Need help to find an explanation for my dog’s behavior at the dog park.

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Okay so my dog is a strange one. He is a male (neutered) 3 yr old Euro Boxer who normally has few issues at the dog park. Big dogs, small dogs, males, females, intact dogs, dogs that hate him, dogs that love him a little too much, he can get along with them all. However, he sometimes feels the need to be almost an unsolicited bodyguard to certain types of dogs: puppies or teacup/very small dogs. If there is one in the park, he is obsessed with it. It is his designated baby. It’s actually very cute to see how gentle and almost maternal an 80lb megabeast can be with a 10lb dog or tiny puppy. He doesn’t play with them like he does larger dogs. He sniffs them, licks them, follows them around, or lays down next to or near them in between playing with the bigger dogs. He knows certain tricks that can eventually win over the most apprehensive or hateful of teeny tiny mini dogs. However, the “this is my baby” situation sometimes leads to him getting into a squabble with other dogs.

The point at which we know we need to intervene is when we see his body language change from fluid, bouncy, and playful to this bizarre, slow, very deliberate stand over his baby: starts by stiffly standing behind or next to the baby, then he cocks his head to the side while staring down at the baby and moves his paws one by one so that he is standing directly over the baby, kind of like Michael Myers when he’s about to stab his victim. This happens when the baby is laying down and larger dogs are approaching it to play, or he is in the middle of playing with other dogs and the play moves close to his baby.

Once he is rigidly standing over and staring at his baby like a psycho, any dog that tries to make contact with it or tries to continue play with him will end up in a fight. If we are quick enough and figuratively hear the Halloween theme music going off, we can redirect him before an argument starts. If a scuffle does break out, he is easily redirected and after only a few seconds goes back to playing with the dog he was fighting off as if there never was an issue. The other dog he was just fighting with also seems totally fine to continue play once he initiates it with a play bow again.

I was just wondering if anyone has a clue as to why he might be doing this. I just don’t know wtf is going through his head. The little dogs or puppies he guards (Assuming he’s guarding them and not thinking of eating them) are not dogs he is very familiar with. Is it just a personality quirk? Why does redirecting him for a second or two completely squash the fight? Is it partly tension building during play that needs to be diffused?

Let me know if this is not the right subreddit to post this to. I realize this is a training subreddit but I figure that those familiar with training would most likely have expertise in canine behavior as well.

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