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Is Cooper too submissive for the dog park?

joeysmama
May 18th, 2007, 12:10 PM
Cooper is not yet 2 (not until August) and he's the sweetest friendliest dog I've ever seen. Even my aunt who HATES dogs wants me to bring Cooper when I visit. We can put drops in his ears, pick him up when he's eating, take his bone--nothing sparks temper in this dog. He's very submissive and has a dopey "ain't life grand" smile on his face most of the time.

Problem is--other dogs seem to be pretty aggressive towards him. There's a cocker spaniel on the next block that is off leash in her yard because she's fine with people and other dogs. Except she's very growly to Cooper and we have to carry him past that part of the neighborhood. A poodle a few streets over wanted to make mincemeat out of him. There is one little dog a few doors away who is even more submissive than he is. She rolls onto her back the minute we step foot on the pavement in front of her house. Other than that doggie most of them aren't nice to him.

The vet and the groomer have both told me that other dogs can sense that he's very submissive and that makes them even more aggressive towards him. Sort of like bullies on the playground picking on the more docile kids.

Well a new dog park opened in town and I'm curious about it but also very nervous about taking Cooper there. Do you think that I should follow my instincts and let him be a mama's boy who visits only the nice little girl on his street and goes to Mc'D's with his mommy? Or is this something that I can work on and we can go to the park? Am I doing something wrong? Should I try to fix this? Is it fixable? Am I being over protective or intelligently prudent ?

Smiley14
May 18th, 2007, 12:20 PM
I don't have any real advice for you, but hopefully someone here will! I just wanted to comment that my Petey is the same way. Everything you described about Cooper's personality fits Petey as well. He's submissive to anything and everything, LOL! Although, I've never had that problem with other dogs before. Most just want to play with him or one time, tried to hump him and he just ran away from them. I take him to the dog park all the time with no problem.
But since you are seeing this be an issue with other dogs, I wouldn't recommend going to the dog park yet. It seems like it would be too uncontrollable a situation just in case and the risk just not worth it. But anyway, what I was going to suggest was perhaps try first a training class or some kind of play class where you have a more controlled environment. Petey has learned a lot working with the other dogs in our training classes and while still submissive, he has learned to be much more confident and happy. Anyway, just a suggestion! Good luck with Cooper! He sounds like a darling! :lovestruck:

jessi76
May 18th, 2007, 12:57 PM
Except she's very growly to Cooper and we have to carry him past that part of the neighborhood.

If you have to pick him up to get past a growly dog, do not try the dog park. JMO.

a dog park is generally filled w/ dogs of varying sizes, temperments, and training. not all dogs are well behaved and/or have social manners.

Instead, perhaps set up smaller play groups w/ dogs you know and trust. Ease into socializing. once Cooper is a bit more socialized then maybe try the park. If Cooper is so submissive that he actually lacks self-confidence, a dog park may be a big mistake. other dogs will certainly pick up on it. It could be too much, too fast.

Also, how YOU react has alot to do w/ it. picking the dog up when faced w/ a fear, IMO, only reinforces the fear. it rewards the fear. unless there is obvious immediate danger I would refrain from picking him up. obviously if this snarling dog isn't restrained or fenced, and you must pick cooper up for safety reasons, then do so. but otherwise, you should build up Cooper's confidence so he can walk past.

I agree w/ Smiley, a training class, or controlled social group would be a good first step.

Lukka'sma
May 18th, 2007, 12:58 PM
I have seen so many agressive dogs at the dog parks that hearing of a submissive one is a nice change.
The parks where I live have a section fenced off for the smaller dogs or the less enthusiastic dog that is just not ready for the rough and tumble that the larger area could bring. If your park does not have this maybe you could get in touch with the city workers who run the park and make a suggestion about fencing a section off that would cater to any dog that is not up to par and is not ready to go into the large area.

Scott_B
May 18th, 2007, 01:51 PM
Also, how YOU react has alot to do w/ it. picking the dog up when faced w/ a fear, IMO, only reinforces the fear. it rewards the fear. unless there is obvious immediate danger I would refrain from picking him up. obviously if this snarling dog isn't restrained or fenced, and you must pick cooper up for safety reasons, then do so. but otherwise, you should build up Cooper's confidence so he can walk past.

I agree w/ Smiley, a training class, or controlled social group would be a good first step.

Exactly. Picking him up when hes afraid is the worse thing you can do. Don't coddle them, tell them its ok, etc. Tell them in a fun voice hes being a silly boy and don't make a big deal of it.

Most bullmastiffs go through a spooky stage where pretty much anything can spook them, like a stop sign that they've walked by for months or a rock or whatever. You never coddle them. Just tell them they're being silly.

But yeah, start this pup in a group class. Talk to the instructors and explain you want to build his confidence up.

joeysmama
May 18th, 2007, 04:42 PM
The thing is--he isn't afraid of the dogs. I don't pick him up unless I feel that he's in physical danger. He did great in puppy kindergarten and even though she kept the big and small dogs in different areas for play time he would try to squeeze through to get to the big boys. It's almost like a little kid who wants to play but can't understand why the bullies aren't being nice to him.

I think I'm going to take all the advice here and try to socialize him in small settings. The sweetie on the next street, and my friend's big old suck of a golden. And maybe when I have a couple more bucks another training class.

But we'll take a pass on the dog park for now.

Thanks fo all your help. I really appreciate the honest advice !

Good luck with Cooper! He sounds like a darling! He really is !:lovestruck:

Prin
May 18th, 2007, 10:39 PM
I agree not to coddle him, but at the same time, you have to make sure he knows you're a safe place. If my dogs come to me at the dog park because somebody's bugging them, I don't hide my dog or anything, but I do shoo the others away and tell them to leave her alone (it's usually Jemma who comes to see me). I'm her alpha, and it's my duty as the stronger member of the pack to fight the battles she can't or doesn't want to.:shrug: JMO...

Longblades
May 19th, 2007, 01:23 PM
Sounds like lots of good advice has already been given, especially no coddling and extra socialization. My own girl is very submissive as well, to humans as well as dogs, and even cats. Agility training was suggested for her. It works sort of like Outward Bound does for some, by building strength and confidence in physical ability while working in a controlled group. It is hoped that the confidence gained there will spill over into other aspects of life. I can't say if the agility really worked or if she just matured after three years of it but she did become more accepting of strange people. With dogs she really always was friendly but never did like rough play. And she LOVED agility and it was fun for both of us. Worth a try maybe?

It is too bad you are meeting so many aggresive dogs. I think some are just like people, bullies if they sense a weakness. I usually let my girl make the decision as to whether she will play with a certain dog, I trust her to know her limits. In 14 years she has been attacked twice (and not hurt) by bully dogs, most others seem to take her body language as being non-threatening and leave her alone. I have been advised that it is best to let the dogs meet off-leash so body language can assume it's true doggy form. It is said that dogs on-leash can be more aggressive and can express and read body language incorrectly due to being restrained. If I can find dog authority links to refer you to I will post them. I am not a trainer, this is just what I was told.

Longblades
May 24th, 2007, 07:44 AM
http://www.canis.no/rugaas/index.php

Above is the link to the website of Turid Rugaas, a Norweigian lady who is much admired for her training methods on another doggy site I visit, Champdogs. Now, I have not read any of the books she recommends myself but others have and swear by them and snippets of what seems to be very good advice has been received from them. Another author she recommends is Patricia McConnell whose methods are also often referred to on the Champdogs site.