1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

Anatomy of a dog attack - Ryan O'Meara

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by dainerra, Oct 4, 2011.

  1. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    Ok, here is the article I mentioned in another thread. A lot of people don't realize all of the warning signs and the way a dog views our behavior as aggressive towards them/their pack.

    “Out of the blue, it attacked for no reason”

    When a dog attack is reported we will often hear the same old phrases bandied about.

    “It came out of the blue”

    “It was totally unprovoked”

    “We didn’t see it coming”

    “It was totally out of character”

    Ring any bells? Well let’s try and understand how and why a dog might attack someone.
    Dogs rarely, if ever, attack for no reason. Us humans often misinterpret a dog attacking “out of the blue” and “without warning”‘ because we simply missed the signs.

    Let’s be clear about one thing. A dog who is prepared to bite someone has his reasons. Can we, as humans, justify those reasons using the social values of people? Probably not. But of course, dogs do not live their lives according to human social values.

    Here is the story of John, Henry and Max.

    John has no wife or children. For the last five years he’s lived with his best friend in the world a playful Labrador called Max.

    John is exited today. Henry, an old friend from school who he hasn’t seen for many years is visiting.

    John decides today would be a good day to get his garden tidied, make a good impression on his old school chum.

    As John gets busy in amongst the weeds in the front garden, he spies his old mate making his way up the street.

    Henry’s been looking forward to catching up with John for weeks and, as he’s never been to his home before, finds himself feeling somewhat jubilant to realise he’s managed to find the street on which John lives without too much trouble and can now relish the prospect of seeing his friend again as well as finally getting to meet the only true love of John’s life, the much talked about Max.

    It’s a hot and sunny day and Henry is wearing his sunglasses. Further up the street he spots John working in his front garden.

    John’s already noticed Henry making his way towards him and yells out, “Hi Henry. Fancy a beer?”

    Henry shouts back, “Sounds just the job. Can you believe this heat?”.

    As per usual, Max has been ‘helping’ John with his gardening exploits by digging holes of his own all over the lawn. John doesn’t mind. He only wanted the garden so he could have somewhere safe to play fetch with Max on sunny days like today. He’s never been one for trying to keep it immaculate when Max’s favourite hobby is trying to tunnel his way to China.

    Max has stopped his gardening though. He’s become preoccupied by the exchange between John and Henry and he’s taken a trip the front gate to see what’s going on.

    “I wonder who this bloke is?” ponders Max.

    “Why would he and John be shouting at other?” he thinks to himself.

    “I’d better be on full alert.” he concludes. “John’s just shouted at this chap so he obviously wants me to keep an eye out.”

    Max fixes himself in position at the front gate and hoists his tail high into the air, he’s keen to let the oncoming stranger know he’s about.

    John doesn’t notice.

    Henry’s still coming. So Max decides he needs to be more clear. He starts to emit a deep, low growl in Henry’s direction just to make certain the stranger who’s purposely striding towards him, his owner and HIS garden is left in no uncertain terms that he’s not moving

    Henry’s still coming. And now he’s close enough for Max to notice his sunglasses. “This is getting more serious by the second”, thinks Max. “He’s not only not listening to me, he’s staring right at me. I know, I’ll stare right back at him. See if he’s as brave then.”

    Problems. Henry is still as brave. To Max, Henry’s sunglasses look like wide, staring eyes, boring straight ahead and as he marches staunchly toward the increasingly anxious Labrador, Max wonders what his next move might be. As body language goes, Henry is showing all the signs of refusing to listen to Max’s advice.

    Now tense and feeling genuinely threatened, Max is offered an escape. John jogs inside to fetch a couple of bottles of beer and Max is only too pleased to hurriedly follow his master. Max is somewhat relieved to suspect that John, his idol, is just as scared as he is about the relentless stranger pursuing them both from outside the garden gate.

    “Shut the door John, shut the door” Max worries. “He’s still coming and you haven’t closed the door”.

    Too late. Max’s heart leaps as he hears the gate swing open. Too late.

    His worst fears are confirmed. The unrelenting Henry is now purposefully making his way up the garden path and toward the the house where Max and John are isolated, cornered and in Max’s case, petrified.

    Gathering up every ounce of his canine courage and without a second’s thought for his own safety Max charges out of the house, tail hoisted aloft and barking his war cry as loud as his voice will muster. He heads straight for Henry wondering why this stalking maniac refused to listen to all of his earlier warnings.

    “You might kill me but you’ll never take John”, Max decides.

    Henry, his face very quickly drained of all its colour, is shocked and taken aback to be confronted by a clearly furious Max, the dog he’d heard so many nice stories about from doting John. This isn’t at all the dog he thought he’d be meeting.

    Henry, alarmed and frightened makes his way toward Max, attempting to offer a hand of reassurance and friendship.

    Max is having none of it.

    “John warned you. Then I warned you. Why wouldn’t you just listen?”, reasoned Max.

    Undeterred by Henry’s advance and determined not to let his owner come to any harm, Max lunges in Henry’s direction.

    The realisation that Max is a long way past the stage of being able to be pacified dawns on Henry fast and he hastily tries to beat a retreat back out of the gate from which he entered.

    John, hearing the commotion and now panic stricken by Max’s attack bellows “No! Max, no.”

    Acutely tuned to his owner’s emotions and sensing the fear and alarm in John’s voice, Max forges ahead and launches into a full scale attack on Henry.

    And then, as quick as it began, it was over.

    An ambulance arrives to take Henry away and, hearing the commotion, John’s neighbours have summoned the Police.

    John can be heard explaining, “He’s never done anything like this before“, the attack came “totally out of the blue“, Max was always “such a trustworthy dog“, he’s “never shown any signs of aggression in his life“, the attack was “totally unprovoked“.

    But we know differently don’t we?

    Let’s look again at how Max saw things unfold:

    1.Max spots a man walking toward his and his owner’s garden – ‘his territory’
    2.Not unduly worried, Max paid little attention to the stranger until John shouted in Henry’s direction. To Max, this was a clear signal to ‘watch for danger’
    3.Obediently, Max sat at the front gate and watched for that danger.
    4.He attempted to signal to Henry by putting his tail in the air and growling, that he was prepared to defend his owner and territory.
    5.As Henry gets closer, Max again postures but now spots Henry’s aggressive body language, his wide eyes refusing to overt their gaze a clear signal of intent. Henry’s point blank refusal to alter his path, a sure fire gesture of defiance.
    6.As John runs inside, Max’s thoughts turn to escape. He now believes John is as scared as he is and they should both seek shelter from the safety of the house.
    7.Too late. As Henry enters the garden (Max and John’s territory) Max does what he thinks his owner needs him to do. He defends against the threat.
    8.As Henry runs away and John panics, Max takes this as a sign that he should increase his attack, his canine instincts now in complete overdrive.
    So let us again question whether John was correct when he explained to Police that Max’s attack was unprovoked.

    Was it unprovoked? Not at all.

    Was it unjustified in human, social terms? Absolutely.

    Was it avoidable? Totally.

    The Aftermath

    Henry, his pain eased only slightly by drugs lies motionless in a hospital bed and starts to face the reality that a visit to see a dear, old friend has left him disfigured for the rest of his life. He ponders how best to explain to his young children that he’s still their Dad even though he knows his mutilated features will upset them deeply. He wonders how life will be from now on, how people will react to him.

    Max, confused and still frightened by the terrifying ordeal earlier in the day is now wondering why he’s found himself confined to a small, secure cage at the vet surgery.

    He stares through the bars and looks longingly towards the door, hoping against hope that he will soon be reunited with his trusted friend and master, John.

    Unbeknown to Max, he’ll never see John again.

    As the door swings open, Max’s tail momentarily begins to wag but he’s deflated. It’s not John. It’s a vet nurse.

    He’s still pleased to see her. He’s lonely and upset and he just wants to go home and be with his friend.

    He’s too pre-occupied to wonder why the vet nurse seems so wary of him. Wanting to put her at ease, he submissively offers up his paw. As the vet nurse holds it, she carefully shaves a small patch of fur away from his leg.

    Max didn’t even notice the injection.

    On this day it wasn’t only Max’s body that was destroyed as John’s memories of a kind, gentle, fun loving dog died too.

    He asks himself once more, “Why did my dog attack someone for no reason?”

    John may never know it, but Max had his reasons.

    Dogs do not bite people without reason. They do not attack out of the blue. They do not launch into savage, frenzied assaults without provocation despite what you will undoubtedly read in news reports when the next dog attack hits the press.

    There are NO devil dogs. There are NO unprovoked dog attacks. There IS a huge gap in understanding amongst some dog owners about why dogs attack and until we can bridge that gap in education people will continue to be attacked and more and more dogs will join Max, their memories destroyed along with their bodies.

    Killing individual dog breeds is not the solution to a problem whicn runs throughs an entire species. Oh, and if you were left in any doubt, that species isn’t canine.

  2. carolinagirl58

    carolinagirl58 Songster

    Mar 30, 2011
    Lugoff, SC
    Wow. Just wow. Really, really great story. I hope many people read this and can finally understand that as smart as our dogs are, they do not understand our world any better than we understand theirs. They love and trust us and look to us for guidance. And because of our lack of understanding about how they see things, things sometimes go wrong.
  3. Brindlebtch

    Brindlebtch Songster

    Apr 15, 2009
    Good article.
  4. Redyre Rotties

    Redyre Rotties Songster

    Jul 8, 2009
    North Carolina, USA
    My dogs would not behave in that manner in the same situation, nor would I expect them to do so. My dogs understand what a friendly stranger is because they have been well bred, socialized, and trained. If someone tried to enter my grounds or my home when I was not present, they would be in for it, but if I am there and welcoming the person, I expect my dogs to do the same, and they do.

    Furthermore, if someone has a dog and does not understand its body language any better than that, or pays it that little attention, they need help.

    I completely agree that the majority of people can miss warning signs that educated and intuitive people find obvious in dogs. I don't think this will ever change. When dogs do bad things it is always a people issue, not a dog issue.

    JMO as always.
  5. Rusty Hills Farm

    Rusty Hills Farm Songster

    Apr 3, 2008
    Up at the barn

    I have schutzhund dogs. And they know their job. But I KNOW my responsibilities to them. People who keep working breeds have a duty to understand their dogs way better than the fellow in this article. Actually, I think it is safe to say that all people who keep any breed of dog have responsibilities that go WAY beyond filling the water and food dishes and cleaning up the poop. It amazes me how many people have never even read a book on their breed or attended a class.

    Personally I think we should be required to get the dog license BEFORE we get the dog. And I think the license should have a prerequisite requirement of dog handling classes before you can get the dog. Maybe that would even go a long way towards helping end the overflow of throwaway dogs.

    As always JMO

  6. carolinagirl58

    carolinagirl58 Songster

    Mar 30, 2011
    Lugoff, SC
    exactly. It's all about responsible pet ownership. I hate it every time I read another news article about a "loving family pet" suddenly turning on it's owner or attacking someone for no reason!! There is ALWAYS a reason. Good dogs just don't attack people for no reason. It's much easier to just blame the dog though.
  7. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    Exactly as you all have said. But a lot of people don't seem to understand th at dogs are animals and require certain training to fit into the human world.
    You have the "just a dog" crowd wh o believe in just throwing the dog in the back yard and toss some food out and that is all you need. You have the "furkid" crowd who treat their dogs like people and expect them to understand things, just like people. Then you have the majority of the population who don't seem to give it any thought at all. They seem to believe that the dog's just know right from wrong and train themselves.

    You see it on this forum too. "I left my dog alone with the birds we just got and he attacked them. Why would he do that."

    Most people don't know that you need to socialize your dogs. They don't even know what that means. So when a situation occurs like in the article, the dog is left to interpret it with the only tools it know - canine body language. The article serves to point out the vast difference in meaning and hopefully shows why training and socialization is so important.

  8. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Songster

    Apr 15, 2011
    I have to add in, that there are various medical conditions that will essentially cause an uprovoked attack (sometimes even a chair or inadimate object will be attacked). I owned an Aussie mix who ended up having degenerative epilepsy. It was like a lightswitch for him. No warning, the seizure was only a second of a changed gaze, and immediately following that, anything around him would be attacked (fear-based because of the area of his brain that was affected). Was it his fault? No, he had misfiring neurotransmitters. Could he be kept safely with...anyone? Not unless they were willing to keep him in a muzzle or otherwise restrained 24/7.

    I've had a lot of highly rated behaviorlists completely misread my dogs. One managed to even evoke a warning snap out of our cattle dog who goes to lengths to avoid confrontation (which is what I tried to say would happen, that she was obviously uncomfortable with someone down on her level, thrusting a toy in her face when she was obviously nervous and suspicious of the environment, and in her mind, cornered). So, I do kind of take issue with these little straight-forward 'from the dog's point of view" stories I see around, and lectures about reading dog behavior when I have yet to meet anyone who has everything correctly analyzed...even the experts. These sorts of stories tend to make things sound very cut and dry. These sorts of things just always read as overly simplified to me (and overly anthropomorphized, despite being from a dog's view).

    That said, yes, educating yourself about any pet you own is the responsible thing to do, and does point out how socialization is very important. So kudos for it doing that, it's just a bit too broad in its statements.
  9. FireTigeris

    FireTigeris Tyger! Tyger! burning bright

    Actually the story would have worked better :

    W/O the warring growl, most dogs are taught not to vocalize (including guide dogs).

    Also this story had no (defensive teeth) - that is often trained out too-


    My greyhound speaks a completely different language then the guide dog lab did, its kinda strange.
  10. dainerra

    dainerra Crowing

    Jun 4, 2011
    Quote:yes, that is why many trainers will warn to NOT correct a dog for growling. All that does is remove the dog's method of warning that he is uncomfortable with the situation.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by