We found a new dog park, closer to home, with a group of regulars that meets every evening.
Bugs was initially fearful and displayed fear aggression. She had her hackles up, teeth bared, growling and barking at the 12 or so other dogs there. I put her in the small dog area (which, at this dog park, is much nicer, with little hills and trees and things of interest.) She raced along the fence, and after just a minute or two, started licking the other dogs through the openings! I let her acclimate a little more and then made the decision to put her in with them.
SHE DID AMAZING.
She let all the dogs sniff her, and then with some invisible cue, they were all off and running. She was confident, assertive, and excited, but not overly so. She ran all around and kept coming back to me for a pat, but after maybe twenty minutes she stopped doing it to me and started doing it to everyone else. She did jump up on everyone, bonking their faces with her nose. We really need to work on that ... :-/
All was grand until a beautiful black Great Dane showed up. The Dane was fine - it was the owners that were trouble. Nice people, but fearful. I could feel the anxiety pouring off them. Bugs was near the gate with a GSP and a lab mix, and it was like slow motion - the whole attitude of the pack changed and suddenly even the friendliest dogs were on alert. The GSP started the nastiness, growling ferociously (or, well, as ferociously as a GSP can growl) at the newcomers. Bugs watched him closely, and then started to growl as well, taking her cues from him. The GSP then turned his fear and aggression on Bugs and attacked her. She fought back and a lady got in between them to break them. Of course, my dog, being the new one, and carrying her breed's bad rap, got blamed for it. But it wasn't her at all. She was reacting to the situation. This is not the reaction I want from her - she should have backed off and came right to me, but she is a puppy and this was her very first experience with a large pack.
A man grabbed Bugs, and she tried to bite him. I would too! If I was acting aggressively and a strange man just picked me up from behind, I'd go for his face too!
BUT here is where it gets bad. The man SMACKED her right in the snout with a closed fist!! Then he literally tossed her into the small dog area.
I immediately leashed her and left. I should have said something but I was all shaken up, because it all happened in flurry of teeth and fur, even though it seems like slow motion now, and I was standing literally right there, helpless.
Now I am stuck in a bad position. This dog park is great and the dogs have good energy. Even that little bastard GSP - his energy was good until that woman came to the gate. Dog pack + anxiety + newcomer = fight, usually every time. But how in the world can I possibly bring my beautiful girl there again, with a human that has no qualms about hitting a dog?
Now part of me wonders if he took those cues from me, because when Bugs got there initially, I corrected her for aggression. A quick poke to the neck - NO PAIN - and a low, growly sound, which is impossible to type but is her cue for correction - and that's all she needs. Everyone saw this and I wonder if this guy thinks I was using a more physical correction. Even so, there is no reason to ever - EVER- hit a dog, especially one that you've never met before.
Tomorrow I'll be at the dog sanctuary all morning and then Bugs has obedience class at 2:30, and I'll definitely bring this up to the trainer and get her opinion on it.