This evening I had to break up a dog fight for the first time in a very long time. I had just stepped out my front door and locked it, on my way to the park to train Ross. We went about 5 feet down our walk when I saw my neighbour’s child walking their big golden lab about 50 feet away. The lab saw us and lunged.
This exact same scenario happened two days ago, only that time I had all three dogs out in my back yard. My yard is tiny and is fenced in by a 3 foot chicken-wire-and-post home-made fence. The fence is predominantly to keep kids from kicking soccer balls into my garden and is not meant to keep dogs in, or out. My dogs are never out there without me, so there is no need for anything stronger.
Two days ago, when the same child walked the same yellow lab past my back fence, the dog lunged, broke free of the small child who he easily out weighed, and charged my little fence. The fence gave way easily under his bulk (this dog is not in good shape!). Ross charged from the other side, but I grabbed him by the scruff and managed to block my other two with the other arm. The fence was weak, but a strange surface so the lab didn’t come through. At least not right away. That gave the child time to catch up. The poor kid was trying to grab his dog until I ordered him to grab the end of the leash. The last thing I needed was this kid to get bit by his own dog as it was trying to attack mine. Once the kid grabbed the leash I told him to run home quickly, which jolted the dog in the right direction. Fortunately the dog followed, and that was that.
Today there was no fence between us. Why do people let small children walk dogs that are much too powerful for them to control?! Before I could turn around and get back in the house, I had a dogfight on my hands. I knew from his previous behaviour that this dog meant business, and I wasn’t wrong. He charged in and didn’t even stop for a sniff. He just slammed into Ross and started to fight. And Ross, of course, fought back.
I have worked very hard on reducing Ross’s desire to fight with other dogs. I have have done focus training for years, and have treated him homeopathically. I also treated his thyroid problem, which is an underlying cause of many aggressive dog’s aggression. I am the first to admit that I have a dog with dog-dog aggression issues, but I also move heaven and earth to not only mange that, but to reduce it. Over the four years that I have had Ross, he’s gone from wanting to attack any dog he sees to being able to sit ring-side at an agility trial and pay attention to no-one but me. Just this morning we ran into a large German Shepherd, and Ross barely looked at him. His obsessiveness is nearly gone, and his aggression is too. I attribute this to improved health (raw diet, balanced thyroid, homeopathic treatment and, most importantly, I’ve stopped his annual vaccines) which allows his brain to be calmer and more steady, to preventing any situations that could land Ross in a fight, and to the training we’ve done, which has helped give him an alternative pattern when he does get stressed or reactive.
Just an aside, one of the biggest causes of dog aggression is the rabies vaccine. Side effects of this vaccine are diverse, but aggression is one of the most serious. Annual rabies vaccines is one of, or (most likely) THE main reason dogs have become so aggressive over the years and we are now facing an epidemic of dog aggression. Studies have shown that a single rabies vaccine given over the age of 6 months will provide ‘immunity’ for life in at least 95% of dogs. So why keep vaccinating? If in doubt, titer. Don’t vaccinate. Most dogs I know with aggression issues have become increasingly aggressive over the years. They have also been vaccinated every year, and fed kibble and other health issues ignored. I have done as I explained above, i.e. the reverse. My dogs have all improved in whatever their health and behaviour issue have been. So that tells me I’m on the right track. Too bad more people can’t open their eyes and see what’s going on.
Back to the dogfight – not wanting to have Ross fight, I did the only thing I could do. I attacked the other dog for him. I lunged at the lab, yelling at the top of my lungs in as angry and aggressive a voice as I could, “YOU GET AWAY FROM MY DOG!!! GET AWAY FROM HIM!!!!”
The lab was clearly shocked and stopped trying to attack immediately. In fact he hit the deck and started to crawl away form me on his belly. I continued to charge at him until he was well away from Ross, who wisely kept back! By then his owner had caught up – an adult, not the child. I felt bad for having yelled so angrily at their dog, but I had no other way to break up the fight. I’m not interested in being bitten, the likely scenario if you try and physically break up a fight.
The woman apologized profusely. I suggested she get a prong or halti for the dog if they were going to let their small child walk him, as this is not the first time it had happened. She seemed surprised to hear this – apparently her son had not mentioned the previous incident and he had been out on his own. The whole neighbourhood was out at this point and I had quite a few people come over and ask if Ross was OK. One of my neighbours, who used to be in the army, said he was duly impressed that I clearly had everything under total control: “Yes, sergeant, SIR!”
We’ll see if they change their patterns after this but I won’t hold my breath. It never ceases to amaze me how people like to stick their heads in the sand. After the first incident I had mentioned the dog to several of my other dog-owning neighbours. They were all aware that the dog was dog-aggressive. So if the whole neighbourhood knows it, why don’t the dog’s owners? They must, but then why do they let a 7 year old kid walk an 80lb dog?
So many people live in such denial of the issues their dogs have, it’s amazing. I just don’t understand it. I don’t think it is any personal reflection on me that Ross has dog-aggression issues, nor am I a bad person because Mira is spooky or Hannah is itchy. I see these problems in my dogs and I take a multi-pronged approach (health, training, prevention) to managing and reducing them. There is so much that can be done with dog-dog aggression, yet I doubt these people will even buy a halti for their dog, which is nothing but a band-aid for the problem. But it would at least be a step in the right direction. Hopefully my human-dog aggression will at least get them to avoid bringing their dog around my house!