Q: When I bring my pup to the local dog park, she keeps getting humped by other dogs. It's very frustrating to me, especially because many of the owners won't do or say anything until I point out their pets' actions. I consider our trips there to be QT between the two of us, but others are too busy sitting on the sidelines, talking on their cell phones, chatting with each other, or just not paying attention. Help!
A: Wow, as tempting as it is for me to go off on disregarding pet owners, I'm going to tackle the violation issue only. Unfortunately, this can be a natural show of domination or playfulness by some dogs and, if the behavior isn't curbed early, they'll continue to do it. The problem here is that neither ignoring this behavior nor giving a strong reprimand will make a big difference . . . in fact, that can often make matters worse. The best approach is to offer a quick correction (e.g., gently pushing the dog off) followed by an immediate distraction to hold his attention after the fact. Now, because the offending dog is not yours, I wouldn't recommend touching him during this process. Try to divert your own pup's attention with a toy or treat causing her to come towards you . . . and away from the other dog. Distraction can help the other pooch too so see if you can redirect his attention as well. Varying the behavior you cue as the disruption from humping (sit, fetch, come, etc.) will keep your intervention interesting for the dogs, and avoid encouraging new obsessions as well.