Dog's body language can signal trouble-makers

Canine behavior expert looks for intensity, not breed

ORLANDO, Fla. - In the fast-paced world of dog parks, attitude is everything.

According to dog behavior specialist Todd Langston, if you know what to look for, you can avoid dog park "bullies."

"I'm not looking at breed when I walk in," Langston said.  "I'm looking for energy."

Langston trained under an apprentice of famed Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan and established a dog behavior company called Pack Life K-9 Behavior Solutions.

He says energy in a dog park has two elements: excitement and intensity.  In Langston's view, elevated excitement and intensity can create the perfect storm for a dog fight.

"Intensity is something you feel and often hear," Langston said.  "If a dog seems intense and seems vocal, that dog can be a problem."

One of the best windows into a dog's frame of mind is its tail.  A wagging tail is not necessarily the sign of a happy dog, Langston said.  Instead, Langston refers to the three positions:

  1. If the tail is straight up and tense, it signals potential aggression.
  2. If the tail is tucked under, that signals a timid, nervous dog, leaving the pet a possible target to aggression
  3. If the tail is level and relaxed, that dog is friendly and a perfect guest in the park.

A recent study by the Veterinary Pet Insurance company found policy holders paid more than $8 million on medical conditions "that are commonly associated" with a visit to a dog park. Those medical conditions include lacerations and bite wounds, head trauma, sprains and soft tissue injuries and parasites.

Dr. Marika Laszlo of Affiliated Veterinary Specialists says there are additional risks if the dogs are not healthy.

"If people haven't picked up the stool, other pets can pick up bacteria through the soil and then through the skin," she said.  "The water can be a hazard if there's a lake there.  If it's during the very warm season, they do get amoebas."

Langston helps dog owners deal with behavior issues. For more information go to

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.