Recently I was walking through the park when I happened to watch a group of dogs playing together. They were all different breeds and were happily playing, quite vigorously until suddenly, from out of no where one of the dogs set upon one of the other dogs. The dog aggression incident all happened in a split second and was over just as quickly. But what happened next was really interesting to me.
He’s an embarrassment…
The owner of the dog that ‘attacked’ the other dog (in this case a Border Collie), swooped in and put her dog the lead, saying I’m so sorry he’s not normally like this. And for that dog that his walk was all over, he was shamefully lead out of the park and taken home. This dog would probably not be allowed off lead again and depending on the how embarrassed the owner felt would more than like not return to the park again, in fear that his dog would be deemed a aggressive or worse a dangerous dog.
Having watched the whole event it was clear to me the Collie wasn’t actually the dog in the wrong. The dog that was being ‘attacked’ was actually the instigator of the whole thing, yet had somehow managed to get away with it and was still happily running around the park while the other dog was literally in the dog house. For him there was no consequence for his incorrect behavioural choices.
So I guess the question is, is all dog aggression bad?
Well in this case the Collie’s behaviour was totally justified. The attacked dog was being very confrontational throughout the whole play cycle, in a sense he was bullying the Collie. In the end the intimidation was too much for the Lab to deal with, so he responded with aggression. Maybe not the best choice, but an effective one all the same. There was no blood as a result so it was clearly a warning to the bully to stand down, which worked. It takes a lot for any dog to resort to violence in a social situation, so the intimidation would have been intense and the stress of this intimidation would have been too much to bear.
We miss more than we realise…
What’s more worrying to me, is that none of this was seen or recognised by the owners of the dogs involved. The communication was quite clear to me, but to their owners, it was a completely foreign language. The incident could have been stopped completely if the owner of the ‘attacked’ dog had stepped in when they saw their dog start to tower over the other dog.
Most of the negative interactions in our dog parks could be easily stopped if we just stopped and watch our dogs while they were interacting with other dogs. Dog, dog aggression doesn’t just happen, there is always a build up, there is always a dialogue between the dogs involve, even if we don’t see it.
There are so many books out there which talk about canine communication, just do a search on google. Try searching for a lady called Turgid Rugas, she been studying dog non-verbal communication for years now. Spend some time reading about this before you go to the dog park with your dog. Education yourself so you can save your dog. Education yourself so you can save the embarrassment and the incorrect branding of your dog.