I'm beginning to realize that Payton and I actually share several personality traits. We're both over sensitive, though I am over sensitive to words and emotions, while he is troubled more by things and sounds. But both of us are, um, strong-willed, shall we say, and neither of us are social butterflies. At the dog park, Payton does not flit around and play with anyone who is half-way willing. No, he'd much rather set his sights on one or two pups in particular, and try to play with them whether they are interested or not (yes, I do tend toward this direction too, though I like to think I have the social grace to realize when the other party is not interested and leave it at that). And, for better or worse (and it's mostly for worse), we can both become a tad bit bullying; i.e., "you will play with me and by my rules or I'm going to take my toys and go home." Or, in Payton's case, "you will play with me and by my rules or I will poke and nip at you until you succumb." He's not being deliberately mean, but he doesn't always realize when he's being overbearing.
Needless to say, I try to keep an eagle-eye on Payton at the park so that I can stop him when he starts to get into bullying mode. I even bought a training collar for distances (he knows I'm trying to stop him when he gets this way, so he dances away from me while continuing to harrass the other pup); I primarily just use the sound trigger, and that has been pretty darn effective about steering him out of trouble.
Yesterday at the Dane play group, he became particularly attached to another young male, Cooper. He and Cooper played just fine until another dog came in and also started playing with Cooper. As soon as there were two other dogs seeming to pick on him, Cooper got scared. One dog was fine, but two got to be too much. So I tried to get Payton out of there each time another dog started in. Not necessarily fair to Payton, but I know my dog, and I'm not going to let him be involved when another dog turns from play to fear.
Something about Cooper seemed to attract other dogs. One in particular was a very sweet, but very persistent border collie who kept trying to mount Cooper at every opportunity, including when Cooper was playing with anyone else. Since I was monitoring Payton, it was easy for me to pull off the boder collie when I could see Cooper was starting to get troubled.
Apparently, I committed the very cardinal sin of disciplining another parent's child. I will say right now that I still think I was right to give Cooper a break when I saw him starting to get concerned. I WILL NOT stand by and let a dog get scared when it is a preventable situation. The majority of people at the park would come get their kids when they realized that it was becoming a gang situation rather than just playing. But for all the world, it appeared that no one was watching the border collie.
I had just pulled Payton and the border collie away (very nicely, not with the kicking and screaming that some owners do when they think they're dogs are suffering), when a man shoved his face into mine and demanded to know why I kept holding his dog. I explained that I was giving Cooper a break because the border collie had been harrassing him all morning (which was true...we never saw Cooper without the border collie, no matter what other dog was there, so Cooper spent a good bit of time whirling and snapping and trying to get back down to just him + one other dog). Still right in my face, the man continued to badger me, telling me how they were playing and didn't I understand playing, and how I shouldn't be touching his dog (who was sweet and I did spend time loving and petting him too), all the while trying to call his dog to him (who wouldn't come, by the way). I think what bothered me the most is that Cooper's dad was right there and didn't say a damn word; that, and the violation of my personal space--I still see the man's face hovering a few inches from mine.
True, it's not necessarily my place to protect Cooper since he's not my dog. But damn it, he was being harrassed, he was becoming fearful, and with Great Danes, fear biting is never a good thing. I just couldn't stand by and let Cooper get more and more fearful when simply holding off a couple of dogs would give him some breathing room.
I'm still upset about it now; as I said, I'm over sensitive to words and emotions. And, I keep thinking of the things that would have been better responses, and might have gotten through to him better. The way it is, we're both left with feelings of bitterness and self-rightousness, feelings which will continue to affect me because I'm not good about brushing these incidents off. If only I had a gift of being able to say the right thing at the right time...and refuse to be drawn into confrontations...and brush off insults and problems.