Even Puppies Have Bullies

Sunday was another gorgeous day, so we took Scout to the dog park. It’s always a toss up regarding the dogs you’ll meet there. We had specifically arranged to meet Scout’s bud, Ranger, so we knew she’d have one good pal to romp around with. She was excited when we pulled up. She could see the dogs running around through the car window; she knew where we were.

The second time we brought her to the park (we took her into the large-dog area because there weren’t any dogs in the small area we’d gone to on her first trip), she was hesitant when we went in. Newcomers are often crowded by the other dogs, greeted with curious, friendly sniffs, tails wagging. Scout scrunched herself against the fence, tail between her legs. We wondered whether to step in or not (will we coddle her if we interfere?), but before we could settle on a direction to take, she’d mustered up her courage and was happily running around with the other dogs. This Sunday, she sauntered in like a pro.

The trouble started after we’d been there a bit. A dog that we’d met during our last trip, a black lab-bridle mix around Scout’s age, began playing with Scout in a very dominant way. She would nip at Scout’s ears and pull on them, jump on her back, and push her around. Scout ran away, and the dog would chase her, mowing her down and then standing over her, Scout submitting by lying on her back, tummy exposed.

We hated seeing this. The owner of the other dog was being watchful, but not interfering, so when the other dog wouldn’t leave Scout alone and we were convinced Scout wasn’t playing back, we stepped in and coaxed Scout to the other side of the park, where she started playing with other, older, dogs. Later on, I heard the owner say to someone, “Yeah, she’s playing kind of aggressive. She’s got a thing with ears.” Hmm…

Thankfully, Scout got some fun play time in before our second bully of the day showed up. Another dog (no idea the breed) started to pick on her, pushing Scout to the ground, standing over her, and growling while she nipped at Scout’s ears. This time it was obvious that Scout was uncomfortable, and I’d had enough, so I stepped in. “I know it doesn’t look good,” the owner said, “but this is how she plays.”

“Well, Scout’s tail is between her legs, so I don’t think she’s having fun,” I replied, and then separated the two. The owner took her dog away, and Scout looked at me with this expression that clearly said she was happy to be done with that.

We left soon after that. Scout was obviously tired, and we were disheartened by how the situation had gone. Scout seemed to be picked on more than the other dogs at the park (it was fairly busy while we were there). She was so submissive and wouldn’t stand up for herself. This must be why the dominant dogs were attracted to her. It left us frustrated, and wondering what we could do to help empower Scout to feel more confident when she comes into contact with dominant dogs. She doesn’t seem to be fazed by it once the moments pass, she goes on playing just as happily, but she definitely gives in to dominant dogs within seconds, flopping onto her back and exposing her tummy.

I’m thinking of calling her trainer and getting his input. I want Scout to enjoy herself but know how to say no when enough is enough.

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2 responses to “Even Puppies Have Bullies

  1. Baileys mom April 6, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    Hmmm, did u call her trainer yet? Bailey is a girl Labrador too and she can get submissive with certain dogs as well. I think its just their breed. Labs are just very gentle happy go lucky ya know?

  2. puppymakes4 April 6, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Hi Bailey, I haven’t had a chance to call yet, but you make an excellent point re: labs in general. They are a very gentle, friendly breed, and that certainly plays into the bullying we’re experiencing. We’ll let you know when we get in touch with the breeder and what advice he gives.

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