As you learned from Lucy’s letter yesterday, she and Paige have been playing quite a bit lately. I’m lucky because both have great playtime manners, and observe and respond to each other’s body language appropriately. But some dogs, despite being very dog friendly, don’t respond to other dogs’ signals very well.
When Lucy and Paige play, it frequently involves a lot of running back and forth, tug of war with a nice sized toy (big enough to give each dog some room to chomp down on it), some gentle body “checking,” and routine breaks instigated by one of the two or myself. In fact, the other day during playtime, one of the dogs accidentally caught the other one with its teeth – I honestly don’t know who mouthed who, hence the vagueness. But a yelp was given – and it was as if a referee blew a whistle. Lucy went in one direction, and Paige in the other. Self imposed time out – very impressive.
But this is not common, even for my two princesses. They would play all day if I let them until it progressed to over-arousal. So, that’s when Dad steps in with yummy treats and engaging commands. Taking the dogs’ minds off of each other and forcing them to focus on basic obedience (and in Lucy’s case, some tricks) gives them a chance to settle down so that when they start playing again, it’s back to a manageable level.
Dr. Sophia Yin covers proper dog interaction a lot on her website and blog, and her article on Dog Park Etiquette reveals one of the biggest issues – an owner’s lack of attention. If you don’t want your dog involved in a scuffle, you need to be proactive. Stay with your dog, and away from the mindless chatter. This way, your dog doesn’t need to react to a dog who wont listen to his physical cues, because you can take him out the situation before it escalates.
Another great technique for helping a dog behave more appropriately around other dogs is exactly what we’ve been doing with Bully Project – training classes! Working with your dog in a stimulating environment around other dogs will help them learn how to properly have fun with other pups! You can also work with them so that your dog doesn’t just assume every dog wants to say hello. Teach them how to properly greet another dog (side by side, not face to face), so that when they’re running free in a dog park, they can make better decisions for themselves.
In other words, our dogs need to know about personal space just like we do as humans. Lucy and Paige have begun to learn each other’s cues and signals, and I’ve learned them too. I maintain a high level of supervision, and show them what’s right and wrong during playtime. Sure, they’re not perfect and I’m by no means a professional – but even an average dog owner, who’s willing to put in the work, can teach a dog manners.
So, for you New York City dog owners who are having some trouble teaching your dogs how to play well with others, come check out this upcoming free talk about how to have good, safe fun at the dog park!