This past weekend I went to this huge canine event. There were dogs and people and kids and golf carts all over the place. I would say the vast, vast majority of dogs were being walked on prong collars or choke chains. I’d say about half of the dogs were pretty well trained (or it was hot and they were too tired to pull) and about half the dogs were… not so well trained. The event had vendors, rescues, and a variety of sports/activities/games/contests that people could play or try with their dog.
Given the number of dogs and the number of ‘high octane’ events at this event I expected some snarking between dogs. I saw about 4 scuffles or intense snarking between dogs. This was an extremely small number considering the lack of awareness that people seemed to have about dogs. People had dogs on flexi leashes 10+feet away, dogs were rushing up to other dogs, dogs were jumping on unknown dogs, people were not asking to allow dogs to greet before letting their dog rush to the face of another dog, and were ignorant of the body language of the dogs in general (both their own and of others). I must have heard “Oh she must not be hungry, she doesn’t even what this hot dog” 3 or 4 times… your dog isn’t full he/she is stressed out and uncomfortable–he/she’s also not yawning because he/she’s tired. There were, of course, many extremely social, friendly, confident, and comfortable dogs in attendance–this was really exemplified by how few problems I saw even with poor handling.
There were a lot of kids and kids who had dogs but who were not necessarily appropriate with their dogs. Nearly all of the children asked before petting–though some pet inappropriately. The only two kids who didn’t ask to pet …. well, the adult male (probably dad) didn’t even ask before approaching and petting Shayne and encouraging his kids to follow suit. I mentioned as they pet and walked passed that, “Even though she’s friendly, it’s always safer to ask before you pet a dog.”
So this was a huge event with surprisingly social dogs but with people who were … not always super keen.
I had entered a fun “best trick” and was in the ring with Shayne when I caught an incident happen out of the corner of my eye. There was a man and his son (presumably) sitting in two folding chairs watching the people in the trick contest. In between them laid a St. Bernard mix of sorts. The dog was facing away from the ring but was laying down plopped to the side on one hip with his head on the ground. I am unsure if he was sleeping or just resting comfortably but he was tucked in between his two handlers. The handlers were focusing on the contest as the dog relaxed in between them.
A man and a woman approached the dog from the back of the handlers (the front of the dog). The handlers continued to to watch the contest, seemingly unaware of the strangers behind them. After a moment of standing still behind the handlers, the woman reached down to pet the dog and the dog bit her. Now, Due to a railing of a split-rail fence I didn’t see the bite actually happen and couldn’t tell if the dog had acknowledged the person before biting. I know the woman never asked the handlers if she could pet–when the dog bit, the handler just pulled back on the leash (I’m assuming they jsut thought the dog went to sniff someone) but when they turned to see the dog they noticed the shocked woman holding her arm. They asked her what happened (I couldn’t hear her response) and then yelled at and delivered 2 hard leash pops to the dog.
The woman asked about vaccinations and was really shaken up. From a distance it looked like there was one puncture wound that was mildly bleeding–this was an inhibited bite given that this dog was probably 85-95lbs. The woman was clearly upset and the handlers were equally as upset and they all walked off…probably to the first aid tent and to a staff member.
While I felt bad this woman got bitten, I feel worse for the dog whose future could be in limbo. This woman made quite a few mistakes and if she had just read my blog she may have been spared. Her very first mistake was approaching to pet a strange dog without asking the handler first. Not only did she not ask to pet, but she approached a dog who was either sleeping or resting in a somewhat cornered position. Although I cannot confirm it, I would guess that her hand approached the dog from above and moved in to pet his head.
So do you think this dog was an aggressive dog? A dangerous dog?
I cannot say for certain, but the pieces of information I have lead me to believe that this stranger startled a sleeping or resting dog who didn’t have an escape route. Since the dog couldn’t easily escape, it chose to deliver and inhibited bite. I do not know what the future holds for this dog but I hope that it is nothing bad because my guess is that the whole situation could have been avoided if the woman had 1. asked to pet the dog (and listened to the handler’s instructions) 2. waited for the dog to acknowledge her and approach her before trying to pet 3. had waited until the dog was out of the cornered position and 4. had not tried to pet from above his head.
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