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[HELP]My BC just bit another dog in the park


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Hi everyone,

 

First off, I'm in touch with the other dog's owner and providing whatever information he is asking for. I'm also going to pay the vet bill.

 

I'm feeling very bad now, and on top of that, helpless. I wish my pup, Gogo, didn't do that and I also wish I had done better as an owner.

 

So, here is what happened:

Gogo and I were playing fetch in the park and the other dog(let's call her Jessica) followed Gogo. Jessica continued ran into gogo while Gogo was having the ball in his mouth. Gogo got upset and dropped the ball and snarled at her.

I didn't know there was an injury until Jessica's owner called upon me. One of her ears was bleeding.

 

So, I guess my question is:

1) What is the best way to train him out of aggression?

2) I haven't neutered him. Shall I do so? Would it help?

3) I trust that the other owner would not intentionally blackmail me, but is there anything I need to watch out for ?

4) What would happen if the vet bill is very expensive and I can't afford it?

 

 

I'm a foreigner living in the United States. New place, no family here — Gogo is my only family. And we would really appreciate any help! Thanks a lot in advance.

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First off, as much fun and convenience as they may seem, parks/dog parks offer a range of potential problems, and you've just been smacked by one of them - other people's dogs that pester, interfere with, get in your dog's space, or act aggressively towards your dog. So my first advice before all others is to avoid the situation, even if it means not playing fetch in an open environment. I don't know where you are located and whether you have other off-leash options but having frequented a couple of dogs parks (Brooklyn NY and Lexington KY), I'd opt for leash walks, jogs, and fun training somewhere else to occupy my dog's mind and body, and avoid potential problems that off-leash situations can provide.

 

1. He wasn't being aggressive from what you say, he was having another dog invade his space, hit into him, and cause a problem. In my opinion, even though he bit that other dog, the other dog was at fault (by either being aggressive herself or simply very rude in her play) and I don't really think it's your responsibility to pay for the injury (from what you say).

 

2. Maybe, maybe not. If your dog is not aggressive otherwise, and many males are not, it might do nothing (although I am a proponent of neutering dogs and bitches that are not intended for breeding as working dogs). If your dog is aggressive, it might or might not make a difference, and part of that may depend on the age of the dog being neutered. Once a dog is well-established in being aggressive, I don't think neutering will have any effect. But, again, it does not sound like Gogo is aggressive in nature, it sound like he was just defending himself in this case.

 

3. Let's not be paranoid. It sounds like a simple ear slash and should not be an issue but make sure to write down everything that you two discuss, etc., so that you have a record. It won't hurt to have your understanding in writing if you are worried.

 

4. Then set a limit on what you are willing to pay. Again, from your description, it does not sound like your dog was at fault but that the other dog was at fault. A problem is that you have already offered to pay for the vet bill and perhaps should have thought this through first, maybe gotten contact information if there were any witnesses, and proceeded from there.

 

I hope this all works out for you without any major problems. Very best wishes!

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What Sue said!

 

Studies have shown that de-sexing dogs doesn't decrease aggression and in fact, contrary to popular opinion, may actually increase it. So, no, I don't think neutering Gogo is the answer here, unless you have other reasons to do it. As Sue mentioned, preventing non-working dogs from reproducing is a most excellent reason, but in that case vasectomy rather than castration would be preferable because of various other health risks associated with castration. And if you decide on castration for any reason down the road, please at least make sure he's old enough that his growth plates have closed.

 

But as long as it's an isolated event I don't see any evidence of aggression in your account either. Gogo told a rude dog off. Forcefully, yes, but the other dog instigated it.

 

Wishing you well with the aftermath.

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We had this problem with a very non-aggressive dog who was cornered and nipped a dog at a dog park. She never had a problem with this at all before, and never did again. She was a real sweetheart her whole life. Anyway, I wasn't there, but my husband was, and he said there was no sign of damage at the scene, but the owner got in touch with us anyway and said he had a vet bill. Despite who was at fault, we paid the (not too expensive) bill, but before we released the money, we had our lawyer draft a letter in case the person came forward with "complications" or whatever. That was enough to never hear from that guy again.

 

So I don't think it's paranoid to think about this sort of thing. Especially in a big city. People can be both opportunistic and weird, and so it never hurts to cover your bases.

 

If I ever go to the dog park, I'm going to go when no one is there. Odd hours, or when it's raining. Otherwise, it's the trails for us.

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Hi, Sue, GentleLake and Coffeegirl,

 

Thank you all for your replying. It's really reassuring and relieving to hear what you said.

 

The good news is, the owner of Jessica is very reasonable and the ER said it was a very small cut and didn't even charge him anything. So financially, I don't have any responsibilities.

 

On the other hand, even if Gogo was merely defending himself, I worry about him.

 

It is inevitable in such public open space that a dog would chase my dog. And whenever it happens, Gogo will respond in a similar way. It used to be some growling and only evolved into a real bite this time.

 

To be honest, I've never seen any border collie playing with other dogs in my dog park. One time while on jetlag, I took Gogo to the park before 7am and saw two other border collies. The owners said they came that early to avoid the crowd cuz their dogs didn't like getting run into.

 

I was really considering to see a professional trainer and do some behavior modification. But from you guys are saying, I'm beginning to think there is nothing to be corrected of Gogo. I just need to play with him alone. Am I right? I'm a little torn.

 

I also wonder if this is a breed thing. Any input would be appreciated :) Thank you guys so much!

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We only do the dog park if we are alone, when someone else comes along we leash up and leave. Finley seems to have rules of play only he understands based on how he 'plays' with our shih tzu mix...although he seems to have Fin figured out and actually holds his own. I believe Fin would love to start the riot in the dog park and then sit back and enjoy the chaos! We don't ever take the risk.

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Hi, Sue, GentleLake and Coffeegirl,

 

Thank you all for your replying. It's really reassuring and relieving to hear what you said.

 

The good news is, the owner of Jessica is very reasonable and the ER said it was a very small cut and didn't even charge him anything. So financially, I don't have any responsibilities.

 

On the other hand, even if Gogo was merely defending himself, I worry about him.

 

It is inevitable in such public open space that a dog would chase my dog. And whenever it happens, Gogo will respond in a similar way. It used to be some growling and only evolved into a real bite this time.

 

To be honest, I've never seen any border collie playing with other dogs in my dog park. One time while on jetlag, I took Gogo to the park before 7am and saw two other border collies. The owners said they came that early to avoid the crowd cuz their dogs didn't like getting run into.

 

I was really considering to see a professional trainer and do some behavior modification. But from you guys are saying, I'm beginning to think there is nothing to be corrected of Gogo. I just need to play with him alone. Am I right? I'm a little torn.

 

I also wonder if this is a breed thing. Any input would be appreciated :) Thank you guys so much!

 

Think about what you are saying: its inevitable that other dogs will harass/chase my dog and I don't think that he should be allowed to respond and should just tolerate it, I worry that he will tell another dog to back off.

 

Why should he? I only allow my dog to play around dogs I know, who I know won't bully or harass them. I frequent empty parks (often in the rain! parks are empty when its raining) and spend time with friends with respectful dogs.

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Hi, Sue, GentleLake and Coffeegirl,

 

To be honest, I've never seen any border collie playing with other dogs in my dog park. One time while on jetlag, I took Gogo to the park before 7am and saw two other border collies. The owners said they came that early to avoid the crowd cuz their dogs didn't like getting run into.

 

I was really considering to see a professional trainer and do some behavior modification. But from you guys are saying, I'm beginning to think there is nothing to be corrected of Gogo. I just need to play with him alone. Am I right? I'm a little torn.

 

I also wonder if this is a breed thing.

What rushdoggie said and ---

 

I think that you can take your cue from the other 2 border collie owners (if they seem responsible). They understand that most border collies do not play well with other dogs and have accommodated that behavior. And yes, many people have said that border collies are 'breed snobs' and will only play (nicely) with other border collies.

 

There is nothing wrong with seeing a professional for 'behavior modification', but understand that not all trainers are behavior experts. They can help train tricks or obedience or agility, etc., but do not necessarily understand behavior modification. Please find a professional canine behaviorist, not just a trainer. Having said that, I wouldn't necessarily expect to train/modify my dog's behavior to be able to go and play in dog parks (like others, I do not think that the canine mob scenes at a dog park are a healthy environment). But if I could help my dog be a bit more confident and comfortable in certain situations, that might be enough. (Also, how old is Gogo? Maybe he also needs to mature to gain a bit more confidence.)

 

Many years ago, mid-1980s, I was living in Philadelphia and frequenting an urban park with my border collie/lab mix. I knew next to nothing about dog behavior/appropriate dog interactions, etc. Dog owners would come to one area of the park and let their dogs loose to play. I admit my dog played quite vigorously and liked to rough-house, but I think she mainly played with dog buddies that liked to rough-house. One day, she was just running around with a stick in her mouth and ran past a mixed breed dog (~35-40 lbs) that no one in the dog park liked, but we didn't say anything because, you know, public place, free use, etc. Plus I don't think she had done anything yet except slink after dogs and be a bit too intense in her interactions. As my dog ran past her (possibly invading her space?), I saw her head turn and then my dog yelped and dropped her stick. She then picked up her stick and continued running. I called her to check her out and found a 5 inch gash in her side. The couple that owned the mixed breed dog said that they didn't see anything happen, and that their dog was friendly. Then they left quickly. A few other people saw the 'bite', and commented that they never trusted that dog. I very rarely ever went back to that dog park, but the few times I did, I did not see the dog or her owners.

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It used to be some growling and only evolved into a real bite this time.

 

Hmmmm. This is a little -- and important -- tidbit that was left out of the original recounting.

 

It suggests that Gogo was already evidencing his displeasure with other dogs chasing him, and that this was not then an isolated event but actually an escalation of an ongoing trend. No way at this point to know if there was something about this particular dog's behavior that annoyed him beyond what he'd been before or if it's that he's reached a point where he has a generally shorter fuse. I doubt you'll want to allow him opportunities to find out which.

 

So yeah, the answer is to not put him in or allow him to get into situations where this is likely (and yes, now you do know it's likely) to happen. Because of the speed and distance from you, I don't really know of any way you could train him to change his attitude or act out on it in the moment.

 

You said the snapping incident happened when you were playing fetch with Gogo. Obviously I wouldn't play fetch with him anywhere where there were other dogs present and if one showed up unexpectedly I would end the game then and there.

 

How is he in a group of other dogs when there's no fetching involved? If he interacts appropriately then, perhaps you'd be OK taking him to the park just for a walk or to play if he'd like that. You'd have to always be on the alert for any hints of annoyance from him and remove him, and if it happens more than once most likely avoid them.

 

It's quite true what's said about border collies being breed snobs. I've observed it ever since my fist one over 35 years ago and with every one I've had since. I just don't see them wanting to interact or play much with dissimilar types of dogs who aren't already part of their social circle. Generally they'll just attempt to politely ignore the other dogs, but warning communications (e.g. growls) aren't uncommon. It can escalate if the other dog doesn't take the hint.

 

But put them in a group of other border collies they've never met and let the games begin. Mostly those games are chasing games rather than wrestling or otherwise rowdy play. They have a play style that's different from many other types of dogs. It's not at all unusual for border collie owners to avoid dog parks altogether and/or accommodate their schedules, choice of walking/play areas and even walking companions to avoid unpleasant (for either their dog or others') interactions with other dogs.

 

If you have the chance to ask the other border collie walkers, perhaps they'd be open to allowing you and Gogo to join them on their walks? You might find their dogs are compatible with yours. :)

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Hi there.

 

I'm sorry that your dog had this incident at the dog park, but I'm going to echo everyone else here: dog parks are not good for Border Collies or pretty much any other herding dog. Herding dogs are sensitive to personal space and movement. Border Collies in particular tend to get along better with other BCs.

 

I'm the experienced owner of a very reactive BC mix (BC + Cattle Dog). While my dog was a sweetheart (he passed two days ago), I would never, ever take him to a dog park. He was a "play police" dog who disliked it when other dogs became rambunctious. My other dog, a younger BC female, used to manage his behavior around other dogs (she'd nail him if he started to behave inappropriately, and she would bark at other dogs to back off).

 

The fact that this is an escalation of behavior tells you that the dog park is not a good place for him. You should definitely work with someone experienced in behavior modification. I would look for someone who has actual credentials in this. Ask around at the local agility club to see who they might recommend. Generally, you want someone who truly understands the science of behavior modification, not someone who is a pet dog trainer. I will say from my own experience that the behavior modification will generally involve training your dog to look to you for direction when the dog feels as if it has to react. It takes a lot of time, patience, treats, and learning the foundations of marker training.

 

Even though I worked with my older dog to the point where he could go to an agility trial without causing an incident, I realized that managing his interactions with dogs would be a lifelong process, even though most people never knew he was a reactive dog. He was a joy and a constant companion, and I miss him very much.

 

But I'd never take him to a dog park. And I'd never take my younger dog to a park, either. Rather, if I need to give them off-leash time, I go to agility classes. If you want to burn off some of that energy, I'd recommend adding a mental training component to your routine. That will tire him out more than walking him a couple of miles twice a day.

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I agree with what has been said above. I would also say that if it used to be a little growling and then escalated into a bite this time, there is something important to be learned from this.

 

Your dog was growling in order to tell other dogs to back off --telling them this is not a time he wants them to approach him. He was giving a good warning. This is a good thing.

Now, he may or may not have warned this particular dog, the one he bit, in that way. But you saw him growling previously.

 

If it had been my dog, and I saw growling at other dogs in that circumstance, I would have immediately taken action on it by never putting my dog into that position again. I would consider that a Head's Up to me that I needed to protect my dog from what he considered harassment from other dogs, and I would have either not played with the ball at the park, or much more likely never taken the dog to the park again.

 

You are saying you think this situation is inevitable at the park. Then: Don't take him to the park!

 

As others have said, many border collies don't do well in that environment because their style of play is different from other dogs' styles. My Jester was a fetch-focused dog, and if any other dog got near him while he was focused on his fetching he would snarl, snap, and growl at them. He considered what he was doing to be important work and he did not want interference. So, I made sure that never happened. Simple.

 

As his owner you are responsible for making sure that he is protected and comfortable. I don't mean protected in that other dogs would attack him. I mean protected from feeling harassed by other dogs. This is not a sign of aggression. He is just setting his boundaries. But as you have found, that can lead to problems. There's an easy solution and I urge you to take that route.

 

Best of luck!

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