Dog Park Trauma with my big, dopey Mastiff.

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We went to the dog park today, the same one we have gone to every week since we adopted our four year old Cane Corso Mastiff from a Cage Free Dog rescue where they allow the dogs to run free throughout the day at their facility. When we go to the dog park, we typically play fetch with the bounty of tennis balls scattering the ground. We've been there with a larger crowd and smaller crowd, but usually it matters not because my boy just wants to play fetch with me. He's fine with other dogs when they're low energy or surrounding the water hole. Occasionally he'll get a little bit growly if one of the other dogs is getting too friendly with him, but usually he just leaves the other dogs alone. He communicates with his body language very effectively that he's a huge dog that just wants to hang out with his owner.

Today was another story. A German Shepard wouldn't seem to leave him alone while he was running after the balls. My dog got fed up and turned around and a quick but frightening fight ensued. He got the German Shepard on the ground very quickly. The German Shepard's owner screamed at the top of her lungs, but didn't do anything to communicate with her dog. My dog heard me yelling and disengaged very quickly and came to me when called. I held on to his collar while the woman collected, cuddled and then left slowly with her dog without acknowledging me asking "Is your dog okay?" She left without a word.

I talked to a few of the other people there and asked what they thought I should do. They said she had overreacted by screaming and that it was fairly normal dog behavior with them sorting out the pecking order and establishing their space.

After waiting until she had left and letting my dog chill out for a minute, I continued throwing the ball across the large park for a few more rounds but then another German Shepard mix and another dog started chasing after my dog, wanting to steal the ball from him and then sniffing him while he took a break to pee. Another fight broke out with the mix. He again took the dog to the ground but stopped right away when I started yelling at him to stop.

We left right away after that. There were too many people and the energy seemed very off. I felt everyone's eyes on me and my dog. The judgmental vibe was intense.

Here's the thing. I know Cane Corso Mastiff's are protective dogs that tend towards not doing well with other dogs. I know to be very wary of him around other dogs and making sure that he is very attentive to me is very important. He's a very big, male dog from a breed that is only barely not on the city "dangerous dogs list." I don't want to communicate that I'm ignorant of the breed or the shortcomings I need to be aware of. I've worked very hard to develop a strong, loving relationship with him and he's very receptive to my training, but I'm always going to have to be aware of his breed and their tendencies.

That being said, up until this point, he had never had any incident that dramatic happen at the dog park. We adopted him from a place that assured us that he does fine with other dogs based on them not using cages or kennels to separate their dogs. It's the only place near us that is fenced in to give him the opportunity to play fetch and do a little bit of socializing. I walk him every day for multiple miles but every once in awhile it's so nice to let him really run for some exercise and fun.

The gist of my post is to ask this question: Should I not be bringing my dog to that dog park anymore? If I know the issues with the breed and I know that he has the capacity to react aggressively with other dogs, is it my responsibility to not bring him there to protect him and the other dogs? I've had dogs before but only living in Chicago with a huge yard and multiple dogs, so dog park culture is a bit of an unknown territory for me. What do you all think? I really appreciate your help.

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