Went to the dog park again yesterday - sorry, no pictures ... we were running late. We generally go every week now. At the point where we are in training (or re-training?) our Flat-Coat, he needs all the time we can get with other dogs. We go as often as our busy schedule allows which turns into about once or twice a week (don't forget it's a 45 minute drive each way and both my husband and I work full-time).
Anyway, we went yesterday evening with some friends to the dog park. The park I go to is a nice hike through some trees and over a hill - it's actually quite nice (aside from the fact that there is no water available for the dogs and it's pretty dusty on the dry days!).
All was going well until a boxer and husky we were walking with decided to get into a fight. I'm actually impressed at how often we don't have fights at the dog park - most dogs that go are quite friendly and well socialized. What started out as "catch me if you can" turned into grappling and mouthing which turned from honest fun to dead serious in the blink of an eye - amazing to see.
According to the owners, both dogs are under 3 years old. Both came with two owners (but one dog) - an unusual sight in our dog park ... generally the dogs outnumber the humans. The boxer had never been in a fight previously (to the owner's knowledge) though he was pretty pushy and rough with all the other dogs. The husky had been in a few fights before. The one owner of the husky made a comment that "at least this time he doesn't need any stitches".
Remember that both breeds are difficult to read and if the dogs aren't used to playing with that breed, it is difficult for them to understand what they see (the boxer has a docked tail and short fur so is harder to read; whereas the husky has the curly tail that is always raised which could be misread as assertiveness). Dogs learn through experience - they can't pick up a book and look at a picture to show them the difference between the tail positions for curled/docked or the difference for short/long fur.
The fight began right in front of my husband and I so we got a pretty clear picture of what happened. The husky didn't even know what hit him. The worrisome thing is that at the end, the husky had rolled on the ground and was not fighting back (not even to defend himself) but the boxer was still grabbing at the husky's throat and trying to do some serious damage.
All dogs can fight and every dog has a right to defend him or herself. When the boxer first arrived at the dog park, he dragged his owners down the hill and when he got inside the fence and off leash, he charged at all the other dogs and was pushing them around with his body. Some people might read that as an over-exuberant greeting but it looked like bullying to me.
The boxer owners weren't even aware their dog was in a fight until the end - they didn't rush in to help but rather hung back. I hung back also because someone had to keep all the other dogs out of the way - that was my job. Now, here is where I would like to remind everyone of a few things when you witness a dog fight or when your own dog is in a fight.
DO NOT scream. (Husky owner did this)
DO yell loudly in a deep pitch (the rest of us did this)
DO NOT pick up your dog after a fight (unless he's severely injured and shouldn't walk)
DO put your dog in a time out (both owners tried to do this but failed)
DO NOT coo to your dog after a fight (both owners did this)
DO show him you are very angry (the silent treatment works really well for this)
DO NOT pet your dog after it has been in a fight (both owners did this)
DO have someone keep the other dogs in check (this keeps all others safe)
DO NOT ignore all the other dogs and hope they won't get in on the fight (there are triggers that will instinctively encourage even the most laid back dog to join a fight ... like screaming)