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Defending the pack or deliberately picking a fight

Discussion in 'Dog Training and Behaviour' started by Irish Setter Gal, Aug 13, 2011.


  1. Irish Setter Gal

    Irish Setter Gal PetForums Senior

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    Scenario:

    Local park, open spaces with occasional bushy scrub areas. A couple of others walking their little dogs.

    My 4yr old (happy birthday today :) ) loose within a couple of metres, nose down plodding around sniffing but out of my eyesight. Me holding the collar of my 8mth old sat next to me chatting to an elderly man with his very small spaniel, all eyes on the little dog in front of us. With no warning, from behind 8mth old is flattened by what I believe is a white Malamute type dog.

    8mth old raised hackles looking bewildered, collar now twisted in my hand I let go, 8mth old then is pinned to floor by white dog. My 4yr old then arrives on scene, white dog leaves 8mth old and a Mexican shoulder to shoulder rigid stand off ensues with low growling coming from mine (couldn't hear if the white dog was also growling). At this point I also notice my 4yr old has his front leg across and over the white dogs shoulder - not a good sign.

    So, while I re grab my youngsters collar to get him under control I consider my options
    1. Run away and leave them to it, but what about the old man and his dog should they be caught up in the potential fight about to occur
    2. Grab my 4yr olds collar and risk a fight kicking off or being bitten by my own as I've grabbed in a sensitive area
    3. Try to break them apart and risk being bitten in the process.

    At this point my 4yr old was turning his head either it was away from the other dogs head (whilst still grumbling) or he turned his head to look at me. What I chose to then do was tap my 4yr old on the bum with my foot - probably the wrong action since a fight, or the noises of a fight started at that very moment (probably triggered off by my tap), just as the white dogs owner arrived running, out of breath and clearly upset at her own dogs performance in flattening my pup and invading a peaceful chit chat - this was coincident with my tapping on the bum.

    She grabbed her dog and pulled it away, the old man and myself just walked off the other way.

    Questions:
    The white dog is notorious for barging in and being involved in spats, his tail is always up and curled by breed design. but I don't think I've ever seen this dog wag his tail in friendly play. He looks a powerful dog and walks with weight forwards and head up, ears by design are always up.

    I believe the white dog is entire just as my 4yr old is.

    Who kicked what off and what should I really have done about intervening or not.

    Was my 4 yr old trying to take control of the situation, or just as bad as the other dog for wading in, albeit after the youngster had been flattened from behind.
     
  2. catz4m8z

    catz4m8z PetForums VIP

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    You cant really know surely??:confused: What does your gut tell you from what you know about your dog??, is he likely to want to attack a very dominant dog??, had he shown signs of being protective before??
    If it was just a one off I wouldnt worry too much if it was me.
    My boy is protective of his pack...the other day he sat through a very pushy and testosterone driven JRT repeatedly humping him and didnt bat an eyelid until it chased my youngest and made her yelp at which point he chased it away barking furiously!!:D
     
  3. Irish Setter Gal

    Irish Setter Gal PetForums Senior

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    My dog was being pure dog and reacting to events, he was locked in another zone - I genuinely believe that had I grabbed my dog by the collar he would have panicked and turned before realising who it was.

    I think that my 4yr old was being reactive to an intruder that he took offence to. He doesn't usually square up to this dog in this manner, mind you we do tend to normally keep our distance from it, or I put the lead on 'just in case' mine decides to run in. TBH though the white dog does have a penchant for running across to us rather than the other way round, I tend to recall mine before he decides to run across - prevention usually better than cure with this white dog.

    Would be interesting though to know what the practical answer should really have been to the situation somebody elses dog put me in.
     
    #3 Irish Setter Gal, Aug 13, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2011
  4. DT

    DT Banned

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    Sounds by the description of the the stance and the raised tail of the Mal that he was asserting his position. Your four year old could well have been challenging him as this took place on neurtal ground!
    I could be talking a load of bull mind! jut how I have worked this one out from what you describe!
     
  5. Wagtime

    Wagtime PetForums Junior

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    Sounds like your dog was just being interested in what the white dog was doing and making sure that you and the pup were okay. You did the right things not getting too involved and doesn't sound like your dogs were reacting badly. TBH the Mal's owner is in the wrong and should have been a lot more apologetic. If you see her again, explain that her dog nearly caused a big problem for you and needs to be either kept on the lead or have some recall training. Being an entire male doesn't help with the recall either although it doesn't excuse her letting him get away from her.

    Don't be too worried about your dogs unless there's another episode and try and be calm when you see this dog and owner again.

    Hope this helps,
    Sara.
     
  6. lucylastic

    lucylastic PetForums VIP

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    I don't know if you should or could have done anything differently. The main thing is that you kept calm and didn't panic, thereby avoiding a nasty escalation.
     
  7. newfiesmum

    newfiesmum Banned

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    I think it highly likely that your dog was protecting your pup. Ferdie never fights or gets involved, but if Joshua does, he will join in. Once I have Joshua off, Ferdie will immediately leave the other dog alone. As to how you could break them up, lord knows. It is always a risk, especially with someone else's dog. I have taken to keeping a short lead on mine just in case I have to grab him quickly, then I can do so without grabbing his collar, which is hard to find under all that fur.

    I think the mal's owner should keep him on a lead if he regularly does this sort of thing.

    As to never wagging his tail, do curly tailed dogs do that? I have never really seen one do that, it seems to be stuck in a curled up position:smile5:
     
  8. Rottiefan

    Rottiefan PetForums VIP

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    Just like humans, I do believe some dogs will 'protect' (for want of a better word) those dogs they know well. Like most social animals, when a threat is perceived, there tends to be a rush onto the situation to almost gauge the threat, and this is perhaps made more likely if there is known individual in the mix.

    However, I don't like the word 'protect' as it implies a dog is thinking "This dog is threatening my friend, and my friend is scared and I must help", which I believe many cognitive behaviourists would have trouble justifying!

    Like many social animals, dogs will engage in contagious or 'allelomimetic' behaviours, where they join in behaviours that are being performed by others- e.g. barking in rescue centres. This can manifest into a mobbing behaviour too, often seen in birds (well, I've seen it often and learnt about this behaviour with many bird 'case studies'), and which has also been observed in wolves and other canids. The behaviours are often triggered by one animal, like a waterbuck that gets a fright and darts through the bushveld, triggering all the others in the harem to do so, each following the white toilet-seat markings on their rumps!

    It's very hard to tell what exactly goes on in those situations, but I would put it down to some kind of contagious, allelomimetic behaviour, which is then progressed to ascertaining if the threat is valid or not. So, the Mal rushes in, your dog gets a fright and perhaps sends out some olfactory signal of distress, then your other 4yr old rushes in as a response to the situation. Although, I'm not too sure.

    Like always, I am not a fan of the interpretation that this is any pack behaviour- I don't need to go into why, as I often do already on this forum. Likewise with the idea that the Mal was a 'dominant sort' or 'asserting his position'. I mean, asserting what position, in what social structure, in what hierarchy? You'd be hard pressed to find any groups of domestic dogs with something similar to a real social hierarchy I believe, and even then, canids do not go around fighting each other to assert position.

    Fighting in dogs has most often been seen to be the behaviour of insecure males- and this is what I would describe this Mal as, quite honestly. I think because he is a big powerful dog, people assume he's purposively doing this to start a fight. I would call this dog reactive, who is uncomfortable in the presence of other dogs, and when in a certain range goes 'over-threshold', loses all train of thought, and hits reacting point, which consists of the behaviour you saw.

    So, what to do in that situation? Well, it's very important to be able to read dogs in the first place. You acknowledged that both dogs were in a freeze, and it sounds as if your dog was trying to communicate (whether for better or worse is the question). Your foot tap may well have been the trigger.

    I would have first have thrown some yummy food over the Mals head, just to see if he would go for it. If not, it completely depends on how both dogs are looking and being able to use your gut feeling to what they are communicating to each other. Sometimes stepping in is the only option, but you can't just grab one dog, it needs to be both to defuse the situation, although a bite is highly likely.
     
    #8 Rottiefan, Aug 14, 2011
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2011
  9. Irish Setter Gal

    Irish Setter Gal PetForums Senior

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    Many thanks for the replies - an interesting, but no doubt everyday encounter in the usual park environment, and it's nice to have a few options of reaction available to hand.

    Rottiefan - unfortunately I don't always have a pocket full if treats available, but I do have a lead - which is what a behaviourist I spoke to today suggested was the better answer. A distraction to both dogs, but thrown at the 'rude' dog, in this case the white mal, and then walk away.
     
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