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Recent dog attack/ aggression

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Hi everyone,

This morning while at the park playing fetch, my dog, who is friendly and enjoys playing with other dogs, was attacked by another dog. There were no obvious signs of injury on my dog, but there was a good 10 seconds where the other dog was on top of my dog being super aggressive and my dog was crying like I have never heard him cry before. Everything was fine but boy was I scared! The other owner broke them up (I was around 40 feet away when it happened). I ran over to my dog and because natural human maternal instinct kicked in and I started petting, loving up on my pup to reassure him, make she he was ok and to show him I’m there for him. A couple minutes later another dog started chasing and barking at my poor pup and he looked visible scared and anxious. Once again I had him come to me and sit while I petted him, reassuring once again. We started playing fetch a bit more but my pup was obviously anxious so I decided to was time to leave. 

Afterwards, i got thinking about my reaction and if I was reinforcing fear behaviors and anxiety in my dog. I'm wondering what to do in situations like this where there has been an obviously scary thing happen to a dog (dog on dog aggression) and you want to show them you can protect them but you also don't want to coddle or reinforce their fear and anxiety. I'm wondering about situations where there is obvious danger (like this one) and also less dangerous situations where there isn't a dangerous thing that happened / or is happening but your dog still seems to be scared (a couple months ago my dog was scared of music playing from the computer and would run up to me and try to get in my lap and I loved the attention so I encouraged this behavior. Icame to realize coddling him during these moments seemed to make it worse and I stopped doing that). In my understanding dogs don't really differentiate between what is actual harm (dog on dog aggression) and what is not harmful (music playing from computer) and my thinking is that the owner should behave similarly in reacting to both situations where a dog shows fear and anxiety. So, how can I respond to these situations that bring my dog fear, using positive reinforcement, to mitigate reinforcing the fear and anxiety, while also showing the dog I am here for him, love him and will do my best to protect and care for him? 

Any thoughts, tips, advice would be appreciated. Thanks!

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That sounds really scary for you both!

Thankfully we've not had anything that bad. We've had dogs who have had a go at our boy and sometimes he'll have a go back, it tends to be very noisy with raised hackles and teeth on show but very little actual contact. I tend to keep moving away from the other dog and calling ours along and he comes as he can. If we see a dog coming towards us and our boy looks a bit uncomfortable then I take as wide a berth as we can so he doesn't have to greet them head on. Often he does greet and it's all nice, sometimes just a quick sniff and tail wag, sometimes some playful behaviour, other times he'll choose to ignore them and there's no interaction. I don't know why sometimes a dog takes a dislike to ours and comes at him aggressively.

I try to be matter of fact about scary things. Saying that, we've not been in the situation that you have been. I like to hope if we were then I'd be matter of fact and encouraging (to get us away from the scene) and give the extra cuddles and attention once we were home.

Did the owner apologise? Drag their dog away in shame?

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I have had something similar happen with my dog. I can imagine how you must feel. It feels awful.

It was a German Shepherd that jumped on my dog on a hike and I broke them up. Or well pulled the dog off of mine. We walked on as if nothing happened, although I was shaking from the adrenaline rush. We met a friendly Jack Russell on the way to the car and my dog was a bit wary to meet him, but I was glad we did so she had a good experience after what happened. 

The days after the incident I tried to meet as many friendly dogs as I could. Not only because of the incident, but my dog can be a bit insecure and I didn't want her to become a target for other dogs. Of course you have to be careful to choose the right dogs. This helped tremendously and my dog is a lot more confident around other dogs now, which also means that I can trust her to tell me when things are off with another dog. 
There are certain breeds I tend to avoid, because I know my dog won't like them. Mostly because they are too much in her face, or they are a popular breed that isn't raised right. So I avoid German Shepherds, huskies and bully breeds if I can. 

How I respond to my dog being fearful depends on the situation, although I am never one to pet or cuddle my dog to reassure her. To me at least, it doesn't feel like it helps.
I might walk up to the scary thing and touch it to show there is really nothing to worry about. She was once scared of a snowman and calmly walking around it with her off leash so she could approach at her own speed really helped. Or I might say in a quiet voice "that's enough" when she would bark at something she finds scary and move on, maybe put a hand on her shoulder if we were sitting somewhere.
I agree with Jami74 about sometimes taking a wide berth around some dogs if my dogs signals she is uncomfortable. However I do try to broaden her comfort zone a bit, so she learns how to handle herself in all kinds of situations. So apart from reading my dog I try to read the approaching dog as well and make a decision to meet based on both dogs. Most times I am right, sometimes I am wrong (and I might be wrong not meeting some dogs that are actually friendly but I'll never know).

I hope your dog has recovered a bit from what happened ( and you too - it took me a while to stop thinking about it)


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This is why I avoid dog parks like the plague. these things happen all the time and I will not expose my dogs to the danger.

I used to live in a bad neighborhood where some dogs ran loose. One time two dogs ran out of their yard to attack my dog. It was terrifying; they had my dog down on his back and were going for him. Fortunately I carried a tactical baton, and just snapping it out made the two dogs run. When something like this has happened to my dog my first reaction is to get the heck away from the area as fast as possible and I would have done the same in your situation with the dog park. I would then check my dog over physically, while saying in a calm voice, "you're OK, it's OK", that kind of thing. Not over doing it - not "oooh you poor thing!", but calmly reassuring.

To me, the main thing is for the dog to know that I have his or her back at all times; that I will protect at all times. Reassure the dog, be sure there's no damage and then move on, letting the incident pass by. And you might want to think long and hard about returning to that dog park.

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I don’t have access to a dog park, but I’ve read so many stories exactly like yours that I will never take my dog inside a dog park. 

When something really scary happens to my dogs, I do give them a little time of comfort and then continue on like nothing happened. I don’t think it’s fair to totally ignore them when they seek comfort from you, but you definitely don’t want to go overboard and make a huge fuss out of it. If after(and by after I don’t mean immediately after, but in the following days) the incident they are scared of the object/situation I don’t pay attention to that fear or coddle them. I will do counter conditioning, etc. but no coaxing or sweet talking, trying to convince the dog that he’s okay, because he’s not gonna buy it, and it may just make his fear worse.

I’ve never had a dog get jumped by another dog, so I don’t have any specific advice for you... Good luck, and I’m sorry that this ever happened... 

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If something scares him that is not dangerous(like music playing) and he comes up to me, I acknowledge him with a pat and “hi Fido” but then send him to go sit on his bed with a bone or something. Or play fetch, etc. to distract him, but not coddling and soothing. 

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