22 February 2011

Dog fights while out walking

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Hi all, Just wanted to ask the mob about this.

I have 2 rescue dogs, a Dog 1 – Dane/boxer and Dog 2 – boxer/staffy (to the best of our knowledge) They were pound dumped, rescued by ARF (fosterdogs.org) and adopted by us 😀

We love and care for them and treat them really well and i’d say we are pretty damn good dog owners. Dog 1 (40kg) has some issues from being abused, and she is scared of strangers. Took a long time to get her used to normal life and now she’s 90% good. Will bark like mad if you knock on the door and she doesnt know you.

Dog 2 (25kg) never really got trained properly and we had major escaping/destroying problem, but they are now 90% fixed as well. He’s SUPER friendly and will run up to dogs/people if he can (which would definately be worrying if you don’t know he’s a softie)

I would confidently say both are not aggressive. When backed in a corner after being naughty, Dog 1 has been a bit narky from being scared, and they’ve had a few heirachical fights while they got to know each other (nothing major, just a bit of blood). But they are defensive.

Walking tonight around our suburb I had Dog 2 on leash as he tends to run at stuff he see’s, and dog 1 walking off leash as she stops at road, tends to avoid people, and comes when called. We passed several dogs no problem, and then one lady with her kid had a dog and as we got closer she said he’s a bit cranky. he snapped at dog 2 on the leash after they said hello so i pulled him back, smiled , said its all good and went to keep going, while dog 1 came in behind for a cheeky sniff. This other dog turned and went at her to which she defended herself and there was a scrap that dog 2 jumped at and pulled into. I got in there to pull them apart, getting a bit bloodied in the process, got one off, lost grip, then got her again (not before she gave him a bite on his leg) then had to pry dog 2 off as his jaw had locked. this took a minute or so, he was really stuck gripping the flesh on this dogs neck.

The other lady was pretty calm about it all, and I gave her my number and we were each apolagising to each other. I saw the other dog had a gash that probably needed stitches under his leg and she went to take him straight to the vet. My dog had a minor cut.

This has happened once before, we we’re playing with a ball and other locals dogs on the oval (group of 4) for about half anf hour when the other dog who owned the ball snapped at my dog, and dog 1 defended herself, and dog 2 jumped in to help out. I jumped right in there to pull them apart, hand in mouths. The other dog ended up with a gash on his neck which apparantly healed up ok with some minor attention. Again my dog only got a superficial bite wound. Again, the owners were cool about it.

So basically, I’m sad/worried about it all 🙁 I don’t want my dogs declared dangerous as I don’t believe they are. I’m happy to keep my other dog on the lead all the time now to avoid this, but I hate leashing her all the time. I’ve read up and can find a lot about what to do if you or your dog are attacked, of if your dog is declared dangerous, but nothing about what it takes to be declared dangerous.

I’ve spoken with my wife, and we’re happy to contribute to the medical costs of the other dog. I think 50/50 is fair. Or do you think its their fault? Or all mine? I guess it all comes down to the owner’s attitude and what they want to do.

Lastly, I think we’re going to see a dog behaviouralist about it after we come back from overseas in a few weeks.

So questions:

1: Should I be concerned about them being declared dangerous?

2: What is fair regarding covering costs? (we’re not made of money, and we’ve been saving up and are about to go overseas for 2 weeks, so if they come back demanding hundreds of dollars that would suck BIGtime)

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Dogs are dogs and still react to instinct, just as us humans do, even when we know a certain behaviour is ‘wrong’ such as doing 10k over the speed limit when we are running late. Leashing them is really easy and will help you to avoid DAS if anything like this ever happens in the future – I hope it doesn’t though. Leashing them seems unfair (as does keeping them in a back yard 24-7) but we have ‘domesticated’ the species and turned them into pets, and have to do our bit to keep them safe – similar to putting on a seat belt in the car. They can still sniff around and p** on light poles etc on a lead. Your dogs are not ‘bad’, just have their emotional baggage and need to be leashed.

In my area I have to avoid a couple of streets because some dogs are not even in a sealed yard – my 2 young GSD’s (who are leashed all the time) are a bit of a force when they are both curious about ‘meeting’ other dogs.

georgesgenitals11:44 am 24 Feb 11

I have a small dog that while non aggressive, really can’t be trusted.

I often take it for a walk/run. It’s never off the leash when outside my property. The only problems I’ve had come from other people who don’t have their dogs under control.

1 walking off leash as she stops at road, tends to avoid people, and comes when called.

You’d want to have really good recall to do this and I’m betting you don’t. If a cat/dog/possum/ball appears across the road, most dogs will bolt.

DNA, your dogs are dangerous. They should be kept in the backyard.

stuff_n_stuff9:47 pm 23 Feb 11

Your dogs sound v similar to my two dogs, right down to their weights and past histories! I’ve been worried about my dogs’ behaviour in the past (for a variety of reasons). And after a few combined instances of anti-doggy-social behaviour, I’ve realised that it’s not worth the risk. If you have the slightest worry about it, then it’s worth doing something about trying to fix it. Whether that means muzzling your dog in public, or undertaking a lot more extensive retraining, only you know as you’re the only one who knows your dog and is beginning to understand its trigger point(s). And it’s worth doing something before your dog gets the “dangerous dog” label as once they have that label they have it for life. I understand that they don’t need to actually do anything more than “harassing” (ie, not actually attack) for them to be eligible to be declared a “dangerous dog” (although the registrar would have regard to the circumstances of the attack or harassment when deciding whether or not to declare a dog a dangerous dog).

Some suggestions: talk to the vet about behavioural training, join a dog club so that your dogs get more exposure to other dogs in a (hopefully) non-threatening environment, do more training with the dogs so that you have real control over them so that if it ever happened again, one word from you and your dog would stop what it was doing and sit down (or something). Maybe a pipe dream that it could be that good, but as I say, it’s not worth having the threat of a label and / or damage to another dog / human hanging over your head. You need to be able to walk your dog and enjoy the walk rather than worrying about every dog coming towards you on the path. Based on my own experience, it is definitely worth the time investment – you will enjoy your dogs a lot more if you can trust them in situations like this.

And yes, offer to cover / contribute to your limit towards their vet bill. Other than it being the right thing to do (in my view), it will definitely lower the risk of them reporting your dog.

Keep your dogs on the lead. Its terrifying for people, like me, who have already been attacked by large dogs off lead to be confronted by off-lead dogs. Its no use saying “she won’t hurt you”, once you have been attacked you never forget it. I can’t go out and enjoy Canberra’s bike/footpaths because of all the dogs being walked off lead. I come back a nervous wreck. I realise most are not going to attack me but I can’t get past the one which did. Its the law — keep your dogs on the lead when not in an off-lead area. And don’t let your dog run at anyone. Its terrifying to people like me.

luther_bendross5:13 pm 22 Feb 11

I’m with most people here, unfortunately you’re gonna have to keep them both on leads. As far as costs go, I’d say 50/50 is fair (based on the one side of the story I’ve heard).

Might I say though as a fellow dog owner, kudos to you for being honest and using initiative to solve your problems. If more owners of asshole dogs (not saying yours are!) would do the same we would lessen these events all together.

My staffy was attacked by another staffy in an off leash area about a year ago. Although the other dog started the fight (and not with just a warning snap either), ours caused more damage. But because we went to the emergency vet and the other owner took his dog to a normal vet, the bills were about the same. So we called it even and neither party took more action.

It was a horrible experience but there were positive results from it. I became more paranoid about walking my dog, even when on leash. He is well trained, but other dogs may not be, and although he may not start a fight, he will not back down from one. I also learnt how to break up two staffies fighting – poke something (e.g. your finger or a stick) up their bum. Short of a hose, fire extinguisher, etc, it is the best thing to make them release their jaws. You can try blocking their nose, prising their jaws apart (not likely to work with staffies) but you could get bitten/mauled yourself and it’s not very effective.

I think the right thing to do in your position is to offer to pay the bill. While her dog may have snapped at yours for having a “cheeky sniff” (not all dogs appreciate that way of saying hello!), your dogs over reacted in response and since you didn’t have proper control of dog 2, it was your fault.

One of my pet hates (no pun intended) is people who walk their dog without a leash on a path and when challenged just say “oh, but my dog is friendly”. Yes, your dog might be friendly, but others aren’t and might not appreciate being sniffed. You are much better off to have that extra degree of control over your dog to help other people control their dogs.

Your fault – it is the law to keep your dog on a leash. People like you who walk their big dogs off the lead is exactly why my mum and I can’t walk our two little dogs – because we’re scared they’ll attack. Ridiculous. I don’t see the issue in keeping your dog on a lead.

I get the impression from your post that we should make allowances for your dogs because they had a tough start in life. Otherwise, why is it relevant?

You may think that breaking up fights, getting spattered with blood and all the rest is normal. It is not, and if you don’t keep your dogs under control you (or your dogs) may find out the hard way. I just hope a member of the public or another dog does not have to be part of the learning process.

The behaviours you described at home and in public are just plain dangerous.

My three dogs are all from shelters and two of them have behavioural issues. You just can’t risk having dogs off lead. Even the most placid dog is likely to respond to an attack – they are animals and have instincts to do so. The bane of my life is stray dogs or dogs off lead whose owners assure me how harmless they are – maybe, but mine might not be.

Affirmative Action Man1:35 pm 22 Feb 11

DNA – In your story your dogs never seem to start anything its always the other dog that starts things.

Why not get a muzzle

can recommend george from his ‘sitdropstay’ dog whispering company – don’t have the no. but probably googlable (if that’s a word yet?). do it soon. listen to what he says and do it.

and like all before me, keep the wee beasties on a leash and consider a muzzle, for their protection as much as anyone/thing else’s… (notwitstanding i understand about the you-know-they’re-friendly bit)

I’ll mean this more politely than it probably sounds, but… keep your dog on a leash, consider a muzzle. Consider what you’ve said about your dog being ok 90% of the time, means you feel it might not be ok 1 in 10 dogs it meets.

If it was my dog on the lead that was attacked I would expect you to approach the money situation with the understanding that you should be paying 100%, and we could negotiate from there.

If the money factor doesn’t scare you consider this, small children can look like big dogs to other dogs.

We have a lovely “placid” dog (nicknamed boof for a reason) that is normally fine around children. A child who had played with the dog before turned up one cold winter’s day in a very cute hooded jacket and the dog went for her (we think because her head was covered in a furry hood). Standing next to the dog and being able to basically fall on it straight away saved the day. The lesson is that it will always happen unexpectedly!!

-Will bark like mad if you knock on the door (this is anxiety-related behaviour, ie, not good)

-will run up to dogs/people if he can; he tends to run at stuff he see’s (this is dominant/over-excited behaviour, ie, not good)

-they’ve had a few heirachical fights…. blood (this is dominant/red-zone aggressive behaviour, ie, an urgent problem)

-When backed in a corner after being naughty (this is aggressive-assertive behaviour by the human, ie, probably making things worse)

You have described behaviours/inputs of an unbalanced dog, and while it’s likely your dogs are that way because of their past experiences, they need to have these experiences trained out of them systematically, calmly and patiently. There is no need for you and the dogs to suffer from such dangerous and worrying behaviours.

I suggest that you watch a few Dog Whisperer programs and read the Dog Whisperer books (ghost)written by Cesar Millan. It sounds like your dogs are not yet able to be in a calm-submissive state most of the time, and they need a different type of training from the type you are using.

Keep your dogs on a leash. As another poster said, you will be at fault if your dog is involved with another dog who is on a leash.

I have a staffy who has always been on a leash. He was mauled once by 2 dogs who broke out of a yard, and again by some idiot who had both his dogs off their leads. Because of those incidents my dog is now very aggressive towards other dogs. So when someone isn’t walking their dog on a lead and they come up to my dog, guess what happens?

their dog jumped cos yours stuck its head up its arse (well that seems to be what happened by what you wrote). Why aren’t you responsible for the whole cost? S*** i’d bite if someone poked me in the clacker. again it gets down to whether you were in an off leash area or not.

were you in a non-leash area when this happened? that’ll answer your question. you MUST keep your dogs on a lead at all times if you weren’t.

Just keep your dogs on a long leash.

Hi mate

Keeping Dog2 on a leash is the first step, even though 90% of the time it’s still that 10% that can get you and your dog into a lot of trouble.
Leashes don’t bother dogs and is for everyones safety.

I have two small dogs, both get walked on the lead all the time.
Bella (Bichon Frise cross) is the friendlies you will ever come across
But our other dog Cartman (Maltese cross) can be a real bully to other dogs when walking so if we come across someone else talking there dog we would often advise he can be a little grumpy but if they are ok for him to have a sniff we allow it but keep a close eye on him.
That way if he does muck up we can just pull him away quickly.

If they are off the lead it’s very hard to do and it’s not really fair on the other people walking there dog on a lead.

IMHO I don’t think any dog should be off a leash unless the owner has 100% control.

So to answer your questions…..

1: Should I be concerned about them being declared dangerous? Yes, it only takes one complaint

2: What is fair regarding covering costs? (we’re not made of money, and we’ve been saving up and are about to go overseas for 2 weeks, so if they come back demanding hundreds of dollars that would suck BIGtime)

It wouldn’t hurt to offer and keep a interest in how the other dog is doing, they may even have pet insurance.
Explain to them that money is tight, sounds like they are pretty understandable people so I doubt it will be an issue.

In the mean time look into pet insurance of your own, you may find cover for this type of thing.
Hit some of the doggy parks as the dogs there are usually friendly and won’t snap when being checked out.
Dogs can feel threaten if they are on a leash and approached by another dog off a leash.



Keep your dog on a leash. Keep it away from other dogs.

DeadlySchnauzer10:01 am 22 Feb 11

Domestic Animal Services (DAS) is unequivocal about this… if your dog is off leash, and gets into a fight with a dog that is on leash, *you* are 100% at fault. It doesn’t matter who started what, which dog was more aggressive, etc etc… the owner who has their dog off leash is the one at fault, because if it had been on leash it could have been controlled.

And once again I repeat: This is why we have a law that says you must keep your dog on leash at all times in public places. No matter how well trained it might be, you can’t predict how other dogs, kids or adults will react to your dog, and what your dog will do in response.

And just to ease your mind a bit, in my experience DAS is very reasonable about declaring dogs dangerous, and will only do so in extreme cases. They tend to (rightly so) see these things as the owners fault rather than the dogs, and focus on fining/penalising the owner.


Disinformation9:58 am 22 Feb 11

Regardless of what you think and feel, keep your dog on a leash. If your dog is not directly under your control, you are liable for what it does. Here’s the fun part. If your dog is under your control on a leash, you’re liable for anything it does.
If your dog bites anyone, regardless of if they’re breaking into your house to molest your children, you’re responsible.
Warning signs make no difference.
Your dog is judged by it’s actions NOW. Not how bad it’s life was before or the mitigating circumstances in its upbringing.
You’ve just described a history of your dog having issues with interacting with other dogs.
What do you think is likely to happen in future? It will join greenpeace and go protect whales?
Nobody cares how much you think your dog has issues. Nobody cares how much you love it.
They care about what it has done.
Keep your dog on a leash. Keep it away from other dogs.
Someone else’s dog off a leash becomes their responsibility.

A squirty bottle full of fresh lemon juice is a very effective dog dissuader.

Parkway Parker9:56 am 22 Feb 11

Keep them on a lead, and warn whomever is looking after them while you are overseas.

1. Yes.
2. Cover their vet bill. Consider yourself lucky if you aren’t fined.

Good on you for leaving your contact details though.
That is one up on the slack owners of a dog who attacked ours in an off lead area, leaving puncture marks in our dog’s head from the attacking dog’s teeth.

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