Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 16, 2014

In The Blink of An Eye, Everything Can Change with Dogs

Posted at 02:50PM - Comments: (26)

In the past week, I’ve heard about the following life-changing events experienced by people (and dogs) I know:

A couple goes out for a walk with their year-old Border collie-mix. Suddenly, two dogs of an indeterminate bully-breed description launch themselves off a front porch and (since the house had no fence) attack their dog. Their screams summon the owner, who is able to grab his dogs and pull them off, but their dog is badly hurt and required immediate medical care (stitches, drains, antibiotics) and they are bruised. Now, their formerly friendly, confident dog starts trembling, raises her hair, and growls whenever she sees another dog when they are walking.

A young man takes his young dog to a dog park, and the dog enjoys running and playing with other dogs. As he is running at one point, though, another dog smashes into him at high speed – T-bone style – and he goes down screaming, and gets up on three legs. His owner has to lift him above a pack of other dogs who are drawn and aroused by the yelping and screaming. Even after he is carried out of the park and put into his car, he shrieks in pain and fear. Now he, too, starts growling, raises his hackles, and tries to hide or flee when he sees other dogs running toward him.

A mom takes the family dog to a Little League game to watch from the edge of the field in a large park. She has the dog on a leash – well, not exactly, a retractable lead. Not far away, there is a large group celebrating an event with a barbecue, music . . . and firecrackers. The family dog panics at the crackling, popping sounds, pulls the plastic handle out of the mom’s hands, and starts to run away. The dog is further frightened by being “chased” by the plastic handle of the leash, which scrapes and drags on concrete behind him, and crashes into his back legs. He runs blindly across a busy four-lane road, almost getting hit by one car and causing another one to nearly crash to avoid him. When the mom (and half the Little League team) manages to catch him, he’s shaking and terrified. And now, he starts shaking any time the family goes to that park, or he hears the “crack” of baseball bats (present at the time of that traumatic event), or when he hears anything like a firecracker.

A couple and their two-year-old son are visiting friends, who are expecting a baby of their own. The friends have a small friendly dog, a Maltese-mix. At one point during the visit, the dog approaches the two-year-old as he is playing on the floor with some plastic Lego-type toys, and without warning, the two-year-old smacks the dog on the face, HARD, with one of the toys. Now the dog growls at small children.

In every instance, there were things the owner could have done differently to avoid the incident that happened. But each of these events also could have gone perfectly well, and in fact, had gone well many times prior. And in each case, the owners are going to need to alter their “usual” routines to avoid triggering their dog’s new fearful behavior while they embark on a new training and behavior modification program that involves counter-conditioning, in an effort to help the dog get over his or her fear.

Has something like this ever happened to your dog? How long did it take for your dog to recover from the trauma?

Comments (26)

Sadly, my first dog, a 1 1/2 yr old rescue shep/rottie mix, and I were attacked by a neighbors dog about a week after I got him. No stitches, but a lacerated eyelid-we were lucky. Tho never "attacked" again we were accosted by loose dogs numerous times on our walks-in different neighborhoods. The result, of course, was an anxious owner and (consequently) an overly protective dog whenever another canine was encountered. It was not pretty. Ultimately, we,too ended up avoiding situations where we'd encounter other dogs.

In a recent obedience class with my 11 month old rescued GSD, the trainer pointed out that is ALL dogs were muzzled, then dog attacks would become a non-issue. This is a woman with 30 years of dog training experience. As stated, dogs are dogs, and no matter how vigilant an owner is, these tragic incidents happen.Think about it-no stigma because they all have one and no worries about Fido hurting any other creatures-animal or human....

Posted by: Em | June 29, 2014 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I think the article illustrates that there are unexpected things in life with our canine companions that may affect our dog, often through no fault of our own. I have seen the result of this exact subject when my new shelter dog, who had absolutely no training at one year or dog socialization, ran into a friend's deaf dog from behind. We actually had to teach him that he must go around living objects, not through them! My friend's dog would have nothing to do with my dog forevermore. It was a learning experience for me.

On another note, as a possible bully-breed owner of two Pet Partners therapy dogs, I, too, cringed at the identification of "bully breeds" who might have no bully breed in them. I do understand the stigma and other dog owners will have to excuse us for being touchy about that whole subject. It gets tiresome, especially when my two dogs (one of which was the unruly shelter boy) work with children, people with mental illness, elderly people, etc. and are excellent with small dogs, medium dogs, children, people in wheelchairs, walkers, non-verbal, yet they are only judged by their big heads.

My female pit-Lab was attacked viciously by another large breed dog (think Cujo) who jumped out of a vehicle on top of her in a parking lot. She struggled so hard to avoid a fight that she broke the d-ring off her leash/collar and ran away. My motto is a dog is a dog is a dog, no matter the breed. The owners are ultimately responsible to know their dogs and keep other animals and humans safe. But...unexpected things happen. It's always a learning experience working with dogs.

Posted by: JLB | June 25, 2014 10:09 AM    Report this comment

I also get very aggravated by irresponsible dog owners who allow their dogs to rudely approach any dog un-invited!!! It does NOT matter if your dog "is friendly", not every dog wants to be approached by a strange dog!!! ESPECIALLY all of the many poor dogs who have had such a negative life-changing experience!!
There is nothing more challenging or frustrating than having a dog like this, it is extremely difficult!

Posted by: MusicMtnsDogz | June 19, 2014 2:02 AM    Report this comment

My small dog and I were attacked by two bull mastiffs (one of which supposedly was a therapy dog). The mastiffs were on leash but simply dragged their owner to the ground. We had been walking toward them on the opposite side of the street when the smaller of the two mastiffs decided my dog was prey and charged. My dog was young then and not badly hurt, but he never recovered mentally. He used to love playing with other dogs, but that changed after the attack - when dogs get too close, he will snap and attack. We spent a year or so with a behaviorist, which helped in the sense that I now can better see the signs that my dog is stressed and can remove him from the situation. All of this happened 5 years ago. Because we can no longer have normal greetings with other dogs, I tell other owners to stay at a distance until I can judge how my dog will react. I can't stand dog owners who have their dogs off leash and cheerfully tell me "Oh, don't worry my dog is friendly" as their dog runs toward us. My dog needs space and your dog needs to be on leash and under control!

Posted by: PY | June 17, 2014 9:58 PM    Report this comment

There are "accidents waiting to happen" and unavoidable 'things' which happen.

Both can serously emotionally -- even if not physically -- sacr a dog for life.

But we see these "accidents waiting to happen" over and over and not just where dogs are involved. Children who were being watched somehow disappearing, children who ar being watched drowning in the pool or bath, or choking on beds.

We ar lucky to have only a 'near death experience' as it reminds us of our own failings.

Posted by: Jenny H | June 17, 2014 7:09 PM    Report this comment

There are "accidents waiting to happen" and unavoidable 'things' which happen.

Both can serously emotionally -- even if not physically -- sacr a dog for life.

But we see these "accidents waiting to happen" over and over and not just where dogs are involved. Children who were being watched somehow disappearing, children who ar being watched drowning in the pool or bath, or choking on beds.

We ar lucky to have only a 'near death experience' as it reminds us of our own failings.

Posted by: Jenny H | June 17, 2014 7:09 PM    Report this comment

I strongly dislike the 'bully-breed' generalization. These are usually the only attacks that receive publicity so the public thinks it's only 'bully-breeds' that attack. Shame on WDJ for adding to the stereotyping so common in the media.

My people and dog friendly 90 lb. dog was on a short leash calmly walking next to me. A Shih Tzu ran up out of nowhere and bit my dog on the nose and ran away (I guess back to his house). My dog was afraid of small dogs for the rest of his life. He was fine with BIG dogs and all other types of animals.

Please stop bully-breed bashing! I love WDJ but the stereotyping in the first example was unnecessary.

I currently walk my 'bully-breed' type dog around town early in the morning. She is calm and quiet next to me while we are charged and barked at by German Short-haired pointers, Basset Hounds, Yorkies, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, etc. I carry a big stick, Grizzly Bear Pepper Spray, and my cell phone. I have had to call the police repeatedly to deal with aggressive/loose dogs of all breed types. In one instance it was a very aggressive Lab that was outside, unrestrained and unwatched by it's owners. I had to pass it to get home. I called the police and the Lab went after the police officers. That story never made it into the news - they never do. I had a wonderful Lab. I love Labs. I hate irresponsible owners of whatever breed. Fortunately the people were renting have since moved.

Posted by: ThrpyDogTeam | June 17, 2014 6:21 PM    Report this comment

Meaningful topic, as usual, WDJ thank you!!! My husband's daughter and 4 year old grand daughter were visiting at our house and the little girl immediately started digging into a wicker basket filled with clean brightly colored dog toys. Some of my dogs went over to see what was happening and some dogs never moved off of their dog beds but I put the basket and dog toys away and said let's do something else. Nothing happened but it seems liked an incident waiting to happen.

Posted by: Olivia | June 17, 2014 4:09 PM    Report this comment

My dog became phobic about loud noises on our walks after a single incident when a machine backfired near her when she was 10 years old. She then started becoming phobic about every loud noise she heard on our walks, including big trucks, any type of construction noise, other dogs barking, and more. I did behavior modification and other interventions, but without success. The last straw was a whistle from a ground squirrel, and her noise phobias degenerated into generalized anxiety disorder, where she was in a panic 24/7. I was able to keep her alive with heavy use of medications, but will always regret that I didn't take her fears more seriously and start her on medication before they got so bad. Like many, I didn't want to "drug my dog," but those drugs would have changed her life for the better if I had used them before it was essentially too late.

Whenever a dog's behavior is getting worse rather than better, that's a good sign that you need to do more. Using anti-anxiety drugs along with behavior modification is far more effective than using either alone.

For anyone whose dog undergoes a traumatic event, talk to your vet about using antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, or Clomicalm while also doing behavior modification, to help your dog recover. Drugs such as these may also help long after the event, particularly if behavior is getting worse. If you don't see improvement after a month, talk to your vet about increasing the dosage or trying a different drug. These medications won't "drug your dog," but may help them overcome their fears and improve their quality of life.

See the article in WDJ's July 2006 issue for more information.

Posted by: Mary Straus | June 17, 2014 4:01 PM    Report this comment

I appreciate that people love their bully breed dogs but they need to get real! These dogs have been bred to be aggressive toward other animals including other dogs and most people are not up to the special training required to make the bully breeds safe around other dogs and in many cases people. They were originally bred to be docile with people but unscrupulous breeders and back yard breeders have bred for aggression towards everything and everyone and too many of these type dogs are purchased by people who think a mean aggressive dog makes the owner more macho. People are at fault but that is no consolation to the person whose dog or child is killed by one of these unpredictable dogs.

Posted by: jvaslev | June 17, 2014 2:41 PM    Report this comment

I'm thinking perhaps a 'to be continued' post to first see how many people have experienced it ... though they probably should have stated that.

I agree that there was little in those examples that could have been done differently other than never taking your dog anywhere. As an owner of small dogs, I can relate ... as it would take only one such instance to have fatal results. Dog parks in most cases are asking for trouble. I feel bad that my little dogs don't get to as many fun places as my big dogs did. Too many irresponsible dog owners out there.

Posted by: TheBodyCodetoHealth | June 17, 2014 2:15 PM    Report this comment

What is the answer? I thought at the end I would have answers on what the owners could have done different, I think the rest of the story was left out.

Posted by: jdugas | June 17, 2014 12:14 PM    Report this comment

What is the answer? I thought at the end I would have answers on what the owners could have done different, I think the rest of the story was left out.

Posted by: jdugas | June 17, 2014 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Agree LJ. It doesn't say that the collie did the collie thing of staring at the other dogs, crouching down and giving the collie stare as if about to round them up! My dog hates collies doing that. Not to run down all the lovely collies, but you're right - they always say bull breeds - I don't own one but all the ones I have met in my training classes have been delightful.

Posted by: EV | June 17, 2014 10:06 AM    Report this comment

Wow, commenters, we seem to be on a negative roll here that keeps building. Everyone has their right to an opinion on an article, and maybe it will help others to share it. But spewing vitriol and personal accusations will not help anyone be a better dog owner or trainer. While I agree that this article could have been much more helpful by offering solutions instead of just problems, and I think the editor has now realized her mistake in using a bully breed example, nothing positive is being accomplished by heightening everyone's tension with angry and spiteful remarks. If we recognize stress as causing aggression, let's not add to the world's overload of it, but keep remarks constructive and impersonal.

Posted by: hg | June 17, 2014 10:00 AM    Report this comment

I vehemently disagree with those of you who are saying this is not a good article. I wish MORE people would write about things like this and about owners who do not put the time and effort into owning a dog. A dog is a lot of work and part of that work is knowing your neighborhood and where it is safe to walk. Part of that work is when you take your dog to a dog park, that dog should be TRAINED not to crash into other dogs.

My HUGE pet peeve (and a dangerous one at that) is people who let their dogs off leashes for, oh just a few minutes and people that leave dogs unattended in yards and on porches. I don't care how well behaved you THINK your dog is, you don't know what that dog will do when people and dogs walk by. My dog and I have been walked by fenced in yards and the dogs inside have charged that fence to the point that I thought they would get through. I have watched as owners just stood there and did nothing while their maniac rottweiler or pit bull is trying to crash through the fence to get at us. Or even worse, the owner isn't home and the dog has been left out all day.

My very small Yorkie got attacked by a husky when I was walking her around my friend's neighborhood. I did not know the area (my fault for assuming that it was safe) the way I do my own area. Before I knew it, this husky ran out of it's yard (off leash of course) and had my little doggie in it's mouth. I will never forget the screams from my dog, me and the neighbor's wife who ran out after the dog and grabbed it by the throat to get it to let go of my dog. My dog was not injured (the husky could have killed her but didn't), just covered in dog spit and scared to death as was I. The neighbor's husband came out and was like, gee this is so unusual, my dog would NEVER do that. I have since learned that this dog IS a problem and continues to be one. Needless to say, I now never walk by that house when I am visiting.

That incident totally changed my, formerly very quiet and sweet dog when she sees other dogs. She turns into the Tasmanian Devil when she saw dogs to the point where it was becoming dangerous to walk her. What is a 6 lb. yorkie going to do against a 100 lb. dog. I live in the city and there are tons of dogs everywhere and some very bad "bully breed", and sorry people, there are some breeds that are bullies and tend to go after small dogs that they think are prey.

I have been working diligently with her to get her back to normal. She IS better, but that took a lot of time, effort and WORK.

I love my dog more than anything and taking care of her requires a lot of time, but I do it gladly. And no matter how sweet she is, she is still an animal and I do not know what she is going all the time. Therefore, it is incumbent upon ME to take responsibility to keep her safe as well as anyone else around her.

Posted by: Sportschick | June 17, 2014 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Like a few of the other commenters, this is NOT the caliber of a Whole Dog Journal article. What a disappointment.

In addition, I am sick and tired of the articles that seem to pass the "blame" on to bully breeds. Why not continue to perpetuate the inaccurate image of the breeds? Oh wait...YOU ARE DOING THAT. Shame on you WDJ, shame on you. I notice that you make sure to put the "bully breed" scenario first. Yet, you do not mention a type of breed in the dog park scenario. Go figure.

This was the last straw for me. While I do not have a "bully breed", I am still againist breedism, which appears to be a common theme anymore for WDJ. I am contacting customer service to cancel my subscription.

Again, shame on you, WDJ. Shame on YOU.

Posted by: Therapy Dog Mom | June 17, 2014 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Scenarios like this can and DO cause problems for a lot of dogs! As long time dog trainer, I've worked w/ a bunch of them and it can be very slow going. What happens is those trapped emotions of fear and panic actually become trapped in the dog's body! A few years ago I learned to do Emotion Code and Body Code work, since then I've been able to make a real difference for a lot of these traumatized dogs because I can now RELEASE all that trapped fear. I love that I can do it distantly so I get to work with animals all around the world. Pretty cool !!

I also find that over time, the owner becomes part of the issue, especially in cases of aggression. Because eventually when YOU see a dog, you automatically tense up expecting your dog to react ... this tensing is often read by the dog as confirmation that the other dog is indeed a threat! A vicious cycle! Sadly many people will seek out a trainer (or see one on TV *sigh*) that treats aggressive behavior with correction. As the dog is reacting out of FEAR, this only reinforces the fact that other dogs are bad! :(

Jfarley - I would be glad to gift you and Oreo w/ a session. Just fill out an Intake form on my site. (Add . com to my user name.)

Posted by: TheBodyCodetoHealth | June 17, 2014 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Unusual for WDJ to write about a problem without taking into account and reporting on various solutions. Of course, with this article, there are no real solutions. Why take up such valuable space in your journal only to remind dog owners of past tragedies. I think we all could use an explanation on the rationale of sharing this drama with our community.

Posted by: EdieB | June 17, 2014 9:17 AM    Report this comment

Entirely agree with LJ -the first commenter.
This is a poor excuse for an 'article' and well below the standard I would expect.
You say 'in every instance' the owner could have done something differently to avoid the problem. In example 4, yes.
But the others? What would you suggest to,the couple in example 1? Don't walk your dog? Never walk anywhere you haven't checked out first (impractical). Wait, I know - never walk your dog somewhere with two aggressive unrestrained dogs on a verandah? Now there's great advice we really needed. Not. As for the dogs of 'indeterminate bully breed' comment, yes, by all means let's add to the prejudice because of course the breed (if accurate, which is doubtful) is completely relevant here, isn't it? Again, not.
And for #2? Don't go to a dog park? If you do, avoid it when there are other dogs there?
Spare me.
Stupid excuse for an 'article'. And this from the Chief Editor. There's a lesson in that - don't write your own 'articles'.

Posted by: JMBau | June 16, 2014 8:06 PM    Report this comment

"In every instance, there were things the owner could have done differently to avoid the incident that happened." ... Really, WDJ? What should the owners in the first scenario have done differently? Not walked their dog? Not walked their dog past any house without a fence? Should they and their dog never leave the house?

While it's true that in many cases, owners aren't as vigilant or proactive as they should be, sometimes even with vigilant, responsible owners, things happen. Just like bad things sometimes happen to good people, sometimes bad things happen to good dogs and responsible owners.

I find this article very disappointing and far beneath WDJ's normally high standard of quality. Please don't generalize and place blame on owners, especially in an open-ended discussion. It would be fare more useful to describe how to socialize and prepare dogs to be as resilient as possible, to highlight "red-flag" scenarios for those owners who don't know what to look for and avoid, and offer some tips for those trying to manage/rehabilitate a dog that has ended up with issues despite an owner's best efforts.

Posted by: LJ | June 16, 2014 5:58 PM    Report this comment

Yes! My dog was 9 months old when we went for a walk before going out. My husband didn't want to walk her, but I insisted we go since we were going out for a long mall trip. We were enjoying a walk around the neighborhood when a pitbull terrier appeared snarling in front of my dog. Before I could do anything the other dog had Oreo is his mouth, biting down on his back. I'll never forget her screaming & crying as well as my husband and I's. The dog wouldn't release until the owner finally came over and choked his dog into letting go. She didn't have major injures, but had to have her back shaved and take pain meds. She was the #1 play dog with other puppies before that. After the incident she would only play with the neighbors dog, but now they moved away. She is fear reactive and I've taken her for over a year for dog training & even blog about it with Apprehensive Oreo blog. It's so sad that she's not only afraid of dogs now, but also strangers. I think she associated the attack with dogs & the stranger who came over. We trained her well so she is great with us, but she'll never play with another dog again probably and many things scare her. If people only watched their dogs more carefully she would be more confident and happy.

Posted by: jfarley19 | June 16, 2014 5:22 PM    Report this comment

A few weeks after my dog went completely blind due to complications from glaucoma we had he and 5 other dogs out in our fence together. In retrospect there were a number of things done wrong that day. He had grown up with these dogs, but only lived with 2 of them. One dog (a Dachshund) he rarely saw and in fact the last time they had gotten together she had snapped at a puppy who was overstepping his bounds and my newly blind dog had interpreted it towards him and reacted with some snarling of his own (very scary, but no physical damage was done, just growls). Unfortunately this event was forgotten until the next time these two met. As soon as she entered the fence I saw his stance, curled tail, necking...etc. but as I & the other owner approached to separate the two the Dachshund turned towards my dog & that was all it took. Before I knew it my dog had the Dachshund in his mouth and it was an absolutely awful event. Luckily, there were a number of people to help break up the attack. The Dachshund survived and I couldn't be more grateful. I blame myself for not thinking about so many of the red flags. I did make the controversial decision (considered by some) to keep my dog. I spoke with behaviorist and vets. He was SAFELY tested with other dogs by the behaviorist. Since, the event we have added another large dog to the family & my insecure blind dog took sometime to warm up to him but they are best buddies. This event has forever changed me, I am so careful with him. I don't allow him to meet or approach or meet other dogs---this can be incredibly stressful when dogs are off leash & owners are unaware. It may not be the best method but I don't know what else to do. Although my stress level is high at times, he is a love in every other way and for that I'm in the end thankful!

Posted by: Tklane | June 16, 2014 5:20 PM    Report this comment

Something similar happened to me. Shortly after adopting our 3rd rescue we were out on a walk and a large dog in the neighborhood broke the lead which attached to his front porch and attacked my dog. After that, any time we passed another dog, whether it be on a leash, loose in its yard or even in a passing car, my dog became very reactive - barking and lunging and pulling on his leash. I am very happy to report however that after some time and lots of counterconditioning work we can happily walk past another dog without a negative reaction.

Posted by: rescuedmom | June 16, 2014 4:45 PM    Report this comment

All great examples. Recovery or desensitizing all depends on how sensitive your dog is to begin with. Some just rolls with the punches, others cannot ever be rehabbed. I had a rescue dog that never ever trusted new people but in time she would be lifetime pals with the. Same dog would often get picked on by other dogs, she never feared new dogs after these encounters. My other dog on the other hand was Mr SENSITIVE. Had a bad encounter with a dog walker that had 15 off leash dogs that mobbed him as a pup. Had a few other dog mobs when young, well, he he matured around 2 yrs of age, he took matters into his own 'paws' and become fear aggressive with other dogs. He passed at 14 yrs. Essentially for 12 yrs, we had to walk him in areas that would not have dogs around, on or off leash. He was 90lbs - he got into 5 fights with other dogs during his lifetime - he would be unhappy after the incident, I was unhappy for the circle of dog aggression perpetuating itself. Did lots of training, only to be set back constantly by others uncontrollable off leash dogs. I gave up when he was about 10 yrs old. I found perfect 'quiet' zones where he would be allowed to run around and be a dog without much worry of coming across another dog. Sad for him because you could see he missed having doggie pals. Hard for us to alter our lives for him.
You can't be overprotective over your dog as the above examples perfectly show that one can not predict the outcomes. Dogs run about - t-boning and collisions happens. Toddlers unexpectedly fling things about. Loud noises are everywhere.
It sucks. You just have to hope you have an easy going dog because my experience shows that you are in for a lifetime of training and rehabbing or simply adjusting your lifestyle.

Posted by: mintyd | June 16, 2014 4:36 PM    Report this comment

Never recovered, been 10 years of juggling and protecting. Robbed of normal doghood.

Posted by: Lab67 | June 16, 2014 4:31 PM    Report this comment

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