My experience taking Loki to local dog parks has been mostly pleasant. Loki turns 1 next month, and I’ve been noticing signs of his growing intolerance towards other dogs at dog parks. More specifically,
1. He snarls/snaps if other dogs sniff his face/butt, but tolerates it if he sniffs first
2. He prefers smaller dogs or dogs his size over larger dogs, and will assert dominance against larger dogs
3. He resource guards balls, toys, and especially sticks on the ground
The breaking point came today when I took Loki to our usual dog park. The moment he entered the park, he was unusually snappy towards dogs venturing into his space. In normal circumstances, other dogs take the hint and leave Loki alone when he snaps…but not this time. A persistant pitbull decided he didn’t like Loki’s snappy behavior and quickly pinned him down. No dogs were hurt, but I had to wedge myself between two snarling dogs to scoop Loki away from the pitbull.
Pitbull’s owner quickly called her dog away, and we waited a while before letting Loki down. He played with a smaller dog until he found something similar to this:
Loki: Back off ya’ll, this is MY stick
The problem is, I don’t know how to train him to stop resource guarding stuff around the dog park. I can easily take a ball or frisbee away…but a stick? A stick as big as this?! Reaaalllyyy?
Here is a video of him guarding against a friendlier dog, who simply backs off when Loki snaps.
A couple curious dogs come by to check out his stick. As usual, Loki gets snappy and the dogs back off…until Mr. Pitbull rejoins the crowd. No amount of distraction would take Loki away from his prized possession. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by dogs going berzerk from the brawl between Loki and pitbull. It was the first time I actually felt scared at a dog park, trying to manage a dog capable of easily biting my fingers off. Despite pitbull’s apparent size advantage, Loki had the nerve to lunge forward against him. As one lady put it, “hes a TRUE shiba!”
I was lucky that Andrew was nearby, who quickly picked Loki up by the harness and separated him from the pack. That was the last straw. We left the dog park with no injuries, but its clear after this incident that something has to change.
I’ve been debating all night with Andrew about this incident, unable to conclude which dog was more at fault. Was it Loki for being snappy over his resources? Was it the pitbull for responding aggressively to his snappy behavior? I don’t think there is a clear cut answer. I’ve read on shiba forums that many owners face the same dilemma.
Has anyone had success training their dog to stop resource guarding? Or are we doomed to avoid small dog parks all together?