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Posts Tagged ‘dangerous dogs’

Dogs: When does play stop being play?

September 13, 2015 13 comments

Jasper as a puppy, harassing DaisyOver a week ago, I wrote about the Sue Sternberg seminar I attended and the Red Alert Behaviors she often sees at dog parks. What I did not share then was how much of a revelation it was for me when she shared the videos showing what these behaviors looked like. Until then, I had not realized that one of my own dogs, Jasper, displayed and practiced some of these behaviors in his early years. Until then, I had not made the connection that Daisy had been the unfortunate recipient of these behaviors not only from him, but also other dogs at the dog park.

Sometimes we can see things going on around us and not really “see” what is right in front of us, you know?

The Red Alert Behaviors Sue identified were:

  1. Risky chasing behaviors almost always include out of control and high arousal chasing that may include one of more of the following: group chase, hard physical contact, pinning, high tail carriage, neck or throat fixation and the chasee hiding, or trying to get away.
  2. Mobbing is a group of individual dogs approaching, harassing, controlling or attacking a single dog. This can be with or without bloodshed.
  3. Targeting is one dog following or pursuing another dog relentlessly, exclusively, obsessively. It’s relentless engagement that may or may not include many of the behaviors displayed in Risky Chasing.
  4. Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior through the use of physical overpowering, hard contact, body slamming, hip-checking, shoulder-checking, relentless engagement, chase or ganging up to affect an individual dog.
  5. Hunting is when a dog moves around the dog park going from dog to dog, looking for something to jab, chase, poke, pounce on, roll. This is not looking for a playmate, but forcing himself on other dogs.

After that first day of Sue’s seminar, I came home and started looking through old video footage of Daisy and Jasper. (You can see one of them below.) It was pretty clear from what I found that the behaviors I saw were not always”play.” I wasn’t paying attention to dog body language, but seeing only what I wanted to see as a proud dog owner hanging out at the dog park. You can even hear me laughing on some of them. Maybe some of what I recorded was “play”, Daisy does have her tail up and she appears to be having fun in some of the video clips, but I would argue that sometimes what was fun for Jasper was not always fun for Daisy.

It’s a strange feeling realizing that the people you are railing against (for not intervening when a dog was being bullied or mobbed) in Sue’s videos was YOU just a few years ago. I should have been Daisy’s advocate and protector more than I was. I am not beating myself up here, just acknowledging that had I known what I know now, I would have done more to intervene, not only with Jasper, but with other dogs too. I think all of us can relate to moments like this – when one realizes that what they thought they knew about their dogs and how to work with them was not how they would handle it now.

I tried to keep that in mind while watching the videos I had taken back then (six-seven years ago). I can see now that Jasper did a lot of Targeting behaviors and when he got too excited, and when took it to a a higher energy level, it would sometimes lead to Mobbing or Bullying by other dogs. I am thankful someone finally pointed out to me what I could not see at the time so I could stop it before it really got out of control. Sue Sternberg says the dog park is often a place where dogs practice aggressive behaviors. I think there is some truth to this.

This doesn’t mean Jasper or other dogs are inherently bad, they are just exhibiting bad behaviors that should be interrupted and stopped. Jasper still herds Daisy from time to time, but he does not do it for longer than a few seconds and he does not escalate it to a higher energy level like he did when he was younger. I think that is because I finally learned to intervene and stop it before it any further and was consistent about it.

So what are appropriate play behaviors? Here is what Sue shared with us in her seminar:

  • Play is usually limited to two dogs. When there are more it stops being play.
  • Play often is limited to games of chase (between two dogs), with the chasee initiating the game of chase and both dogs taking multiple breaks in between the game of chase.
  • Play also may include air biting, but no actual contact with skin and no actual biting. (Dogs who “play” by biting or grabbing a dog around the neck are practicing aggressive behaviors.)

You might be thinking to yourself, “Only two dogs?”, but I would suggest that if you sit at any dog park, you will see that when a third dog enters play between two dogs, they are often going in to harass the dogs or one dog (like a nip to the ear or leg). They are opportunists and taking advantage of the situation.

And when a group of dogs gets involved in a chase it is usually not play, but the chasing of a weaker dog. This is a dangerous situation that can escalate very quickly and cause harm to that dog or another dog involved in the chase.

You can see one of Sue’s videos showing some of these dangerous behaviors here:

We dog owners need to be more vigilant when our dogs are playing with other dogs, and we shouldn’t hesitate to intervene, when necessary.

Have you intervened when your or another dog’s behavior escalated to a dangerous degree?

Worried you won’t remember any of these behaviors? Or, worried your own dog is practicing these “bad” behaviors in your dog park? I highly recommend you get Sue’s Dog Park Assistant app for your phone. It only costs 99 cents, but it will pay for itself in the long run.

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Dog behavior to watch for at the dog park

December 2, 2013 30 comments

Over the holiday weekend, my dogs enjoyed daily visits to the dog park. They loved getting to walk in the woods every day and to meet up with some of their old friends and hang out. Daisy is more comfortable exploring when she knows her friends. She knows what to expect from them and she knows they will respect her space.

Going to the dog park can be quite an eye opener for the new dog owner. Not all dogs have doggie social skills or a respect for other dogs’ space. You have to know what to watch for and have an understanding of what is really going on.

I have been known to intervene in situations where I feel a dog is in danger, afraid or in need of a little assistance. I am used to hearing people say “Dogs can work it out themselves.” or “Let them be. They’ll work it out,” but that is not always the case. We as dog owners have a responsibility to protect our dogs and to prevent them from harm. In some cases, that means not going to a dog park at all. In others, it means you need to be aware and know what to watch for in case trouble starts.

The video below was taken at a dog park and demonstrates some of the dog behaviors that every dog owner should not only be aware of, but also be ready to intervene in, if they see it. It’s worth watching if you do not understand dog body language. The commentator does a good job of describing what is going on. I have already shared it with my dog park friends, please feel free to share it with yours.

Dangerous Dog Registry – Are you for it or against it?

October 1, 2012 24 comments

Today, I saw an interesting article in the Miami Herald, Miami-Dade could require online “dangerous dog” registry. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

Most states already have online registries for sex offenders, and that’s a good thing, but a registry for dangerous dogs? I’m not sure. Maybe for the dangerous dog’s humans? No. That probably isn’t right either.

Part of me thinks it’s a good idea. It puts dog owners on notice that they need to train their dogs, and if their dog is deemed dangerous and attacks again, they can be confiscated. But posting the dog’s picture and owner’s address can also lead to harassment and an increased likelihood that a false report might be filed by neighbors who are now scared of having the dog in their neighborhood.

And, then there was this sentence (found in the article):

Under county law, a dog can be declared dangerous if it attacks another animal or a human without provocation and causes severe injury or death, or if it approaches a human in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack.

I wondered. Who gets to decide if the attack was unprovocated or provocated? Most people don’t know dog body language. They are not likely to recognize a provoked or unprovoked attack because they wouldn’t recognize the signs that a dog is warning them to get away. Who gets to decide if a bite or attack was unprovocated if there is no one around who understands the warning signs?

And, what about breed discrimination? Is that likely to go up in Miami-Dade county if this passes? Will we see more pictures posted of a particular breed leading to people wanting to ban all dogs of this breed? Possibly. The only thing I know for certain is that pitbulls won’t bear the brunt of that discrimination. Pitbulls aren’t allowed in Miami-Dade county. (Oh wait. I guess that means they are already discriminated against.)

Having dealt with our own dangerous dog issue at the dog park recently (thankfully, we never came across the owner or the dog, who have since been banned), I can’t help but think maybe we just need a registry for the really dumb dog owners. The ones who continue to put their dogs in situations in which they are likely to attack again. I know I am being sarcastic, but honestly I don’t know. Maybe having one would be a good thing in some situations.

What do you think? Is a dog registry a good idea or a bad one?

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