The Dog Park issue

Rufus is a year old. He has a ton of energy. I know that. I get that.

And he doesn’t start fights. He barks at strangers as well as those he’s met before. He’s a protector. I get that.

And after a not-so-hot dog park encounter with someone who didn’t seem comfortable with other dogs, we have been avoiding the dog park. However, this morning was a crisp 15 degrees outside so I figured it would not only be sparse but only tough big dogs would be there.

I was right. Only a few people were there and my dogs just wanted to run and jump and play.

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It was a beautiful Colorado morning and the pups had a great time. Until it all went to shit.

Nobody is hurt, nobody is crying. But Rufus did have to break out the asshole behavior again.

It started when he got weirdly rough with Sophie. It wasn’t an aggression thing, more like an energy thing. He was super amped up, and Sophie needed him to back off just a bit. I put the leash on him but after a minute he seemed much calmer, so I took it off. Big mistake.

He found a lovely lab mix who wanted to play but not quite at the Rufus-level. The lab’s owner told Rufus to back off and tried protecting his dog, but Rufus kept running around trying to get him. And he would not come when he was called. I felt like the worst dog-owner on the planet. My dog was causing this ruckus and I couldn’t do anything about it.

The guy had an idea. He took his dog out of the park while I corralled mine into the small holding area between the two gates.  I put the leash on them and headed out to my car. I apologized profusely to the man and he was extremely nice about the whole thing, thank God. At 15 degrees you aren’t going to meet a whole lot of cupcakes who melt down over things like this.

We got home and I put Rufus in his crate. I was pretty upset and texted my dog-whisperer friend Morriah. I said I felt in over my head with this dog, that maybe I’m not the right owner for him and that I should stick with old lady dogs. She calmed me down. We talked training. I said an e-collar, or a shock collar might be necessary. She rightly pointed out that while those can be good, one for Rufus might make him even more skittish.

I looked up training spots on line and found one that looked OK, but it involved boarding my dog for two weeks and was about $1300.  Morriah had pointed out that Rufus is the dog who’s going to challenge me and push me. Unlike Sophie, who has been pretty damn awesome, Rufus is a challenge.

I’ll say this: he doesn’t growl at either people or dogs. He has fought back only once, and that was when he was attacked. His issue is his stupid teenage boy exuberance. He’s like a giant ninth grader who doesn’t get that others don’t want to hang out.

Morriah gave me the number of a trainer/behaviorist named Eric whom I called immediately. He said that he really dislikes dog parks because we simply expect our dogs to get along with other dogs, and that isn’t always in their nature. So dog parks are out.

I also said that while a training facility that boards the dogs might be in the future, I need to learn along with my dog. I have to learn what his issues are. Eric was all about that and we are meeting up next week.

My goals with this dog are 1) to have him come when he is called and 2) to be able to calm him down when he gets crazy. Anything beyond that will be gravy.

I have not dealt with a “protector breed” before. All of my dogs growing up were hunters with the exception of a terrier mix. Sophie was remarkably easy and frankly gave a completely inaccurate picture of how low-maintenance rescue dogs can be. We need to have a talk.

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