Tip & Tricks 12 - The problem with dog parks

On leash and being difficult - off leash and in a dangerous position

Leash aggression can be portrayed in many ways and is often not actually aggression. There are many causes of dog issues at the end of a leash, overexcitement, being overwhelmed, lack of training and socialisation, and fear. Just to name a few.

If your dog starts showing unwanted behaviour at the end of the leash, think about the reasons why.  Have you exposed your dog to too many things too quickly and they are feeling overwhelmed? Have they been attacked, or even just growled at by another dog when out on a lead and are now frightened of other dogs? Just like people, dogs exhibit and cope with fear in different ways.

If you are having issues with your hound on lead the best thing to do is take control and go back to basics. Check out my previous blog on Introductions which explains the importance of taking things slowly so your hound learns to trust and respect you. If you have accidently put your hound in a situation where something bad has happened and have suffered a setback, this is the only way you will regain their trust. When incidents like this happen we feel terrible, completely to blame and lose confidence in ourselves - even if in reality there was nothing we could have done and it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I had a situation like this with Blondie, she was attacked by another dog when we were out on a walk. Luckily she didn't suffer any physical injuries but her confidence took a massive dent. She started growling and barking at other dogs, especially ones that looked similar to the dog who had attacked her. It was awful. We did get through it by taking a step back, being super aware of where other dogs were, always giving her heaps of space and putting ourselves between her and other dogs where we could. But it took time! There is no quick fix for most dog issues. Patience and consistency are of the utmost importance when training or retraining your dog.


My next point is a bit of growling does not automatically mean you have an 'aggressive' dog. There is a huge gap between a growl and a bite and it is very important as a dog owner that you don't over-react if your dog does growl. Growling can be excitement, a warning, even a play growl where they actually want to have fun with the other dog. Learn to read your dog - watch their interactions with other dogs and notice their body language. As hounds are very quiet in general it does give us humans a fright when this feral noise erupts out of them - but it is usually a completely normal noise and reaction for a dog.

If your hound does exhibit this behaviour and you want to change it, give your hound space from other dogs. Watch him as you approach other dogs and try to get a reading of when he goes from being comfortable to uncomfortable. As soon as you see signs of discomfort calmly move back into the comfortable zone, get your dog to focus on you and give him a reward. If you are consistent with this you will soon be able to get closer and closer to other dogs, with a well-mannered, comfortable and happy hound.

Our hound Priceless has a small space issue, she hates it when other dogs invade her bubble quickly and rudely (fair enough!) but likes meeting dogs if they are calm and respectful. So I watch other dogs around her and if one is rushing towards her I tell the owner 'watch her' - this usually causes a look of alarm on the person's face and they quickly get their dog under control whilst staring at the greyhound in horror. This gives me the opportunity to tell them that if approached in a rude manner she may growl and expose her fangs, though it never comes to anything and can give the other dog and owner a fright. Generally by then the other dog is calm and we can carry on with a meet and greet.

Never be afraid to stick up for your dog and encourage others to give him some space. Your hound is on a lead with you, because you put him there - it is your job to keep him safe!

Letting off steam

Moving on to off leash areas - where your hound can really let off steam, have a zoom around and blow out the cobwebs in a safe environment. Not all of us are lucky enough to have a space like this in the back yard and it is really easy to think the best place to do this is the local dog park.

I am not a fan of dog parks.

The area is usually super safe, with great fencing and a large piece of dirt so why could this be a bad thing? The problem with dog parks is other dogs.

Let's be honest, the majority of hounds have an average recall, can reach whopping speeds very quickly and develop painted on ears when a plastic bag blows past. You have no idea what the other dogs that are going to visit 'your' dog park are like. They may be a dog that has had little or no training, has had little or no socialisation and their owner just wants their dog to let off some steam running around too. They may be perfectly lovely but what if they are not? Can you guarantee you can get your hound back to you within the time that it takes for the new arrival to enter the gate and unclipped from their lead?

For me the risk is too big. I have seen too many incidents of hounds (and other dogs) having large holes put in them because of an altercation with an anti-social dog at a dog park. Also the odd incident when a newly adopted hound was inappropriate with a small fluffy. It results in big vet bills or worse and is avoidable.

If you must use a dog park please use with the utmost caution. Use a muzzle (protect your dog), go at low traffic times and always keep your eyes on who is coming in the gate. For alternatives ask your local Gappers, there may be a paddock nearby that the owner is happy to allow a hound a leg stretch or a local dog training club may be able to offer or recommend a suitable place.

Remember it is your job to keep your hound safe.

Happy Training

Special thanks to Blondie, who helped me write the blog and also deleted some - thank goodness for auto save and 'undo'!

Bec, Priceless & Blondie

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