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We are lucky to have an unofficial dog park close by that is visited by a group of regular neighborhood dogs and usually has a pretty small crowd. I've started taking Oona here once or twice a week for a run and play off leash. The owners mostly know each other and each others' dogs - I meet one or two new ones each time I go but it's mostly regulars. She plays well with the other dogs for the most part but she has started to become obnoxious with dogs who want to ignore her and/or chase a ball. She chases them and barks and nips at them trying to get them to pay attention to her. This started with one of her playdate friends, who has become ball-obsessed and now gives poor Oona the cold shoulder. Last week it was mostly Oona chasing while barking and nipping at this dog, and I got her and gave her a time out a few times when it was getting super out of control (O not listening to me at all, etc). Today she did the chasing and barking routine with two stranger dogs, and while their owners were ok with it and assured me that their dogs were patient, I'm concerned that the behavior is getting reinforced beyond just her one friend. She did play very nicely with other dogs when they wanted to wrestle and chase, without barking or harassment. It's the ball-chasing dog that she loses her mind over. Most of the owners are like "let them work it out" and I believe that can be a good route to go, and I pretty much do trust that these dogs will communicate when they've had enough without hurting her, but they've all been so patient so far that she's having a great time and it's getting worse. I'm also embarrassed to have the obnoxious barking dog at the park. What do my poodle people think I can do to help her break this habit? What is the line between giving her the opportunity to learn how to behave from other dogs and being overly permissive? She is about 5.5 months.
 

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Hard to say without seeing it all in person, but it’s possible Oona is telling off dogs that are behaving obsessively. Peggy doesn’t like obsessive behaviour but will tolerate it as long as the dog isn’t repeatedly entering her personal space. Gracie, on the other hand, had a zero tolerance policy and would zip in and out with furious little barks, demanding everyone settle down.

Can you steer clear when the ball-throwers are using the park? That seems like the simplest way to manage this, with the added benefit of preventing Oona from rehearsing an undesirarable behaviour at such a formative age.

It’s not unusual for dog parks to have a no-toys policy, as they’re the source of so much tension and can even trigger fights.
 

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Does she know "leave it". Leave it means to leave one specific thing alone. There are several places online that can run you through it. I have used it to keep a dog away from poop, away from toys, away from young children, just about anything. Start with low level distractions and work up to the dog park.
 

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I personally don't think dogs should be in the park unless their owners can call them away from the other dogs. If your dog is behaving obnoxiously you should call her away and make her stand with you and watch the other dogs having fun. Then work on attention to you while the other dogs are playing. If she will not come then you need to work on that. Once she has a reliable recall then you can work on getting her to come away from the other dogs in the park. Then you can work on playing nicely with the other dogs.
 

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It’s either as PGP said, or, on the opposite, Oona is lacking dog manners and will sooner or later be told off by another dog. It might be a stable dog who will teach her without harming her, or it could be an unstable dog who won‘t put up with it and will attack her and might do some serious damage.

Dog parks are always risky, because even if you know what you’re doing, the vast majority of people who bring their dogs there don’t have a clue. And as was already said, toys are making it even riskier.
 

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We are lucky to have an unofficial dog park close by that is visited by a group of regular neighborhood dogs and usually has a pretty small crowd. I've started taking Oona here once or twice a week for a run and play off leash. The owners mostly know each other and each others' dogs - I meet one or two new ones each time I go but it's mostly regulars. She plays well with the other dogs for the most part but she has started to become obnoxious with dogs who want to ignore her and/or chase a ball. She chases them and barks and nips at them trying to get them to pay attention to her. This started with one of her playdate friends, who has become ball-obsessed and now gives poor Oona the cold shoulder. Last week it was mostly Oona chasing while barking and nipping at this dog, and I got her and gave her a time out a few times when it was getting super out of control (O not listening to me at all, etc). Today she did the chasing and barking routine with two stranger dogs, and while their owners were ok with it and assured me that their dogs were patient, I'm concerned that the behavior is getting reinforced beyond just her one friend. She did play very nicely with other dogs when they wanted to wrestle and chase, without barking or harassment. It's the ball-chasing dog that she loses her mind over. Most of the owners are like "let them work it out" and I believe that can be a good route to go, and I pretty much do trust that these dogs will communicate when they've had enough without hurting her, but they've all been so patient so far that she's having a great time and it's getting worse. I'm also embarrassed to have the obnoxious barking dog at the park. What do my poodle people think I can do to help her break this habit? What is the line between giving her the opportunity to learn how to behave from other dogs and being overly permissive? She is about 5.5 months.
I worry about having the obnoxious barky dog at the park too. Been really working on Charlie, I grab him and he goes on The Leash 'o Shame . It seems to be helping

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I have seen dogs do this a lot, and it can be a dog acting as the "fun police" trying to correct over-excitement, but in younger dogs I think it's generally them not fully understanding dog language and being frustrated with their lack of ability to engage the dog in play. It's kind of like throwing a tantrum because they aren't getting their way. I would not let it continue as it could become a bad habit. I would clip her on a long line when she wants to engage this way so that you can prevent her access to the dog, and remove her from the area. If possible, take her away from the other dogs and try to engage her with something that keeps her attention on you, like a flirt pole or tug session or some training exercises. You want to create the mental pattern of disconnecting from that frustration and focusing on you instead. When saying this, I'm assuming this park is a large area where you can get away from the action. If it's a small area, you may need to excuse her until she can calm down. Misha's always had a bad habit of getting overly excited when meeting new young male puppies which sometimes will cause him to bark, growly-play, and hump. It's something we continue to work on by removing him until he calms down and can engage normally. Over-arousal is something that puppies really struggle with, but should slowly improve along with age and impulse-control training. An over-aroused puppy will not have the capacity to listen to you. Instead of thinking "how do I get the dog to listen to me" it's more of an issue of "how do I help the dog reach the mindset needed to hear me."
 

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Nope..I wouldn't allow it. She is simply not well trained enough to be off leash. I would work on recall. You must have a reliable recall as reraven stated. One day she will get bit by another dog if this continues. I'd still take her to the park, perhaps work up to a long line away from the other dogs and work on her recall and sit, stay, etc. Let her learn to ignore the other dogs. As she calms down and is listening better, try again for the off leash playtime. Honestly I'm not a big believer that dogs need to play with other dogs, though it is enjoyable for the owners.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks all. It's not an official dog park, just a seldom-used school sports field, so there are no policies against balls. In any case she's not trying to get the ball, she's trying to get the ball-chasing-dog's attention. I can avoid going in when we walk by and see that it's only dogs chasing balls but I can't avoid the ball situation completely if people come when we are already there. However usually in that situation, she's already engaged in more appropriate play and isn't likely to fixate on the other dogs unless it's her one friend. The upside of the park is a smaller group of regulars who get to know one another and their dogs - we have some familiarity and trust and it's no big deal for me to ask someone to hold off on throwing their ball so I can grab my dog, or to grab her, or something like that. I have kept her leash on during these times recently in order to be able to grab and collect her, as her pretty-good-for-a-puppy recall (she comes happily when playing normally) evaporates when she gets into this routine - clearly she's over threshold. I'm ordering a long line for recall practice and because I don't want to completely deprive her of play time. She does play well with dogs who are interested in engaging her and I believe that is also important to reinforce.

I think it's bad manners, not getting upset about obsessive behavior or being the "fun police". I'm remembering that she behaved similarly with an adult standard we had a walk/play date with a few weeks back - barking and hassling for attention. The dog didn't tell her off until Oona jumped on her, which she stopped doing, but she was still being pretty annoying. Oona isn't getting the picture from other dogs, so I have to step in and change things up. I think Raindrops is spot on, she is frustrated and then gets overaroused.

Here's our plan. We will work on improving recall and self control and try to expand "leave it" to non-object/food distractions (she's got it down for treats and ground trash, but not for moving objects/people). Next time we go to this area we will spend time outside the fence with her working with me (she'll be able to see the dogs inside but be pretty far) and then move to doing some sessions of focus work in the park on the leash if there are a small number of dogs around. We might then transition to walking around the field on the long line instead of standing in the middle playing. She has been really good on trails, even when there are other dogs, with a quick greeting and then popping back along to follow us, so I'm thinking about trying to extend this good behavior to this field by keeping moving. If we get that going more successfully, including recall, I'll start letting her play in the middle again on the long line. I'll grab her and end the fun at the first sign of barky hassling and work on something fun and stimulating with me - there is definitely enough space for this. When she chills out I can let her try again (if there are dogs who are actually playing rather than only ball chasing).

I'll let you know how it goes! She's recovering from (more) dental surgery today so it's actually kind of good timing as we plan to take it easier over the next week or so.
 

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Thanks all. It's not an official dog park, just a seldom-used school sports field, so there are no policies against balls. In any case she's not trying to get the ball, she's trying to get the ball-chasing-dog's attention. I can avoid going in when we walk by and see that it's only dogs chasing balls but I can't avoid the ball situation completely if people come when we are already there. However usually in that situation, she's already engaged in more appropriate play and isn't likely to fixate on the other dogs unless it's her one friend. The upside of the park is a smaller group of regulars who get to know one another and their dogs - we have some familiarity and trust and it's no big deal for me to ask someone to hold off on throwing their ball so I can grab my dog, or to grab her, or something like that. I have kept her leash on during these times recently in order to be able to grab and collect her, as her pretty-good-for-a-puppy recall (she comes happily when playing normally) evaporates when she gets into this routine - clearly she's over threshold. I'm ordering a long line for recall practice and because I don't want to completely deprive her of play time. She does play well with dogs who are interested in engaging her and I believe that is also important to reinforce.

I think it's bad manners, not getting upset about obsessive behavior or being the "fun police". I'm remembering that she behaved similarly with an adult standard we had a walk/play date with a few weeks back - barking and hassling for attention. The dog didn't tell her off until Oona jumped on her, which she stopped doing, but she was still being pretty annoying. Oona isn't getting the picture from other dogs, so I have to step in and change things up. I think Raindrops is spot on, she is frustrated and then gets overaroused.

Here's our plan. We will work on improving recall and self control and try to expand "leave it" to non-object/food distractions (she's got it down for treats and ground trash, but not for moving objects/people). Next time we go to this area we will spend time outside the fence with her working with me (she'll be able to see the dogs inside but be pretty far) and then move to doing some sessions of focus work in the park on the leash if there are a small number of dogs around. We might then transition to walking around the field on the long line instead of standing in the middle playing. She has been really good on trails, even when there are other dogs, with a quick greeting and then popping back along to follow us, so I'm thinking about trying to extend this good behavior to this field by keeping moving. If we get that going more successfully, including recall, I'll start letting her play in the middle again on the long line. I'll grab her and end the fun at the first sign of barky hassling and work on something fun and stimulating with me - there is definitely enough space for this. When she chills out I can let her try again (if there are dogs who are actually playing rather than only ball chasing).

I'll let you know how it goes! She's recovering from (more) dental surgery today so it's actually kind of good timing as we plan to take it easier over the next week or so.
Good for you to formulate a plan to work on this! She may always have a bit of a tendency to frustration bark at dogs because it is a common behavior, but success for you will be to help her leave that state of mind and transition to other activities. Usually success involves some amount of training and some amount of management.
 

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Good point, maybe I'll stick with her regular leash if and when I let her back into the fray.
Yes, a short leash is usually ok if you need a way to easily remove her. Longlines can get tangled, though a biothane line tangles much less than fabric leashes.
 

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We used a harness for easy puppy grabbing and stopped play every couple of minutes. Now, in late adolescence, all the dogs know the drill and don’t worry that stopping play means an end to fun.

Oona may respond well to this technique. The play pauses need only be as long as it takes for her to regroup. Any longer and they become antagonizing.

We recently had a new dog join our play sessions, who’s still quite young but missed out on puppy classes due to covid. It was cute watching his confusion when the other dogs returned immediately to their beckoning humans. He cantered a few hopeful circles before finally doing a reluctant sit at his owner’s feet. This was a great example of the power of doggy mentorship. But they can just as easily teach good habits as bad.

Peggy has occasionally tried egging other dogs on with barking since experiencing it from a persistent young Golden. And I’ve seen other dogs trying out Peggy-style flying leaps after witnessing her in action. Oops. ;)

It’s good that you’re being so mindful of Oona’s interactions. So many owners just tune out when they get to the park.
 

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update: Oona has had a couple of nice sessions of focus work outside the park fence, but no dogs were there so they weren't too challenging. One afternoon this week I brought her into the field since it was empty so we could walk semi-loose (with the leash attached) around the perimeter and practice recall (We do this in the school field across the street almost every day too) - she did great for the first half, then a big bernedoodle puppy arrived and ran over, and because the giant puppy wanted to jump all over me, Oona started her barking and nipping routine. They did some appropriate playing too, but Oona started to get obnoxious so I grabbed O. and decided to leave, and it was hard because the giant puppy was not going back to her people and kept jumping all over us. Eventually I was able to get Oona out of there and we worked by the fence again this time with a few other dogs inside the field. After that worked well, we went back in and worked a bit more in the corner away from the other dogs. Oona was very distracted and confused that I wasn't letting her play and didn't want to leave.
Today we were walking on leash in the graveyard that is adjacent to the field, and we met a shepherd mix puppy who Oona greeted and played very sweetly with when we dropped the leashes for a few moments. I was glad to see that she's not hopeless and I think it's likely that the dog park field has just become too exciting for her, even when it's almost empty, because of the associations she has made there. So for now we will keep doing what we're doing and stay on leash in the field until she can relax, and find smaller less intense opportunities for her to try socializing elsewhere.
 

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Since Oona has played well with certain pups, why not arrange some one-on-one social time?
We'll aim for that if we get to know anyone well enough! This most recent one was a random encounter. Unfortunately the one dog we started out organizing playdates with this fall (belonging to a colleague and neighbor) is the one who is now too ball-obsessed to be any fun for Oona, and is the one that Oona started the whole barking/chasing thing with when she'd show up at the park and give her the cold shoulder. I don't know how she'll behave in our yard since we've never had any dogs over.
 

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Happy to report some significant improvement with Oona's play behavior. After a couple of days of working outside the empty field, and a few successful experiments with recall practice while wandering the large, nearly empty graveyard next to the field, we had two recent instances where we did focus work outside the field fence until she was paying more attention to me than the dogs playing inside, followed by a short play in the field. Both times, since there were a handful of dogs and owners I new that she has played well with in the past, and no-one throwing a ball, I brought her in to give playing a try with her leash on so I or one of the other owners could grab her if needed. Several of the other owners/neighbors know that we are working on this and are very encouraging, even helping to interrupt her when she's getting obsessive about getting a dog's attention by talking to her or offering her a stick.

The entrance to the field is a short steep slope that can be slippery when it's icy, so I need her to not drag me down. We've been practicing a sit-stay at the top and then short come (just to the end of the leash where I've progressed down the hill) at the middle, and again before the bottom of the slope, and that's been great for her impulse control rather than taking off like a maniac. Then we either worked in the corner for a bit more or worked on walking calmly toward the dogs playing. I was able to ask her to sit and then told her ok, go play, and both today and the last time, she had a nice, mostly polite play with the other dogs, and I grabbed her for a quick time out when she was getting too excited or starting to bark/jump/nip. Today, she barely did that behavior at all, never got into it for more than a few moments, was able to break out of it easily, and her recall was very good when playing. We took a handful of very short regrouping breaks, and while I did explain to the humans at the beginning that we were working on her listening to help with her manners, I didn't feel like I had to apologize for her obnoxious behavior. When the dogs weren't being all that exciting, she was hanging out with me waiting to see what I wanted her to do and would happily go check them out when I told her she could. It was a very good, relaxed play session. I was really proud of Oona - we left after less than 20 minutes and she was super attentive on our way home, heeling proudly most of the way through the graveyard. Progress!
 
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