how to decode dog park body language

Photo
Dogs playing with ball in dog park | How to decode your dog's body language
Posted by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan, CPDT-KA on Apr 08 2014

When at the dog park, it’s important to understand basic canine body language so you can assess whether a situation could lead to trouble. This blog post will help you recognize what kind of behaviors are ok and which ones signal that it’s time to intervene.

Appropriate body language

1. Butt sniffing and loose tail and body language

2. Wide, circular tail wagging

3. Play Bows

4. Butt Bumps

5. Playful Vocalization

6. Brief, fair, and harmless disagreements or corrections

Calming body language

1. Averting eye contact

2. Lip-licking, chewing

3. Submissive urination

4. Going Belly Up

5. Tail between the legs

Inappropriate body language

1. Hard Stares and Face-Offs

2. One individual chasing, pinning, targeting, or not letting up on another dog

3. A group of dogs mobbing an individual

Aggression vs. correction

There are times when a dog will correct another dog for something he deems inappropriate. This is totally normal, nonaggressive, and is actually good for teaching young dogs important lessons about canine social structure and body language.

Here are some examples of healthy correcting:

1. Stiff body posturing and pilo-erection or whale eye (hair on shoulders and butt stands up and you see the whites of eyes)

2. Loud woofs or snarks directed at an individual

3. Muzzle punching or lunging resulting in no harm being done to the dog being corrected

4. Normally done once and the argument is over

5. Appropriate corrections generally escalate in severity but result in no harm being done to the dog being corrected. If your dog is over-correcting, it may be time to give a time out.

When it’s time to go!

An important part of being a member of the dog park is recognizing when it’s time for your dog to end their dog park session for the day.

If your dog is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, it may be time to leave the park and come back later:

1. Stiff body posturing and pilo-erection (hair on shoulders and butt standing straight up)

2. Repeated correcting of other dogs, sometimes over very benign instances

3. Targeting, bullying, or stalking individual dogs

4. Fearfulness which doesn’t subside

5. Prey drive

How to break up a dog fight

Dog fights happen! It’s important when in a dog park to keep your cool if a fight breaks out so as not to escalate the situation.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for how to do it:

1. Collect loose dogs who are not part of the fight to prevent mobbing.

2. Start by making a loud noise like clapping your hands or shouting ‘No!’ or do something disruptive like dumping a bucket of water on the fighting dogs.

3. Do not grab dogs by collars or necks/faces to avoid a redirected bite.

4. One person should grab each dog from the hips, pinching the loose skin between their belly and legs, and pull out of the fight, wheelbarrow-style (remember, 1 person per dog!).

5. Remove fighting dogs from the park for the day.