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Chris10

How to handle negative reaction to much larger dogs?

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I've recently been trying to take my border collie out more to get her socialized and to get used to being in new places. I took her to a local dog park and usually she's nervous at first but then after a while she will get a little better. She usually doesn't have any problems with the other dogs- she usually just rolls on her back when new dogs greet her. At most the only "issue" is that after a while of being at the park, when dogs are running around she'll start trying to herd them.

However, the other day I took her and there were only two other dogs there at the time but they left shortly after we got there and then my friend met me there with her dog who my dog is fine with. After that though, someone came in with her two leonberger dogs (which are massive dogs) and I guess my dog didn't know what to make of them since she hadn't seen dogs of that size before. I was standing with my dog, my friend and her dog, and the owner of the two leonbergers (her dogs had wandered to the back), but then they started to walk up to us and my BC started to growl and bark if they got to close to us (even the owner of those dogs). I had her follow me away from them but anytime they came close she would do the same thing. At one point she started acting more protective (I'm assuming) even though the dogs were so mellow and well behaved.

I put my dog on her leash because I was thinking it would just be better to leave or even to just keep her on the leash and away from the dogs until she calmed down a bit but then other people were telling me that leashing her would make it worse so I took the leash off and was going to give it a few more minutes to see before I left.  Eventually we got her to realize they weren't a threat and she stopped barking at them. But is it wrong if I had kept her on the leash? (Not for the whole rest of the time and not around the other dogs) I didn't want her bothering the other dogs but I don't know how else to have corrected her. She's 1.5 years old and unfortunately still learning. 

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My advice is don't take her to dog parks. I am personally not at all a fan of them for many reasons, and several people on this forum are of the same mind as I on this issue. dog parks are dangerous because you never know who will be there with what kind of dog, how they will or will not manage their dog, whether or not the other dogs are carrying disease or fleas or ticks, and so on.

Additionally, it has always seemed to me that taking a dog to a dog park is like taking someone to a loud and raucous party where they know no one and are expected to fend for themselves. Some dogs do OK with this, others don't. Your dog doesn't sound from what you are saying as though she is enjoying it. If she is rolling on her back when other dogs approach her, that is not "having no problem with other dogs". That is being intimidated and trying to appease the other dogs because she is frightened.  Finally she starts growling and barking. She was very unlikely to be protecting you; she was frightened and trying to protect herself because you were not protecting her. Find a different way for her to get exercise.

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Agree w/D''Elle's post. Dog parks are not good places to take border collies. There's a lot of stimuli to take in ~ motion, scent, sound all at once and all around. For a dog who is sensitive to motion particularly it's highly stimulating and not in a good way.

"Herding" is a trained in behavior, based on the border collie's innate sensitivity to motion. Until the behaviors are under your control, because the dog has been trained up, it's harassment. And likely to be taken as such by other dogs.

Your impulse to leave was a good one. Please don't take her to dog parks unless you're sure there will be nobody else there. And be ready to leave if someone else shows up.

What other kinds of training have you done with her? Scent work, agility, tracking, trick training, are all great ways to bond with your girl.

Ruth & Gibbs

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