Given how my new year started, I’d like my first blog post of the year to be about dogs attacking dogs.
(I know the cover picture is actually a police dog in training, involving a human participant, but I couldn’t bring myself to locate pictures of dogs fighting, and I have huge – HUGE – respect for these amazingly well-trained canine officers.)
So what happened today to prompt this, of all possible topics, to kick off my 2018 resolution to write more in my blog?
In truth, I need to go back another day or so.
Last week, while walking Buddy on lead (as always) a man and his dog stroll into the park and walk through areas where dogs are restricted. The dog is off-lead and roaming freely through the kids’ play area, then sees Buddy. Now, this dog is a golden retriever. It’s always assumed that golden retrievers are lovely and friendly dogs, and this one was probably no exception. However, it had exactly zero dog/human manners.
Buddy is very reactive to other dogs – a topic for another post and something I’m actively working to resolve. But knowing how reactive he is to other dogs, I do everything I can to mitigate any possible situation that could result in a fight. He’s on lead. I have him in a harness I can hold on to and keep him close and tight to me. If that doesn’t work and he escalates more, I can actually slide my arm underneath it and hoist his front legs off the ground to steal half of his strength and keep him restrained. He’s a big dog, and if I’m going to be a responsible owner, I have to consider not just his safety and reactivity, I have to make sure he’s not a danger to anyone else around him. This takes a lot of strength and patience on my part, as well as an iron will.
There’s a reason I have chunky man arms! /flex
This golden retriever trots right up to us, and ignores Buddy. I’m not sure if this is necessarily a bad thing, but Buddy was already showing signs of defensive aggression – signs I can see as a thick-headed human, surely this other dog should be recognising these signs too! But, no. This dopey retriever simply trots by Buddy and gets between us to say hello to me.
Buddy barely tolerates it when dogs he knows approach me. He absolutely won’t tolerate it when strange dogs do it.
So, there was a fight. A very noisy, growly fight full of lunging and swiping.
The owner of this retriever realises – too late – that his dog is in the thick of a brawl, and I’m pinned to a fence holding my dog back from tearing his dog a new one. I’m barely restraining myself from tearing him a new one! Once a dog is engaged in one of these situations, especially if they’re of a certain disposition, they’re not inclined to disengage themselves. For whatever reason, rather than running away, this dog stuck with the fight until their owner came, leashed them, and then walked off (into another section of the park where dogs aren’t allowed).
There’s some danger to Buddy in holding him tight and close, because I may inadvertently expose parts of him to attack. But at the same time I need to keep him tight and close to prevent him from doing any damage to a dog without sense enough to get the hell out of his way.
Suffice to say, I was pretty peeved by that situation. But it was resolved without blood shed.
Fast forward to today and we have another dog attack – this time a golden labrador – another breed universally considered friendly and not at all likely to attack.
As always, Buddy is walking on lead beside me. We’re in town, enjoying the quiet streets for the public holiday. I’m catching Pokémon and checking in with the Pokéstops. A ute (flat-bed truck to my US friends) rolls by and pulls up at the intersection. He’s a good twenty metres ahead of us, but as soon as I see the dog in the back of his car, I stop and wait. I could tell that he would be a ‘barker’, and wouldn’t let us pass them by without kicking up a fuss, which would make Buddy react like a ferocious grizzly bear – again, this is a topic I’ll bring up in another post.
So, Buddy sits beside me, I feed him a treat, then look up to see if this driver has taken his turn and driven away. No, he’s seen someone on the street he wants to talk to, so he’s idling at the intersection. A quiet morning in a small town on New Year’s Day… why not?
Not knowing how long this conversation may last, I decide to pull Buddy in close and walk by. After all, the other dog is restrained. If Buddy is close and I keep him distracted with treats, then it should be ok.
Except this dog was not restrained!
Let me just repeat that to reinforce my utter disgust and alarm… the dog was unrestrained in the back of a ute, driving around town and probably along whatever highway brought them in to town.
The labrador jumps down from the ute and charges at us. Buddy, of course, lunges to defence, and I’m left reeling him in and trying to deflect this dog. Unlike the retriever from days before, this dog had hackles up and was ready to fuck shit up. However, just like with the retriever, my options were severely limited to trying to keep my dog close and away from hurting his attacker.
The owner of the dog? Still sitting in the ute. He had no idea until the friend he was talking to thought to mention that his dog had jumped off the back of his ute, and that awful noise interrupting their conversation was a goddamn dog fight down the road.
He gets out and approaches. His friend is quicker, but clearly isn’t eager to grab hold of the labrador and risk getting bitten. Understandable, to be honest, but still quite frustrating for me. I can’t remove Buddy from an attack by a loose dog. A loose dog determined to attack is going to follow, further removing them from their owner’s reach.
Eventually the owner grabs hold of the dog and drags him away, with a bit of a “Sorry luv” thrown my way. I think at some point I yelled “What the actual fuck!?” at them while I was literally in the midst of a dog fight and trying to make sure no one gets hurt – including me!
I was livid. Hell, recounting the situation in text, I’m livid NOW. Buddy, however, shook it off within a minute and was happily sitting beside me again before the man, his dog, and his ute left. I was shaking with rage, but had to keep my shit together to make sure Buddy doesn’t sponge my energy and want to continue the fight.
As before, there was no blood shed. Neither dog was actually hurt, which amazes me given the noise and energy of the lunging. I’m relieved that – at least so far – Buddy’s bite inhibition has left no real damage, and I may yet have a chance to work on his reactivity to dogs, provided he doesn’t keep meeting dogs like this!
Which brings me around to the point I’d like to make with this post.
Keeping your dog safe keeps other dogs safe!
I don’t drive a ute, but Buddy wears a harness and is strapped securely in the back of my car. Dogs loose in cars are hazardous. That little fluffy pooch of yours becomes a windscreen-breaking projectile in a crash. If you want your dog to survive a wreck, then you need to keep them as safe as you keep yourself.
If you do drive a ute, or whatever you call them where you live, restrain your dog! Use a crate if you can, but if you can’t, then make sure your dog is tethered on a lead short enough to make sure it can’t get legs enough over the side to hang itself – best to use a harness than a collar in this situation for just that reason. A loose dog on the back of a ute can (as I describe above) jump off whenever it likes and create mischief. This dog was lucky the ute wasn’t moving at the time! A loose dog on the back of a ute in a car accident can punch through the windshield of another car and kill the driver. A dog in that situation is not going to survive.
This is not how to travel with your dog on the back of your ute.
This is the best way to travel with your dog on the back of your ute.
Other ways to keep your dog safe is to ensure you have it under effective control in any and every situation involving other people and dogs. Your dog may be 100% friendly with everyone they meet, but you can’t be 100% certain that every dog they meet is going to be 100% friendly with them. Buddy, for example, is very reactive to dogs over a certain size, and it doesn’t matter how friendly they are, he will try to assert himself, push the matter, and start a fight. Again, this is a topic for another post, and it’s not exactly a point of pride. I’m not happy with his reactivity, but I can control it.
I can’t control the safety of your dog if they approach mine, off lead and without any kind of control from you, their owner.