Archive for the ‘Problem Cases’ Category
Most of the time, a growl here or a snap there is enough for one dog to get the message across that he doesn’t want to be pestered or the other has come too close to his bone. Sometimes this escalates into a mini fight where one dog concedes and both go about their way, but sometimes, two headstrong dogs will start a relentless battle and need to be separated. How should you do it?
First of all, don’t panic, unless there is a huge size difference, it’s unlikely one will be killed in the time it takes to take action, and you need all your wits about you to continue.
Secondly, do not just rush in and grab the dogs, you will almost certainly get bitten. Once the red cloud descends, they don’t know what they’re biting and will lash out at anything within reach, your beloved family pet may give you a nasty, painful, infected bite… and that’s if you’re lucky.
Thirdly, do not try to beat the dogs apart, dogs in fight mode will feel this pain and fight even harder for survival.
What TO do:
If you have a hose pipe handy, connect it up, staying out of their way and spray straight at their faces, this will often confuse and disorientate them, fighting is hard when an inhalation pulls in water. This is unlikely to stop them completely, but may give you enough time to get something in between them, a door is ideal.
A jug of water poured right on their heads can also work.
A large blanket or duvet can disorientate them enough to pull them apart but this will not take them out of fight mode so be careful.
Whatever you do, do not touch either dog until the fight has stopped, or at least until it’s paused.
If none of these are available, you can take the back leg approach. This is risky but not as risky as doing the natural thing and trying to grab collars.
If there are two of you:
Each person pick a dog, grab it’s back legs, lift them up and immediately start walking backwards. Do not stop walking or the dog you are holding may twist round to bite you. Both people should start to arc in order to face the dogs away from each other. Both dogs will be forced to back pedal with their front paws and should be unable to twist and bite. Once both dogs are out of each other’s sight, they should stop barking, if you can, separate them in separate rooms, kennels or leash them.
If it is just you, you have no hose, no water and have nothing else to try. Take the hind legs of one dog, pull him back and loop a leash tightly around his waist before tying to something. At this point, both dogs will probably still be fighting so be very careful, if in doubt, call for help. If one dog is yours and the other a stray, this first dog you tie would be the stray, if there is a big size difference, take the larger of the two. Once the first dog is secure, circle around and grab the second dog by his legs and pull them apart. If you can, get them out of sight of each other and use anything to secure or leash the second dog.
If one dog has locked onto another one, take a strong solid stick, insert it into and across the back of his mouth (so it isn’t going down his throat and is coming out of the other side a little) and use it like a lever to prise his jaws apart. This is usually best done while two other people already have their hind legs and are able to pull them apart.
I cant guarantee the effectiveness of any method in a given situation, I can however guarantee that a fight between dogs is not something you can genuinely safely get involved in. I suggest you research other advice before making a decision as I cannot be held responsible for any dog bites you sustain as a result of this very generalised information.
Once the dogs and all present are safe, you need to avoid this happening in future, if both are your dogs, speak to a behaviourist (not a trainer), if they are separate dogs, one, or both may need help.
I am writing to express the RSPCA’s grave concern about the coverage of Crufts on More 4 during which interviewees and presenters repeatedly gave the message that pedigree dogs, including those shown at Crufts, are happy and healthy.
This is misleading to the public and extremely disappointing as we had hoped the coverage would be open and honest about the serious health and welfare issues that continue to affect many pedigree dogs, without glossing over the issues. After all, this is one of the biggest challenges facing dog welfare in the UK today.
Many pedigree dogs remain vulnerable to unnecessary disease, disability, pain or behavioural problems because they’re bred primarily for how they look rather than with health, welfare or temperament in mind.
Indeed, footage of some of the dogs at Crufts this year demonstrated the exaggerated features that we are so concerned about. As just one example, during the judging of the Working Group the commentators said that a dog was free from exaggerations. The dog in question clearly had extremely folded skin and drooping eyelids, which can lead to suffering.
Three reports on the welfare problems associated with dog breeding have been published in the UK in the last two years, and the conclusions of each are very clear – urgent action is needed to safeguard the welfare of pedigree dogs.
Although some progress has been made by the dog world, it has not been nearly enough and the problems are far from being solved. Both experts and the various reports on this issue recognise that it will take decades before the problems really begin to be resolved – and only then if sufficient effort is made by everyone in the dog world.
It is extremely misleading to suggest not only that the problems have been solved after only two years, but that pedigree dogs are happy and healthy.
I’m currently babysitting a friend’s Yorkshire Terrier Lola. Her house training has always been all over the place and despite my best efforts, her owner seems to have given up instead resorting to covering her house in puppy training pads… Lola is nearly 18 months… this has got to stop!
Lolas owner went home for a few weeks so I interrupted and took the dog on, and rather than dictate to you how to house train a dog, I will tell you exactly what I’m doing including any failures, mistakes and joys so that you can not only take the information away, but know for a *fact* that it works.
There are a few rules however before starting out:
- There will almost certainly be mistakes, a good carpet shampooer, white vinegar and a mop are essential for ones sanity.
- NEVER punish a dog for making a mistake. It’s YOUR mistake, not hers.
- Don’t give up! Be patient and keep at it. With time, a dog will housetrain themselves, we’re just speeding up the process so unless you’re doing everything wrong, it will happen.
- NEVER rub your dog’s nose in her mess, she will not understand why you’re scolding her, it will just make her fearful and more likely to eliminate through stress. This old fashioned technique may work at times, but it’s not fair on the dog, remember, the mistake is yours not hers.
So here’s my time line as the days roll on:
Day 1: (13th March 2011)
Picked up a dog crate in the morning, it has enough space for Lola to be able to turn round and make herself comfortable. I placed her blankets inside and left it in the lounge with the door open for her and my own dog Jake to investigate and get used to. A few hours later, I lured her inside with treats and experimented with shutting the door for a few seconds to minutes at a time, rewarding her for her patience.
Took both dogs out for a long walk in the woods in the early afternoon. We were out for nearly three hours to ensure she was tired. When we came home, I encouraged her to sleep in the crate with the door open. She slept for a few hours.
She then snuck out silently to have a pee in the hallway.
That evening before bed, I took her for a short walk to encourage outside toileting, she had another pee which was met with lots of praise and a reward. I lured her back into the crate but this time shut the door. She started whining (her owner allows her to sleep in her bed so this is all very new to her). I moved the crate closer to the bed, she still whined. I covered the crate with a blanket and she went to sleep.
Many people disagree with the crate or dog cage idea. I should note that the dog cage is not to be used for punishment or as a prison, it is just a dog bed with a door. This technique is proven to be the most effective for house training as dogs will instinctively prefer not to soil their own beds. If they do make this mistake, they will learn very quickly but so should you! She was left in too long! Keep them locked in overnight and when you leave the house for short periods. (Longer than an hour and it would be better to leave the dog with someone else.) A substitute for the crate is a leash tether, but do not leave your dog unattended for ANY length of time as this risks the dog getting tangled and strangling itself or even injuring himself in panic when it tangles his legs. By crate training your dog, you start every day with a moment where you KNOW she needs to go and complete control over ‘how’ and ‘where’.
Lola woke up for a whine a few times in the night, I patiently ignored it despite the bags forming under my eyes. She normally went somewhere in the house at about 7 in the morning so I got up and dressed at 7:30. This ensured she needed to go, but didn’t make her desperate enough to go in her own bed. I then took her to a designated spot in the garden and walked around for a few minutes. After 2 minutes she did a 2 (lots of praise and a tripe treat reward) and tried to come back inside. Knowing she hadn’t finished, I kept walking in circles and eventually she squatted for a wee, again lots of praise, strokes and treats. We came in and I left her off-lease for 3 hours knowing I was safe. After that time, I will take her outside on leash to see if she goes, and then keep her tethered to me so I can keep an eye on her. I don’t know her schedule so will try hourly from there to see. Puppies will need much less time between trips, new puppies usually take 30-45 minutes between toileting, then add approximately 15 minutes per additional week of age or one hour per month as a general rule. If this is too short ot too long, adjust it for your dog. Don’t wait for dog to tell you, take her outside to do it. If she doesn’t, try again in 5-60 minutes depending on age.
Don’t wait for the dog to tell you when she needs to go. Pre-empt it and you will learn from each other. Never leave a tethered dog unattended. Always keep access to water when crated or leashed.
12:20pm I’ve taken Lola out every hour since breakfast and she’s not going in or out. She’s been going into her crate all morning so we’ve been alternating crate and leash control. I’ve noticed she tends to leave the room to eliminate so I’ve removed the leash and kept the office door closed (with us inside) to prevent tangling and constant crating. She’s getting a little restless so will go out on a walk shortly.
15:10pm Back from the park and she’s gone straight to her crate in the office to sleep. Door shut, wait for her to wake up.
19:10pm Walked both dogs to the local shop for a 15 minute toilet break. Lola still didn’t go… arrived home and decided to let her out into the back garden. She went out as I walked into the lounge… and saw a wet patch! First of the day! After vacuuming it up, I’ve moved her bed next to where she normally pees in the lounge to help show her that it is also bed area (this worked to housetrain Jake, moving his bed around showed that every room is a potential bed and therefore not a toilet). Brought her in from the garden (not much point in her being there as she would probably agree) Will see how it goes. Her next wee should be near midnight or beyond so will keep her loose until dinner at least and crate her over night. If we can limit today to just one pee. It’s a huge improvement on yesterday, believe me!
Got through another dry evening and she’s now tucked up in her crate.
After yesterday’s mistake, she’s not leaving my sight. Woke up, my wife took her outside, she had a pee, but no poo yet. Have her with me in the house on a leash. I have lots of office work to do this week which is handy so I’ll rarely need to leave without her.
12:30pm – She finally did a poo outside. I didn’t have my treats on me so I gave lots of praise and played a little game of chase (her chasing me to avoid making her think I’m trying to punish her)
18:00pm – Back from an hour walk in Singleton. She peed twice and pooed once. I gave her praise and treats every time, So far still dry inside! She’s currently off leash playing with Jake, but once she finishes playing she may need to go so keeping a close eye on her.
20:00pm – Lola was crated, resting since returning from the park but started to look restless. I took her out on leash, walked back and forth over Jake’s spots allowing her to sniff when she wanted. 7 minutes later she peed outside! Result! This was the one we missed last night. One more before bed and if we’re lucky, our first dry day!
11:40pm – took my eye off the ball, wet patch right in front of me in the lounge. Just 20 minutes left of the day… right, tomorrow!
Punishing or correcting your dog for mistakes won’t teach her not to go indoors, it will teach her not to go near you… and she will take that lesson outside and not go when you’re watching making your life harder. If you catch her, intercept it, shout ‘Sausages’ and run away, hopefully she’ll stop and chase you into the garden (use a leash if not secure). Why ‘Sausages’? It’s very hard to sound angry when shouting sausages :)
Morning routine is getting better. Out of the crate, straight to the garden. Still took a few minutes for her to figure out why but one wee. Spent a little longer to see if she would poo but nothing. An hour later, we went out again and there it was. So far so good. She’s currently free in the house but will tether her shortly. Will keep yesterday’s pattern going but will hopefully manage to break the evening accidents.
She’s not currently showing any signs of wanting to go outside… may have to train her into doing something specific.
7pm – Not long back from a nice walk with some locals and their dogs for some socialisation, we’re still dry inside and Lola is currently sleeping in her crate. I’ve shut the door to keep an eye on her as she has a habit of sneaking quietly away to do her business. I’m staying in the same room so will be able to watch for signs of restlessness. I gave her a later walk this evening to see if she can stay settled for longer this evening. When settled, she can be confined but she tends to start playing with Jake while we’re watching TV and that’s when my attention slips. Remember the crate is a bed with a door, not a prison. The key part of crate training is that she likes using it, and will sleep in there voluntarily. If she associates it with negative feelings, she may soil her bed and it will be very uncomfortable for both of us trying to get her in. After day 1, everytime I shut the door, it’s only after she’s gone in herself. I only physically put her in there on day 1 to help associate it with treats and occasionally at night when she tries to sleep in the wardrobe (don’t ask)
00:40 our first dry day! Took Lola out every hour when I suspected she was ready and kept a very close eye on her indoors. Result! Not habit yet but a wonderful start.
Giving Lola a little more freedom as she was happily sunbathing on the back doorstep… Started out in the same way, she still has a long sniff in the morning before peeing, but she is gradually getting quicker. Early afternoon she’s happily sleeping in her open crate in the office. So far so good yet. No poo yet though so will keep an eye out.
Pooed a little late today, but again outside. With her new found freedom we still haven’t had any problems although it may be too early to state this categorically. Took her out before bed, she took about 5 minutes but eventually peed! Crated over night and another dry day!
Kept to same routine but with more freedom. We’re keeping the lounge door shut as this was her favourite toileting place. She’s still locked in the crate overnight, but now with no restrictions during the day. Another dry day.
Keeping to same routine and so far still dry. Left crate unlocked over night but bedroom door closed. Next morning she went out side, had a wee and came in. After breakfast she went out, had a poo and came running up to me like she’d laid a golden egg. Of course every day for the past week, that’s how I’ve treated her ;) today she showed me that she had finally got it.
I’ll end the experiment here. Any problems and I’ll post. Lola has access to the whole house bar the lounge, I’m no longer locking her crate. I will start phasing the crate out and turning it into a normal dog bed, she’s found her way into sleeping in the bottom of the wardrobe anyway so I’ll have to stop that first as she obviously prefers the enclosed space (which is why crate training isn’t cruel when done right). Tomorrow, I will introduce the bed, next to her crate and block off the wardrobe. A few days later I will swap the bed and crate locations and lock her crate BEFORE she goes in forcing her to use the bed and see how she reacts. After a few nights, she should quickly adapt.
For the next couple of weeks, I’m going to keep rewarding her for going outdoors while ignoring any accidents (or intercepting them if I catch her in the act.)
So what’s my secret? I set Lola up to succeed. I didn’t make it difficult for her by leaving her at home on her own for long periods, I didn’t give her house freedom to choose where and when to go, if I needed to leave her alone for a couple of hours or more, I would have walked her first making her tired and giving her the chance to go. Then I would have crated her with a chew toy or bone. I made sure I set the standard in the morning when we KNOW she needs to go. We made a HUGE fuss of her every time she did it outdoors, without exception! If we didn’t have treats to hand, it would be a playful stroke or little game. Finally, we selected one part of the garden for her to do her business, this helped to build the association. We trained her to perform a specific action when we reached that spot at exact times.
So there we have it, seven days to house training. Feel free to comment, ask questions or even post suggestions or ideas of your own. Later I will post a blog about paper training using newspaper or puppy pads, this is a longer and more frustrating method but may be more practical in certain circumstances.
Day 1: 1 poo, several pees
Day 2: 0 poo, 1 wee
Day 3: 0 poo, 1 wee
Day 4: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 5: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 6: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 7: 0 poo, 0 wee
Day 10: Since giving her more freedom, we’ve had one or two accidents, wees only so we’re going back a few steps. However, yesterday she showed the first real signs of ‘getting it’. We had just driven back from the beach, and she stopped in the front garden pulling back on the leash… I wasn’t sure what was up at first so went into the garden with her. Quick sniff, had a wee and then came inside as normal. This was the first time ever she had made a conscious decision not to go inside the house!
With the car out of action, I arrived at my latest charge by bicycle. I was met with barking at the lounge window which was fairly normal, especially as it only started once I set foot into the garden with a strange metal contraption clicking away as I pushed it and stinking of oil, rust and garden shed.
The owner was at the door before I had even parked up and we went inside, a sign that she was very well trained. ;) I was told to brace myself as we entered and I did all the usual things. I stood still, facing away making no sound to avoid appearing as a threat, I avoided reacting in any way as he jumped, bit, scratched the backs of my legs as I knew he meant nothing by it in this instance. Out of the corner of my eye all I could see was the hind quarters of a beautiful Beagle wiggling and shakin as he investigated every smell on my clothing. I continued talking to his owner as we walked through to the kitchen, the jumping finally subsided and I was able to ask him to sit for a greet and a treat. Once calm, he was obedient, well trained and well looked after. He knew several basic commands which he fulfilled instantly.
The severity of this greeting however was so intense that simply ‘ignoring the behaviour’ was no longer an option. His claws were painful to me through jeans (and numb legs from cycling) and with summer coming up and more visitors wearing skirts, leggings or shorts, ignoring him was not going to be easy.
I went in and out a few times and discovered that he was fine with me rattling the gate, coughing on the doorstep and generally walking around outside, but as soon as I hit the doorbell, his legs started shaking, he started barking and going berserk even though he knew it was me. A plan of action was decided.
Step 1: Doorbell desensitisation
I went outside but stayed out of view and hit the doorbell while the dog’s owner settled him down, I waited for the signal that he was again calm and we repeated… and repeated… pretty soon he stopped getting so excitable. The doorbell was starting to mean something other than ‘INTRUDER!’. Once we had him more relaxed to the doorbell, the next step was to create a new action for him (now he was prepared to listen.)
Step 2: Keeping him calm as the guest enters
We picked a spot in the room which was comfortable for the dog (much of the floor was smooth and slippery, we found a rug corner worked well), a good distance from the door, but in a position where he could still see what was going on. We made him sit and stay while I walked through the door using treats and lures. If he moved, I would leave and shut the door immediately, if he stayed, I approached with praise and treats. The whole time owner was keeping him interested and rewarding him for the new ‘good’ behaviour.
Step 3: Keeping him calm as owner leaves
We repeated step 2 but this time owner leaves the dog to open the door for her guest. Again punishment for moving resulted in the door closing and the guest leaving. This method was working as the dog wanted to meet the guest and was excited. In a protection situation where the dog does NOT want the guest on his property, this leaving could actually reward rather than punish the behaviour. Similar to the dog vs the postman situation.
Step 4: Turning the whole thing into one action
As the pattern continues and he learns new habits we will add a command, typically ‘Place’ so that owner can instruct the dog on her way to the door to minimise the chances of her guests giving up and assuming she is not in.
Most of the above, particularly the doorbell desensitisation steps would need to be repeated as often as possible to change the pattern. We need to be wary of rewarding the dog for the behaviour we don’t want. Some keen eyed readers will spot other issues unaddressed in this blog, rest assured these are also being worked on but would mess an otherwise clean article.
When buying a rescue dog, always start with dog rescue centres as they will learn about the dog before handing it over and will discuss any problems that the dog has or had whilst in their care.
When buying a puppy, where do you go? A Ponterdawe couple bought one online, it was delivered by the breeder with forged papers and despite £200 of vet bills, the puppy died one week later. They can no longer contact the breeder. See the South Wales Evening Post for the full story.
While this is an awful shame and the couple were indeed conned, they made many mistakes which could have kept them out of trouble.
First of all, always see the puppy before buying, don’t buy online or agree to pay until at least this event. Any sellers who have suddenly moved and want to courier the puppy to you should be avoided at all costs, even if the puppy is free. You’ll usually have to hand over courier charges for a puppy which probably doesn’t exist. If there doesn’t seem to be any costs involved, still be wary, when this puppy is stuck in transit and someone need’s money before it dies in a box, you’ll HAVE to pay up just in case the puppy is real.
Secondly, see the parents. Sometimes the father was on loan and is unavailable, but the mother should always be seen. If both parents look healthy, calm, relaxed, non-aggressive and not fearful, they should pass step 1. As the mother in particular teaches the puppy his first lessons in life, coupled with shared DNA, an aggressive dog will often rear aggressive pups. A good breeder will only breed from dogs with a good temperament. When choosing from a litter, don’t choose the frightened one in the corner, pick from the ones who comes to investigate.
Thirdly, inspect the papers thoroughly, know what you’re looking for, question anything that leads you to doubt authenticity.
Finally, go home without the puppy, don’t make any promises, think about it, make phone calls if necessary to check details, see another litter or breeder, choose carefully and make sure you’re ready for the commitment.
There are breeders, and there are puppy farms. (there are also accidentals which I won’t cover). The puppy farms care little about the puppy’s health, they just churn out litter after litter to make as much money as possible. This can be in a large farm yard or a kitchen floor. Good breeders care about every puppy, are meticulous about every single mating and will be the first to want their puppies back if the owner/puppy turned out to be an unsuitable pairing. They will want to know their babies are being looked after properly and some even prefer to do a home check.
Find dogs and breeders on line yes, browse picture after picture and say ‘Awwww’ at every one but always see the puppy and parents in the flesh. Never buy on line! Never buy over the phone! Be as strict with the breeder as you would expect them to be with you and you should be on to a winning companionship.
Yesterday I have the privilege of meeting my first Hungarian Komondore. An absolutely adorable 1 year old puppy weighing in at roughly 45 kg! Due to his size, I was very relieved to find that he walked on leash politely, but he got spooked at strange times and we spent some time trying to find patterns. He would also growl and snap whenever someone approached him while eating and seemed intent on taking my arm off when I reached into the car to pet him.
Other than this he was a gorgeous bounding ball of fur. Each of the above problems needed to be dealt with in virtually the same way, but I’ll break it down because these are common issues.
When your dog growls, find out why and stop doing whatever you’re doing which caused it! He is not showing dominance or trying to lead the pack, he is simply telling you he’s not happy with what you’re doing. Don’t scold him or punish in any way for growling as he has shown you respect by not breaking the bones in your hand or tearing at flesh. If you scold the growl now, he’ll stop growling but in future will escalate straight to biting. When he growls, snaps or bites non-playfully. Take a step back, take a breath, think about what you did to cause it, and find another way to achieve your goal. A desensitisation program is also advisable to help avoid accidents in future.
It’s common for one dog to growl off a contending dog from his food. Dog two is naturally interested in dog one’s bowl but in most cases will back off to restore order until dog one vacates the space. When a human approaches the bowl however, this can be seen as the same challenge. Logically, to show him who’s boss, you should remove the bowl to leave him with nothing to guard, but here’s the problem: Dog is scared of losing his food so growls you off, his food gets taken away, his fear is proven and he’ll be even more wary or protective next time. Bad move.
Instead, put something INTO his bowl, reserve some of his food rations for this, approach carefully offering the food to him, and if you can placing it in his bowl. Do this every mealtime. (If your dog is snapping or you’re worried about getting bitten, call a professional to help you.)
Once you can place your hand into his bowl while eating (this could take weeks), take his bowl away while offering a high value food item. Once he’s finished eating, put the bowl back. Over time* he’ll WANT you to take his bowl away and the aggression should subside.
Some dogs growl and snap when being moved from place to place whether it’s a sofa, hearth rug or doorway. In our friend above’s case, he liked going to nice places in the car. When his owner arrived home however, he refused to leave. Trying to reach in to grab him was impossible as he would skip the growling and go straight into biting. The owner was in a very vulnerable position reaching into the car and the dog was adamant that he wouldn’t leave.
It seemed that reaching in and pulling him out was the previous solution which, like the food aggression was making things worse. Now doggy’s had enough! He doesn’t want to attack and bite, but by escalating to the bite, he doesn’t get moved. Three steps are now in place, first of all we found a great way to lure him out voluntarily, for the time being it works beautifully. The house is surrounded by fields, so there’s little danger of the dog getting into trouble. However we needed to work on some desensitisation again to avoid problems in future with relatives reaching in to pet him or just unloading their shopping. He didn’t react at all when I reached in with a protected arm, so we applied a muzzle and reached in holding food, we alternated the approach, we acted more aggressively, we reached in towards his collar, we jumped, we shouted, each time making contact but not pulling him out. Once I was happy, we repeated it without the muzzle and over the course of the session, he was becoming completely unphased by our approaches. We very quickly broke the association between the action of reaching in and the result of being uncomfortably dragged out. By the end of the session, I was able to climb into the boot with him and give him a hug. :)
Over time* he’ll look forward to people reaching in because it results in a reward rather than punishment.
General mood swings
Like the above, he had a particular fear of being painfully moved by his collar whenever he was in the way. One minute he was playing happily, the next he felt threatened, sometimes when I thrust a treat towards him, sometimes when I adjusted his collar or leash. Going for the collar is bad because he’s been dragged a few too many times, but it’s also the vulnerable throat area which he instinctively wants to protect. A course of desensitisation is in place as with the car and a complete ban applied to owners from dragging him around. The best way to move a dog is by making him want to move. It’s not always the quickest, but it is the best.
*A Warning (Over time)
We spent around an hour desensitizing him to these stimuli and by the end he was completely compliant and I trusted his reaction at that moment completely. It would be dangerously naive for me to think he will stay like this in another hour, tomorrow or next week. The muzzle has been left with his owner to continue the process every day up to and beyond the stage where he stops reacting completely every time. Once there, other members of the family will need to join in and potentially even strangers. He responded very quickly, but the process will go on for many weeks or even months before we can honestly say he’s completely over it.
If in doubt call someone who knows. Each case when unchecked would have become worse and worse until the dog became generally dangerous. Catching it this soon meant we could isolate the problems and work with him. Aggression in dogs is a serious problem and in nearly every case, it was preventable.
Which dogs are most dangerous and which should you avoid? Some breeds are deemed excessively ‘dangerous’ and are illegal to own in the UK, so what is the escalating scale? The list below is in order of dangerous dogs on top with the least dangerous at the bottom.
- A beaten Labrador
- An unexercised Dalmation
- An untrained Jack Russell
- A neglected Cocker Spaniel
- An under fed German Shepherd
- A loved Basset hound
- A well groomed Cavalier
- A properly trained Doberman
- A well exercised, trained, loved Pitbull Terrier
Can you see the pattern? First of all this list is only a guide, it may not be statistically accurate but the point is that breed has little impact. Ok, let’s be fair, some breeds are more dangerous if they turn nasty purely due to their size. An aggressive Alsatian is going to do more damage than an aggressive Chihuahua, but neither is healthy and neither should be allowed off leash or near children.
Pick a banned breed say a Pit Bull Terrier (not to be confused with the Bull Terrier) has the ability to lock his jaws down on his subject inflicting a lot of damage, blood loss and distress. But if the animal treated properly, trained, exercised it has the potential to become a wonderful family pet. Why were they banned? Not because the breed is particularly dangerous but because the type of person looking for these dogs was one to mistreat or train them to attack.
Meanwhile, the loyal Labrador if not walked for long enough, not trained and socialised properly can become a dangerously aggressive child killer.
Which would you prefer?
I’m currently working with a Jack Russell – her owner’s fault is loving her too much. This little Jack Russell started life in a flat while her owner worked long hours. The owner already realises this mistake, has changed and is making a huge effort for the dog, but this dog is being loved and adored and treated like a spoilt princess… she’s picked up on her owners weakness, realised that nobody is in control and become not only the princess but the house protector and keeps everyone away. This dog will attack anyone who comes close to her pack and makes no distinction between human, dog or child. Worse of all she’s unpredictable, one minute she’s confidently walking by my side, the next she’s going full attack to my arms and hands. We’re slowly desensitizing her from strangers and handling and getting her used to the idea that (a) biting isn’t achieving anything and (b) letting strangers close is actually a good thing because you get given tasty treats and extra approval from your owner. We’re also working on the owner to put her back in charge so that the dog can follow and obey rather than feel insecure and try to lead.
As a child, I was bitten on two separate occasions by a German Shepherd and a chihuahua. The German shepherd can be forgiven as I was on a swing, his owner let him wander too close and I accidentally kicked the dog in the head on the way forward, he lashed out and got my leg on the way back requiring several stitches.
The Chihuahua was one of many well loved but badly trained pack members. Seeing my distress as these dogs were barking and snapping at me, my nan quickly picked me up to take me away just as one went for my face, instead he grabbed my foot.
Singling out ‘dangerous’ breeds gives the impression that there are ‘safe’ breed. Any dog has the potential to be safe or dangerous and it has very little to do with the breed. No dog breed was created to attack humans but with the wrong treatment any can become dangerous and risk being put to sleep simply because they weren’t looked after properly.
Exercise, lead, and train your dog, whatever the breed!
At the time of writing, banned dog breeds in the UK are:
- Pit Bull Terrier
- Japanese Tosa
- Dogo Argentino
- Fila Braziliero
I always stress that a dog’s breed and their aggression is not linked. Saying a dog breed is more likely to attack than any other is like singling out human races and skin colours as more prone to attack. The size of the dog however is linked to the amount of damage it can inflict. This is not what Rottweilers usually do unless trained to or mistreated and anyone considering buying one, look at the individual, NOT the breed.
I was attending a dog training client in Bristol 90 miles away when I received a hysterical phone call from my wife.
Yovina was walking Jake and Beci on leash from our local park. They met other people and dogs on route without a problem. As she was crossing a road, a Rottweiler approached and pounced on Beci. Due to her upbringing with a very responsible elderly owner, Beci is the calmest most accepting dog I have ever met so had no chance.
The Rottweiler picked Beci up and shook her, he threw her around and pounced again. Beci at this point was like a stuffed toy. Yovina panicked and did what any owner would do in that situation (but would never admit to pre-planning it). She tried to kick the beast off our little fluffball but he was relentless. A landscape gardener named Gerwyn (D.G. Walters) had already spotted and been following the Rottweiler as his nephew was walking their own dog at the time. Gerwyn also wrestled with the dog and eventually Yovina was able to get Beci and Jake into his van for safety.
Gerwyn managed to join them to call police and check the damage. The rottweiler circled the van and eventually gave up and went after another couple. They tried to pick their dog up to throw it into someone’s garden for safety but in the process, the dog’s collar came loose and the dog bolted. (Later recovered on their doorstep.
The police recovered the Rottweiler and are trying to trace the owner. There was no collar so it could be difficult.
Beci initially didn’t move, Yovina thought she was dead, but eventually a little flicker came across her face. This is when she called me so you can imagine her state. She managed to check Beci in to an emergency vet in Carmarthen last night and I arrived to see them both shortly after.
Beci hardly responded to me at all, her front leg was completely limp, she had blood spots throughout her fur, though thankfully no major external bleeding. The vet said she has a possible puncture in her lung and they hadn’t had a chance to check her leg as Beci wasn’t letting her get too close to it.
This morning I received a phone call from the vet saying there’s a definite gas build up which is often indicative of a collapsing lung but she’s heading for X-ray to confirm, they will check her leg at the same time as they’re still unable to get at it. Beci’s heart is already fading so she doesn’t rate her chances if she needs to go under general anaesthetic.
Fingers crossed all the way here, after lots of begging, Yovina has managed to convince the nurse to allow a visit depending on what else is going on at the surgery at that moment. (as an emergency vet, we could end up being in the way)
The care home where Beci started her first pet therapy sessions is performing a whip round to help towards Beci’s vet care. Since mentioning that, other people are interested so donations are more than welcome by clicking here and going to paypal. If you run a small business locally, add a link and short description into the description box and I will feature it as best as I can. Any surplus funds (of which I’m expecting none) will go straight to South Wales Animal Rescue who deal with cases like this on a daily basis and also need the help.
Many many thanks to Gerwyn at D.G Walters Groundwork and Landscape gardening based in Cockett, Swansea: 01792 207770
While many others stopped their cars and pulled their own dogs out of the way but just stood and watched, Gerwyn jumped out and actually helped someone in need. Without him Beci would almost certainly be dead, Jake would have probably been next and maybe even Yovina herself could have been attacked and killed. For Beci alone, I owe him a lot, for the unthinkable damage this dog could have caused, it’s uncountable.
Update 03/02/2011 – Beci passed away yesterday evening, nearly four weeks after the attack. Her heart was also damaged by being shaken so violently, and her ribs prevented her from breathing deep enough to get enough oxygen. She was unable to lie down in her final days as it was even more restricting, our vet altered her medication, tried various ideas and gave her half hour in an oxygen tent which helped temporarily but hours later she collapsed in exhaustion and gave up. Full story here
So why did this Rottweiler attack?
There are four main reasons this type of attack happens.
1) Training – the dog may be trained specifically as a fighting dog and got loose. In this case unlikely as he would have killed Beci in a heartbeat, instead he was tossing her round like a plaything.
2) Medical – It’s rare, but a tumour or other brain injury/condition could cause a dog to lose control and become aggressive.
3) Mistreatment – If the dog is himself beaten or abused, this is unlikely as there was no reaction to a human presence, he wasn’t afraid of Yovina and Gerwyn, but likewise didn’t bite either.
4) Frustration – If the dog isn’t walked enough, he will build up energy and frustration, if he’s locked in-doors and not socialised correctly, he will develop fears and aggression. If he’s not trained or looked after properly, his dominance would build and the owners control would weaken and diminish. This is something I (and other dog trainers/behaviourists) see all too often. Usually not to this extent thankfully, despite frequenting the news, dog attacks like this on people or dogs aren’t as common as they seem.
It usually starts with an energetic dog who isn’t getting enough exercise, big dogs are prone to this as it’s often because they pull and make walking unpleasant for his owners. Eventually the dog gets frustrated and starts to bark or snap at people, the owner either continues complacency or can even become afraid of this dog locking it outside or away from the family. The dog’s frustration, lack of physical and mental exercise build and build to create a monster.
If you’re taking on a dog, make sure you know what you’re getting into. Small dogs can become just as aggressive an despite their size, can cause a lot of damage. If your dog is beginning to show signs of frustration, escaping, excessive barking, running laps around the house or snapping at family etc, find out why and fix it before he becomes a problem dog. If you’re taking on a big dog, be ever more aware of the damage it can cause with just one bite.
Puppies should start walking and socialise before you even pick them up, the first thing you do before anything else, is develop a pattern of walking with people and other dogs in a number of places. If they meet a friendly dog and look scared, do nothing, don’t pick up or pet your dog as this will nurture a fear. Chances are the bum on the floor and low tail at this point is more a sign of respect than fear and you should let them interact naturally. Avoid places in these crucial months that are known for aggressive dogs or people as this will have the reverse effect. Puppy socialisation classes are also a good idea and will usually start you off with some basic training.