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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"


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.

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