While my dog (Nela) and I were at the dog park the other morning, another dog came running in wearing a muzzle, who we'd encountered in a negative way the day before...
Flashback to the day prior, as we were about to enter the park, that same dog came racing to the gate in her muzzle, plowing into it before we entered. She was snarling and growling from the other side, that made Nela start growling too.
On second thought...
Rather than entering a hostile environment, I waved at the owner inside, and we walked away. After a few steps, I heard the gate clink behind us, indicating the dog had left, so we went back to do her business in peace.
It's pretty common knowledge that when dogs feel restrained, confined, protective, or territorial, they can become aggressive, especially those that have been traumatized in some way. While aggression between dogs is quite common (often to establish dominance), some breeds have a worse reputation than others, especially those born and raised to attack.
So does separation decrease or increase aggression?
Our dogs reacted like enemies, divided by a fence, fearing the unfamiliar, to protect themselves, their pack, and their territory.
It made me think how I'd feel if a stranger entered my home without my permission (threatening), versus a stranger walking into a common area like a lobby, rest room, or restaurant (not threatening).
It makes you wonder... are humans really that different?
The day after that negative encounter, when we were already inside the dog park taking care of business, I felt immediately apprehensive when that muzzled dog came running in. Nela did too (her back hairs stuck up like a hyena).
Instead of reacting in fear and defense, though, we both stood calm, and managed to keep our cool...
I kept a pleasant tone of voice while they smelled each other and took turns marking a few spots (a.k.a. peeing). After a few more sniffs, Nela was ready to leave (thankfully, because it was frickin' cold out).
It was a welcome surprise that their encounter was not aggressive like the day before, and you could tell it created a sense of ease in us all.
The benefits of facing fears, and allowing positive experience...
What touched me the most was how that previously vicious dog started prancing around, tail wagging, clawing at her muzzle (because I'm sure it's uncomfortable), wanting to play.
My heart melted, because under that tough exterior was just another loving dog, wanting to feel free, safe, and loved.