We’ve all been there, you’re enjoying a fun afternoon romp with your pup at the local dog park, when out of nowhere your dog gets jumped by a four-legged tyrant who won’t play by the rules. Instead of running, chasing, and play-wrestling, they pounce on your sweet dog in an overly exuberant and, this is key,—clearly unwelcome way.

You take your pup to a dog park to play, socialize, and burn off some steam, and not to get abused, scared, or hurt. So what is the right action to take if a bully begins to take advantage of your dog?

Dog park bullies aren’t necessarily bad dogs. Most simply don’t possess the proper social skills needed to get along with other pups in an off-leash environment. A bullying dog doesn’t usually display overt aggression, but instead acts in an extremely pushy manner, with relentless jumping and nipping or incessant chasing and barking. Unlike well-socialized dogs who know what’s acceptable (and usually have the sense to choose a compatible dog to play with), dog park bullies lack this good sense.

A well-behaved dog can become a bully when paired with a dog with a different energy level. A rambunctious dog, for example, accustomed to playing hard with other high-energy dogs, might overwhelm an older, slower pet who isn’t used to such intense energy. Or, a well-socialized dog, when placed with a more nervous pet, might become antagonistic toward the worrisome dog, whose reluctance to socialize confuses and irritates the more outgoing pet.

If the offending animal appears to be not just pushy but blatantly aggressive, it’s important to be careful for your own safety while still protective of your own dog. If the dog seems dangerous, you can clap, yell, throw dirt—whatever you need to do to get the dog off of yours. Once you do, leash up your dog, leave the area, and report the incident to park officials or the police.

Luckily, most bully dogs won’t be aggressive to humans; they just want to push around their own kind. If this is the case, step in decisively while clapping and loudly telling the bully to “get!” At the same time, look for the other dog’s caretaker, who should be nearby. Once the person sees you step in and object to the abusive behaviour, they will usually deal with the issue and be apologetic over the dog’s poor behaviour. So embarrassing! In any case, it’s often best to find an area of the park away from the bully so your dog can relax. A great way to shut down bullies at the dog park is to bring along other dogs your own dog trusts and likes.

Having their own “pack” there will boost confidence and help in dissuading bullies from stepping in. Your pup have fun, and you’ll be less worried about strange dogs spoiling the moment!