A dog walk in inner west Melbourne with a strong male DobermanI recently had the pleasure of walking the social 4 year old Doberman called ' Hunter' again in the inner west dog park in Melbourne.
I have walked him before but that was a year or so ago. Dog trainers will say there is nothing to this, maybe, but many of them are equally scared of 'what might happen' with such a powerful dog off lead in a dog park.
I don't do their job, and I doubt that they could just as easily immediately do what I do. Though what I do, at face level is nothing all that amazing.
It does require similar traits of a dog trainer, leadership, persistence, not getting flustered, not allowing anger or fear to surface in any situation. Being there for the dogs.
Fortunately while (a potential problem) is in the back of my mind whenever I walk a powerful dog, or see other powerful dogs in the park that I don't know, just like in the rest of society there is a certain level of trust that people are going to bring social dogs to the park to socialise and exercise.
The trick for Hunter was that he had not been exercised for a few days because his owner had a fall (caused by him pulling on lead). When I picked him up to join our pack, I quickly swapped the lead over from his car harness to his collar.
He was fine in the car with the other dogs (once I convinced him to jump in the back with them) and none of the pack were frightened enough to let on that they had any concerns, because they are social dogs. At the park I let all of the dogs off except for our Doberman, which I kept on lead for the first half lap of two laps. This was just so he remembered who was holding the lead and he got used to how the pack was waling and playing and he could partially bond with them as his pack.
Off lead for the rest of the walk he walked with the pack and reasonably far away from the pack, as a few other dogs I have also do. Not out of sight for long, but being a fit adventurous dog, he made sure that he made up for his two days inside.
The doberman and the staffy sorting it out on the dog walkMy main concern was actually our regular dog walk staffy. She has come a long way in her socialisation since being trained to behave off lead, but she still has those little explosions of staffy excitement where she can potentially play a little more rough than I or some other dogs like. Dogs that are social, and know that she is social, will play the game with her, she loves to chase. Working dogs that are robust and very social are the preferred play partner for her, but today she set her sights on our new Doberman.
I could tell that while this Doberman was social and high energy, he probably wasn't going to want to play a game of chase for long, he would more likely want to control the chase, if in fact he wanted to play at all. That is why I was very on hand when the staffy had its first run past the Doberman trying to make them run. Only when it didn't run and the staffy barked and got too close, did the Doberman snap and bark a loud social but very definite instruction for staffy to desist, and they did.
This is not a great deal different to dominant dogs trying to dominate or mount another dog in the park. They chose their target, estimate they are social enough and try it on. With social dogs they can decline plays and being mounted with neither dog suffering damage.
People who regularly work with Dobermen dogs will know they regularly rate in the top ten of dog obedience intelligence rankings, meaning that besides being very loyal, they pick up instructions fast, and know right from wrong. So the only question is a dog's tolerance level and how social they really are. One thing that few people realise is that when a Doberman is clearly the physical dominant dog in the pack, even if it is brand new to a pack, that has known each other for years, there is often a unique agreement where the Doberman will become protector of the pack. It assumes this role because of the dogs breed breeding. It doesn't attack other dogs that approach (because it and the other dogs are social) but it often takes on the big brother platform voluntarily, guarding.
And so it was today. Our staffy tried getting the big dog to play a few times, but was declined each time, which I was thankful for as it limited the staffy's excitement level and did not force the big dog into a corner of thinking it had to escalate its decline.
This can seem like a balancing trick but reading body language and knowing each dog goes a long way to knowing how they are going to react in most situations, and this in fact just increases its socialisation, a positive experience indeed ! Both staffy and Doberman had a good time out and got to work around or negotiate what they each wanted.