GWP Dog Park Aggression

Posted by Nfrw
Apr 9, 2011
We have a 4.5 year old Golden Retriever and an about 16-17 month old German Wire Haired Pointer. The GWP was found wandering around the high school where I work when he was approximately 12 weeks old, based on his teeth. My husband and I fostered him for the local SPCA, and finally ended up adopting him last April. He has played at the dog park since he was 6 months old. He runs until he drops and had no issues until recently.

In the last two months he has started being aggressive towards other dogs, some of whom he has known most of his life. The trouble seems to be with bully breeds such as boxers and bulldogs. Sometimes it starts off as play then turns nasty. Today there was a mob of dogs waiting as we entered the dog park. It started almost immediately. I don't know if it was the boxer who started it, or my GWP, but we were finally able to separate them, and we left.

He has issues with walking on lead, chewing pillows, and jumping up when greeting people. He is fine with our golden, but does not get along with my son's lab, who nipped him when he had just come to us.

He has been through basic training. He comes, sits, leaves it, lays down (but the stay is still rough). If we are outside, he goes into the house on command. He'll go to the car on command. When in the car, he is so excited he whines.

We need to solve the aggression thing. Any ideas?
Posted by KOPCaroline
Apr 10, 2011
Hey nfrw,

First off, is the pointer neutered? If not, you might consider having it done, it can help with aggression problems.

The age he's at now is common one for social problems to arise during. Its good you're recognizing the change in him sooner rather than later, so you can get on top of this immediately.

You said he goes to obedience classes and knows commands well, has he ever been to a socialization class? Or have you considered getting a group of friends together to walk/socialize your dogs together, so he can learn to behave in a group but still be relatively confined?

Walking him with another dog (not your goldie) will help him to get on with other dogs, but he'll obviously still be controllable.

As far as basic training, try to identify signals that aggression is about to appear in your dog. If you go to the park and see a boxer/etc there, keep your dog on lead, walk him past and praise him for remaining calm, and then let him off lead when you are away from the potential problem dog. If another dog approaches, try to remain close to your dog and keep praising him while he's friendly. As soon as the aggression comes out, you should remove your dog from the situation. If you think getting a hold of him will be problematic, try keeping him on lead at the park until you feel comfortable with his remaining calm.

At home, make sure he knows his place in the family hierarchy, that is, that you are alpha and he must listen to you (and any family members!) If he knows his place he will be less likely to act up around you. You eat first, go through doors first, you can take toys off him, etc.

Let us know how he progresses and if he improves, we can always offer more advice! Good luck!
Posted by MaxHollyNoah
Apr 11, 2011
Hi nfrw,

It sounds very much like what happened to Noah, one of my dogs. I adopted him at about one yr old and he was fine at the dog park for the first few months. Then, all of a sudden, his aggression started and he got into a couple of fights. He was 1.5 yrs old. It has been almost 4 years since then and I still have been working on the issue continuously but he is still pretty weary and reacting to other dogs, especially boxers and huskies. He doesn't like the way they bounce as they approach.

I don't go to dog parks when it's crowded. I choose early in the morning and leave when people start to come with their dogs.

Since I am aware of his problem, I am rather trying to socialize him under controllable environments, by attending dog training classes and fostering dogs. He loves people and our other dogs and gets along well with all my foster dogs since I choose calmer and rather reserved dogs, especially herding breeds (that are not very playful).

I have taught him to stay away from other dogs that he feels uncomfortable rather than getting into a fight. He responds to my commands very well so I can just call him to me when I see the kinds of dogs that he might react at.

One thing I would not agree with KOPcaroline's suggestions is to leash your dog at the dog park. This can get the situation worse if you can not control the other dogs. If your dog is leashed, there is no way he can get away, if another dog approaches and starts a fight, your dog has no choice but fights back, and I don't think it's fair for your dog. When dogs are leashed, they tend to get more aggressive.

At walks, I just tell Noah to "leave it" when we pass other dogs. I always treat him and my other dogs when they could just ignore them even if they provoke my dogs. They have been doing much better now.

Each dog is different so I am fine with the way Noah is. Not all dogs are friendly. All I can do is to keep socializing Noah so that he doesn't need to react at every dog he sees, and to control the situations as much as I can.

Good luck
Posted by Skully
Apr 14, 2011
While I agree that the leash can create more aggression, you're already getting some aggression off the leash, so for now I'd keep it on. Ideally have other dogs on leash too and allow them to meet that way. The thing is though, you have to keep the leash slack w/ no tension. You also need to truly believe that nothing bad is going to happen. If you are tense or nervous your dog will sense this and feel the need to protect or fight/flight. If something happens, just walk away calmly and try again a few minutes later. Through repetitions the dog will learn the correct, polite way to meet a new dog.
Posted by kjd
Apr 23, 2011
I have a problem with keeping a dog on lead at a dog park. Why is he there if he is on a lead? Why not just walk him in the neighborhood? It is kind of like taking a kid to Disneyland and making him sit with you on a bench and watch the other children have fun!

MaxHollyNoah's suggestion was not to let him run wild in the dog park with dogs he fights with, but to bring him there when there are very few other dogs, and those ones he doesn't fight with. Remove him when the boxers and bulldogs come.

Use situations you can control walks, classes to teach him proper manners around other dogs and make sure he listens to you and ignores the fighters.

When you are in the dogpark, if his play seems to be getting too enthusiastic, and you are afraid it will get into aggression, try calling him to you. Reward him with praise and let him go back to playing. In fact, make a habit of doing this occasionally, no matter how he is acting, so he is accustomed to coming for a quick praise session.