The Dog Park

When we first got Loki, we made a concerted effort to socialize him. We took him to puppy socialization classes. We enrolled him in a basic obedience class. We took him to the dog park once a week.

He did fairly well at the dog park for about a year. And although he never did get used to dogs sniffing his butt, he was pretty well-behaved.

Then we had a couple of dog fights.

Afterwards, I made a concerted effort to slowly reintroduce him into the dog park by making use of the small dog area. I was fairly successful with that.

Then we moved across country. Our lives became busier, as I took on a full-time job. We weren’t able to take him to the dog park once a week anymore. He got to go once last fall, and that was about it. Then we got Jujube.

And now, Loki is no longer a well-socialized dog, at least not with other dogs. (He’s gotten much better with people and visitors, but that’s for another blog post.)

He can be aggressive on-leash as well as off-leash. It started very slowly and gradually increased. At first, I thought it was just with large, black dogs. Then one day while on-leash, he snapped at a small, black dog at a pet store. I thought, maybe it’s just all black dogs. A few months later, he snapped at a golden retriever. So maybe it’s not just black dogs. I don’t know what it is any more. He’s not reactive 100% of the time. He still has his good moments with some dogs, but the bad moments outweigh the good.

At this point in Loki’s life, I don’t think he can safely go to dog parks. My view is that, if Loki never gets to go to another dog park again for the rest of his life, that’s fine with me. He has Jujube for a companion. They might not cuddle with each other or be best of friends, but they definitely do wrestle with each other and run around like crazy together. My motivation for bringing him to the dog park was so that he’d have a chance to interact with his species. There’s nothing like watching dogs run and chase each other. It’s quite captivating. But now Loki has Jujube to interact with. Is it really necessary that he go to the dog park? Is this even a goal worth working towards?

Yun’s opinion differs from mine. I think Yun sees the situation as rather sad; he wants Loki to be able to go to the dog park. He thinks Loki needs to be exposed to dogs more, not less, and hence Loki should be brought to the dog park more often. Yun has been an advocate of trying to re-socialize Loki.

So, on Yun’s insistence and my reluctance, we attempted to take Loki to the local dog park a couple weekends ago. To start with some good news, Loki was very well-behaved with a couple dogs. One was a black, female Chihuahua -- at least I infer that she was female since she was decked out in pink clothing. Loki was very interested in her and didn’t mind her being in his face. Loki was also pretty good with a very calm, light-colored spaniel -- I’m not sure what type of spaniel it was.

But other than those two, he wasn’t good with any other dog. We did not get into any fights, but he snapped at a few dogs.

Loki doesn’t have issues with other dogs as long as they respect his personal space. He really starts to have issues if they sniff him up close by his muzzle. For the first few seconds, he’ll tense up. If the sniffing continues, which it almost always does, he starts to growl and show teeth. This will continue for a couple seconds. Then if the sniffing continues, he’ll take a snap.

The interesting observation that Yun made was that Loki does give ample warning before he snaps. He doesn’t snap immediately. There’s plenty of time for the other dog to back away. So my question is why doesn’t the other dog back away? Of all species, wouldn’t other dogs know how to read the warning signs?

For the dog park issue, I’ve basically given up. If he doesn’t get to go to the dog park, that’s fine by me. I do think it’s possible to re-socialize him, but that will take more time and effort than I’m willing to put in. The payoff isn’t worth it to me. The payoff isn’t interaction with other dogs. It’s the incremental interaction with other dogs on top of what he already gets with Jujube. So in my opinion, the costs outweigh the benefits.

And although I say I’ve given up, I am hoping to re-socialize him to some degree. Maybe not full-fledged off-leash socialization, but more controlled on-leash socialization. Our shiba meetup tomorrow is a hike. We are taking both Loki and Jujube. Hopefully, Loki will get to socialize with the other shibas while on-leash. The leash will give us better control, and allow him to walk with all the other dogs. The last time I tried a shiba meetup hike, I met up with only one other shiba and Loki was well-behaved the entire time. I’m anticipating more shibas this time, but I hope it will be a good experience for him.

10 comments:

Jenny said...

I totally get what you are saying. Sometimes you get the kid who just wants to be alone (or with Jujube). Dogs shouldn't be generalize as happy-go-lucky, sociable creatures. Like humans, each has their own personality. I'm not a big fan of hanging in crowds with people I don't know and I'm sure Loki feels the same way :)

Mongoose said...

I think you're missing the fact that the other dogs at the dog park are poorly socialized. For a dog to be in another dog's face is more wrong, in dog manners, than for the other dog to snap. My dog is that way too, she puts other dogs in their place when they're being rude. The other owners think my dog's evil when the reality is, their dog was being extremely rude and asking for it. And between dogs, a snap isn't a big deal. It's the people who make it into a big drama.

So all this to say, if you want to socialize your dog, you have to take him to hang with dogs who are properly socialized, not with the ill-mannered dogs at the dog park.

Bibby said...

When we first got Bear it was winter and no dogs outside our friends and their dogs came to the park at 10pm. Bear accepted this pack, then when spring came bringing people with poorly socialized dogs he just about had a meltdown. I thought we were going to have to pull him out of the park and in doing so stop Lily from having this fun too.
I worked with him for months and finally it was much better - he didn't like dogs with flat faces - we called him a flat facist!!!!!!
We too moved across country and we just don't have the relationship with the park here that we used to have. So we rarely go there, but we did go to a dog park and beach on labor day and Bear did really well. He is nearly 2 1/2 and I think he is maturing now. You may find that Loki grows out of this many Shiba's do. But I agree with Mongoose that socialization is the best way - even in very small doses. We found that having a group or pack that did know him worked very well
I do think you have a great attitude Vi and you have your dogs best interest at heart.
Good luck

Jules and Ron said...

Yuki is just like Loki. But, I've never taken her to a doggy park.

At first I thought she didn't like bigger dogs, but slowly it seemed like every other dog.

She gets along with my cousin's chihuahua. & she'll tolerate some of the Shibas we walk with sometimes. I usually try & tug/pull her every time she fixates herself on another dog (The hunter walk, the crouch down, the lunge & bark). Let us know how the hike goes.

Good luck to the both of us.

lindsayt said...

Most dogs at dog parks are rude and I've found with Shibas, the Shiba won't tolerate another dog in their face being rude to them and not respecting their space bubble. The OTHER owner has the responsibility to step in and tell their rude dog to back off, but since most owners at dog parks are too clueless, you need to guard your Shibas front end from other dogs or there will be fights. It's a risk assumed by exposing Loki to other unknown dogs.

I agree that it would be more beneficial for your dog to maybe find a nice quiet group of already well socialized dogs, like those in a day care program, to begin introducing Loki to. It's important to keep in mind, that every negative interaction he has with a dog at the park, is just imprinting in his mind that reaction to snap instead of giving them the chance to greet properly.

He may eventually get so fed up telling the rude dogs to back off and never being listened too, that this is how he will be greeting all dogs, even the nice ones, from now on. Just my thoughts after having haggled around at various dog parks over the last few years.

Anonymous said...

"He may eventually get so fed up telling the rude dogs to back off and never being listened too, that this is how he will be greeting all dogs, even the nice ones, from now on".....very good observation Lindsayt.

Anonymous said...

"He may eventually get so fed up telling the rude dogs to back off and never being listened too, that this is how he will be greeting all dogs, even the nice ones, from now on". BTW, this can apply to FEMALE as well as MALE dogs.

The Shiba said...

"Loki doesn’t have issues with other dogs as long as they respect his personal space. He really starts to have issues if they sniff him up close by his muzzle. For the first few seconds, he’ll tense up. If the sniffing continues, which it almost always does, he starts to growl and show teeth. This will continue for a couple seconds. Then if the sniffing continues, he’ll take a snap."

Your own words reiterate what myself and others were thinking about Loki and the dog parks. Cortez is the same way as Loki- he will tolerate only so much rude behavior from a dog before he growls and then snaps- and then he is seen as the evil dog, when I am physically trying to push the other dog away while the owner is saying "he is just trying to be friends." He responds the same way if they smell his butt.

No, the other dog is not being friendly. He is pushing my dog around and not paying attention to what my dog is telling him. Recently, we had an unfortunate circumstance at our therapy organization when Cortez and I entered the room and a Lab quite literally bowled right into him, asking him to play. Of course he attacked- the dog pinned him up against the door as we walked in- and this was supposedly a well trained dog in a therapy association- but the problem was not the lab's- the problem was that the owner had no control of her dog and her dog was allowed to be out of control in what should have been a very controlled situation. Thank God no one and no dogs were hurt.

And yet, Cortez, because he was a Shiba, was placed in a dark light because he did not back down from the other dog.

It's funny that I am actively supporting a dog park be placed in our town, and neither of my dogs will ever be able to go. Neither want friendships outside of our pack; they both are quite content with the way that life is, and there is nothing wrong with that. Cortez can go out in public, interact with people and dogs, but as long as people and dogs are polite, he is fine. But I won't risk the rudeness of a dog park. There is too much uncontrolled chaos and people who just don't get it that not every dog wants to be friends with theirs.

Sharlene said...

Loki did really well at the meetup this weekend. I never saw him initiate an aggressive action, and he didn't bother my shiba who is quite timid. Loki seemed content to do his own thing in the company of a small group of dogs who weren't always pestering him to interact--pretty well-socialized IMHO

Cheryl said...

We brought Cody home around 5 months ago. We live in an apt building that is very dog friendly so he's used to being around other dogs. He goes on a 'playdate' with our dog walker, which is a trip to the dog park with 3-10 other dogs. He's extremely socialized and loves to play. He does; however, scare some people off because he's all teeth when he plays. He never bites down, but he does the shiba snarl and goes in with his mouth open. He's harmless, but for people who aren't familiar with Shibas, it's a turnoff! I get worried when I see the other Shibas in our neighborhood (there are a few). Some of the older ones are NASTY. They can't even be walked near other dogs without going crazy. I fear that when we move (not for at least another 1.5 years) Cody will turn quick without the daily play. I'm doing everything I can to avoid it!!

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