You take your kid to the playground. There are many kids different ages, sizes and races. As you both enter, you encourage your kid to go and play with others. Some greet you, some do their own thing. Your child starts giving hugs and you yell out “No! Stop it!” He stops it and runs around with others, one or two kids fall during race and everybody gasps “What a bully!” You blush in shame hearing that, but try to hold your peace. Then he walks around holding hands with his friend and in frustrated voice you yell again “No stop it! Bad boy! Come here!” Other parents convincingly tell you that he is controlling and dominant. Kid is confused, as all he wants to do is play and show his attention to playmates. He comes back and you tell everybody that “He needs a time-out!” holding him tight by your side, while others play. He watches them with sad eyes, he wants to be with others. When children run by, his body turns to join them but you restrain him strongly to keep him close. Aggravated with comments from other parents you leave the playground. On the way home you lecture; why he cant play nice and have to embarrass you in front of others. Why he can`t be like normal kids?
Does this sound like good parenting or bad kid? This is a regular example of dog park visit when owners misinterpret their dogs behavior.
To understand dogs you need to know proper translation of certain actions. There is a lot of misconception that causes nerve wracking moments and most importantly harms the dog. Constantly interrupted interactions conditions in unbalanced behavior. Reversing already socially appropriate to socially awkward (alien to his nature) is the biggest mistake people make.
Most misunderstood way of play between the dogs in human perspective is humping.
Mounting (humping)- usually is sexual nature only in the beginning; puppy-hood (under a year) until they are fixed. Most of the cases dogs don’t take it as mating and gender doesn`t matter! It is a form of play that shows excitement(Hey! I want to be your friend!), interest (Hey! I like you!), desire to be close (like hugging and holding hands), setting boundaries (alike private space).
These gestures are not acceptable in human society but is the way dogs communicate in theirs.
“But I am embarrassed! ” – don’t be, its natural. “But he does it all the time!”- well that’s another story. Its unwanted continuous behavior so you have to address it from the beginning, if you let your dog do it all the time, he knows no better and does it! If you allow your kid to hug all the time, he will be a huger! Same time if you teach him when its appropriate and when not, he will follow your advice (most of the time at least). Like drawing a line, you can “hug” your friends when you play, but not strangers or furniture. Or if it gets too intense even with playmates, simply address it (without irritation or embarrassment). Limitations of unwanted natural behavior are necessary, because it will not go anywhere.
On the other hand, whats good about letting them do it, is that playmates will address it too! If one doesn`t want to be bothered he will show/ tell (let them figure things out on their own terms!) Usually dogs are pretty good to understand whats play, but some might take it as dominant gesture (and submit or decline). One or another, you have to let them set their own parameters of friendship. Same time, if you know that certain dog is grumpy loner, re-direct yours to go and play with others.
Please be considerate, understanding and positive when it comes to your children and dogs, they interact innocently without twisted ideas of an adult. They don`t carry baggage of prejudice but live life sincerely discovering and enjoying it. “The truth will set you free.” John 8:32