Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dog Fight

Someone asked me a while back to post an entry about what to do when a dog is attacking your dog ... I'm sorry - I can't remember where it was or who it was who asked for this. I am finally getting around to posting an entry about it! Why now? You'll see at the end of my post. Sorry for this one being so long - I have been trying to keep them shorter!

Note that I did post an entry back in December called News Reel - Strategies when You're Attacked. This contains an article in the Toronto Star Newspaper that details what you should do if you or your dog is attacked while you're out. I really like the answers given, but would like to add my 2 cents to this.

Please remember that it always depends on the circumstances involved, the training of your own dog, the size of both dogs (attacker and defender) and the severity of the attack.

If you have a small dog, NEVER pick the dog up and hold it up high. This seems to be our first instinct when we are walking small dogs and are confronted with others attacking. Always remember that most dogs are half our height until they are up on their two back legs ... then they are much taller!

I know so many people who have done this only to have the attacking dog jump up and try to bite at the little dog. Guess what happens? Yep, the dog misses the little dog, gets the person holding the little dog and causes extreme damage.

I know one GSD who was put to sleep after he tried to bite at a JRT and ended up grabbing the lady's forearm. There were 300 stitches - 150 dissolvable inside, 150 removable outside. The GSD grabbed the lady's arm but because he was in the air, he fell while holding on and she kept pulling upwards to keep her JRT away. He tore her arm to shreds - from just below the wrist to the elbow.

Always be aware of your surroundings. If you are close to a fenced yard or area, pick up your little dog and toss it over the fence. You may cause damage, but you may be saving your dog's life. What's worse? The attack or the fall? Chances are good your dog will land softly if it is grassed on the other side.

If you have a big dog, your options are more limited. I love the article's suggestion of using a handbag to see if you could get the other dog to grab it. But will it work? What about a towel tug? These are light enough that you could easily walk with one draped over a shoulder (and the dogs love to play with it so it serves two purposes), but heavy enough that you can use it to go between the dog and your own. Has anyone tried this method?
I have also heard pepper spray is something that people are starting to carry around. Has anyone tried this? Does it work?

Honestly, in my experience I have found that knowing exactly what your dog will do is so helpful - priceless.
I have a command that I use with my guys but it is only one word - "ENOUGH" in the loudest, deepest, angriest voice I can muster. This command for them means "I don't care what you're doing or what is going on because I am pissedoff and you need to stop, down, look and listen." I only use it in the most extreme emergencies, however I do make sure I use it as often as once every three to four weeks (as much to ensure they still know what to do as for anything else). I call it my "Stop, Drop and Look" because it makes me think of the fire-safety training we all have to go through in school; Stop, Drop and Roll.

You need to decide how the scenario will play out. You have 5 seconds to do this. You have to look at your own dog, the other dog and figure it out from there.
Take some time to read the above article. It's well written; I like the answers given. It's hard to be prepared for every scenario you may run into, but it's better to be somewhat prepared than not at all.


Last night, one of my dogs was involved in a dog fight - he did not start it, nor did he finish it, he merely had the luck to be the other dog. (Come on, you knew this post was spurred by SOMETHING, right? Yes, I was working on it for a while, but I just didn't have a good ending for it!)
The other dog got herself quite worked up and wasn't impressed that my Z came to see me for a reassuring pat (again enters the "Resource Guarding/Possessiveness" funny how it starts so innocently when they're pups, eh?) - she began harassing him so he came to me to check in (as he has been trained) and that sent her into a possessive-aggressive state. She does this any time another dog gets attention when she is around - something the owner is working on resolving.
He is 80 lbs - a relatively big dog. The other dog was a GSD (no, not my foster, this was another dog we were training with).
These two dogs had been heeling together for almost an hour and off leash together for a good 20 minutes or more before the fight ... remember, just because time has elapsed doesn't mean the situation has diffused.

Perhaps I should have a disclaimer? Please note that the following is what I do in a situation like this that involves a dog fight/attack and not necessarily what you should do in every instance as each scenario is different. Was that a good enough disclaimer, you think?

You don't have a lot of time. In less than 5 seconds you need to analyze the situation and figure out if the dog is in full attack mode, halfassed attack mode or snarly play-that-could-be-turned-attack mode. This will determine how much force you need to use to get the dog off in the imminent future. The longer you wait to get the dogs apart, the more damage done.
You need to move between your dog and the attacking dog.
Then you need to figure out if the dog is light enough that you can lift it. You should have pre-planned where you are going to grab the dog - I find that grabbing the back legs (as most people recommend) is far too dangerous because if you do get the dog off, the dog will turn on you. I don't do it EVER and I don't think anyone ever should.
I always aim for the back with one hand and the scruff with the other. This way, the dog often will let go of your own dog to turn and check who is "biting" its back (I assume the back-hold might hurt or perhaps my nails and hand feels like another dog's mouth, but haven't ever stopped to ask), but since you have a hold of its scruff with the other hand you can prevent it from turning too far and nailing you. In the same moment that the dog lets go, release the back, move so you have both hands on the scruff and lift up so at least the front legs are off the ground and you can control the teeth end. Then you can deal with the situation. If the dog is bigger than you can deal with, you will need the help of the other owner.

This ONLY works if you have verbal control of your own dog! IF you do not have control of your own dog, you will have two fighting dogs and that is a whole different situation that would require a different tactic altogether. Like I said; you need to know what your dog will do in any situation.
Because I have the "Stop, Drop and Look" command, in the time that I moved to the other side of the fighting dogs (she had swung around to the other side to aviod me), I had him looking at me, listening to me and in a down position while the other dog was attacking him. Then the owner and I were able to pay full attention to the GSD.

My guy stayed in his down and waited for further instruction.
When the GSD was under control and a half dozen feet away, I could go to my guy and inspect him for damage (funny thing about dog fights when one dog doesn't fight - the severity of the bites are often minimal ... he didn't even have puncture wounds). Of course, we had a second instance of her trying to start a fight with him, but he immediately went into his down position and I was able to fend her off without her making contact until she was under control again (self control is what I mean - calm).
The night was finished with the dogs playing off leash and occasionally fetching (different) sticks. A successful training night - but a high stress one for everyone involved - especially the dogs.
This is why I say so strongly that you must know what your dog will do and that you need to have commands that can be used in any scenario regardless of distractions. Even if it's only one command. All you need is one.
If you enter a scenario like the one described above, you have more of an ability to ensure the safety of your own dog if you have his or her complete attention, trust and control. It only takes a minute for a situation to escalate.


GoLightly said...

Wow. I'm glad your dog is okay.

Great post.

mytwh said...

It was me!!!! Since we moved to the "country" we've had a few run ins with dogs who didn't appreciate us walking by their house. Of course they're not on leashes and their owners are no where to be found. Sigh.

Glad your pup is ok! So scary. At least you had the other owner with you.

I do have my big, scary voice word, and it's ENOUGH too. The new one is learning it and Ziggy knows what it means. Both my boys are chickens but I think they would fight if push came to shove. It makes it really scary when we're walking. I now have routes I avoid because of it.

I'm getting Mace for myself in case I'm attacked by a human while walking (we walk on a lot of wooded, remote trails-my dad wanted me to get a small hand gun but I'd probably shoot myself!)so I figured if push came to shove I could always use that on another dog too.

Thanks for the post, your suggestions for picking up the dog are very helpful. I feel more confident after reading your post, the article and knowing my mace is coming!

Unknown said...

Oh thanks for the post. I always wondered b/c on my walks in the neighborhood.. some people let their dogs out in their yards unleashed and unsupervised. When we come the sidewalk, they charge at us aggressively protecting the territory- no owner around. I found to get some space between us, stop and claim my area and say NO in a stern voice with my had in a stop sign. That has stopped most and their are a few houses like it but not sure if it will always work. Also we run into a fox during our morning walks... not sure what is aggressive or defensive behaviors to look for in a fox.


Angus said...

There is nothing more frightening than getting involved in a sudden dog fight. The worst thing is if you keep your dog on the leash when the other isn't that seems to amplify the problems. Good practical reminder for all of us.

Sully said...

About 2 years ago we had a female dog show up on my parents property that was in heat. My parents had two male dogs at the time. One of them got a whiff of the female and got into a tizzy before we could get to him he had jumped on the other dog. Attacker 95lbs, attacked 110lbs. Luckily the victim dog wasn't fighting back. He was trusting us to get him lose. We actually got him lose once and the other dog grabbed him again before we could even pull back.

In this situation (which is different from all others so it may not work for everyone) we had to have two people holding victim to be able to pull him away and two people to remove attacker. Attacker wasn't chomping or biting he was just latched on and would NOT let go. We twisted his collar until his feet were off the ground and I grabbed his throat and choked him until he lost his ability to hold on.

They never had a problem after this day. Thank God.

It was the most horrifying experience with dogs I had ever had.

Flo said...

I swear there is nothing scarier then a dog fight. When my pit hit her first heat at 10 months I did not think my male was going to live through it. They fought and did some serious damage to each other. Also pits seem to be able to spot each other and my dog has been attacked twice by other pits. In all cases, I would grab my pit by the neck and tell the other owner (or my husband) to grab the other dog the same way. At the first chance we'd pull them apart and then have to separate them quite a distance to calm them down. It is unbelievable how quickly it happens and how scary it is. None of these incidents ever lasted more then 30 seconds or so yet it seemed like hours. My next dog will definitely have an ENOUGH command.

DogsDeserveFreedom said...

mytwh - was this an ok post? Did it cover what you were looking for? You could also approach your neighbours, though I know how hopeless that can be sometimes (we have a few that I just don't bother trying to talk to). What about making friends with the aggressive dogs? Make friends on your own and slowly introduce your dog to them ... make sure you have something super duper like hot dogs, liver or steak if you do decide to do this - something they won't be able to ignore.

Norwood - that is a good way too. It works particularly well with dogs that seem aggressive as a display. You convey to them that this is your spot, that is theirs and you can respect each other. The trick will be, like you said, to keep it working!

Angus - good point about keeping one of the dogs on leash amplifying. I find that muzzles and tools like that also amplify like crazy (unless the dog totally trusts the handler with its complete safety) because the dog hasn't got a way to properly defend itself.

Sully - interesting story! You're right - sometimes you have not got control over what walks into the premise and hormones are difficult to ignore for some. Why did you need people to pull on the dog being attacked? Was he fighting back?

Sully said...

We did not pull him while he was still attached, but more yank him away to prevent the other dog from reattaching.