There’s recently been a thread on one of the forums I’m a member of about what you should do if you, your dog or your child is attacked by a dog. There seems to have been mixed responses about it with some saying you’re best just letting it play itself out, some saying you should use this method or that method to get the attacking dog off and others saying you should do whatever it takes. But when you hear about dogs attacking and not being stopped by being hit with planks of wood, hammers, shovels and even shot non fatally it makes you wonder just what you could do in the face of a real attack.
Now in my experience, most of the attacks on other dogs aren’t real attacks at all. There’s lots of noise and scary looking and sounding behaviour but there’s little to no physical harm done. These dogs in my experience tend to be nothing more than bullies and while it’s certainly not appropriate behaviour and can do a lot of psychological harm to their target stopping an attack of this kind is usually not that difficult. Usually I can send these dogs on their way with nothing more than my voice and my body language. Like human bullies they seem to want an easy victim, one they can scare and push around with no danger to themselves so me stepping up and telling them firmly to go away (sometime less polite terms are needed but usually even the worst trained dog has learned something that means go away) accompanied by confident body language is usually enough to convince them that my dog will not be an easy victim.
But I’ve also been on both sides of a dog attack with intent and that is a completely different thing. The first time was my own dog, Rupert, being attacked. The attacking dog came flying across a large field towards us, Rupert went belly up, his attacker latched on to him just below his throat. There was no growling, no snarling, no barking, no posturing or anything. This dog just raced up and grabbed my dog for no apparent reason. I’m sure he had his reasons but I’m damned if I know what they were and quite frankly I didn’t give a monkeys at the time! I ended up choking this dog with his collar until he passed out and could be pulled off Rupert without me causing more damage. Not the safest of measures since I could have so easily been badly hurt myself but I couldn’t stand there and let him and Rupert tear each other to shreds without me even trying to break up the fight. Because Rupert didn’t just lie there and take it, he fought back. And I can’t blame him, I’d fight for my life too if it came down to it! In fact Rupert ended up with some puncture wounds and bruising while his attacker needed lots of stitches. To this day I don’t know how Rupe got away so lightly, I can only put it down to thick, loose skin where the other dog had hold of him and the fact he was so much bigger and had the other dog up in the air almost all the time so it could get no real purchase to do any damage.
The thing is, nothing I did before strangling the dog until it passed out did anything to make it let go. I’d kicked it, punched it, hit it with my leash and everything else I could think of. I don’t advocate violence towards dogs but when one is making a serious attempt to kill my dog to hell with being nicey nice. And even when strangled off and quite badly injured this dog jumped straight back in when its owner let it go while we were still nearby. So I had to bloody do it again! And then a few weeks later this dog once again attacked Rupert. This time I saw it coming and managed to squirt it in the face with lemon juice but it didn’t even seem to notice and again latched on to him until choked off. Both times the young woman with the dog stood there screaming and crying and wailing about how he’d never done anything like this before. I later found out that this same dog had previously killed another dog and should have been leashed and muzzled at all times when in public.
These attacks caused Rupert to become very defensive around other dogs and several other incidents with the bullying type of dog I mention previously meant he decided that the best form of defense was a good offense. Several years after these attacks on him I witnessed him attempt to kill a Doberman. I was on my way to class with Rupert leashed and muzzled as usual when I hear someone shouting and see this Dobe racing towards us. Now to be fair the Dobe was all prepared to be friendy until Rupert kicked off but once Rupe started it the Dobe wasn’t backing down. Well, not until it realised Rupert meant business anyway. Despite being muzzled and no bigger than the Dobe Rupert seemingly effortlessly flung it onto its back and attempted to tear into it while the Dobe screamed and screamed and tried to get away. Once I had some help to unhook Ruperts front legs from around the other dog splitting them up was easy as neither had hold of the other so it was just a matter of pulling them apart. I have no doubt that had Rupe not been muzzled the Dobe would have suffered serious injuries. As it was he was just bruised and absolutely terrified of Rupert from that moment on.
Personally I believe prevention to be the best measure against dog attacks. If a dog is charging towards mine I don’t hang around to find out whether it’s an over enthusiastic and rude friendly dog, a bully who’s looking for some fun or a dog truly intent on harm. If I can I walk away quickly without making a big deal of it to Spencer, don’t want him picking up any vibes that an appropaching dog is a bad thing. If walking away isn’t possible or doesn’t work then I’ll get in there with the Voice of Doom and body language before it reaches Spen. Easier said than done at the moment as Spen is firmy convinced all dogs are his new best friend and will launch himself towards them with his whole back end wiggling while I attempt to stay between him and the unknown dog. So far the dogs who’ve approached have been friendly thankfully although Spen’s been told off by a few for his overly enthusiastic greetings.
I also learned about canine body language so am able to spot potential problems before they actually become a problem. Which is a good thing since so many dog owners are absolutely clueless about what their dog is saying! The number of people who’ll say their dog is friendly when it’s body language is anything but friendly or who will say their dog is fine with something when the dog is screaming out that it’s really not comfortable with what’s happening is beyond belief! I’m teaching Spencer behaviours that will hopefully stop potentially aggressive dogs from reacting to him because one dogs behaviour can have a HUGE impact on how another dog reacts. A dog may be fine with passing a dog who is sitting calmly and watching its owner but may well react aggressively to a dog who is standing there staring at it and possibly barking or lunging at it. I can’t work with these dogs but I can work with my own to minimise the chances of another dog having an aggressive response to him. Ruperts body language and behaviour caused even usually friendly dogs to react badly to him which resulted in a vicious circle, same with the rottie mix I had, Wolf, although he never became aggressive himself. My collie, Shadow, on the other hand pretty much ignored other dogs, barely even glanced at them as they passed unless they came to him in which case he was polite, and it was extremely rare for another dog to so much as look at him funny. Now maybe it’s coincidence but with a species that communicates primarily through body language I would think that body language plays an important part in how dogs react to each other so I figure I’ll try to teach mine things to make him as non threatening as possible.
But I think I’ve rambled enough on the subject now. I don’t even have any pictures to break the wall of text up. I suppose I could find the picture all the papers in the UK seem to use whenever there’s a dog attack, the one of a supposedly snarling staffie which experts say is actually a picture of a staffie sneezing, but I don’t think we need pictures like that do we? Hmm…maybe I should take a picture of the snarling, snapping Shih Tzu that lives near here, horrible little dog it is but nobody ever reports it as dangerous coz it’s “too small to do any harm”. But let’s not get started on that topic, it’ll give me somethign to rant about another day lol. Well done to anyone who’s actually reached the end of this post! Hope you’re all well and it won’t be too long before I’m back in Germany with my husband and dog and able to give updates on his training again.