definitely noticed some signs of something similar. "Forgot her brain" is a good way to put it. I think if I go back without contacting a behaviorist first, it will be a shorter visit. I have some regrets about not cutting it off earlier when we could have gone home on a better note.
 

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It sounds to me like you understand what went wrong. An already tired puppy meeting 20 strange dogs off-leash...that’s a lot. But I wouldn’t stop working with your behaviorist if they’ve been helpful to you or if you have any concerns about aggression.

Peggy’s had similar experiences being rushed and even attacked by off-leash dogs. It really can plant a deep seed of wariness in them, and you want to make sure you’re not inadvertently watering it with your daily activities. Peggy is much quicker now to tell a dog to back off, and that only seems to be intensifying with maturity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I think you're right. And I think this is probably a case of me just trying to confirm that my concern about this situation and desire to get help to address it isn't an "overreaction." But, I would feel more comfortable having the help, so that's what matters.

That's terrible. :( It seems silly now, but it was a surprise to me, Opal being my first puppy, to realize the impact that those kinds of things can have on our dogs. If I'm interpreting correctly, it sounds like Peggy has become a superb advocate for herself.
 

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Yes, she does stick up for herself, and really enjoys polite interactions. A very poodley trait, I believe.

I fear, though, that one of these days she’ll tell off a dog who doesn’t back down. That’s when things get messy.

It really is such a minefield out there, with so many unpredictable off-leash dogs. Peggy was so sweet and naive with other dogs for a while, even after the first one attacked her. She would just look to us for help. But even the sweetest dog can eventually say enough is enough and go on the offensive.
 

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Our Poppy is inoffensive / friendly.
But on 3 occassions she has randomly barked at people.
The last time was with a group of dogs and owners doing 'dog standing', Poppy broke off from the group, adopted meerkat stance watching an approaching woman, then started barking at her.
We all watched in amzement, and for me and 'mum' a little bewielderment and concern.
Once the woman had passed, one of the other dog owners said he understood the woman in question was a little 'odd' and did not like dogs, and said he thought Poppy was just guarding the 'gang'.
The other couple of occassions we could not work out why Poppy was taking humbridge to the people she decided to bark at. ( bark from a distance, not approaching ).

I do wonder in this case - Opal's episode - if the man was there with the others?
Did he have a dog, and perhaps treats in his pocket ?
I'm guessing it was a smell that 'upset' her.
Obviously concerning, but probably just an odd moment.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
PeggyTheParti, I get that fear. I don’t really know if/when/how leash laws are enforced, but nobody seems especially worried about them around here. It gets really frustrating.

The Popster, it’s amazing the things that dogs seem to pick up on. It would so interesting to know what was going on in Poppy’s mind at that moment.

With Opal’s incident, the man she barked at did not appear to be with anyone. I imagine he had a dog somewhere, because he was wearing a belt with all kinds of dog gear attached to it. Very possible he had treats. I agree she was probably reacting to a smell, and then after that probably to his stern “no” directed at her.

I did end up contacting our behaviorist. She said she’s inclined to trust Opal’s instincts on this one. So I guess I’ll just keep an eye out for future occurrences!
 
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