Friday, February 13, 2009

The charging dog

“He was just coming over to say hi,” breathlessly explains the owner of the off-leash dog. “He’s just so friendly, he just has to meet everyone.”
Newsflash: the dog was not coming over to make friends.
If you want to read about how dogs make friends with other dogs, read my previous blog titled, “Be polite!”
A dog that charges another dog, running head-on towards it, is not being friendly. Whatever is driving this dog to charge, it is most certainly not a goal of a making a new pal.
Charging is generally a sign that the dog is challenging what he sees as an intruder. In most cases, dogs charge other dogs because of territorial matters.
In the wild, one dog charging another dog that it does not know would end in either a fight, or the non-charging dog receding and running off.
But when we have our dogs on a leash, they don’t have the option to run away. And understand that if you begin running with your dog, the charging dog will just keep on chasing you to prove his point.
Of course, a charging dog isn’t always out to stake his territory and chase off an offender. In some situations, it’s just bad doggie manners.
Dogs that don’t have enough socialization or spend enough time with other dogs don’t have the opportunity to hone their social skills and learn proper doggie manners. I have had a friendly dog charge at me too, but for all my dog-walks, it’s only happened once.
Unfortunately, these bad doggie manners elicit the same response from your well-mannered pooch as does the territorial charging dog: fear, instability and aggression.
And it doesn’t matter if it’s a small dog either. I once had two very small dogs run from their owner’s porch to the sidewalk Sensi and I were on. They barked the whole way and when they got to my dog, one started nipping at his feet while the other ran underneath his belly to sniff his behind.
Poor Sensi was about ready to have a heart attack. He was so scared that he started trembling and, with his tail tucked, he peed all over that little dog that had gone under his belly.
As his fear continued to escalate, he got closer and closer to becoming aggressive.
This is a scary thing for me. Just imagine: my pit bull or any other large dog could seriously injure or even kill a tiny dog like that with one bite. And then who’s at fault? My dog, which was properly restrained and walking nicely beside me on a leash, or the little dog, who aggressively charged at my dog?
The answer is, of course, my dog — simply because he’s a pit bull and the average person has little to no understanding of canine behavior, therefore they don't understand that it's not about a dog's size, but its attitude and behavior.
The public, hearing about the situation, would respond, “Those poor little dogs got attacked by the pit bull? See how awful those pit bulls are, they’ll even bite a tiny dog like that!”
Public opinion is never in my favor. This is something I accept.
And, it’s one more reason why I realized that I needed to be the leader. I need to protect my dog from chargers when we’re walking.
Monday I’ll talk about how I try to do that.

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