I had a wake-up call a couple of days ago. It’s hard to get it down here, because I feel so utterly ashamed of myself.
We have friends who own a pit bull. “Buddy” is a lovely example of the breed; happy and friendly with people, but also with the single-minded intensity and dominance around other dogs that are hallmarks of the breed. Despite this, he has had amicable relations with other dogs, so we thought he and Tierce should meet.
Buddy and his owners came around the corner of the house. We were outside, because we thought it would be easier than in the house. I brought Tierce forward on the lead to let them sniff noses. Tierce was excited and went directly to Buddy… and Buddy grabbed him by the ear and Would. Not. Let. Go. Tierce started SCREAMING and thrashing. Luckily, Buddy’s owners were right on both the dogs and held them down so Buddy couldn’t shake his head and Tierce couldn’t thrash about too much.
At this point, I’m ashamed to say that I completely freaked out and could do nothing but alternately cry and scream, “Oh my God!”. I couldn’t see how much damage Buddy was doing. I couldn’t get in there because it would have made things more complicated, meaning worse, since Buddy’s owners were already in there and getting him to open his jaws. Honestly, I don’t know what I would have done if I had been alone and I don’t want to know, because I broke down so completely.
They separated the two dogs and took Buddy to the car, while I got Tierce into the house. I was freaking out, my boyfriend was frozen with horror, my friends’ kids were hysterical and terrified that Buddy was going to be taken away or put down, and my friends had each been bitten by Tierce while he was freaking out from the terror and pain.
Amazingly enough, Tierce did not have a scratch on him. It had been a warning.
But what a warning! I was thinking of Bella, who is still at large. I was thinking of all the pictures that I’ve seen of pit bull attacks. Despite the fact that Buddy is a well-socialized, well-trained dog, he still took a long time (it probably was maybe 45 seconds to a minute) to let go and one of my friends had to stick his fingers down the dog’s throat to do it.
At this point, I would like to emphasize that this is NOT an anti-pit-bull post! This was a huge human error on both sides.
Above all, I am kicking myself for not foreseeing this and protecting Tierce. Buddy is a great dog, but he is a pit bull who has been attacked by other dogs before – it’s not strange that he would be on the defensive. And, for an ABPT, defensive is usually a really, Really, REALLY good offensive. APBT have been bred for generations to fight other dogs and are very, very good at it.
Thank Dog my friends took the time to train and socialize him. Thank Dog they were on the ball. In the end, Buddy was a true APBT. The only injuries that occurred were from Tierce and I’m going to give him a pass on that because he was hurting and scared. Buddy never bit or threatened to bite his humans. However, he would have severely injured or killed Tierce if things had not gone the way they did.
After this horrorfest, we got Tierce calmed down, Buddy calmed down and the kids calmed down. After a visit from his “mom”, Buddy was a happy dog again. Tierce was happy after I had the kids feed him a huge slab of turkey. We dressed the wounds that Tierce made and spent a reasonably relaxed hour visiting… “So, anyway, how ya been?”
We also discussed the situation and came to the following conclusions:
– Expecting Buddy and Tierce to get along because we wanted them to. This was a big one, because we relaxed our guard around two male dogs, one an APBT and one an intact Shiba.
– Introducing the dogs near the house. That was Tierce’s territory. Out in the street or even farther would have been better.
– Bringing Buddy around the corner of the house to meet Tierce. Surprising a dog with the presence of another dog is not always the best idea. We would have done better to go out in the open where they could have seen each other coming.
– Letting Tierce come up to Buddy right away. Keeping them separated to see their reactions could have clued us in to the fact that this was a Bad Idea.
– Not acknowledging the fact that Tierce is a very dominant dog and therefore is likely to approach other dogs in a dominant, in-your-face way. Not something a male dog, especially a male APBT, is likely to take in good part.
– Forgetting that dogs often make decisions based on smell or minute behaviour that humans can’t easily detect. Tierce’s entire demeanor up to the instant that Buddy grabbed him was, “Who the fuck are YOU?” Buddy probably had figured that Tierce was going to try to take a chunk out of him well before Tierce came within touching distance.
I am heartily ashamed of myself for not stopping to think. I could have easily cost Tierce his life or his left ear. As it was, neither dog was hurt and the humans will recover. I think my friends were scared – Buddy had never done that before. I’m guessing he made the decision, after he was attacked by a loose Labrador, that a pre-emptive strike was best.
This was also an excellent lesson on the kind of responsibility that goes with the ownership of an APBT. Buddy’s owners were prepared to deal with him and did not hesitate to act when things went south. This is the kind of owner that a pit bull needs. Buddy is a good dog who has a great temperament and who is owned by knowledgeable, prepared owners. However, this great temperament is directed at people. Dogs are a completely different ballgame, as we learned that day. This incident proved that even the best owners can be blindsided by their dog; fortunately, Buddy’s owners acted immediately and saved Tierce from permanent damage.
Of course, if Tierce had been someone else’s dog, they could have easily blamed Buddy for the incident, because he is a pit bull. It wasn’t Buddy’s fault. It was our fault, for not recognizing our dogs’ limitations and stress thresholds. Unfortunately, since Buddy is a pit bull, the onus tends to be on his owners to prove that he didn’t start a fight or that the fight was the natural result of dog-to-dog dominance and not he’s-a-pit-bull-and-they-are-all-vicious-uncontrollable-dogs-that-should-be-killed.
In retrospect, Buddy acted exactly like a typical dog of his sex, age and breed would have acted. In fact, given what we know about APBT, it was odd that a male pit bull in the prime of life, possessing all the speed and power gifted to his breed, latched on to Tierce and did not leave a single toothmark. Maybe it was luck or maybe Tierce was very lucky that Buddy was socialized with other dogs in his youth and did not immediately go for a killing hold.
Repeat after me. Dogs are not people. Just because a dog gets along with people, does not mean s/he will get along with other dogs. Shibas are very smart about a lot of things, but their comprehension of their size and fighting power is grossly exaggerated. Shibas are little shits who will take a shaky situation and make it worse if they possibly can. Despite the fact that Shibas are little shits, it’s the owner’s full responsibility to make sure they don’t pay the price for being said little shits.
So, if you have a dominant Shiba, be very careful about their attitude towards other dogs. A Shiba that is extremely submissive may not have the problems that were brought up by my experience, but then again, I have never met a Shiba that didn’t think it owned the world. If you want to introduce your dog to your friend’s dog, stop and think:
-am I prepared to cancel the physical meeting of the dogs if I think that they are not reacting to each other well at any point? I ignored my inner warning voice because I wanted the dogs to get along.
-is my dog really good with other dogs?
-is my friend’s dog good with other dogs?
-is there any history that might indicate that the dogs may not get along or may start to grate on one another?
-are the dogs stressed at all?
-am I choosing a neutral venue that allows the dogs plenty of time to see and evaluate each other before physically meeting?
-if there is a fight, am I prepared to deal with it? Can I break up a fight if it happens? (this is a big one for me; I learned that I need to know what to do if this (DOG FORBID) ever happens again, instead of standing around like a useless, screaming git.)
In the end, this was a relatively minor incident that ended as well as such incidents can. I didn’t blame Buddy for being what he was. I didn’t blame his owners; I was just as much at fault for not seeing the pawprints on the wall. They didn’t blame me or Tierce. While we were shaken up and frightened at what could have happened, what could have happened didn’t. It was human error, not canine viciousness and I daresay that Buddy’s owners learned as much as I did about their dog’s abilities and limitations.
I just hope that this story will encourage people with dominant dogs to take things slowly when introducing their dogs to other dogs and keep their dogs away if there are any signs that things will not or are not going well.