A few things came across my radar lately that have lined up in a way that I feel encourages me to write this post to try and put some thoughts out there to hopefully inspire some thinking amongst us dog owners.
First I wanted to share the events in the order that they became apparent to me and hopefully you will see the message I am trying to get across.
The first event was that we were evacuated from our home at Kurrajong Heights due to severe Bushfire Risk, thankfully all has settled for now and we are back into the swing of things.
On a side note I wanted to personally say thanks to all those that have sent us Facebook messages, emails and phone calls offering help, somewhere to stay and or keep our dogs if we lost our house. I really was overwhelmed at the sheer numbers of offers, well into the thousands! Thank you.
Back to my blog… Before the fires we had planned to go camping with our kids and dogs and sure enough, the day of evacuation (23rd October) turned out to be pretty special. First it was the day we were scheduled to leave to go camping. Second, this day was chosen because it is my birthday, third it was also the fire evacuation day!
So we went camping anyway, no point in trying to fend off fire, there are experienced Fire Fighters out there from the awesome RFS that can do that much better than me, so off we went.
Onto Event number one (it is a weeklong event btw).
We arrived at our camp site, a Beach Camp site in Shellharbour that allows dogs and we began to set up our Camper Trailer, as we did we put Venom and Diesel on tie outs on our site to enjoy the sun after they had a quick blast along the beach to blow out the crate cobwebs they got on the trip down!
I was setting up and a small oldish dog dragging a leash wandered over to him, he was in the down position, the smaller dog was obviously feeling tense and stressed and was growling etc at him, when it got to about a metre away it lept forward and nipped at him on the face. Venoms response was to look at the small dog in surprise and give it a bit of a raised eyebrow.
The little dog then strutted off back to the next door campsite, leash in tow. No harm done I guess and Venom looked at me like “what the..?“.
Later that evening we were down on the beach with the dogs and kids and the little dog come along again, this time Venom was off leash and he started heading over towards it. All of a sudden screams of desperation came from the grassy knoll as the little dogs owner saw Venom coming. I recalled Venom who came to me instantly and the lady was still carrying on. I called out to her that her dog had tried to attack mine when mine he was tied up earlier and she picked up her dog and showed me how small her dog was.
Remember this part because it unfolds off this event…
I shook my head and we went back to enjoying the beach and the dogs having fun on it.
We stayed there for a week and I will give you a brief run down on what happened to us EVERY day.
Some campers a dozen sites down had brought their Golden Retriever, many times a day their kids would head to the beach and call the GR to come with them, off leash, when they came past our site the dog would become aroused and the kids, probably 10 and 12 would attempt to drag the dog away from ours saying “no, don’t attack that one“. This happened EVERY day… I told the kids to walk the dog on a leash (as per park rules) and they didn’t have one (they said).
Any time we were on the beach with our dogs and someone came along, we would stop playing and put our dogs in a down stay until they had passed, this was an act of courtesy on our parts whether they had a dog or not.
A guy was walking along the beach with an Amstaff on leash, we could see it was somewhat reactive to dogs so we moved off the wet sand where he was walking to let him pass. Downed our dogs and waited, behind his Amstaff was a very cute, I’m guessing 8 week old Amstaff puppy that was trotting along after, off leash.
When it came level with us it headed up the beach to where we were and came to us, our dogs were on leash and we started to move away but the puppy ran to our dogs, who simply sniffed the puppy that rolled on its back. The owner was then in a bad place as the pup wouldn’t come and he could not get close with his dog as it was beginning to react to ours.
A lady came walking along the beach with her (approx. 9 year old daughter) and a perhaps a Maltese cross on a Flexi Leash, her daughter was walking the dog. The dog saw our dogs and went nuts, pulling and snarling and the lady continued to let her daughter hold the dog, even though her daughter was physically struggling. The lady smiled at me as she walked by, I guess her dogs reaction was funny to her.
Next was a girl who arrived on the beach with her off leash Jack Russel, as she laid out her towel, her dog ran off to a dog walking ON LEASH with its owner and circled it, snapping and barking. The dog’s owner watched this unfold but the wind was providing quite a challenge to get that damn towel laid out, so she put her efforts into that and ignored her dog which continued the behaviour.
The final straw was when a lady and her husband came onto the beach with their two Maltese, I saw them and again called our dogs to the down stay, we would have been 50 metres from this lady and her dogs, she could have went left or right and chose to walk quite a distance but she made a B line for us. As she came closer her dogs were bouncing around and she allowed the Flexi Leash to run out until her dogs were about 5 metres from me, so she had come 45 metres directly at me controlling my Malinois.
At this distance I called out, “what are you trying to do, get my dog to bite yours?”
All I could see is that her dog looked very much to me like a Flirt Pole (what’s a flirt pole? check the video here). She said “what?” and let her dog come closer and closer to Venom, when the two lunging little dogs got to about 1 metre from him he broke his stay, and took two steps and he was at the dogs. I wish I could say that he didn’t break the stay but I guess it had been happening all week where dogs had either been nipping at him, going for him or lunging at him and he did break.
However that is NO EXCUSE. I will rectify this quick smart and in fact I have already lifted his distraction proof levels from super high to extreme!
He broke the stay, he is harmless to other dogs so all he did was sniff the dog which is a NORMAL way for dogs to greet one another.
I called him and he came right to me and stayed again, with no break.
I let this lady have it, probably too much to be honest as nothing really went wrong but this was probably the 60th time in a week that I had either witnessed or been subjected to other dogs poor behaviour.
Most (NOT ALL) were small dogs on Flexi Leashes running wild up to other dogs that were supposed to just accept whatever they may have to.
It was around this point that I saw a Facebook update from friend and client of K9 Pro, Jen Martin. She had been to a social dog event with her dog Roscoe and Roscoe had been attacked by a small dog.
Jen makes videos for pet owners and she had made one on this event as Roscoe was wearing a Go Pro camera and the attack and following events had been captured on Video. You can see the video here and I would love you to take a look. I have written a blog post describing what I see in the video here too.
I will add some more about Jens video a little further but event 3 came the day I arrived home, an article came across my desk that was written by a trainer called Dianne Bauman.
Dianne has written the article about a dog that was attacked whilst competing in Obedience and how she feels that the dog that left the ring to attack another was not at the level of training required to compete, the article is here and it is a good read. I don’t agree 100% with everything she says but there is some great merit in most of what is in the article. The article is here.
It was when I thought about the significance of what happened to me and my dogs when I went camping, what I saw in Jens video and what Dianne talks about in her article that made me want to write this blog post.
I think first and foremost, dogs of ANY size should not be allowed to pull and lunge toward another, regardless of size, breed or intention, it is bad manners and this will often trigger bad behaviour in the dog being lunged at.
Many of the small dogs I saw coming onto the beach were overstimulated, under trained and had psychological issues, if you take your dog to a beach, assume there will be dogs there, don’t let your out of control dog access these places and then be surprised at its bad behaviour.
The size of the dog NEVER excuses the behaviour, if your dog is small and it behaves bad, it isn’t funny, cute or acceptable, in fact it is turning your dog into a target for bigger, perhaps aggressive, reactive or prey driven dogs.
If you take your dog to a public place, the dog should be under effective control, if your dog does not like other dogs, taking it to a social event for DOGS is stupid. It WILL see and be near other dogs and if the dog behaves badly, it is your responsibility.
We have many people come to see us and their dog has been Declared Dangerous, a great percentage (NOT ALL) of these people have large dogs that have chased, attacked or reacted to small dogs. I don’t want to see these dogs declared dangerous and I don’t want these small dogs attacked, but often (NOT ALWAYS) it is far from just the fault of the owner of the dog that committed the crime. Many of these larger dogs have been repeatedly lunged at, bitten, chased, barked at and or attacked by small dogs and their behaviour has been generated by these experiences. I said MANY, not ALL.
The problem is one that is conditioned by more than one experience and it can be avoided by people understanding that some behaviours should not be allowed to just play out and be rehearsed time and time again because … (insert stupid excuse here).
Small dogs, like big dogs can be trained, I have many clients that have small dogs that are trained to walk on a loose leash, socialised to other dogs at the level that means they do not become over stimulated at the sight of another dog. They have great recalls and they can remain calm in social / public environments when there are other dogs around.
I would not say this is common at all though, in fact I would say it is rare and because of this, many small dogs are left untrained, psychological issues like dog reactivity etc are left untreated and this makes them a target to other dogs.
I have very good control over my dog, this is what I do for a living though so one would expect that, but there were at least 8 occasions that occurred in which I would call it justified if he had retaliated toward the dog. No I would not like to see that, no I would not like him to learn that he can fight other dogs, no I don’t think it would have taught the other dog a lesson, but this level of provocation rarely goes unanswered.
I have written a separate run down on Jen Martins video on what I think played out (as mentioned it is here), but again if Roscoe had of grabbed this dog and returned fire at the intensity the dog was hitting him with, it would have been dead in a flash. He is a working line German Shepherd that has been playing tug all his life, I know as I taught Jen, he has a killer grip, lucky he also is impeccably Neutralised and had thick nerves… Please watch Jens video to see what I mean.
In Dianne Baumans article, she seems to lean toward the opinion that this problem comes from people having changed the trend in dog training and moving more toward positive, non correctional methods.
I can’t say I am totally against her thoughts here but they don’t cover what I or Jen has experienced this past couple of weeks, whilst I do think there are a lot of people that are working on their dogs behaviour in a positive way when perhaps some small aversion may solve the problem more effectively or even quicker, AT LEAST THEY ARE WORKING ON IT.
The people I experienced laughed, giggled, smiled or behaved like there was no problem, I would be delighted if they up took a positive training program or a negative one, or ANY training.
Instead they don’t see a problem until it is too late, which is sad for dog owners… Paper reads “Small dog mauled by Pitbull“. This is a horrific experience for all concerned surely but is the attacking dog ALWAYS at 100% of the fault?
We can all do a lot better by trying to understand the animals we love so much, and the other dog owners that perhaps wish to be left alone. I was asked is my dog friendly and when I said “yes” their dog was let run up to mine.
I didn’t say I wanted their dog to play, or approach me? I was having some down time away from work with my dog, I don’t want to share that. Do I have to lie and say “no, he is a killer?“…
This is a serious problem, at epidemic level, children are being killed by dogs, breeds are being banned and dogs being killed by one another, do not let this continue.
What can you do?
If you are getting a puppy.
Research people who get great results with dogs that currently fill the roles that your dog will. If it’s a pet, competitor or working dog, don’t just do what you did with your last dog, the playing field has changed.
Take a look at my article on Socialisation, it could make a very big difference to the way you raise your puppy.
Understand that every dog no matter what size, breed or goal set you have will need training, manners and life skills. These don’t come inside the pup, these are your responsibility.
Protect your pup, pups don’t have a “puppy license“, this is a stupid ideal that has no bases. So many aggressive dogs are dogs that were attacked as a pup, their license didn’t help them.
If you have a young dog that is starting to act out, react to dogs, won’t come when called, can become aggressive or reactive to other dogs, pulls on the leash then eliminate rehearsal, don’t let this happen over and over again, it will only make the behaviour stronger.
Your young dog does NOT need more socialisation, it needs remedial training or perhaps desensitisation.
Get some help now, the younger I see a dog the greater the chances I have at achieving total rehabilitation.
You have a problem
If you have a dog that doesn’t behave well in certain circumstances, first, don’t take it there, second get some help. There are countless ways to address problems both on the positive and negative reinforcement quadrants. So eliminate rehearsal, get help.
No matter how old your dog is, how many times it has practiced the behaviours, there is always something that can be done to reduce and or minimize the problems. Older / mature dogs may not ever make total rehabilitation, but they can improve enough to mitigate the risk so they can lead a normal life.
The dogs I saw giving me grief when I was away predominantly were small dogs on Flexi leashes owned by dumb arse people who have no clue. I don’t for a second think any of them will be reading this post.
I don’t think ALL small dogs behave this way, in fact as I said I have a number of clients with small dogs that are very well behaved and trained, not all started as pups with me either. I would love to help small dog owners learn how to batter manage, train and have fun with their dogs, I don’t see nearly enough.
You don’t have to be a dog trainer to have a well behaved dog, my wife was next to me in most of the situations I described above, with her Working Line German Shepherd Diesel. She is not a dog trainer but Diesel was beautifully behaved as well.
I experienced in a week away what many people experience every day, dog owners are their own worst enemies, keep this up and we will have no dogs to squabble over…
As always comments are all welcome, just add your thoughts below.