Preventing Play Induced Aggression At Dog Parks

Preventing Play Induced Aggression At Dog Parks

Preventing Play Induced Aggression At Dog Parks

Research Team

Dog parks are a touchy subject for many dog trainers. While the concept of dog parks is wonderful, the implementation and reality of dog parks are challenging. Dog parks, in theory, are a great way to socialize your dog around other dogs and people off leash. For city dwellers, they may be the only time a dog is able to be off leash outdoors. However, the many stories of bullying and aggression displayed at dog parks are not to be ignored. Fortunately, a research team lead by Lindsay R. Mehrkam, M.Sc. at the University of Florida performed a study to understand what happens when play turns into aggression.

Factors That Contribute To Aggression at Dog Parks

Context is an important factor in understanding dog-dog interactions. The researchers were aware of this and took context into considerations. The team only took into account play that turned aggressive in order to remain objective. They also ended the video recordings at the very first sign of aggression in order to stay objective and prevent their personal biases from intervening in their observations. The size of the dog park was important. Larger dog parks had fewer cases of aggression than smaller ones. The size of the confined area affected how the dogs behaved with one another. They also observed high contact play usually occurred between dogs that were already quite familiar with each other.

Precursors To Aggression

The teams research discovered some simple and consistent predictors to aggression at dog parks. While these are not 100% guaranteed to lead to aggression, they are common precursors to it. Behaviors such as vocalizations and hackles near the tail were found to be common in play that lead to aggression. Additionally, dogs who tucked their tails at any point had a 58% higher likelihood of becoming aggressive. These specific behaviors can be observed fairly easily by anyone who knows what to look for.

Current Research Conclusions

The researchers concluded that aggression occurs in about 1 in 10 play interactions at dog parks. They discovered that owners did not intervene enough – only in about 5% of play encounters. They want to make it clear that there isn’t a single behavior that will lead to aggression 100% of the time so that should be taken into consideration. Context is extremely important in understanding dog-dog interactions. They concluded that the best thing to do is to be an advocate for the dog you are responsible for. Train them before entering the dog park so that you can safely leave challenging or uneasy situations.

Do you recommend your clients take their dogs to the dog park? Do you recommend they avoid dog parks?

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