How Can I Teach My Dog to Respect His Doggie Friends' Space?

Dog Park
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As part of an ongoing series, dog trainer Mikkel Becker teaches you how to address common behavior problems at the dog park.


Q. My dog loves to play at the dog park, but he can be pushy and his interactions occasionally end with the other dog escalating to aggression in order to get him to back off. Is there a way to help him calm down? 

A. I call canines who exhibit this kind of behavior “Tarzan dogs.” If you’ve been to the dog park, chances are you’ve seen this type of dog: He often lacks understanding of the other dogs' body language and will initiate play with full-on play bows, racing, rearing, rolling, pawing the air and mouthing, even if the other dog signals that he's not interested by walking off or turning his head away. If the Tarzan dog doesn't get the message, playtime can quickly turn into an aggressive encounter. The annoyed dog might resort to growling, snapping or even biting to get the obnoxious canine to back off, resulting in a stressful situation for both dogs.

Even when the Tarzan dog does get another canine to reciprocate play, he will often take very few breaks in play and will continue to be pushy during the interaction. This can cause both dogs to become overstimulated and puts them at risk for an altercation.

Distinguishing Aggression From Play

Tarzan dogs are a fairly common occurrence at dog parks. Often these canines are adolescent or young adult dogs with an abundance of energy caused (or at least exacerbated) by a lack of exercise, mental stimulation and interaction with people and other pets. These dogs are starved for interaction by the time they get to the park and will have little ability to restrain themselves once they're set free to play.

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