You Little Monkey
Little Monkey gets mugged!
It’s not been a good week for Little Monkey!
If you walk your dog anywhere, you are bound to encounter a few unwelcome interactions now and then. I expect some at dog class, because most of the dogs (and/or owners; OK, mostly owners!) have problems; that’s why they are there in the first place!
When I started going to dog socialisation classes with an eighteen month old Little Monkey the day I got her ten years ago, she was so anxious and unsocialised that all the other dogs attacked her, because she was different and unbalanced. We stayed a good five metres away from the class in our own little bubble for years.
Now, she has learnt enough to fly under the radar. She is still anxious, but she hides it well and the other dogs all leave her alone. To someone who had not seen her ten years ago, they would wonder what I was talking about; she looks fine to them.
However, any new dog suddenly seen in close proximity when out on a walk, still provokes a reaction of instant terror in her. She needs time and lots of space to get to know the other dogs and realise they mean no harm.
Or do they?
This brings me to the first incident. Not a big deal really, just so surprising, because, as I said, LM fits in well in class these days and she hasn’t been attacked for years.
At dog class the other week, there was a young woman with a black Belgian Shepherd. She had it on the lead when everyone else’s dogs were free. I always walk right round the field, then round and through the class when I arrive with LM, so she is assimilated and we have both checked out all the dogs. We instantly pick up on the ones to watch; the anxious, dominant or boisterous ones.
So I’d said Hi to the woman and asked if I could stroke her dog. I said a quick hello to the dog and moved on. LM went back to the woman and sat nicely in front of her; or rather in front of the bag of treats she had in a waist pouch!
Next second the black shepherd went straight for LM’s face! Snapping and snarling and trying to rip her face off!
LM leapt away, eyes like saucers and a look of total surprise on her face! She hadn’t been attacked like that for so so long!
I just told LM to lie down, chatted to the woman again and our own dog whisperer came up to tell her what she needed to do and the signals her dog had been giving (staring at LM) that she needed to pick up on.
So, All Good. No blood. And a lesson learnt by both dogs.
In For the Kill!
The second incident was by far the most serious of the three and could easily have led to a full blown fight with blood and wounds, had LM and I not known how to react.
We’d had a long walk already, pretty much as in The Dog Walk. We approached the last wooded area in the common, with LM off lead behind me. I noticed two large dogs running between the trees, owned by a young man with a toddler. I figured (wrongly as it turned out) that his dogs must be OK, as he let them roam free and had a small child with him.
However, I knew that LM would run towards the movement, so I put her on the lead and we started down the lovely wooded path, walking on pine needles in the dappled shade.
The two dogs spotted us from a good thirty metres away and came tearing straight for us full speed. They clearly meant business. I dropped LM’s lead and moved in front of her to try to stem the charge. With a strong, dominant energy, I pointed at them and bellowed, “Back Off!”
I did succeed in slowing the dogs slightly, but they were intent on getting to my dog and dodged past me, rushing straight into LM. They were both larger than her and the more aggressive of the two body slammed her, pressing his head on her shoulders as he loomed over her and growled.
For once in her life, LM did exactly the right thing. She cowered. She made herself very small and still; crouching down with her tail between the legs, head low and ears back in extreme submission.
The aggressive dogs were so wound up they only wanted one little wrong move and they’d have attacked her.
I moved in and pushing the most aggressive dog by the neck, guided his head away from LM. Having got between the dogs, with LM now protected behind me and these two large terrors in front of me, I used my energy again and said firmly, “Chill!”
So, between us, LM and I had stopped a full on attack, but now the two aggressors didn’t know what to do. They still wanted to attack her, but there was no way I was letting them near LM and she wasn’t going to fight them.
Finally, the owner called his dogs and they ran back to him. While the man was clipping one dog on its lead, the other came rushing back at us. I was already moving away with LM, but turned and faced him down again. As this dog was not the worst dog, he did stop. The owner called again and the dog ran back to him.
LM and I carried on down the path, but a moment later LM suddenly pooped. She had been very, very scared. (Yes, I know dogs poop on walks, but we all know our dog’s patterns very well and this was definitely a result of the encounter.)
As I picked up the poop I became really angry. Those dogs were extremely dog aggressive. If LM or I had not known how to react, there could have been a really bad fight. Luckily, LM did not squeal or run away, which would have goaded the dogs into chasing and attacking her.
But it made me think: what if it had been my neighbour, a first time dog owner who is still learning, and his little Maltese, which would have done both those things (squealed and run away)? What if it had been an elderly person, who could have been knocked over and certainly very shaken up?
That’s why I was so angry. I hadn’t been scared, because I had been in control of the situation (just), but I was livid that this man was letting his aggressive dogs run out of control and attack others. And the worst thing about all this?
No apology from the man.
I repeat; no apology from the man whatsoever. Not one word from him.
The third incident wasn’t so aggressive, but still very dominant and ‘in your face’ anti-social behaviour. LM and I were approaching the soccer field, when I saw an oldish woman sitting on a fallen tree trunk up on the field, with three large dogs running around her off lead. LM and I stopped for a moment in the shade of the trees, while we assessed the dogs’ behaviour. The woman cheerfully waved to me and I thought maybe we knew each other. (It was too far for me to see her clearly.) So, LM and I carried on our walk, which was off to one side, but also slightly towards the dogs.
Suddenly, all three dogs came running up to us. A pack of three very large dogs running straight at you is an Assault Team indeed. This is the anti-social behaviour; to approach another dog too quickly, without giving it a chance to read body language.
I dropped LM’s lead and stepped forward in front of her to stem the onrush of this pack. I did slow them down a little, but LM had made up her own mind about them and sprang forward past me a few steps, stopped and barked at them twice. She could see they were behaving badly and she was telling them to stop it!
Then all three dogs were all over LM sniffing her and being pushy. Obviously, they were just very dominant and not actually aggressive, but none-the-less, they were intimidating. I made sure to be right in there, shoving the bossy ones out of the way. Often just a tap to the shoulder or rump will distract the dog and calm the situation.
Typically, the one dog closest to me that I did manage to tap lightly on the rump with my cap, whirled round with wide eyes. It was anxious and only following the rest of the pack!
Still, I hung around and touched all the dogs, with heavy pats on the rump and shoulder of the most dominant, while saying “Hi there, big boy” for the benefit of the feeble owner. I walked onto the field with all the dogs, which were behaving better now, and started talking to the woman (who was, after all, a complete stranger!) When owners chat like this it shows the dogs that everyone is friendly here and we can all get along just fine. They’ll remember this the next time they meet.
However, the woman seemed all flustered and just wanted to go. I really have to wonder why on earth a physically weak woman with such a low energy was there on the field with three very large dogs, all off lead, when clearly she was incapable of controlling them at all. (Note, if you are physically weak, you can still control your dog by being mentally strong.)
I patted all the dogs and LM again, then we continued on our walk, patting ourselves on the back for dealing with the situation!
Why am I going on about energies? Dogs read your body language and energy. They are very, very good at this. They know if you are scared, weak or injured and will take full advantage of it. It’s how they hunt after all. If you stay calm, strong and fearless you have a much better chance of controlling the situation. Basically, you learn how to communicate in Dog. I have been learning this, alongside LM, for the past ten years.
This post is a sort of celebration for Little Monkey, who has been attending dog socialisation classes every week for ten years. We took dog biscuits to our class the other day and gave them to all the dogs there, from dachshunds and tiny puppies, (we got there just at the end of puppy class), to the large dogs; German Shepherds, Boxers, Golden Retrievers, Giant Schnauzers and of course, many mutts like LM. I could say that, judging from LM’s excellent reactions detailed here, she has finally graduated dog school!
But we’re still going to dog class!