Posts Tagged With: dog attacks

Risking others in the name of socialisation

Well, it’s been a while and here I am, back with a rant.  A rant about owners of dogs who aren’t really sociable with other dogs.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with dogs who don’t like other dogs and no problem with those who own and manage them responsibly.  I’ve been there myself after all.  It’s the irresponsible ones I have a problem with.  The owners who are in denial about their dogs behaviour.  The owners who continue to allow their dogs to practise anti-social behaviour towards other dogs.  The ones who make up excuses as to why their dog is the way it is and why they’re doing next to nothing about the problem.  Or paying lip service to what they’ve been advised to do while continuing to do what they’ve always done anyway.

I don’t care what you call the problem.  Aggression.  Reactivity.  Iffy with other dogs.  It doesn’t matter.   Nor do I care why your dog is that way, whether it’s down to a lack of early socialisation, a vicious attack, being bullied by other dogs and feeling defensive.  Again, it doesn’t matter.  Quite simply, if your dog is going to rush up to another dog and attack him, whether with intent or just rude bully boy type tactics, then keep him on the leash.  If your dog is going to attack another dog that comes up to him then you need to take measures to prevent other dogs coming up to him.  Whether that’s walking at odd hours to avoid other dogs, avoiding off leash areas, learning to body block other dogs and teaching yours to stay behind you while you deal with the approaching dog or whatever.  And no, I don’t believe simply sticking a yellow ribbon or vest on the dog is sufficient precaution.  Will it help?  I don’t know, a muzzle and a shouted warning never had much effect so I don’t see how a ribbon or vest will be that effective.  I actually found that saying my dog had a contagious disease worked best to convince others that they should come get their dog.  Made me look irresponsible but meant a hell of a lot less stress for me and my dog.

I’m sure that sounds very harsh and unfeeling to some.  And of course it matters to the owner why the dog behaves the way he does and in some respects it may mean a different approach is needed when it comes to training and expectations.  It just doesn’t change the fact that the dog needs to be managed so he isn’t causing problems for others.  It is not fair on my dog to have a random dog rush across a field to threaten him.  Or even worse, actually hurt him.  It’s not fair on me as his owner to have to deal with the potential fall out from that happening.  People seem to think that if their dog can’t or won’t physically injure another (and just a note, ALL dogs can cause physical harm, I don’t care how small they are or how much bigger their victim is) then it’s okay, there’s no harm done.  Well that’s simply not true.  Very often the physical injuries are the least of it.  It’s the psychological harm done that’s the biggest problem.  The physical injuries are healed up in a few weeks, the mental scars left can last a lifetime.

But, back to the real point of this rant.  I am sick to death of seeing and hearing about people using other peoples dogs as guinea pigs to try to figure out and work on their own dogs aggressive behaviour.  Especially when they’re doing it without the knowledge or consent of other dog owners and just letting their dog interact with random dogs they meet.  Especially when they know that if things don’t play out the way they hope that other dog is likely to get hurt.  Quite honestly, I would be absolutely raging if my dog got hurt by another dog who was allowed to approach him and I found out the dog had done it before.  Not just once but many times.  And that the owner still allowed it to approach other dogs because “sometimes he’s fine”.   Yes, sometimes he’s fine.  But what about all the times he isn’t fine?  The times he hurts or badly frightens the dog you’ve allowed him to approach?  What about the effect that has on the victim?  And on the owner of the victim?

But let’s say you don’t care about the effect your dogs behaviour may have on others, I’m quite sure many don’t.  Let’s focus on your dog.  How does allowing him to practise this supposedly unwanted behaviour help him?  Simple answer, it doesn’t.  The more a dog practises a behaviour the more he’s likely to show it.  So by allowing him to keep approaching and intimidating other dogs you’re simply increasing the chances of him doing it.  Which is supposedly not what you want.  There’s also a good chance that one day he will try it with the wrong dog (or owner!) and end up hurt himself.  Or perhaps you as his owner will end up hurt.  And I’m sure that’s not what you want.  Is it?  I have to wonder sometimes.  Especially with those who used to tell me that my aggressive dog biting theirs might “teach him a lesson”.  No, it wouldn’t have.  Well, it might have done but probably not the lesson they wanted their dog to learn.  And it would have been an expensive one too as Rupert didn’t mess around with all this noise and slobber business.  Hence the muzzle.  Which apparently was an act of cruelty on my part according to many people.  Apparently “such a lovely dog” didn’t need muzzling.  Another comment I got a lot was “oh but he doesn’t look vicious!”  What exactly does a “vicious” dog look like?  I’m sure if Rupert had been a Staffie or a Rottweiler nobody would have questioned the need for a muzzle.

But again, back to the point.  I’m good at wandering off on tangents lol.  Yes, Rupert was aggressive.  I’m not going to dance around describing him as reactive or any of the other words people use to sugar coat it.  Reactive seems an odd word to use anyway, all dogs react to things in one way or another so surely all dogs are reactive?  Rupert was, plain and simple, aggressive towards other dogs.  Yes, I could probably clarify that he was fear aggressive but what would that actually change?  Nothing really, he’d still behave the same way and need working with the same way.  I worked on his issues as best I could in a world where people think it’s just fine to allow their dog to rush up to others uninvited.  Even on the main road at rush hour.  We never purposely put other dogs at risk in order to work with him though.  He was kept on a leash.  He was muzzled.  He wasn’t allowed to go up to other dogs and I did my absolute best to keep other dogs from reaching him.  He learned to go behind me and stay there while I dealt with approaching dogs.  I learned to be more proactive in seeing off approaching dogs and insisting their owners retrieve them.  I also learned to accept that Rupert was who he was.  That much as I might want it he was never going to be a “dog park dog”, the sort of dog who could be taken places and meet all sorts of strange dogs without any issues.  That he needed managing to keep both himself and others safe.

I think perhaps that may be part the problem with so many owners.  They can’t accept that.  They don’t want to accept that.  They want to wave a magic wand and have their dog be exactly the sort of dog they want.   And they want it right now, they don’t want to have to put in months or years of hard work to achieve it.  Adding to that, they’re so often told simply that their dog needs “socialising” which is taken to mean that their dog needs to be interacting with other dogs.  I see a hell of a lot of posts on Facebook and the occasional forum post from people looking for “friendly” dogs to help socialise their adult dog who “can be a bit funny with other dogs” and, perhaps more worryingly, I see a lot of responses from people offering their dogs up as guinea pigs.  I can’t help but feel they’re setting their dogs up to be badly hurt or frightened.  It’s all very well an experienced professional using carefully selected dogs as stooge dogs in situations set up to ensure the chances of anyone being hurt or traumatised is minimal, it’s quite another to have your average dog owner just meeting up with someone and hoping for the best.  Or, as so many seem to do, simply hoping for the best with random dogs and their unsuspecting owners.

I’m sure that to some I’m coming across as a real bitch.  Like someone who thinks any dog who isn’t super friendly and willing to put up with anything and everything should be locked away from the public or put to sleep or something.  That honestly isn’t the case.  It’s the complete lack of concern for others so many seem to have when they have a dog who isn’t particularly friendly that makes me angry.   I have a lot of time for those who have a dog with issues and who are genuinely working to try to solve those problems.  I have next to no time for those who constantly ask for advice and help, see trainers and behaviourists who give them professional advice, and yet continue to put the general public at risk with how they go about it because that’s the easier, more convenient (and usually cheaper!) option than going about it safely.

As I say, I’ve been there with an aggressive dog.  I know how draining and lonely it can be.  How heart breaking it is to have all your progress undone by one thoughtless owner.  I know how it feels to get the sighs and tuts, the disapproving looks and snide comments about vicious dogs being out in public.  I have a lot of respect for anyone who is genuinely working with their dog on this sort of problem.  It’s not easy.  There is no magic wand, no quick fix.  It’s hard work and a hell of a lot of management.  Same for those whose dogs who are fearful but don’t show aggression, so many people don’t see a shut down, frightened dog for what it is that the lack of reaction brings its own problems.  That’s something else I have a problem with actually.  Those who feel their frightened dogs should just “man up and deal with it” and force them to face whatever it is that clearly terrifies them.  I’ve had more than a few try to convince their obviously frightened (usually toy breed) dogs to come up and say hello to my large, bouncy Labrador.  And their embarrassed owners tell me how stupid their poor dog is for being frightened of other dogs, that he needs to grow a pair or something similar.  Same with other fears.  It makes me feel sad for the dog.  Where is the compassion?  The concern for how the dog is feeling?

Anyway, I think I’ll end that there.  For now at least.    I hope I haven’t come across as someone who thinks all dogs should be like Lassie, that isn’t my view at all.  This was inspired by seeing so many posts by people knowingly putting random dogs, and in some cases random children, at risk in order to “socialise” their aggressive/fearful dog.

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The impact of dog attacks.

Not a happy, cheerful, light topic today I’m afraid but one that hits very close to home for me.  Dog on dog attacks and the effects they can have on the attacked dog AND on its owner.  Somebody I consider a friend despite the fact we have never met in person had one of her lovely dogs seriously injured by an out of control dog last week.  Physically he is healing well and will make a full recovery.  Psychologically…well he’s not doing so well there and has ended up medicated to help her work through this with him.  Her other dog was not hurt but it has also had an effect on him nonetheless.  I’ve been given permission to quote something she wrote so here it is

The Impact of a Dog Attack.

Last week the world of my two RRs and I was changed in the blink of an eye. On lead and under control they were attacked by a dog which had escaped it’s garden. My eldest dog was the target; luckily his leather collar bore the brunt of the first attack but he still suffered serious injuries to his neck, shoulder and stifle which required suturing under general anaesthetic. Whilst the physical injuries are healing well, the psychological impact on both dogs has hit us hard. The youngest dog is now wary of other dogs, but with plenty of positive experiences he is doing well. The eldest dog, who is by nature extremely sensitive, has fallen to pieces. Unable to relax at all at home in case he hears a dog bark or tags jingle and unable to walk beyond the confines of our drive he is on valium to at least give him a little respite.

The recovery process is hindered by the amount of uncontrolled dogs bounding up to us whilst my dogs are on leads. I don’t care whether or not someone shouts that their dog is friendly; as well as it being plain bad manners it sets any progress made back considerably. My plea to everyone is that, friendly or not, dogs are kept secured and handled responsibly.

With much love, patience and understanding I hope that one day I will be able to walk both dogs together again and without fear – which is now impossible in all but the most isolated of places – and that one day my sweet boy can learn that other dogs pose no threat.

The owners of the attacking dogs just want to forget about it and move on.  Which, in my experience, is a pretty typical response, people don’t want to think of their dog being likely to do something like this after all.  But should they just forget about it and move on?  This was not an argument between two dogs, this was not a noise and slobber no harm done these things happen type of thing.  This was an attack that caused serious harm to a much larger dog and could very easily have resulted in the death of a smaller dog.  Can something like that really be brushed under the carpet as though it never happened?  And even if it can, should it be?

I’ve been on both sides of this situation.  I’ve been the one whose dog was attacked by a dog hell bent on causing harm and, as a result of one too many attacks (serious ones and the sort of bully boy behaviour so many dogs seem to engage in) he became extremely dog aggressive himself.  Rupert did not give much warning before attacking.  He generally froze and then when the dog got close enough he would bite.  Hard.  And he would keep on attacking until forcibly removed.  For this reason Rupert wore a muzzle in public.  No, it’s not nice to have to hold your hands up, admit your dog is a danger to others and take measures to ensure it doesn’t hurt anybody or anything.  But surely precautions need to be taken when you own a dog who will carry out a sustained attack with no real provocation?

The physical effects of an attack are bad enough but they’re often the least of it.  The physical wounds heal much more quickly than the psychological ones do.  Especially if you have a dog who is rather sensitive and doesn’t just bounce back from unpleasant things happening to it.  It is absolutely heartbreaking to see your dog so terrified by the sight of another dog in the distance or the sound of tags jingling.  It’s soul destroying to know you’ve put in a hell of a lot of work to teach your dog to be a well mannered member of society and to see that all undone because of those who simply can’t be bothered to keep control of their dogs.  And to make matters even worse, when you’ve got a large dog nobody seems to take them being frightened seriously.  They laugh about it, especially when it’s their tiny little dog the big dog is frightened of.  They admire the attacking dog for being so “brave” or “game” as to take on a dog much larger than itself.  They tell you your dog just needs to man up and get over it.

And of course there’s the effect seeing your dog attacked has on you as the owner.  I will never forget Rupert fighting with the dog that attacked him.  I’m sure others will never forget the sight of their dog curled up in a ball on the ground, screaming and bleeding.  It’s not something you just “get over” really.  My heart still stops when I see a loose dog charging towards us.  I’m still terrified that the mutual sniffing when my dog meets a strange dog is going to suddenly become a pitched battle.  I do my best to control it knowing that me being tense and worried will make it more likely to escalate but it’s extremely difficult.  Even now that I have a friendly dog with good social skills.

It’s not just aggressive dogs who are a problem though.  I’ve actually had far more problems with out of control friendly dogs than I have with aggressive ones.  It seems that most of the dog owning population believe that because their dog is friendly it is perfectly acceptable for it to go rushing up to any dog it sees, jam its nose up their bottom, jump all over it and just generally make a nuisance of itself.  Never mind that the other dog may be dog aggressive, frightened of other dogs, elderly and infirm, recovering from surgery or whatever.  I used to call out to people to come get their dog as mine wasn’t friendly, most of them used to reply with something along the lines of “oh mine is” and just carry on walking.  Or they’d tell me that my vicious dog shouldn’t be out in public.  Bear in mind that I very rarely went to off leash areas with Rupert (and when we did it was late at night when nobody else was there), we mostly road walked.

There are a couple of campaigns I keep seeing pushed on places like Facebook and forums trying to promote responsible ownership.  I have to say I’m skeptical of ones like the yellow ribbon one  (if a muzzle and a clear verbal warning doesn’t have any effect what on earth will a ribbon do?) but I shall yet again share them in the hopes that the message may sink in one day.

There’s the Dogs In Need of Space site http://dogsinneedofspace.com/

And the UK version http://www.dogsinneedofspace.co.uk/

There’s the yellow ribbon one too http://www.yellowdoguk.co.uk/

And the article I would love to print out and stick to every tree and lamp post I can find, Suzanne Clothiers “He Just Wants to Say Hi”  http://www.suzanneclothier.com/the-articles/he-just-wants-say-hi

 

Sadly dog attacks seem to be getting more and more common.  There seem to be more and more reactive dogs out there, more and more thoughtless owners who just let their dogs do as they please and to hell with others.  And on top of that dogs seem to be becoming welcome in fewer and fewer places which means they get less socialisation and are more likely to be a problem.  There are people who think it’s fine that their dog barks and snarls and snaps at people because it’s small and can’t do any harm.  People who think it fine for their dog to rush up to others barking and jumping all over them because it really “just wants to play”.  People who think that anyone who doesn’t like dogs or doesn’t want them jumping all over them shouldn’t go to a public park where dogs are allowed.  People who think that those who are frightened of dogs should just get a grip and get over their fears.  Is it really any wonder sometimes that dogs get such a bad rap?  Please folks, have a little respect and consideration for others.

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Dog attacks

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.

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