The politics of dog play in the dog park in Newport/ Melbourne

shar pei and vizsla playingAnyone with a passing glance at a shar pei will know that they are an unusual looking dog.

The history is uncertain but is believed to go back to at least 200 BC.   If you know anything about dog breeds, there are less than 2% of dogs that fit into this very old category with most being breed in the last few centuries. The shar pei is believed to be descended partially from the CHOW CHOW,  The shar pei was a general purpose dog, with primary focus on hunting small vermin, but also herding and guarding.

The significance of the age of this breed is that it is also known to be one of the 'ancient dog breeds' that besides having a long lineage, also share far more DNA with wolf ancestors than most other dogs.  Amazingly the shar pei looks nothing like a wolf, but it has inherited many of its characteristics, which on the downsides (for social urban living pets) also means more 'stubbornness' for training (so many owners have told me )  and a higher degree of prey driven play. For instance the inability to 'back down' or handle play that it considers to be a threat to its authority.

The trick with this of course is that not EVERY dog in a breed will exhibit strong breed characteristics. There are probably plenty of submissive shar peis' out there.

However knowing the possibility of an extreme event also makes it possible to enjoy the park more, by knowing what a breed can be capable of and diverting your own pack if they begin getting too excited in play, that could incite unwanted behaviour in another dog in another pack.

This dog was exceptional as it took some long running plays with the vizsla puppy we had that wanted to play. Understood the little jack Russell's warding off runs at it were anxiety driven and a request to not intrude further, and it left the other big dogs mostly alone who where weary of it (ie not up to long puppy plays).

Of course reading your own packs body language and how they react as a pack to an oncoming dog is very important in avoiding negative issues in the dog park.

shar pei and golden retriever We do that all the time, and usually its the first thing that a good pro dog walker will be aware of. That is, allowing play that is consensual and between equally sized, energy and temperament dogs if play is going to be initiated from one side. Any sized dog and breed can play together when they are completely social.

PS the owner of the shar pei said that her dog was hard to train, was regularly socialised BUT did not back down when it considered play to be bordering on pack status. They were a very good owner for realising these characteristics and being very present to how far their dog could play and how it was affecting the other dogs, but as said, its level of socialisation was such that it was able to easily overcome any breed driven inherent characteristics that could present an issue for less socialised dogs.

I also know that there are trainers that believe that dogs can be trained to exhibit NO characteristics of their breed, but not every trainer can do that, let alone regular dog owners, hence the reason why breed still can play a significant factor in play safety in parks.

That is why we love our dog park, responsible owners and friendly dogs, of all breeds.


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