11 May 2010

A pocketful of treats... a diversionary technique

This Sunday, my last dog walk with the hounds before leaving to travel back down South, turned out to be quite eventful and got me thinking about how little us humans sometimes 'think dog' and expect so much from our canine companions.

Me, hubby and hounds had decided to stretch all 16 legs and take the hounds for a bit of off lead time, recall practice and a run in the local playing field. When we got to the field there was another dog - an off lead German Shepherd (GSD) - playing with its owner, so we decided not to go in as Mina can be unpredictable with other dogs.

We carried on walking for a bit and then turned round to head back home...at this stage I could hear screaming and shouting coming from the field, accompanied by loud barks and yapping. We ran back to the field and when I saw what was happening, I handed Stevie and Jasper to hubby and went into the field to help...

...it was quite a sight. The German Shepherd was half lying down, being held and protected by his owner, and was being attacked by two off-lead terriers (a Jack Russell Terrier and a Terrier Cross). The owner of the terriers was frantically trying to catch them, and the owner of the German Shepherd was desperately trying to (a) stop them biting her dog and (b) keep her dog calm, preventing it from biting the terriers.

I know that getting involved in a dog fight isn't the most sensible option, but it did look I could help and the attack hadn't escalated into a full blown fight.

I always carry a pocketful of food treats when I'm walking the hounds, and remember reading somewhere that if a dog starts to attack your dog, try and throw food, a ball or an object to get the attacking dog's attention. The terriers were running around barking and nipping at the GSD, who thankfully was long haired - as it appeared that the terriers were mainly biting out chunks of hair.

The terriers' owner was struggling to catch either of them, so I went across and started calling to them and throwing food treats - in their direction, but away from the GSD. Food can be useful diversion and both appeared to be food motivated. Somehow the lure of the food worked its magic and got them away from the GSD, allowing me to hold one by its harness and the other by its scruff (their owner had taken off his collar/harness).

Thankfully no-one was hurt - human or dog. The terriers' owner clipped them both back onto their leads and the GSD owner was keeping her dog calm.  What made it even more unbelievable was that the owners and their dogs were neighbours...

...and this got me thinking to how much we really know our dogs and just don't think dog.

Just because you may be neighbours, and even if you don't like your neighbour, the chances are you're polite to them - you say hello and exchange niceties about the weather and know how to act socially around them.

But, what if you're a dog and all you see/hear of your doggy neighbour is barking, growling and jumping at the other side of the fence when you're out in the garden? What if that 'big dog next door' is always trying to jump over the fence, or the 'little dog next door' is always poking its nose under the fence barking and trying to nip you?

Just because us humans know how to act when we meet a neighbour, we shouldn't expect our dogs to know what to do. All too often we expect our dogs to be mini doggy etiquette experts, doing what we would do in a strange situation, minding their doggy Ps & Qs, but dogs don't think human; they think dog!

We all want well behaved, well socialised and well mannered dogs but this takes time, patience and training. Next time you think about letting your dog off lead - think dog!

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