On my way home last night as I was planning yesterday’s Wadi-U-Know Wednesday post, Superhero Daddy told me our little Daisy appeared from the garden that afternoon with a rather large wound on her flank. It needed stitches and she was booked in for that evening. So after a quick change of clothes and gathering of blankets and beastie, off I went for yet another visit to Uncle Dr Petar and Auntie Nurse Maria at Azaiba Branch – Al Qurum Veterinary Clinic.
The wound was a clean tear and was sorted in no time by our crack team of medical professionals. Daisy was given a little shot of wake-up juice and within a few minutes she and I headed home as though nothing had happened. Sadly, not all bite wounds are so easy to fix and it made me think about all of the aspects of our relationships with dogs that help prevent these kinds of incidents.
First there is the loving and trusting side of the bond. That’s just about being a kind, loving and responsible parent who raises an animal with appropriate boundaries and limitations. Then there are the training and behavioural aspects including obedience skills, diet and nutrition, general health and medical issues. There are all sorts of cute tricks and preventative techniques to distract a dog on the verge of the red-zone. We’ve tried them all in the effort to avoid what we don’t want to see, which can happen all too quickly, and that is the full on, mouth contact, frenzied dog fight.
Now, even if your dog is usually a happy gentle soul the smartest position to take if he or she does engage in a dog fight is one of extreme caution. We need to take care of the dogs involved and stop the attacks as soon as possible AND we MUST do this with our own safety in mind because dog bites hurt and can cause us extreme and often long lasting damage. Be aware that a fighting dog is emotionally and intellectually so deep in the red-zone he may not even recognise you, his loving mummy or daddy! Don’t be afraid to let dogs fight for the few minutes it takes to secure the environment and collect the tools you need to break up the fight. Everyone’s adrenaline is surging at this point, including yours, so keep your head, stay calm and be smart and in control.
We have posted this link before (http://leerburg.com/dogfight.htm). It is a great one for all of us with multi-dog households. These trainers take dog fights very seriously from the perspective of their own safety as well as the safety of their helpers and employees, as do we. We never want someone to be hurt by our dogs and it is our responsibility to do the best we can with our beasties and teach other people how to protect themselves in such an extreme and upsetting situation. Here are some simple pointers…
• Your first instinct will be to run into the chaos and pick up the dog……DON’T!
• First – separate the fighters from the rest of the pack by calling, chasing or leashing the other dogs and securing them out of the area, preferably behind a closed (and locked) door to eliminate the risk of their return to the fight zone. Move any children away first!
• Grab your tools – ropes and leashes work, perhaps grab a container of water too, if one is handy.
• Use the wheelbarrow method taught in the Leerburg video to separate the fighting dogs. One point of CAUTION here. If the dogs are already biting into each other, pulling them apart can turn easy to treat puncture wounds into deep tears needing stitches, so be careful. Once you have the dogs in the wheelbarrow position a squirt bottle, your glass of water or juice, whatever liquid may be handy as long as it is safe to throw on the dogs, may be the “cute trick” you need to shock them into releasing their bite grip for the instant you need to pull them away from each other.
• Keep the sharp bits of the dog AWAY from you as you move the dogs AWAY from each other (use an arc shaped slow swing). At this stage the dogs are still deep in the “red-zone” and need to calm down before you trust them to be anywhere near you or anyone else.
• Get the dogs away from each other, walk them around to disperse the adrenalin flooding their faculties. When they are calm, walk them together for a little while. Manage this very carefully as it is not always easy.
• In those moments of calm, as you collect yourself, take a look over the dogs for injuries.
• Wash wounds with wound wash and have punctures and tears checked by your vet. Anything bleeding should be looked at by a vet immediately.
• Think about what caused the fight. Was it over food, a toy, jealousy or an ongoing relationship problem between specific beasties? Implement a management strategy to help the beasties avoid coming to blows, this may involve behaviour modification or counterconditioning training, diet change and/or vitamin supplements.
• Teach children what you are doing and why and that their role is to get away and stay away until you say it is OK to come near and interact with the dog once again.
We’ve taken this journey with a number of our beasties and more specifically with Bessie and Bonnie. Today, they are the two least likely to be in a fight……but it’s taken over a year and a half and quite a lot of trips to the vet to get to this point in their relationship. And yes, Superhero Daddy was bitten because, in the heat of the moment, he didn’t follow the rules (everybody makes mistakes!) and guess what….it hurt!
Persist. It does get better.
Keep on Wrangling!