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[personal profile] alchemia
this is expanded from the post here: Neighbour attacked our dog - need advice.

Questions about whether or not to file a report/press charges etc are in THAT post.

THIS post has only questions about dog behaviour. But the story details might still be useful for those answering the questions about reports/charges in the earlier post.



I was walking our dog Mickey, a 1.5yr old Polish Tatra Sheepdog (similar to Great Pyrenees) who is 105lbs (still has weight to put on). We had a very bad experience with a person down the street.

First, let me tell you about our dog... Mickey's breed is a Polish Tatra Mountain Sheepdog (Owczarek Podhalanski), a rare breed of Livestock Protection Dog- they basically hang out with sheep etc and if a wolf shows up and goes after the sheep, the dogs go gang up on the wolves first warning/scaring them off, and then, using force/attacking only if that does not work. Tatras also do some herding and carting (unlike most of the other Livestock Guardian dogs). They are very smart dogs- and do not "obey" commands so much as consider them suggestions- weighing if it is worth it or not to do.

I initially picked the breed because we have sheep and chickens, and I wanted a dog that would not be a threat to the other pets we have (cats, parrot, fancy rats), and because Bug's family is batshit insane and should be behind bars- we wanted a big dog to warn off strangers (and to go after them if we were physically threatened). He does bark and growl at anyone who comes near, let alone ON our property. If he's in the car, he will bark/growl at anyone who approaches as well (if I take him out on the leash though, he will immediately stop and be tolerant, if not friendly). If we allow someone in the house, he will not go after them, but he demands to be allowed to observe.

Now despite his protective instincts, he truly LOVES everybody. When we walk he makes play postures at dogs that are barking and growling at him from behind fences, like, "C'mon stop being a sour puss, I just want to be friends and play!" There is even a pitbull mix dog across the street that escapes to visit him, and we let her in the house sometimes. They play for hours and love eachother. But if she goes near the cats or the parrot or rats - Mickey will bark at her, get between her and the other pet and otherwise warn/distract her to not touch them. His loving her does NOT over ride his protectiveness to his family, nor does his protectiveness override his ability to be friendly. I'm sure if the other dog tried to hurt one of the animals instead of just wander too close despite his warning, he'd chase her out of the house, or if she had sunk her teath into my leg, he'd chomp onto her until she let go.

Its also become clear he has an instinct for service work. Since Bugland has MS and I've a degenerative joint disease, this works out perfectly. For example, at 6 months of age, Bug fell down and Mickey ran to their side, nosed them to be sure they were ok, and then stood still as they put their hands on his back, and used him as a brace to stand up. He also "knows" if Bug is going to have a seizure well before it actually hits. We're training Mickey to do things like pick things up, provide physical support, to get help in the case of a seizure, to pull a wheelchair, etc. etc.

Anyway, we went for a walk around 9 to 9:30 tonight, Aug 18th. We came to a house at the end of the block, where two guys who live there (presumably a father and son, or maybe 2 brothers, I dunno) were out with their dog, a female Rottweiler. Mickey and this dog have met before, but it was a few months ago; they seemed to remember each other though, and started to do puppy play posturing to each other. The two guys say "Hello, what's up" to me, so I say "Hi, not much, how are you?"- we've previously exchanged Hello's and some brief friendly "small talk".

The two guys, who were on their driveway, walk over to the mailbox as I approached walking along the side of the street. One says he didn't remember my name; I laugh and say, "that's OK, every one remembers the dog's name and not mine" (which is true, people bike past and say "Hi Mickey!" and apparently the guy with the mohawk walking the dog is too unremarkable to remember). So I shake the 1st guys hand saying "I'm Alan". As I start to take back my hand from the shake, he turns his arm around someway to quickly grab my hand and shake it from another position, and then did this again, like some kind of secret frat handshake I was supposed to know but didn't. He also mentioned his name. The 2nd guy then does the same type of weird handshake thing and introduces himself. I don't remember who was who, but one was "Chris" the other name, I forgot.

Please keep in mind for the rest of this... I am 5'2". These guys were maybe only a couple inches in difference in height, at least one of them was at least 6ft.

Meanwhile, I let Mickey have the full length of the lead to visit with the other dog (about 12 ft). The dogs do their sniffing thing, and side jumping playfully, with their tongues flopping out of their mouths. One of the guys asks how much Mickey weighs. I say, "Oh, about 105, or 110". He says "Nahhhh, she [their Rottie] isn't as tall as him, and she's at least 130." (I didn't say anything but I was thinking, well, DUH they have completely different builds).

At this point, Mickey tries to put his front paw over the Rotties back. The Rottie didn't snap or growl or anything. This was simply 2 dogs playing, just like when Mickey plays with the PitBull Mix I mentioned above....

*** What continues involves physical animal abuse so please skip if this will upset you...***



While The dogs were playing, the 2nd guy asked if Mickey was a boy or girl. I say he's male and intact. At this point is when Mickey put his paw on the other one's back, and the next thing I knew the 1st guy KICKES Mickey in the side (hard, I heard a distinct "THUNK" sound), grabs the middle part of the lead and yanks it up so that Mickey is on his hind-tip-toes (if Mickey was not as long of body as he is, I'm sure he'd have held him up off the ground and let him dangle.)

I said "That's enough"- but I have no idea if the guy(s) thought I was talking to him, or if I was joining in them in "repremanding" Mickey.

The guy says to Mickey something like "don't you touch my dog", drops Mickey and then kicks him again (more desultorily, but still).

I wound up the lead, said "Lets go" to Mickey, and the two guys are like "G'night," and wavy.

While we walk away, the guys walk back to the garage and the one says, laughing, "Did y'see that? I didn't even break a sweat wrestling with that dog"

*Wrestling????*

Mickey stopped to licked himself at the mailbox down, and I got down to his level- in the dark they may have thought I was picking up dog poop or something, but I stared at the guys (who were hanging out in front of the open garage) and growled at them for a bit (they couldn't possibly hear me at that distance). I dunno if Mickey understood, but hopefully...

Anyway, we came right home. On the way home I praised him (as always) for doing as we are teaching him (to stop on command and stop at street intersections; and to cross after cars are gone etc).

Once we got home, he came into the bedroom, saw Bug, and then went back into the hallway to sit down. I had to call him back and invite him on the bed. usually he just runs in and jumps up. Bug describes him this way:

"...when he got home, he acted EXTREMELY sad, unusually silent, and seemed to be avoiding contact with both of us. he's very determined to be asleep. he got down and moved to the door, but didn't really seem to wake up doing it. when i touched his side, he woke up immediately, and tried to stop me doing it. he's not really wagging his tail at all, and seems to be guarding his belly with one of his back legs. and now he's asleep again. his heart rate seems to have eased..."

I did run my hand over his sides, and he did not whimper or flinch, but he might have still been in shock, or something. We'll try again later tonight.



I've been going over this a million ways in my head since we left that house.

Mickey was entirely passive to it all. Not a bark, not a growl, no attempt to struggle, let alone bite. WHY?
  • Is it because he'll only be protective of others, but not himself? If so, how do we techhim to defend himself as well?
  • Was it because he was waiting for a sign from me? If I yelled at or kicked the guy would Mickey have understood to growl/bark/attack? I didn't do this because I felt we were unnumbered.
  • Is it because he was smart enough to analyse the situation, and like me, knew that a He, and 5ft2 guy with degenerative joint disease were out numbered by two 6ft+ guys and a Rottweiler?
  • Is it because, being on the leash that I still had one end of, he thought I condoned the abuse?
  • Is it something else I am missing?


    What should we do in regard to training?

    Should we do some kind of defensive type training with Mickey? I don't mean like one would for an "attack" or "guard" dog, but so that he knows to defend himself. or so that I can signal to him in a way not obvious to other people that he should defend me/himself (like a hand gesture or finger snap)... (But then I think, If Mickey did try to defend himself, it would have been my word against 2 guys who'd claim that Mickey attacked them first, and if Mickey had broken ribs etc its because they kicked him in their own self defense. Mickey can't speak for himself.

    Yet I still can't help but think there could be a situation where I may need to appear cool (or can't help it- when in college none of my dorm mates believed me when i calmly knocked n each door on my way out to tell them the place was on fire. I tend to react after the fact), and thus, some way to "sign" to him would be useful. I know he stops barking and acts friendly when i let someone in the house, because I *allowed it* and also because he's reading *my* behaviour. I can see how in the the situation with the neighbour, at the moment, it probably looked to him like I was allowing it I did not intervene, hell end of the leash was still in my hand.

  • Date: 2012-08-20 08:06 am (UTC)
    From: [identity profile] ksol1460.livejournal.com
    Definitely contact law enforcement and tell them exactly as you told it here.

    Date: 2012-08-20 03:26 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    *waves* A mutual friend sent me over here, thinking I might be able to help. I'm a professional dog trainer who works mostly with adolescent dogs and dogs who have behavioral problems -- aggression (toward dogs or people), anxiety, that sort of thing. I'm highly paid, highly successful, and I've been doing this for about ten years. You can email me at jenna.b.mcdonald at gmail for more credentials. ;)

    In the meantime, answer to your questions:
    From: (Anonymous)
    *waves* A mutual friend sent me over here, thinking I might be able to help. I'm a professional dog trainer who works mostly with adolescent dogs and dogs who have behavioral problems -- aggression (toward dogs or people), anxiety, that sort of thing. I'm highly paid, highly successful, and I've been doing this for about ten years. You can email me at jenna.b.mcdonald at gmail for more credentials (or if you have questions). ;)

    In the meantime, answers to your questions:

    1. Mickey was entirely passive to it all. Not a bark, not a growl, no attempt to struggle, let alone bite. WHY?

    Dogs are a hell of a lot smarter than people, that's why. *wry smile* If you've taught him not to be aggressive, then he's not likely to attack a person in his own defense. Dog behavior also comes into play here: that guy was acting like an insane dog. Unless your dog is also insane, he's going to say, "Whoa, this guy is unpredictable and dangerous. I need to back off." Dogs fight for dominance, and fight with people for the same reason: this guy wasn't wanting dominance, he was being insane. In a large pack, other dogs would kill him; but then, he's not a dog, and other dogs are taught not to attack people. Instead, they back off.


    2. Is it because he'll only be protective of others, but not himself? If so, how do we techhim to defend himself as well?

    You NEVER EVER EVER EVER teach a dog to defend itself. NEVER EVER EVER. First off, in doing so what you're really teaching them is that they shouldn't listen to you about who is dangerous and who is not, second that they are allowed to attack people, and third that you aren't going to help them in a tight situation. Legally speaking, it doesn't really matter if the guy is beating your dog with a bat: if the dog bites back, it is HIGHLY likely it will be put down. The appropriate coping mechanism for a dog in such a situation is to find you and get you to help. If the person then attacks YOU, dogs that are either guard breeds (as yours is) or have learned to listen to their owner's body language (ie, are submissive) will see that there's a problem, and then defend you.

    Honestly, the best solution for both dog and human attacks is for the dog to retreat. It takes two to fight: two together can cause the death of one of them. But if you've taught your dog to retreat, then there is no fight, and any injuries -- if there are any -- are minor.

    3. Was it because he was waiting for a sign from me? If I yelled at or kicked the guy would Mickey have understood to growl/bark/attack? I didn't do this because I felt we were unnumbered.

    First, see above. Second, he ought to only be attacking if you're attacked. If you were to have attacked those men for attacking your dog, and then your dog attacked too, you would have been at fault for provoking a physical fight, and your dog would have been put down for hurting someone. So, yes, he probably would have attacked to back you up... but it would have ended up with you fined if no one was hurt, and Mickey quarantined either for 4 weeks or until the investigation was over (whichever is longer), or at worst with Mickey being put down. This changes if they attacked you, but if you attack them (even for attacking your dog), the result is very poor for Mickey.

    2/3

    Date: 2012-08-20 04:04 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)


    4. Is it because he was smart enough to analyse the situation, and like me, knew that a He, and 5ft2 guy with degenerative joint disease were out numbered by two 6ft+ guys and a Rottweiler?

    He might have analysed the rottie as dangerous (highly unlikely, given their play behavior), but dogs don't analyze humans that way.

    5. Is it because, being on the leash that I still had one end of, he thought I condoned the abuse?

    No. He doesn't relate you to someone else's behavior.

    6. Is it something else I am missing?

    The only thing you're missing is that guard breeds have been bred specifically not to get aggressive with people, since people need access to whatever they're guarding.

    The long and short of it is that dogs shouldn't ever attack people, unless those people are attacking their humans and those people provoked it. (Even then, the expectation is that the dog will stop as soon as the people start to retreat.) If you attack and your dog backs you up, the dog gets put down. If the dog defends himself, the dog gets put down. The dog's reaction to violence towards itself needs to be to run -- and it's your job to tell the humans to stop or get him out of that situation (as you did).

    When you teach a dog to defend itself, dogs don't specify "Defend myself against abuse." They hear, "Defend myself against things I don't like." When that works for abuse, then the next thing they start doing is being aggressive toward someone who accidentally hurts them (like steps on a paw, or uses them for help rising, as you described above, and hits a soft spot), then they get aggressive someone who takes their food or toy, then someone who walks too close to their food or toy, then someone who looks too much at their favorite chicken, and so on. Soon you have a dog who is attacking people for virtually no reason because the dog has learned that, hey, violence works to get what I want.

    Guard breeds are very unlikely to ever start thinking they should get aggressive, but once you start them down that slope they fall REALLY fast. Then you also have the added problem of a dog who, instead of guarding by pushing another dog away from (for instance) your pet rats, you have a dog who guards by tearing into another dog for looking at your pet rats.

    Guard breeds are also very hard to retrain once that's happened. Don't do it.

    Things that went right in that encounter are that your dog backed off and you got him out of there. Kneeling and growling at the people doesn't translate in dog, and while he was possibly sore afterward, he isn't sad because you didn't defend him: he might be wondering what he did that that guy didn't like, or wondering if other people are also going to be unpredictable like that. The best thing you can do now is actually two things:
    1. when your dog is depressed, do fun stuff. Don't soothe him, because the body language we use when we soothe is "I'm scared, too" and will make it worse. Act like a cheerleader. Practice his tricks. Teach him a new trick. Anything to make life fun for a little bit.
    2. Praise him for being around strangers and being good. Get him around some more strangers. You don't want him to learn that strangers are unpredictable and should be guarded against, because therein lies yet another road to aggression. Take him out, give him treats, introduce him to some new people, go get coffee and sit outside with him. Whatever; just get him around new people, and soon, so that he doesn't internalize that bad experience.

    3/3

    Date: 2012-08-20 04:04 pm (UTC)
    From: (Anonymous)
    Two last things:

    Dogs protect people who are in danger. If those men had attacked you, your body language would stiffen (stiff = bad emotional state to dogs) and your dog would have stepped up to protect, doing what needed to be done. You don't have to teach him that. You especially don't have to teach him that, in fact, because it's what he's bred for. So don't worry that because you're teaching him not to attack people and not to defend himself, that will apply to you.

    And last, if you see him putting his paw on any other dog he doesn't know REALLY WELL, tell him to stop. That is a dominance thing, and can provoke a fight. Him being unfixed will make him a target, so start teaching him now to be less of a target by not being dominant. I'm guessing from what you've described that he's around a year; between a year, and a year and a half dogs grow up. Fixing him will help keep him from being a target, and it'll also make him less likely to argue with you about things like whether or not he can be dominant with other dogs. But whether or not you fix him you want to start telling him, now, not to be dominant. Dominant dogs get in fights: submissive dogs stop fights by saying "I don't want to fight." Even aggressive dogs, when they see that, back off. (And again, it doesn't mean he won't protect you when you need it.)

    Dominant body language is:
    1. Paws or chin over the back of another dog
    2. Jumping on another dog (or human)
    3. Staring (eyes locked on and not shifting)
    4. Ears so far forward there's a wrinkle in the forehead. (This often, but not always, goes with staring.)
    5. Head at either extreme -- extremely high or extremely low -- when greeting another being. Extremely low = sees that being as prey to be dealt with, head extremely high = "I'm a big dog, don't mess with me." You see this sometimes in playful puppies, but I'd still recommending getting it in check now (before he's so big it takes a LOT of work to get it in check!). Getting it in check can be as simple as asking him to look at you instead of staring at the other dog and then giving him a treat for it.

    I hope that at least answers your questions in a way that makes sense. If you have any more questions or concerns, feel free to wing me an email!

    Jenna

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