Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bitten In A Dog Park

I don't particularly like sensational headlines, but they do work in getting attention. Do I have yours?

Ever since Jasmine is able to enjoy her hikes again, I don't take J.D. to a dog park as often as I used to during Jasmine's post-op after her ACL surgeries. Today Jasmine had her underwater treadmill appointment which meant a visit to the dog park with J.D. It was a bit too warm, but he had fun anyway. However, I came home rather distraught.

J.D. was happy to find out that his girlfriend was there—a playful two year old female boxer. They always like to play a lot, so I end up hanging out with her master. Her master is a really nice old guy who walks his daughter's dog, because she wanted a high energy breed but doesn't have time to exercise it—familiar enough scenario. As our dogs are playing we walk and talk about dog related stuff. The boxer truly does have a huge amount of energy and he is with her in the park several hours every day, which makes him an abundant source of dog park news.

As he was giving me an account of the latest dog park incidents, he pulls up his sleeve: “I got bitten by a dog here the other day”. He surely did! His arm was all bruised with distinct marks of where the teeth made it into the flesh. I know the guy quite well by now, there was no way he brought this onto himself.

Apparently it happened in the entrance 'cage' when he was coming into the park. Another owner was there at the same time, giving his dog a peace of his mind for pulling on the leash. He forced his dog into a corner and put on quite a display of aggression and scare tactics. The stressed dog probably considered the proximity of the boxer an additional threat and attacked her. Her master, worried about his dog, tried to pull the aggressor of her. It didn't work out so good for him and he ended up with a nasty bite on his arm, while the other dog's owner just stood there doing nothing. At least that is how the story was related to me and I figure it was probably fairly close to what really happened.

The dog who bit him was a black lab mix. Not that it really matters, but I want to point out that it was neither a Rottweiler, Pit Bull, Shepherd or any other of the high risk breeds.

Supposedly this was the third time something like this has happened there recently.

What is the moral of the story? First of all – any dog can bite. It is important to be aware of that. Realizing that it is a possibility allows you to anticipate and prevent. Our dog's late best friend, coincidentally also a boxer, got attacked in another park twice, by a Golden Retriever of all things. It is not really the breed that matters. Though, of course, a bite by a Chihuahua would certainly leave a smaller scar.

Should you stop going to a dog park then? Well, it is one solution. But incidents can happen anywhere. Once Jasmine got attacked by two Hound brothers on our walk in the woods.

The boxer's master didn't stop going to the park. I won't. Dog parks are still a great place for dogs to play, socialize and have a good time. However, just as a bar fight is most likely to break out in a crowded bar, high concentration of dogs and owners of all kinds does create a risk. Keep that in mind!

An owner is responsible for their dog's action at all times! But we live in a real world where not everybody owns up to their responsibility. This is where knowing a thing of two about dog language, and even owner language, comes in handy. Learn to recognize risky situations before they escalate! Quite often just the owner's vibe is a good enough indication of potential trouble. Have your dog near you at all times. Pay close attention to what is happening around your dog. Avoid or remove you dog from highly charged or crowded situations.

You shouldn't touch an attacking dog. But let's face it, I wouldn't let my dog be molested either, as bad of an idea as that might be. However prevention is much safer and much more effective! Exercise due diligence and keep your dog and yourself safe!

Safe trails!
Jana

Related articles:
A Word On Dog Parks
A Word On Socialization

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