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  1. #1
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    Sep 2009
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    Dog Behavior Question

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    So, this is something that has been bothering me for awhile, seems to be happening more frequently, and I'm not sure what my responsibility is as far as how to react as the dog owner.

    I own a very large but very friendly great dane named Megatron. He's still a puppy, but at 17 months old he is 140+ pounds and just over 3 feet tall at the shoulder. He's a very energetic, outgoing, playful, and friendly puppy. Unfortunately, because of his size people are almost always afraid of him and think he is big, scary, and mean. I usually chalk this up to "their problem" and just let him be himself. He's never hurt anything and even when he plays with toy-sized dogs he's very gentle and careful to never step on them.

    Lately every time we go to the dog park we encounter little kids running around. Megatron inevitably chases them and either just runs into them and knocks them over, and then proceeds to mouth them (he does this with us, it doesn't hurt, although it probably doesn't look good), or starts to jump on them knocking them over. He obviously thinks they're playing and is just mimicking their energy. They inevitably get scared and start crying, etc. My initial reaction is what a stupid kid for running at the dog park, and where is their parents to tell them that's a horrible idea. However, I'm biased because I don't like kids. When I determine Megatron is being too rough with them or they seem extremely freaked out, I'll call him away. I don't scold him because I don't think he's doing anything wrong - he's a playful puppy and it's a dog park. Sometimes my husband or I will say, it's not a good idea to run at the dog park to the kid and/or parent if there's one around. Sometimes I'm so frustrated I won't say anything to the people and just grab Megatron and go a different direction.

    But, I've been struggling with what my responsibility should be. My personal belief is that if you can't handle the dogs at the dog park you shouldn't be running around or behaving in a way that would make them want to play with you. Obviously a little 5 year old kid can barely handle a 20 pound dog let alone 140. But, this is a place for my dog to be free, and since he's a good dog, he should be allowed to. It's not like he's a malicious and violent dog. I feel like I need a shirt that says, "I don't let my dog run around in your playground, don't let your kids run around in my dog park." I'm sure even given the situation, if Megatron accidentally hurt a kid by knocking them over, even if it was only because he's so big, it would be considered my fault. Which I also feel is a little ridiculous. But I don't know. Thoughts?

    -Jessica
    "Namaste, B*tches!"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
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    I don't have a dog, but I love Great Danes - and I love the name Megatron

    I have kids, well, kid, and personally I feel that it's my responsibility as a parent to make sure my son is happy around animals. Mostly because I want to - I love animals myself and have grown up with horses, dogs and cats, and in a area where cattle and sheep grazed freely in summer. But also because even if we didn't keep any pets of our own, he's sure to meet dogs, riding horses etc around that other people own.
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Troutdale, OR
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    We keep our golden and lab away from very small kids. I don't want to take any chances with lawsuits being filed against me. It's bit inconvenient and we know our dogs will not hut a child but the parents may not think the same, nor the police, judge, and jury. I have too much to lose so we don't take chances.

    What if your dog was only mouthing a child (a very bad habit in our opinion), and child screams, and the parents say that your dog bit and attacked their child viciously. You know the dog didn't break the child's skin, there is no bruise, but the interpretation of what happened is going to get very messy.

    Let Megatron run loose when there are no small kids in the area. It may be a hassle but lot less than the hassle of going to court to defend Megatron and his life. Most states have one bite law. The second bite declares the dog vicious and could be put down. It's not something I want my golden and lab to face.

    I know its not something you want to hear; but, you need to. Look at it from a parent who has a phobia of dogs and sees their child being mouthed by a 140 pound dog. They will have a very different view than you.

    sincerely,

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    Arlington, VA
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    Why are "free range children" running around a dog park? Are there posted rules at the park? Maybe you can get in touch w/your local government about this issue and see if they can do something about it. After all, you're not taking your dog to a children's playground.

    Agree w/the others. Unfortunately, Megatron is going to be portrayed as being at fault for being a dog, behaving like a dog, in a dog park should one of these children get hurt and the parents go after you. It's not worth it---find another place for him to romp.

    Puppies mouth--that's how they play (my three goldens, all adults, do this to each other all the time, and sometimes, the 18 month old forgets and mouths me or my DH).

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  5. #5
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    I don't think small children should be running around unsupervised at a dog park, for sure.

    But I also think that there are some games that people shouldn't play with dogs, just because of the possibility of unforeseen consequences. Most people know that you should never chase your dog - even though all dogs love to play chase/being chased. I think any game where your dog knocks someone over falls into that category, too. Or even jumping up on someone - honestly I think even small dogs should be trained not to do that. Small-ish dogs are constantly climbing up the backs of my legs when I go running in the country, and I'm scared to death I'll accidentally kick one of them in the throat with my heel.

    One of my Ickey's favorite games was lunging at my face or my husband's as we sat on the floor. We'd shove her back by the chest, she'd lunge back. Closed lips for sure - although she busted my lips more than once, and once nearly broke my nose. In retrospect, maybe we shouldn't have played that game with her. But she never even tried to lunge at someone who hadn't initiated the game with her first.

    Not that I have children, and I'm between dogs right now. I agree with the idea of contacting whoever is responsible for the dog park.
    Last edited by OakLeaf; 11-08-2010 at 03:43 AM.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    I think there's two issues here. The first is the kids at the dog park, and I agree that the agency in charge of the park needs to be made aware of the issue.

    The other is the mouthing and jumping. Yep, he's a puppy, and that's what they do, but these are behaviors that can be reduced and re-directed through training. My 8-year old lab still mouths other dogs while playing, but dog teeth on human skin is not allowed, and he knows that any play stops the minute that teeth touch skin. We've not had quite as much success with breaking him of jumping up to greet people, but we keep working at it

    We were fortunate to find a really good positive reinforcment-style dog trainer at our local humane association, and their rates were super-reasonable.

    Good luck!

  7. #7
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    Sep 2008
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    Yikes. Kids should not be running around at a dog park. Period. The situation you describe is dangerous, and shouldn't continue. Your responsibility is very clear: you are responsible for making sure Megatron doesn't hurt a human being, even accidentally. It would be nice if all parents controlled their kids and if all humans knew how to interact with a dogs, but that isn't going to happen.

    Mouthing and jumping is okay between dogs; between dogs and people it isn't. Dogs can easily learn this distinction.

    You should immediately teach Megatron that mouthing people is not acceptable; ditto for jumping on people. I use clicker training; it's easy, fun and backed by sound, up-to-date science.

    To change these behaviors, you've got to address them when they occur. Scolding him after you've called him away would do no good anyway -- the dog won't know what you are talking about.

    To gain a greater understanding of dog-human interaction, I'd suggesting reading books by Jean Donaldson (Culture Clash is a classic; it changed my life) and The Other End of the Leash by Dr. Patricia McConnell are good starting points.

  8. #8
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    Although I agree that kids shouldn't be running around in a dog park, your dog's behavior could end up in a nasty lawsuit. If I had a 140 pound dog and little kids were running in the dog park, I would not let my dog loose especially if I knew he liked to chase and "mouth" children. Even if he just liked to bump them, that is not appropriate behavior. What if he "bumps" an 80 year old lady and she breaks her hip?
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  9. #9
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    Feb 2008
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    I don't know which park you're going to, but perhaps if things don't change after raising this problem of unsupervised children running around the dog park, you might explore other off-leash areas near you.

    When we lived in Seattle, we found a book called The Dog Lover's Companion to the Pacific Northwest: The Inside Scoop on Where to Take Your Dog

    It has very useful reviews on dog parks in the area, as well as dog-friendly restaurants (usually you will have to sit outside, but sometimes that's better than leaving the puppy at home or in the car!).

    Some parks are definitely busier and more popular than others. Might be helpful if you can find a place where Megatron can play without kids invading and being a hazard to themselves and others.
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  10. #10
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    I do not have kids. I do have a dog. My dog does not do well with kids. He used to live with kids. But they taunted him and now he's fearful of and aggressive towards them. I cannot undo what kids did to him. But I can be absolutely sure to keep my dog away from kids.

    Dogs should be properly trained to behave around humans, including (particularly) kids. If the dog is not trained to behave, it should not be allowed to be around people/kids/other dogs/cats...

    Kids are unpredictable. Of course, your dog is perfect, but what if a kid decided to bite your dog, or poke him in the eye, or otherwise taunt him? That's what kids do. When that happens, the dog's natural reaction is to bite back. When a dog bites a kid, the dog owner get sued and the dog gets put down. Not to mention, the kid gets injured and develops a fear of dogs. But the kid is not your responsibility either way. The dog is your responsibility.

    You cannot control the kids or the parents. But you can control your dog. Your dog is big, and therefore training should be even a bigger priority. Until your dog can behave appropriately around kids, you should keep him away from them.

  11. #11
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    Jul 2004
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    I've had Mastiffs and even though I knew they were sweet and gentle, I knew that if a child was knocked down by them, it would be my fault if they were injured. I would have to ask parents, sometimes forcefully, to keep their children away if we were walking. Kids would come running up to pet, the dog would get all excited, and I would have to run away from these little kids. My dog, my responsibility.
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  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
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    Different situation in the UK - we don't have dog parks - you can let your dog off the leash in most places. But that means there are free range kids everywhere - and in London that means lots of kids scared of dogs. When my Vizsla was a puppy she would run up kids & if they ran, she chased. So I kept a good eye out for trouble of all kinds on the horizon (joggers, cyclists, horseriders, zimmer frames - you name it), and monitored her closely. I only intervened if necessary & worked a lot on voice control.

    Given that you don't have much opportunity to let you dog off the leash (which I think is incredibly important), it does make sense to see if you can get the kids removed from the dog park. I would definitely work on training him not to mouth as he will keep this behaviour even when very excited & then it can get a bit painful (eg; am currently working on it during agility!!). However, the situation should get a lot better as he grows up. It seems that the larger the dog - the slower they mature. My Vizsla stopped chasing kids before she was 12 months - but it might be 24 months for a Dane. I must say, whilst some of the Danes I have met are prepared to play & rush around - the vast majority seem to prefer to be a bit more sedate. So hopefully the problem will resolve itself (as long as things aren't too manic in the dog park)

  13. #13
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    I asked my friend who is a dog trainer....

    here are her words of wisdom

    Well I agree with everyone that kids and dog parks don't go hand in hand. Stoo-pid parents for putting their kids at risk allowing this and stoo-pid dog people for putting up with it. I certainly wouldn't have a problem telling the parent to get the kid on a leash. One second of hesitation because you are worried about offending someone is that second in time that your dogs life, not to mention the kids, could be changed forever.

    No one of course really touched on the real issues here. Number one; people think that dogs need to romp and play with other dogs. Do you see wolf packs interacting with strange wolves? No. We humans use dog parks like "we" think dogs need them. It's an excuse to be a lazy *** and not spend time with your dog interacting with them. I see more dog people chatting with each other and/or talking on the cell phone than paying attention.

    If this dog owner thinks letting a 140 lb dog mouth human skin is OK because he's gentle, she's an idiot. In this day and age even if the dog did no more than mouth someone she's setting herself up for a law suit and her dog for impoundment. The dog is barely a juvenile and it sounds like he hasn't even entered into the difficult phase that all dogs go through like teenagers. OK so she doesn't like kids, fine, but that isn't going to help if the dog chases a kid, the kid falls down and breaks an arm. The parents still have a right to suit her. Just because something isn't right doesn't mean that someone can't or won't suit you. I believe my grandmother called that biting your nose off to spite your face.
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  14. #14
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    Sep 2009
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    The park where this has been an issue is Marymoor park. It's an amazing park, and I think Megatron's favorite because it's huge, has long grass for him to sprint through and chase other dogs around the park, there's trails that we can walk through and we go hiking on a regular basis so this is something he really enjoys, there's water from the river for him to drink, and there's always a ton of dogs eager to play with him regardless of his size!

    Megatron was in a house with babies in children before we got him at 7 weeks, and he's always very curious and pleasant around them when they're not running. He'll walk up to them look them directly in the face and sniff them or lick them. Most of the time he's not too interested in adults at the park if there's a lot of dogs around for him to play with, but if we're out walking or anything he always wants to walk up to people and smell them.

    When he plays with other dogs, like I said he's very gentle, he usually matches their energy level with his own. But they jump on each other, wrestle, mouth each other, etc. and that's something that when he was in obedience class and they had their play time was seen as okay as long as when a dog yelped, the other dog backed off, and Megatron always did and does.

    Someone brought up what if a parent has a phobia and sees their kid being mouthed by a 140 pound dog... Well, I would hope someone with a phobia of dogs, even if it's just big dogs, wouldn't be found at the dog park. I definitely do not feel it is my problem in that situation.

    Also, there are no signs regarding kids at this dog park that I'm aware of. I'm not going to put my dog on leash at the dog park if I see kids running around, but maybe I'll just be more on top of him if I see that so that he does not actually reach the child, just in case he knocks them over. Before I would just kind of wait to see what was going to happen, because the kid doesn't always get knocked over, usually just scared. I think I'll make it a bigger point to communicate, "look, my dog is a nice dog but it's not smart to run at the dog park," rather than not say anything at all.
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    "Namaste, B*tches!"

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Biciclista View Post
    No one of course really touched on the real issues here. Number one; people think that dogs need to romp and play with other dogs. Do you see wolf packs interacting with strange wolves? No. We humans use dog parks like "we" think dogs need them. It's an excuse to be a lazy *** and not spend time with your dog interacting with them. I see more dog people chatting with each other and/or talking on the cell phone than paying attention.
    Perhaps mention to your friend that in addition to going to the dog park a couple times a week... We also take Megatron on a 1 1/2-2 hour walk every morning, an hour walk mid day, and a 1/2 hour walk at night?

    When we don't take him to the dog park for awhile, it's noticeable that he's even more high energy than usual and gets into things he normally wouldn't. We've socialized him since day one of having him because we were told with big dogs it's important to make sure they're socially well adjusted so they don't have fear-aggression and hurt people and other animals violently.
    "Namaste, B*tches!"

 

 

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