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Hellooooo. And Happy New Year!

So, it finally got cold and snowy today, which is awesome because we've been very un-wintery. So off we go to our dog park (which has recently re-opened, so yay!) We met our good buddy Sasha (the English Mastiff) and everyone was happily playing fetch. Actually Sasha just likes to steal all the balls, and hoard them, but Levi is easy, and Heidi is off doing her thing.

There is a wooded path behind the park, and lots of people walk their dogs there. Well out of the woods comes an adorable Border Collie. They start to bring her in, and I call my guys away from the gate to let her come in. All of a sudden Sasha and the BC started barking, and showing a little bit of teeth at each other. Sasha has done this before, and it is usually just turns out to be a little bit of barrier frustration, and she's fine once they come in. So they walk in, with the BC on leash, and Sasha loses her mind. She snarls, jumps in and grabs the BC by the neck. The BC starts screaming, the owners are lifting her up by the leash, and she is flailing around the a fish on the end of the line. A lot of noise ensues, and Sasha's owners struggle to pull her off (this is a 120 pound dog after all). My dogs ran away from all the commotion which was good, because i pretty much just went deer in the headlights, before struggling to grab Sasha. The people immediately left with their BC (with a few choice words for Sasha and her people), and didn't stay long enough to get any information or for us to see if she was okay. The BC was walking out, and seemed alright, but I don't know for sure. Sasha was put on leash and calmed down, but had several tufts of hair in her mouth.

Now Sasha's owners are concerned if they should bring her back to the park anymore. I said it was an isolated incident and probably wouldn't happen again, but given that I own a BC, I'm wondering what it could have been that set her off. I will say that Sasha has stood her ground in the past when dogs have been nippy/grumpy with her, but never anything like this. Sasha has also been pretty intensively socialized since 8 weeks. She just turned a year old in November.

Thoughts:
  • Sasha was defending her park, given that this was our first day back in about 3 weeks
  • The female could have been entering a heat cycle
  • Sasha's leg has been hurting her, maybe she was acting out?
  • Dogs are a little unpredictable, and we will never know?
 

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What did they do when Sasha started barking at the border collie initially? Did they call her away or physically remove her from the situation? Have other dogs barked back at her in the past? It sounds like the BC was reacting to Sasha's barrier frustration and they started fence fighting before the BC entered the park. It's not necessarily that Sasha's going to attack everyone that comes in, it's just that some dogs react poorly to a 120 lbs dog reacting to them like that, and the BC chose to show some aggression back. They probably should have put Sasha on the leash as well and walked them around together, allowed them to sniff each briefly, and see if the dogs would calm down rather than just allowing Sasha to bark at another dog like that and then go right up to it.

I think a lot of it had to do with Sasha's barrier frustration and that particular dog's reaction to her behavior. But I wasn't there, and your thoughts could easily play a part as well.
 

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I'd start with a vet visit and no park trips for a while so she can cool off. She might be in pain from something else, being territorial about her park, that dog in particular she was getting bad vibes from and wanted gone, any number of reasonable and idiotic reasons. I probably would say she's not a good fit for a dog park if this has happened even once, and to start using the area with signs (if nobody is around or only dogs she knows are around) to say that she needs to be put on leash before someone enters and to give them a sec, or just find different areas (trickier but not impossible) and use a long line.

Def suggest a vet visit, since it's uncharacteristic and pain would be my first guess/thing to rule out.
 

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I'm not sure about bi-laws at your dog park but dogs that bite other dogs have a 6 month ban at mine. I feel that is more than appropriate.

The second thing is--by the time a dog shows pain it's usually in severe pain.
 

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Is Sasha spayed? If the BC was also intact that might have been the reason. Thora (RIP) my DD's Mastiff would take a dislike to certain female dogs and go for them, it was more like warning them off but would sometimes end up in a fight. My DD and her BF knew which ones they were (actually I think it was really only one dog, a pitty-mix), and they would keep them apart, or the owner and the pitty would visit at their own risk.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
What did they do when Sasha started barking at the border collie initially? Did they call her away or physically remove her from the situation? Have other dogs barked back at her in the past? It sounds like the BC was reacting to Sasha's barrier frustration and they started fence fighting before the BC entered the park. It's not necessarily that Sasha's going to attack everyone that comes in, it's just that some dogs react poorly to a 120 lbs dog reacting to them like that, and the BC chose to show some aggression back. They probably should have put Sasha on the leash as well and walked them around together, allowed them to sniff each briefly, and see if the dogs would calm down rather than just allowing Sasha to bark at another dog like that and then go right up to it.

I think a lot of it had to do with Sasha's barrier frustration and that particular dog's reaction to her behavior. But I wasn't there, and your thoughts could easily play a part as well.
Sasha is a little independent, so she doesn't really listen when they call her away from the gate, and she did seem hyper-focused on the dog. I have a feeling they probably should have removed her from the gate, but I guess it was kind of a "my dog would never do that" kind of mentality.

I'd start with a vet visit and no park trips for a while so she can cool off. She might be in pain from something else, being territorial about her park, that dog in particular she was getting bad vibes from and wanted gone, any number of reasonable and idiotic reasons. I probably would say she's not a good fit for a dog park if this has happened even once, and to start using the area with signs (if nobody is around or only dogs she knows are around) to say that she needs to be put on leash before someone enters and to give them a sec, or just find different areas (trickier but not impossible) and use a long line.

Def suggest a vet visit, since it's uncharacteristic and pain would be my first guess/thing to rule out.
We have definitely noticed in the time we've known her that she is getting worse with dogs. And sometimes she's unnecessarily rough with Levi, which I'm not a big fan of. I have suggested getting an x-ray on her leg, so hopefully they go get her checked out.

I'm not sure about bi-laws at your dog park but dogs that bite other dogs have a 6 month ban at mine. I feel that is more than appropriate.

The second thing is--by the time a dog shows pain it's usually in severe pain.
I don't think we have any bylaws that would prohibit entry to a dog park, but I can't be sure as we've recently moved here.

Is Sasha spayed? If the BC was also intact that might have been the reason. Thora (RIP) my DD's Mastiff would take a dislike to certain female dogs and go for them, it was more like warning them off but would sometimes end up in a fight. My DD and her BF knew which ones they were (actually I think it was really only one dog, a pitty-mix), and they would keep them apart, or the owner and the pitty would visit at their own risk.
Yes, Sasha was from the humane society, so was sadly spayed at 8 weeks. I don't know if the BC was intact or not, just a guess.


All in all, maybe we will visit the park without Sasha for a day or two.
 

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Depending on how far away from the gate they were, did they happen to make strong eye contact and go for each other straight away? Personally, if there was a large dog barking and focusing on mine before entering a park I wouldn't go in with her. Period.

That being said, it could've been they knew they wouldn't agree. The mastiff told the dog to beware, the owner's still let their dog go in, and end result happened. We had a golden in clinic the other day that while waiting, saw a beagle coming into the clinic through the window. He (the golden) started climbing up on his mom. The beagle entered and there was a bit of a scuffle - the beagle started it. Neither dogs have a history of dog aggression, but the golden sensed something was going to go down and attempted to move away.
 

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Mastiffs spayed or not often times start to dislike same sex dogs as they get closer to reaching adulthood - generally 12 to 18mo's of age. That does not mean that she would not continue to get along with familiar dogs that she has known but may have trouble politely dealing with new females. Especially in an area she might not consider neutral. Dog parks certainly are not for every dog! many many dogs cannot handle the weirdness that is a dog park.
 
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To me this sounds like typical maturation for a mastiff, as K9Chaos has pointed out. Puppies of most breeds typically get along with everyone and everything, but for some breeds it's not usual for their tolerance for strange/new dogs to decrease. That doesn't mean she's unsafe with dogs she's familiar with, but her owners might be finding out she is not a dog park candidate. Perhaps if your dogs still want to meet up and she continues to get along with them you could have playdates in a fenced yard or something instead.
 
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