What do you do when your dog has been attacked?
It happens and it’s frightening! I receive a couple of emails or phones calls every year from a dog owner who tells me, ‘my dog has been attacked my another dog, and now he’s afraid of all dogs!”.
Assuming your dog survives the attack (some dogs don’t!), the physical scars can be followed by emotional trauma. I have personally helped dogs to overcome the trauma with the help of either my own dogs or a gentle group of dogs belonging to other clients.
It’s important to take it slow when allowing your dog to interact with other dogs after he or she has healed physically. The sooner you get your dog socializing with other dogs again, the better. The longer you wait, the more fearful your dog will be with his next interaction.
First off, your dog will be taking cues from you
or his or her handler. If you’re feeling afraid and nervous while you’re walking your dog or when introducing your dog to another, the more afraid and nervous your dog will be. Dogs are highly sensitive and tuned in to energy. A dog can literally sense or feel your anxiety when you are close by.
It is perfectly natural to feel overly protective of your dog after your dog has survived an attack by another. After all, you are your dog’s protector so whatever happens to your dog is your responsibility. Not necessarily your fault (depending on the circumstances) but your dog’s safety is nevertheless your responsibility.
After a damaging attack, the emotional trauma to your dog will either cause your dog to become the aggressor next time or will cause your dog to run the other way, to hide and fight when cornered. Some dog trauma symptoms afterward are fear of other dogs- showing itself in your dog running away from another dog or barking/growling when another dog approaches. Your dog may become very defensive, tail between the legs and showing aggression (fear aggression) with teeth snapping or even biting without provocation.
If YOUR dog was the aggressor, you may find this DVD helpful in re training…
I am completely AGAINST dog parks that allow any and all dogs to play in them. It’s like turning some kindergartners loose in a classroom full of toys and weapons both! A dog’s teeth are his weapons! Now you throw in some toys that every dog wants, take off the leashes and let them go at it! A fight or two is bound to happen, I guarantee it. The most vulnerable ones in there are relying on their owners to protect them and when that line of protection fails…. use your imagination.
Un regulated dog parks that allow everyone to use them are a problem also in that no one is checking to see if dogs have been vaccinated, to see if any have a contagious condition. An ideal public Dog Park is one that is supervised by a knowledgable dog person… perhaps run by a local dog club. I would personally NEVER take my dogs to a public unsupervised dog park and risk my dogs health from less responsible dog owners and their dogs.
Thankfully, I have my own dog playgrounds or parks
in my dog boarding facility but only my doggie guests or my own dogs are allowed to use them. I evaluate the dogs and determine which dogs will be allowed to mingle with other dogs and which ones won’t. Occasionally I have to send a dog out for ignoring my direction in hassling other dogs or bullying another dog. I don’t mix little dogs with large dogs unless the large dogs are slow moving and gentle. Likewise if I have a rather nasty little Jack Russel terrier that wants to boss any dog, including a dog that towers over him, that little terrier is taken out. Size is not an indicator of whether that dog will be a good dog park friend to other dogs!
A couple of cases, naming no names, I boarded a beautiful young Setter last summer that had been attacked by another dog for no plausible reason. The owner and her dog had simply been going for a leashed walk when an un leashed dog attacked her dog. Thankfully her Setter was not seriously injured but after that on walks, her dog became very jumpy and afraid around other dogs.
I introduced my two gentle Retriever dogs to this Setter little by little. At first he just wanted to run away and to his horror, my dogs followed. My dogs just wanted to be social, to sniff him out thoroughly and be sniffed right back. My dogs left him alone when the Setter reacted with snapping teeth and tail between his legs. They would walk away each time and soon the Setter realized that nothing bad ever happened. It didn’t take that long and the Setter was following my dogs around, allowing some social sniffing. It took awhile but by the time the Setter’s owner returned from her vacation, her dog was playing with my dogs and other gentle playful dogs in my facility.
a much older medium sized dog, was grabbed by a large Mastiff, while the older dog and his owner were going on a leashed walk. The old dog suffered many puncture wounds and was hospitalized only days before he was due to stay with us while his owners went on vacation. The dog’s owner had many misgivings about leaving her dog in this condition but I assured her I would help him get over his trauma. Aside from some wound cleaning and antibiotics, it was simple to care for him. I knew this dog would also suffer emotional trauma if I did not do something immediately. This old boy had always been a social dog so I took him outside many times per day to mingle with other smaller gentle dogs. By the time, his owner came back, her old dog had mostly healed from his physical wounds and seemed to suffer no dog trauma symptoms at all.
In each case, and in others, I try not to feel sorry for the affected dog. The dog would pick up on my anxiety for him or her and would lose confidence in my ability to protect him or her. That is absolutely vital… act confidant so your dog will feel it but also make 100% sure that the traumatized dog really is perfectly safe. Take extra precautions not to walk in any area where you know there is an aggressive dog. .My advice, because it has worked for me, is to walk your dog with other dogs that you know are gentle and well mannered. The best confidence builders for a traumatized dog is other dogs! It’s true!Also important, make sure YOUR dog does not become an aggressor because of fear, do not give him free access to a very submissive or overly playful dog, either personality can put your dog over the ‘edge’ before he is ready to be social.
One last bit of advice
and maybe the most important one of all is DO NOT pet, stroke, speak softly to or comfort your dog when he or she is acting afraid or aggressive. Oh man, how many times have I (as diplomatically as possible) told someone with a ‘fraidy cat’ personality of dog or one that is growling at me or my dogs, to please not pet and tell their dog that ‘it’s okay’. The owner thinks he or she is making things better but in reality, the dog is being told that his or her behaviour is okay! Yup, you’re making things worse, not better.
The best reaction is either a distraction of the dog or do nothing at all, keeping a positive energy yourself depending on the circumstances. If your dog is lunging and acting aggressive, you obviously have not done your basic training with your dog. Your dog should be expected to sit and wait when you tell him to. Don’t punish him for growling either. If you have him under control and he is growling, walk away with him on leash, then when you have his attention, ask for a Sit and reward him. With a dog that is shivering and shaking, ignore the behaviour completely or distract him.
There are many little ways that you can handle these cases and would take too much time here to explain. However, whatever you do, don’t make it worse by comforting. One of the most important things to your dog is to know who the Leader is, that Leader of course, should be you. Your dog will actually feel more secure know that you are in charge.
Check out the post called What Does a Dog Need?
This has been my experience and I hope it can help someone else 🙂