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Unleashed: Pawsible dangers of dog vs. dog

Last week we had a quick look at the common misunderstandings between canines and humans and how OUR responses can indeed be the triggers. However, whilst it’s one thing to get you to change your behaviour, it’s quite another to get your dog to do the same. A better understanding of our canine friends can go a long way to making the difference between an enjoyable walk down the beach, and fearing to go in the first place!

By Russell D Russell

Sunday 23 February 2020, 12:00PM

Mistreated dogs can become poorly socialized Photo: ASPCA

Mistreated dogs can become poorly socialized Photo: ASPCA

Understand, the cold-hearted truth is that IF a dog is going to bite you, there is little you can do about it. You can’t run, because they’re faster. But the reality is that dogs actually biting people, or other dogs, is incredibly rare and unlikely, although there are mitigating factors here we need to explore.
First off, are we dealing with a genuine stray dog, born and bred on the streets or beach? Are we dealing with another ‘owned’ pet dog? Or, and this is usually the problematic group, the dogs that have been previously owned, and now dumped.

If we’re dealing with genuine stray dogs, you’re quite likely in a relatively safer situation. Stray dogs may not appear ‘friendly’ - what with all the barking and growling, etc - but they are usually pretty social, understand the social structure and how to engage with it (at a dog level, not a human one). So if we and our dogs can be equally understanding, there’s no issue.

For our dogs, this means being able to control them and one of the best things to do when confronted with a pack of stray dogs, is simply put your dog in a sit, or even a down. These are neutral and submissive behaviours respectively and show to the other dogs there is zero threat here. With you, and now your dog, effectively disengaged, you almost completely remove any chance of an altercation. With the right training and some focus, your dog can do this too.

At the other end of the problem, the scale is our fellow humans and their dogs. Owned, pet dogs are probably the largest contributor to altercations between dogs whilst out and about. My pet hate (pun intended) is when I see a dog charging towards me and my dog, whilst out walking. Some few hundred metres behind is an owner shouting “its OK, he’s friendly and just wants to play and say hi!”. Terrific. At this point, I immediately know I’m dealing with an untrained, out of control and crucially, unsocial dog. So what if my dog isn’t friendly, and doesn’t want to play or say hi?

The unsocial dog is likely to barnstorm in and be swiftly corrected by my dog - along the lines of a growl, snarl, lip curl, air snap or a warning snap. And of course, this makes my dog look like the aggressor - but she’s not. It’s like a drunk guy walking up to a random girl at the bar, draping himself all over her, and when he gets slapped everyone saying “Hey that’s unfair, he just wanted to play!” And what if that dog doesn’t like being corrected? What if that guy doesn’t like being slapped - you can see where this goes.

So what happens if you and your dog come across this situation? Firstly, understand you’re largely in management mode, rather than training mode, because you can’t control the other dog. Try to remain as calm as possible, ensure you have a loose leash with your dog, so they can meet and engage with as little tension as possible. If the other dog indeed friendly and exuberant, try to engage them yourself, offer a treat, see if you can grab a collar and wait for their owner to arrive. Then feel free to let fly at the owner for being an idiot. If you can’t effectively call your dog back to you, and away from a distraction, they shouldn’t be off-leash. Always be polite, ask the question first - “can our dogs meet,” and go from there.

These dogs are often an issue to deal with because they invariably have less social skills than the classic ‘stray’, due to their human engaged upbringing, but all of the reward history for performing anti-social behaviours. So whereas the average stray may bark and lunge towards you, they invariably keep their distance and will respond, if you’re able to disengage.

However, this often may not work with this group of dogs. And it’s a key marker to maybe tell the difference between whether the dog has been (or is) owned, versus being a stray. Again, understand this is now more about management than training but ultimately, if you’re able to keep your dog calm and in a neutral position, you’re far more likely to avoid confrontation.

If you would like some more information on canine training, or behavioural issues, then please do contact us on 091 654 1960, email, or check our website CPA is accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator.

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