Aggressive Dog Play Is Not “Playtime”

by admin on March 5, 2013

I have a husky that me and my fiance decided to get last year and our local pet supply store does an event once a month for low cost health care. Some of the money raised goes to the rescue that does adoption events there every weekend so we decided to take our husky puppy to this event for vaccinations to help them out. At the time our puppy was still small small enough that I could still carry him in one arm.

My fiance was out of state when the event rolled around so I took our puppy by myself. After signing in I decided to go outside and wait with everyone else next to the large veterinary van.

After a while, a little girl and her mom came up and asked if they could pet the puppy so I gave him some slack on his leash and let him wander over to them. She knelt down to pet him right as her father and another man that I guess was her uncle walked up behind her with a large German Shepherd. I have no issues with GSDs but this dog would have made less understanding people terrified of them. It was a male as big as most adult shepherds I had seen, yet I heard him tell one man that it was only 4 months old. The dog ran right up to the little girl, pushing her over on the sidewalk and grabbing my pup by the back of his neck. The girl hadn’t even noticed the dog was near her until then and began screaming for her mom to “make Daddy’s dog go away”. My husky was doing his best to run towards me with the German Shepherd still hanging on and growling loudly and I was completely blanking on what action would be best to do. The mom thankfully stepped in and told the man to take the dog back to the truck. He laughed at her, but pulled his dog back with a hard tug on the leash and walked away across the parking lot.

I grabbed my pup up and checked him over for any bite marks but thankfully he was just coated in drool and shaking. I decided it would be smarter to move in case the men and the GSD came back so I walked in the opposite direction of the men and sat down with my back against the store near some shopping carts. Sure enough, the men came back with the GSD in tow. My husky tried crawling in behind me to hide as the dog lunged forward to the end of his leash, growling aggressively again. By this point my puppy was whimpering behind me and the men laughed, commenting in broken English that he was just “playing” like he did with their Chihuahua at home. They kept on walking though and went in the store to look around. A few of the other people waiting for vaccines came over and told me they would try to help if he came back. One woman went to track down the manager of the store to ask what could be done about the dog since her own child was cowering behind his father’s leg.

After several minutes, my pup had gained some of his normal rambunctious attitude back and was running around as much as his leash would allow and hamming it up for the adults that had come in around us when the men came back out and let the GSD have the full length of his leash. My pup was pinned to the ground with this large dog over him, yelping in fear while they laughed at him and continued to try and tell me the dog was just playing. The dog’s growls got louder and I debated giving him a kick to get him off my pup since the two men were not going to do anything about it and my puppy was actually starting to whine in pain now. Thank God for people like the man that came in then though because he grabbed the dog by the collar and pulled him off my husky long enough for me to grab him up and move out of the dog’s reach. I admit I lost my temper then and told the man that his dog was not playing at all and if that’s how the dog played with the Chihuahua, he’d have one less dog before long. The man just laughed at me and continued to insist the dog was just playing so I gave up, told him I didn’t care what he wanted to call it, I didn’t want him or his dog near mine again or I would call animal control, and took my dog back inside to sit near the registers with the employees until the vet was ready for me.

The dog could have hurt the little girl when he rushed up to her to get to my husky and he could have seriously hurt or even killed my puppy. I can understand if you are there for vaccines or healthcare, but if your dog is that aggressive, it should be crated or muzzled while there. I spoke to the vet while I was there and she said they would talk to the store manager about having the dog banned from any further events held on the property. I didn’t go back to another to find out if they followed through. 0214-13

Some men use aggressive dogs as an extension of their own personal aggression to intimidate others.   When the dog goes too far, the blame is then shifted to the dog being bad rather than the owner.

Where I live, an attack by a dog on another domesticated animal is assault and it is illegal.   The theory is that a dog that is willing to aggressively attack another dog, cat, livestock is dangerous and is not safe around people, especially children.   You, by extension of your dog, were being attacked by two men using a German Shepherd as their main accomplice.   Even if the incidents did not result in bodily harm to the puppy, the act was one of establishing dominance by means of aggression.    After the first incident,  the puppy should have been crated or removed to your vehicle and you call 911 to report an aggressive dog.   I do not normally advocate a knee jerk response to call the police as the answer to every dilemma but in this case, you and your pet were being threatened by a lethal weapon that was being mishandled by its owner.   It’s like someone sloppily waving around a hand gun claiming they are just having “fun”.

{ 81 comments… read them below or add one }

LadyLelan March 5, 2013 at 3:10 am

These dogs are enough of a potential lethal weapon to need serious care for their training and owning.

OP, what you experienced was absolutely unacceptable, but what I don’t understand is why you didn’t go and meet the store manager immediately after the very first incident, when your puppy was literally grabbed by the neck and this little girl was scared by the “assault”, which was very serious enough to have this man banned from any pet shop ad vitam aeternam.

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Kris March 5, 2013 at 3:47 am

If its not other dog owners that get me its people who are just ignorant about dogs period. This was a twofold problem – ignorant owners + a crap dog. as far as temperament goes – a few cards short of a full deck. No stable dog is going to pull what it did on a puppy or any other dog without provocation. This dog’s first reaction was to attack/bully simply because it was there. That dog is bound for a date with the blue juice(if it hasn’t happened already) because his owners are not capable of turning him into a liveable dog.

You should have spoken with an employee/manager yourself after the first incident and kept well away from these two men for the rest of the time.

Also some side advice OP from someone who’s BTDT – learn to defend your dog. Never EVER expect people who can’t/won’t control their dogs to gt involved when the situation turns sour(do expect them to pitch a fit however if you have to do something like kick their dog). The world is unfortunately filled with people who shouldn’t anything about a chia pet and this may not be the last time this happens, so be prepared to step up and stop the situation before it starts or leads to vet bills.

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Marozia March 5, 2013 at 5:12 am

My father & I have trained molosser-type dogs for years. I have a pit bull and my daughter has an American bulldog. Both dogs are properly socially trained and also trained around other animals. As far as I’m concerned, this GSD is used to intimidate and ‘play’ by using aggression, which obviously was part of his training. No doubt this specific dog is a property guard dog, and should be used for that purpose only. The rest of the time, he/she should be fully leashed with muzzle and kept close to the owner.
I fear for that chihuahua.

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Puzzled March 5, 2013 at 5:25 am

We have a neighbor that allows his dog to run loose despite the leash laws in our county. Recently when I let my dog out to go potty, this dog charged into our yard and bit our dog in the face causing his eye to bleed and a trip to the vet. We haven’t decided what to do yet. The neighbor in question is just like the gentleman you described with the German Shepherd. The store manager should have put a stop to this immediately. Please follow up with the store manager and make sure this man is not allowed to do this again. I hope he doesn’t leave any children alone with the dog.

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Pen^3 March 5, 2013 at 5:38 am

The comparison to waving around a handgun is very apt. An animal can be used as a weapon (as they have been throughout human history) as well as a pet. These men were attacking others using a weapon, that is all that was happening, and it is pathetic and disgusting.

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Ally March 5, 2013 at 6:59 am

If that dog is encouraged to act aggressively, those idiots are going to end up seriously hurting someone or some thing. I agree that a dog is simply the weapon of the owner. My family has owned a number of dogs, both big and small, including rehabilitating a puppy who had been abused and had aggression issues. We never brought that puppy out in public before we thought she was ready and quickly removed her from a situation where we thought she might be aggressive.

Too many owners of both big and little dogs fail to train or supervise their dogs, making them a menace to others. I once had a strange lab not on a leash jump on me while I was waiting for a bus. I was honestly terrified, I couldn’t get that dog off me and had I been any smaller or frailer, that dog would have knocked me to the ground. The owner said the same thing when he ambled up “Awww… He’s just playing. Don’t you like dogs?” I like dogs, I hate stupid and irresponsible dog owners.

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michelle March 5, 2013 at 7:22 am

Oh my goodness.

The admin’s advice on how to handle the situation is prudent and correct, but I do understand that when you’re in the middle of something going on and it’s just incomprehensible that the other person involved would actually behave like this, it really throws you off.

But much as I sympathize with you and with your pup, my heart really goes out to this little girl and that chihuaha, who live with this daily. That, I would call abuse.

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Niamh84 March 5, 2013 at 7:27 am

To be honest, my response would have been (and has been in similar situations) to shout at the owner to get their dog back immediately or I would do it for them. If they still did nothing, then I certainly would have gotten in there and pulled the dog off my dog.

I have to disagree with admin – I would not have called 911. If they refused to remove their dog from the area, I would certainly have called the local police station, but not 911.

It’s sad that people like this are the reason German Sheperds get such a bad name. Unfortunately for this particular breed, they are a chosen one for silly people who see their dog as a status symbol and makes them look tough. This dog is an “accident” waiting to happen – most especially for that little girl. Her dad should be teaching the dog to respect her.

I’m also a little surprised that the only reaction from the staff/vet was to ban the dog from future events. I presume the vet is able to get the dog’s details during the course of the treatment – they should then report the dog for aggressive behaviour to the local authorities.

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Jennifer March 5, 2013 at 7:33 am

As a jogger, this is the reason I carry pepper spray. Dog owners like this make my blood boil, and if I ever have to use the pepper spray, I’m sorry it will be on the animal and not the owner. One large dog was actually growling, baring her teeth at me, and crouching down like she was about to jump, and the owner laughed and said, “Lucy’s just playing.” I shook the pepper spray cannister and said, “So am I. I like to play with mace.” He called the dog back.

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Lo March 5, 2013 at 8:07 am

I agree with admin that the puppy should have been removed from the situation after the first incident.

Yes, it’s your right to have your well-behaving dog at a dog-friendly event, but until something is done about a vicious dog, your puppy is in harm’s way.

If you didn’t want to take matters into your own hands, I would have left if no one at the event was going to do anything, honestly, and not gone back there.

But I am appalled that you would consider kicking the dog. I was raised with dogs, my family owned show dogs up until we were adults. One was a shepherd so I’m well aware of how aggressive they can be. You never ever use physical violence against an animal unless it’s in the act of attacking. Standing over another dog and growling threateningly is not the same thing.

If I had been in that situation I would have gotten in between the growling dog and the puppy and grabbed the puppy. If the dog had decided to attack me this would have forced the owner to react. A shepherd can do a lot of damage at close range, sure. But better to take up the offensive after the first lunge than to kick an aggressive animal, which may or may not result in a worse situation. At the very least it’s inhumane. That is not the way to punish a dog.

Big dogs deserve to be handled with care and respect. German shepherds are dangerous when untrained because they’re even when they’re not aggressive they’re very intellgent and will act out when bored. These men have no business owning a dog they can’t control. This shepherd is the victim of abuse and neglect if it is acting this way towards a strange dog.

I hope your puppy recovered from the stress of the ordeal quickly.

((sorry if this double posts, I got an error the first time))

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Huh March 5, 2013 at 8:41 am

I feel bad for the little girl too, whose father let his dog knock her over (and attack another dog in front of her.) But the knocking her over is showing aggression/dominance over his child, which he should never EVER allow. Not that he cares, obviously.

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AS March 5, 2013 at 8:58 am

I love dogs. Hubby and I have volunteered at a dog shelter, and even though we don’t want to have a dog until we finish grad schools and are a little more settled in life, we love being around them.
Yet, I would say that the German Shepherd crossed the line and the owners should have been careful about it. True that he was probably only a puppy (some dogs look much big for a puppy), but they can be trained. GSDs are usually good learners. Owners like this should be banned from keeping dogs! I have seen several wild-behaved dogs, whose owners make sure that the dog is not aggressive in public. I wish someone had called animal control, because as the admin said, this dog was practically assaulting your puppy and the owners said nothing about it.

This dog reminded me of something that happened to us a while ago. My then-boyfriend (now DH) and I wanted to purchase a car. We took it on a test drive to some experimental field plot areas that I work in (dirt roads, and hence a good place for test driving). A man was walking his dog without the leash. As soon as the dog saw our car, he came running and started jumping on the car and scratching it. We kept telling the owner to move his dog, but he kept telling us to drive. We could not drive, because we couldn’t see where the dog was and didn’t want to run over the dog. After some time, the dog ran on the other direction, and we drove away the car. The car ended up with scratches, and when we told the store owner he said that we should have taken down the man’s information and called police. Anyways, we did end up buying the car and the shop owner buffed up the scratches (without any extra cost for us; he is awesome!). We still think that the dog owner was pretty rude.

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Molly March 5, 2013 at 9:31 am

When I was walking my leashed dog in the park, I could see a couple with two large dogs, leashes on the ground, and one of the dogs getting into attack posture when it saw us. I was a ways away and yelled “please leash your dog!” They didn’t, the dog started moving towards us, and I yelled it again. Before long the dog was full-on attacking mine, with me still attached to the leash. I must have yelled “get your dog!” about 20 times before the owners did anything. I went to my car, and admit that I did the “what the heck” raised hand gesture at them. You know – bent up at the elbow, palms up? Not my friendliest moment, I admit. The guy yelled back “what do you want me to do?” Um, I wanted you to take care of your animal. It looked like a large shepherd mix, a breed I have nothing against and have owned myself, but way sturdier and stronger than my English Setter, so it could have done some serious damage. I didn’t even think of calling 911, though I wish I had now that EHell mentions it!

Which brings me to another etiquette faux pas — even if you think your dog is a total sweetheart (and I don’t think this one was), if you are in an area that requires dogs to be leashed, PLEASE do so! Even if your dog is friendly and you are comfortable with them off-leash, seeing an unleashed dog might make others uneasy. And, they may have chosen a park with enforced leash laws (like this one had, unfortunately) because they don’t care for loose dogs.

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Helen March 5, 2013 at 9:33 am

I agree with Admin completely, but I also hope the OP learned not to expect other people to control their animals. I have a small dog, and sometimes when I’ve walked her I’ve come across people with large dogs who just let their dog run towards my dog. They then act insulted when I pick my dog up and walk away. They’re in the wrong, but I can’t control them, I can only control my actions in response.

You never know if another dog is aggressive, un-vaccinated, or just poorly trained. You do know what an aggressive dog can do to your dog–and the best solution is to protect your dog from any strange interactions.

Admin is right — police should have been called, and the store’s response was weak in the extreme. I would not go back, either.

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Rachel March 5, 2013 at 9:45 am

That is so ridiculous that those men acted that way. At the first sign of aggression you should alert a manager to the problem or call animal control or the police if the manager doesn’t act immediately.

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Cat March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

If someone is using an animal to threaten your property, you call the police. You don’t wait for help from other people or from store managers. You wait and your dog will be dead and you will probably be dead or badly bitten. If the men try to leave, get their license plate number.
I had a neighbor with a vicious dog. The dog had already bitten one adult and two children in the neighborhood. When one child needed stitches, the dog’s owner came down to complain that Animal Control had been out. She felt the parent should not have taken the child to the doctor and should have “just put a band-aide on it.”
The dog charged at me and I gave it a kick that sent it into the street from my yard. I told the owner that, she had to either muzzle the dog when it was loose or put it down. There’s no excuse for a violent animal running loose.

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Gena March 5, 2013 at 9:48 am

My granddaughter has a very small dog that she brings with her when she visits. She had the dog outside in the front yard when the neighbors dog (who is allowed to run around unleashed) came over and jumped on her (the dog) . I’m not sure if he was going to hurt her or just wanted to play, but it didn’t matter because my dog (a very territorial shepherd mix) leaped off the porch and flung himself on the dog to protect “his” little dog. I haven’t seen neighbors dog since.

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AMC March 5, 2013 at 9:50 am

Your poor puppy. :( Is there such a thing as bullying-by-dog? Because that’s what this sounds like. Admin is right on that the owner was using his dog as an extension of himself to show aggression and dominance. I don’t blame the GSD because it’s an animal and doesn’t know better. Its owner was entirely at fault. OP, I hope you follow up with the store about this so that police or animal control officers can be present at future events.

I’d like to point out that the OP did try to remove the puppy from the situation after the first incident by walking in the opposite direction of the GSD and its owner. After the second incident, someone went to get the manager (apparently to no avail), and after the third, OP took her puppy into the safety of the store.

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Amber March 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

Good lord. I’m terrified for that poor little girl. I hear way too many stories of improperly trained dogs going off the rails and attacking small children. The dog already sees her as low enough on the totem pole to push her over in order to get to another dog. The chihuahua is not the only small creature at risk in that household.

Totally agree with the admin on the response. That dog needed to be reported. I hope the store stepped up when the OP left.

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KarenK March 5, 2013 at 9:55 am

To Niamh84: What is your reason for calling the police station as opposed to 911? There is a situation developing that requires intervention by the authorities quickly. It seems tailor-made for a 911 call.

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JWH March 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

@Lo:

Sorry, but I disagree with your being horrified that the OP was considering kicking the German Shepherd. The larger dog was harming his dog. If the larger dog’s owner isn’t controlling him, then you take action. Even if it involves violence.

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Rap March 5, 2013 at 10:28 am

“what you experienced was absolutely unacceptable, but what I don’t understand is why you didn’t go and meet the store manager immediately after the very first incident, when your puppy was literally grabbed by the neck and this little girl was scared by the “assault”, which was very serious enough to have this man banned from any pet shop ad vitam aeternam.”

Because the OP probably didn’t want a huge fight and a giant scene in public. As much as in retrospect we know the GSD owner was being an irresponsible jerk, in the first incident – the guy pulls his dog off and takes it away. Seriously, trying calling 911 for that and see what happens. I’m not saying it’s right – but realistically consider this 911. “I’m in a pet store, and my dog isn’t injured and the person with the aggressive dog took it away, please send help!”. Come on. A situation where no one is injured is not a 911 call. I can see where, in the first incident, the OP was using some discretion and assumed the guy with the GSD got the message.

That said, with a large dog comes large responsibilities. The second “play attack”? I’d be grabbing the store manager and demanding the jerk with the GSD take the dog outside. But… and I will be honest… I don’t like the cutesy “bring your dog into the store” places to begin with because people have much different tolerance levels to pet behavior and what might be acceptable in your home might not be in mine (I for one don’t like dogs jumping, putting their paws on me, and their faces into mine, it scares me, and a lot of pet owners think it is cute)

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Allie March 5, 2013 at 10:48 am

I have two questions:
1. Where were the store’s employees? The manager or another senior staff member should have been assigned to monitor the crowd of dogs and owners attending the event and stepped in immediately
2, What does the fact English was not the man’s first language have to do with anything? Boorish behaviour is not specific to one racial or ethnic group.

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Tricia March 5, 2013 at 10:50 am

I also agree with the admin on this one. An aggressive dog is absolutely the equivalent of an assault weapon being waved around.

I am a survivor of a German Shepherd attack (it went for my neck, thank God it got my arm. Came close to ripping it off. I got 400+ staples and stitches to always remember it, along with a scarred arm).

While the attack was happening (and it felt like it was in slow motion), I remember seeing my mother and grandmother throwing things at the dog and, if they had been able to get there quick enough, they CERTAINLY would have kicked the dog or done anything possible to get the dog off of me. If you are being attacked by a shark would you say, “Oh noooo…I can’t believe you wanted to poke the shark in the eyes! How mean!” or “I can’t believe you would chop off the snake’s head when it was striking at you”…..Of COURSE we would never say those things. And even though dogs are domesticated, there are some dogs that are aggressive and have terrible owners, like these in this story. You can’t control how the owners raise their dog, but you CAN and SHOULD protect yourself if attacked or if your dog is attacked. That German Shepherd could have easily killed this puppy and harmed others as well. Calling the police (or possibly the animal police) would have been a good thing to do.

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Lo March 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

@JWH

The situation she was describing in which she would have kicked the dog was the dog being threatened by the growling German shepherd– not a full on attack in which physical force would be necessary.

A kick in that situation would be insane and abusive. I wonder what the OP thinks kicking a threatening animal is going to do except possibly spurn it to action by lashing out?

When a dog actually puts his mouth on your dog, that is when you resort to violence. Loud shout, hard blow to the muzzle. I’d have no qualms about hitting a bad dog who is hurting another animal or a child. But the situation being described was not a full on attack. If a dog is threatening your dog, you get in there, you grab your dog. You yell at the other dog if necessary. You attempt to restrain if it lunges at you, and absolutely hit back if it attacks.

Additionally getting in there to grab the dog may have forced the owners to act.

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badkitty March 5, 2013 at 11:31 am

As a trainer, incidents (and owners) like this infuriate me. That poor dog has never been taught how to behave politely around people or other animals, and he will ultimately pay for his owner’s negligence with his own life. What’s worse, these people NEVER listen to reason or outside opinions. I’ve tried. I’ve pulled aggressive dogs off of my friends’ dogs, backed them off of my own, and the owner ALWAYS complains that their dog was “just playing” and that I should leave them alone. I’ve tried every approach I can think of, short of sacrificing the safety of the victim dog, but this type of owner never listens, never learns. They go back to their friends, complaining about my interference, call me names, accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about, and it all goes back to their own fear of their ignorance, of having to confront it, and the sheer LAZINESS that causes them to ignore their responsibilities rather than DO SOMETHING.

Admin is right that in some areas, you could have called the police – but not in many. In some towns/counties, the owner actually can’t even be held responsible for the actions of their dog at all, so long as it’s on leash. Unfortunately, the best you can do is to protect YOUR dog, socialize him well, and be sure that HIS behavior is always correct and appropriate to the situation. Educating yourself about animal behavior, body language, and learning patterns will certainly help you acquire a calm certainty and the ability to react quickly in these situations, but it won’t save you from the ridicule and ignorance of people like that man. Sadly, it won’t save his daughter or his other dog, either.

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Raven March 5, 2013 at 11:58 am

I’m scared of large dogs, and I HATE it when dog owners try to make me feel bad for it. No, I don’t want your 100+ pound dog jumping at me, thank you very much. I don’t care if you call it “playing;” I call it “bad dog ownership” and “about to get a knee to the chest.” Large dogs can, and do, cause serious/lethal harm to human beings and other animals. There’s no excuse for letting your dog jump on someone else simply because you (the owner) think it’s amusing.

The truth is, no matter how well you train your dog (or any other animal), it’s still an animal. It still has animal instincts, and is never 100% predictable. Saying “he’s just playing” doesn’t prevent your dog from deciding to rip someone’s throat out.

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Library Diva March 5, 2013 at 12:03 pm

This dog is a ticking time bomb, and I feel sorry for it. Because of its lack of training and handling, no doubt it will have its own life cut short when it either harms another person or animal and is destroyed by court order, or when it goes after the wrong person, who happens to be armed. Dog owners like this make me so angry, because their pet won’t ever get the chance it deserves.

Because of people like this, the pit bull breed has had both its reputation and its breeding stock itself ruined. Human aggression used to be bred out of the lines. Now, people who need an animal to be tough for them have discovered the breed and have been breeding it in, and raising it to attack. The result is that well-bred pit bulls raised correctly are met with suspicion and fear at best. At worst, they’re just outlawed, forcing their caring owners to choose between breaking the law, moving out of their home into a more understanding municipality, or putting their best friend to death.

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Ashley March 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I can’t understand why there wasn’t an employee observing this crowd the whole time to make sure incidents like this didn’t happen in the first place!

If this man is so willing to let his dog knock over children and grab puppies by the scruff of the neck, I’d imagine he’s in for a lawsuit or two in his future. I really hope the store followed up and banned him from future events.

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Kimberly March 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I have a Blue German Shephard who is just over four years old. Most people says he looks like a wolf. We have an electric fence and if you do not know Jackson, most people think he is mean right off the bat, because of his looks. He cannot go past the fence, but he will run up as far as he can go because he loves people, kids and other pets.

That being said, we also have another dog, Chelsea who is a border collie and boxer mix. She can fit under Jackson’s belly.

I can tell you this that when they play, Jackson has never, ever growled while doing so.

Growling is an aggressive dog and someone in charge at this event should have stepped in and told these people that they either needed to remove their dog or have him muzzled. You are right, if this is the way their dog acts, their other dog will not be around for long. It sounds to me that they are not trainging their dog properly. German Shephards can be very great dogs when properly trained and/or treated. If not, they can become aggressive dogs just like any other dog.

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Silver March 5, 2013 at 12:35 pm

I am a survivor of a dog attack myself… He went for my face and scarred it badly, long lines across my face as a little girl. A plastic surgeon gave his services for free to correct the damage, and you’d never know 20 years later. This was a family pet, not even a so- called “aggressive” breed.

You better believe a dog runs at me and I will scream and defend myself.

The OP reacted better than I would. A dog goes at me or mine, or a little girl in my presence? Be pissed or not, I will end the threat. That may involve my removal, pepper spray, or a physical reaction if it means my safety or the safety of those around me.

Not to say that a dog jumps on me I will instantly harm it. I have a dog and I love it. But my life is my life and I will not endanger it to spare anyone’s feelings.

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Molly March 5, 2013 at 12:37 pm

I didn’t read Lo’s post before mine, but I’d like to add that it does not seem safe to place yourself in front of an aggressive, growling dog even if he hasn’t begun a full-fledged attack. He may see this as aggression and cause you serious harm, especially a large and strong dog like a German Shepherd. Please, please do not do this unless you have no other choice. If a dog were attacking my pet or loved one, I wouldn’t consider kicking the animal “punishment,” I’d consider it self-defense. But, your point is well-taken that you should not do something like kick unless that’s your only option, because it could instigate the dog.

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Ally March 5, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I agree with Admin on what your course of action should have been. As I read your post, it seems to me you waited til the 3rd ‘attack’ before you finally said something. I don’t think what you eventually said was rude at all, and it should have been your first response to the aggressive dog,as well aas carrying your puppy. I know you shouldn’t HAVE to resort to such actions, but these men were obviously not going to listen to you or even the manager, so you can only control your reaction to them. On a lighter note, glad to hear your puppy is OK! Enjoy carrying him around while you still can

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michelle March 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Count me among those blaming the owner entirely, and not the dog. I have nothing but the utmost respect for a well-trained german shepherd; they are truly a remarkable breed. It sounds like this particular shepherd (from the action and reaction of his owner) was being trained to be aggressive.

But I watched a beautiful program on Animal Planet not long ago, called “Too Cute”, and one of the litters being documented was a litter of german shepherd pups. Their mother was wonderful with them – in fact, I found myself thinking that a lot of human parents could take direction from her!

Anyway, it showed how those puppies were being trained at 3 or 4 weeks old how to obey certain commands, like to come when called. And you could just tell, they were being groomed to grow up to be special, well-behaved, working dogs.

It’s all in the raising and in the training. I kind of feel bad for this aggressive dog, because that’s where his reward will lie from his owner, and very often that leads to nothing good.

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June First March 5, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I have a small dog that has been attacked by yellow labs on more than one occasion. These are the dogs the owners say are “just playing”. Luckily, my dog was shaken but not injured. I’ve also been at a dog park where another dog would not let up “teasing” my dog and the owners just laughed. My dog was scared.
While I don’t like treating my dogs like people, I think owners have to see it like bullying: bigger kids picking on littler kids. The smaller dogs can’t adequately protect themselves.

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Jane March 5, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I’m surprised (and bewildered) that management didn’t ask this man to leave, immediately. I read this story twice and only saw where a couple of people talked (or said they’d talk to) the store manager. I’d actually be more upset about that, to be honest. I’d phone the store and complain.

This happened to be a few years ago. I was taking my tiny chihuahua for a walk when I was approached by a huge dog. The nearby owner: “Oh, he’s just playing. He won’t hurt anybody!” The dog lunged at my chihuahua, mouth open and teeth showing. I grabbed up my chi before she could get hurt. Just playing my foot…

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NostalgicGal March 5, 2013 at 2:28 pm

I just thought of the terms… that escaped me earlier.

In some places, if a dog ‘mouths’ someone (doesn’t have to break the skin) that is considered enough of an attack to be taken away and a judge will decide if it’s euthanized.

The man who owned the dog was being totally irresponsible. From the sound of it, it won’t be long before the dog does something and is taken away… and the owner will have his keyster sued off.

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Missy March 5, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I once had a very large dog that wanted to play rough with everyone. And play it was – he wouldn’t hurt a flea. He loved to knock people over, he would “bite” (grab limbs in his mouth without applying pressure), and was big enough to give “bear hugs.” But his good intentions didn’t meant that his actions were appropriate. We kept him in until we could train him how to properly interact with other people. I can’t say it was easy keeping a dog like that in the yard or working on the obedience training, but we did it.

Motives really don’t make perceived threats OK. Not ever.

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badkitty March 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Also, to people thinking that the OP should have attacked the aggressive dog physically, I offer the same advice I teach my clients and other pet-care providers: Humans don’t win dog fights – we’re ill-equipped – so don’t start one. It is one thing to remove the puppy, to wait for the aggressive dog to make a move and step in between the two, but to lash out at a dog who is at that moment only menacing and threatening takes the situation to a different level and no good will come of it. That’s not a statement of whether it’s cruel or unkind to kick the bully, it’s a reminder that if you lash out physically *first* then you have instigated the physical confrontation which will surely follow.

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Jewel March 5, 2013 at 4:03 pm

I was once walking around a new build property that was listed for sale. The house had been built as in-fill in an existing neighborhood, so there were already occupied homes on either side of the listed property. On one side, there was a wire fence barely holding back 4 large barking dogs. When I rounded the other side of the house (no fence there), the dog living next door charged me to within 4 feet and stood there snarling and barking — all while his idiot owner puttered around in his backyard paying zero attention. I had to shout at him twice to heel his dog before he finally whistled for his dog to come back. Of course, there was no apology for scaring the crap out of me.

Obviously, that house got struck off my list. The way I saw it, I couldn’t risk my health and well-being on living with four untrained dogs on one side and a neighbor on the other side who is completely oblivious when his dog threatens someone.

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Daisy March 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm

This kind of thing breaks my heart. A dog is only as well-behaved and even tempered as its owner requires it to be. German Shepherds are lovely dogs, but owners like this will end up putting the entire breed into the same category as Pit Bulls, which began as companion dogs and have been relegated to outlaw status by idiots who should never have been allowed to own anything warm-blooded. In this situation, OP should have picked up the puppy and held it against her chest. If the Shepherd continued to menace her, she should have backed away slowly, keeping her eyes on the dog but not staring directly into its eyes. (Dogs interpret staring as an aggressive act.) She should also have asked someone to call 911.

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Kippie March 5, 2013 at 4:28 pm

We were at a park one day when a bulldog came running over, acting very aggressive. I shouted at the owner repeatedly, “Get your dog away from my dogs!” She walked slowly toward me, saying, “She’s pregnant and won’t hurt anyone.” As the words left her mouth, the bulldog attacked my beagles (who were on a double leash). One of my dogs was just shook up, but the other one needed surgery to close a wound on his leg.

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Here Be Dragons March 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Oh, how I hate people like this, because THEY are why certain dog breeds get bad reputations. I was raised around large, reputedly “aggressive” breeds; my very first dog, given to us by a neighbour when I was about four, was a GSD bitch, and that dog was like a second mother to me. After she died, my parents adopted a rottweiler, and since then we have been a rottweiler family. My parents have had FIVE rotties in total since I was fourteen, they currently have two, and my brother has one. The only reason my hubby and I don’t have one is because our building won’t allow dogs. And all of those dogs were/are gentle, loving, well-mannered animals that got along well with people and dogs alike.

I will gently disagree with those who say “If he’s growling it’s not play!” Because, speaking from my own experience, rotts in particular are VERY vocal dogs. When play wrestling with either a person or another dog, every last one of my family’s rotties has growled and snarled. But their attitude, demeanor and body language was always pure play, and they never once so much as scratched their play-buddy.

I had an experience very much like the OP’s while still living at home. At the time we had just one rott, a beautiful, loving bitch named Grendel, who is still the best-behaved, gentlest dog I have ever known. She was the kind of dog I felt perfectly comfortable allowing a two-year-old to climb on, or a two-month-old puppy chew on her tail, or even leaving a bowl of cat food on the floor and then leaving the house (she seriously would not touch food, even on the floor, unless it had been given to her). Anyway, one day I took her to the nearby dog park. The only other person there was a middle-aged guy with a husky. First of all, this guy really skeeved me out; the kind of guy whose eyes are always on your breasts, never your face. Second of all, he seemed stunned that little five-foot-three female me could control my dog. Yes, she is big (90 pounds), but has perfect manners, because I worked with her and taught her to obey. He was saying things like, “Your dog’s a rottweiler? And she OBEYS you?” And would openly gape when I called Grendel and she came immediately to my side.

The jerk then started bragging to me about the last time he brought his dog to the park and she attacked another dog who tried drinking out of her water dish. The guy seriously seemed to find this hilarious. Then I got an open demonstration when a poor fellow with a schnauzer came in. He started playing fetch with the little schnauzer when the husky decided to join in. Which would have been fine, except when the schnauzer got to the toy first, the husky attacked him.

Thankfully, the schnauzer’s owner was nearby and able to break up the fight before his dog was hurt, but once again, the husky’s owner thought all of this was hysterical. I was pretty furious, and from them on, whenever someone entered the park, I would approach them and loudly say, “Watch out for that husky,” pointing her out, “she’s really vicious and her owner can’t control her.”

The guy with the husky left shortly afterwards. I only saw them one other time, and once again, they left when I started going around to all the other dog owners with the same very loud warning.

On a side note, it’s not just big dogs that need to be taught manners. Another time at the dog park, Grendel was peacefully wandering around with the other dogs when a woman approached me. “So which dog is yours?” She asked, typical way to start conversations at the dog park.

“The rottie,” I said, pointing Grendel out. “Yours?”

“The jack russell. Really? A rottweiler?” She said, sounding startled.

“Yes. Why?”

“Well, do you really think it’s wise bringing such a dangerous animal to the park?”

Once again, Grendel was cheerfully wandering with the other dogs, occasionally joining in a game of chase or fetch. This woman’s jack russell, on the other hand, was running around nipping at people’s ankles and seizing the cuffs of their pants, trying to yank them off their feet.

“Um…my dog’s not the one biting people.”

“HE’S NOT BITING HE’S JUST PLAYING.”

…I went to talk to someone else.

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La March 5, 2013 at 5:01 pm

1. Seconding those who said don’t kick an aggressive dog. It would only escalate the situation. The best response is to avoid eye contact and back off slowly.

2. This was definately an aggressive dog. I’ve seen rough dog play and older dogs teaching puppies manners, both involve a lot of noise and displays of teeth, but very little actual aggression.

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AS March 5, 2013 at 5:41 pm

@Lo: I am with JWH too in being surprised that you are horrified about the OP considering kicking the German shepherd. She said that the first time, the big dog had gotten her puppy by the scruff of his neck (and had gotten drool on him); and the second time, her exact words are “…and my puppy was actually starting to whine in pain now.”. Moreover, the big dog was growling. For dogs, growling is a form of aggression! You said that if you were in the situation, you would have gone and picked up the little dog. I think that if she had gone to pick up her dog, chances are very high that she would have been bitten. You probably learned better than an average pet owner how to deal with aggressive dogs, because your family owned show dogs (and your family probably knew how to pick a small dog from a growling dog’s mouth). But everyone does not necessarily know it. Also, if the dog attacked her, there is no guarantee that the owners would still react. Anyways, why would she have to risk being bitten by the dog, and probably go to emergency, just because the owners can’t be bothered to discipline their own dog? I volunteer at a local animal shelter. Another (very experienced with dogs, though new to this shelter) volunteer was once bitten by a vicious dog when he tried to separate the dog who had tried attacking another dog across its fence.

You say that “I’d have no qualms about hitting a bad dog who is hurting another animal or a child. . This dog was attacking her dog, and had also pushed the owner’s little girl before. You can’t predict what the dog can do, especially with such lackadaisical attitude of the owner. Anyway, the OP did not really kick the dog, but just considered it. Dog owners usually don’t go through simulated training, like pilots, about what to do in every conceivable emergency. It is lucky for her that someone came out pulled the other dog by the collar.

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Jess March 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

@ Allie March 5, 2013 at 10:48 am”2, What does the fact English was not the man’s first language have to do with anything? Boorish behaviour is not specific to one racial or ethnic group.”

The OP mentioned this ONCE very briefly to explain why she could not 100% understand exactly what the man was saying… good grief, stop making issues where there aren’t any.. not every mention of another race equals racism.

Also, by kicking the aggressive dog or picking up your own dog you would be risking the aggressive dog attacking you instead. This man needed the dogs aggression to make him feel manly. Scaring that little puppy and the woman gave him a thrill because like all bullies he felt empowered. Some horrible men use their own aggression for this reason.. this man was even too pathetic to do it himself and made the dog do it for him. Sick!

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 5, 2013 at 7:00 pm

It seems that the only way objectionable creatures can be contained is by having them banned from polite society- be they canine, human or other. That only occurs one interaction at a time, one establishment at a time, one report of abuse at a time. OP, I hope you have no more experiences like this. At the first sign of biting, aggression, or unauthorized contact, owners, pets and all should have been reported and dealt with by management. A follow up call to the company’s customer relations line to make sure that you won’t be seeing them in that store again and that your concern was taken seriously is also warranted if you encounter ill-mannered humans and dogs again. Same for dog parks, homes, yards and other places. There are always those in authority tasked with keeping the peace. Use them sooner rather than later. It’s their job.

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PM March 5, 2013 at 7:17 pm

I definitely agree with the point that some people use dogs as their “aggression by proxy.” In their heads, they don’t have to be mean or bullying, it’s the DOG who’s behaving badly. Not them.

@jennifer. My husband is an avid runner and there were some really great roads around our first house just perfect for distance training. Unfortunately, DH gave up running the route after a few tries because of the number of irresponsible dog owners living on those roads. The first time, he literally had a pack of three or four dogs chasing him down the road, nipping at his heels. One house was particularly bad as there was a REALLY large male Rottweiler mix that bolted off of the front porch, where the homeowners were sitting, and made a beeline for DH. The dog’s “back” was up, teeth bared, very loud aggressive barking, and lunging at DH for all he was worth as DH ran by.

And what were the homeowners doing? Cackling and laughing for all they were worth. “Oh, don’t be scaaaaaared” they would taunt. “You’re not scared of a little dog, are you?” “Oh, he’s scaaaaaaared.” DH was amazed that the dog missed biting him.

The next time DH ran the route, he brought pepper spray. The only dog that chased him was a Lab who lost interest in “pacing” him after a few blocks. The Rottweiler mix and his owners weren’t outside, so DH hoped maybe it was a one-time occurrence. The third time he ran the route, the dog and the homeowners were outside again and the dog charged him again. And the owners laughed hysterically, again, until DH pulled out the pepper spray and suddenly it wasn’t so funny.

“Hey man, don’t spray my dog! What’s wrong with you!” they screamed.

But DH kept the spray out and yelled, “Call your dog off!”

Suddenly, they were motivated enough to haul their behinds off of the porch and come get the dog, who was still bristling and barking. All the while, they were glaring at DH and calling him filthy names.

DH didn’t run the route again. It just wasn’t worth it.

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Jess March 5, 2013 at 7:29 pm

I’m so sorry that happened to you!!! I hope your pup (and the little girl, for that matter) are OK after this mess. This reminds me of two incidents that occured. I live in the country, in a “hicktown.” That being said, people out there are kind of nuts when it comes to their dogs.
Incident #1: Our next-door neighbor, who never has been the friendliest person, aquired a 6-month-old pitbull puppy about summers ago. This man, who was on an oxygen tank and somewhat lazy (to top it all off), would just let this puppy run around the (very large) yard without a leash. Now, at this time, my youngest brother was 10 years old, and we had two miniature schnauzers, one of whom we chained up (she was old and wandered around) and one of whom, the smaller of the two, we did not. My father (who doesn’t like dogs anyway) was concerned that this puppy would grow to be a problem; our neighbor did not train it well, it would bark aggressively at people as they walked by, and on three occassions it ran into our yard (fortunately while our dogs were inside). At this point, my dad decided it was time to take action. He politely asked our neighbor to keep his dog on a leash, as we had small dogs and a child living at home. Our neighbor flipped out; he told my father that if he tried to “kill his dog” then he’d kill *our* dogs. My dad basically told him to go shove it and left it at that. Apparently, some of our other neighbors were also concerned; the next time we saw the puppy, it was tied up.

Incident #2: There is a 4-mile-loop nearby my house; I often go there to run and my parents and siblings like to walk around it. There is a house that is the home of two herding-type dogs; I think they’re border collie mixes. These dogs are incredibly aggressive; one of them bit my father while he and my mom were on a walk. As mentioned, they’re “herding types,” so their aggression could be part of their herding behavior (the dog bit my dad’s ankle, similar to where it would bite a sheep). The owners understoood that their dogs were unfriendly and put up an electric fence.This actually worked, and everything was going pretty well. Unfortunately, this past winter, there was a very nasty snowstorm. I’m not entirely sure if it would have any effect on the fence, but three days later, I was running by their house, and the fence was obviously down. I was past the house, and down the road a bit when I heard something running up and snarling behind me; it was the same dog that bit my father, going out of it’s way to snap and snarl at me. Considering that I had nothing on me, I did the first thing that popped into my head: I kicked it right in the nose, which made it snarl and run off. I was furious; if the owners knew that the fence was down (and they should; it was three days after this storm), then they should have been out with the dog.

OP, I think that you did the right thing. The only thing I would have done differently is tell the manager/whoever was in charge of the thing immediately. The German Shepard was obviously not well-trained and unfriendly; it was not only a danger to you and your puppy, but to others and their pets as well. While I do blame the dog somewhat, I also blame the owners: if they own a dog breed that has a reputation for being aggressive, then they should take firm measures to train it to be more social, or they should muzzle it/keep watch over it, regardless of how friendly the dog may seem or really is. My neighbor’s pitbull, which eventually turned out to be semi-friendly, worried my father and other people. Our neighbor didn’t even keep an eye on it, which would have made everyone feel a little safer.

Sorry this is long :)

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Jade March 5, 2013 at 7:35 pm

You should have spoken with an employee/manager yourself after the first incident and kept well away from these two men for the rest of the time.

My understanding was that the OP kept continuously removing herself from the situation and these men (or the specific man controlling the dog) kept coming to find her and unleashing their dog on hers. Short of leaving the event altogether I don’t see how she could have avoided these people and why should the vet clinic suffer and lose donations to a good cause because one owner wants to be a bully.

If the dog had attacked the puppy once and the owner was apologetic and did their best to keep the two dogs as far away from each other as possible for the rest of the day then I would chalk it up to a momentary lapse. The fact that they kept coming back and ‘siccing’ their dog on the OP’s for the pleasure of seeing a puppy hurt and terrified says a lot about them as people, and I also fear for that chihuaha.

I once knew a family who had a dog who was not vicious towards people, but would turn on smaller animals and often hurt them quite badly. There were rumors that she killed a puppy which got through the fence from a neighboring house (although no evidence was ever found) apparently the neighbors young daughter saw the puppy taken and was quite distressed. All I could think at the time was ‘Thank goodness she didn’t jump over the fence and try to get the puppy back’, because she could have been very badly hurt if she got between the dog and the puppy. I never particularly liked that dog and I wasn’t terribly upset when it passed a few years ago, it was exactly the same as the OP’s experience, the family never learned to control her properly because they didn’t think she was ‘aggressive’

I’m sure the numerous people and smaller animals she terrorized during her life would beg to differ.

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