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Canine Behavior/unprovoked dog attack


Hi, can u please help? I hav a black Labrador who is 11yrs old. We wallk every day throu the sand dunes near where we live. He never barks, is excellent with kids, is a social butterfly and a perfect pet.. But I went to walk him 2 weeks ago & opened our gate to let him out same as every day, and before I knew what was happening our neighbours dogs 5 of them had flipped him and dragged him to side paddock and started tearing him apart. I freaked out, my husband and son heard me screaming & came straight away pulling 3 dogs off, Hayden pulled forth 1 off and the neighbour came running after hearing me screaming and got oer dog. Jed was bleeding badly and in shock as was I, he has healed really well and this is cause he is so fit & healthy but emotionally, mentally he is not. He cries in his sleep, is keen to go walkin but then freaks when we go to go, he is stiff but not in pain. I want to know what to do I'm scared to go out with him in case a dog comes near him he is such a happy dog all he wants to do is sniff & play. Iam worried this has affected him more mentally then physically what can I do desperately need your suggestions... Thank you Alison

Your neighbors' dogs are dangerous.  I have no idea what sort of animal control or authority exists in your neck of the woods (I know Australia is beautiful, that's about it lol), but this attack needs to be reported.  If you have legal recourse (like we have here in the US, small claims court or district court), I suggest you sue these people for compensation for your veterinary bills.

Your dog has a strongly conditioned fear response, PTSD at this point.  It should slowly self extinguish.  YOU also have this and it's much harder for a human to manage because we are more complex in cognition, etc.  Your dog is reading your body language and smelling the adrenaline on your breath, I absolutely know this because, were I in your shoes, I would be highly stressed, on edge, waiting for another such "attack" and generally quite anxious on walks with my dog.  Normal.  So here's what you do:

For you:  buy small low calorie mints and keep them in your pocket.  Keep one in your mouth constantly during these walks from the moment you leave the door until the moment you get back in the house.  (That's why I say "small" and low calorie lol).  This will mask the adrenaline.  Purchase pepper spray or mace (don't know the laws regarding these in your country or their availability but these things can be purchased on the internet).  You will now have a weapon.  Be aware of WIND direction, however.  You don't want yourself, or your dog, hit in the face should another dog approach with menace.  Just knowing you have this will help you to relax a bit.  Now: change your habit of walking your dog, change the associations around it for both of you.  Here's how:

Whatever it is and in whatever order you presently do it, stop.  Think and totally change it.  You can do this by introducing a fun but neurologically significant thing for both you and the dog:  walk in circles on your property (as if following a hoola hoop) right, then left, then right, until the dog is giving you his full attention (which most likely will occur very quickly).  Have a "party" while you're doing this (laugh, sing a song).  Stop: "sit" the dog, give him a juicy high value food reward (piece of cheese), go forward.  Observe him closely and in your own mind create a mantra.  I don't care what that mantra is: a prayer, a favorite rhyme from childhood, or more complex a song or symphony you "hear" in your "head".  Use this mantra as you walk and observe.  If the dog shows signs of anxiety, stop, circle, have a "party", "sit" and reward, go forward.  Remember the mints (for yourself).  Never react to the dog's obvious distress by trying to soothe him.  Give him opportunity (by circling) to get his fight/flight response out of the way by engaging cognition and this will build new associations for both of you.

Try this for a couple of days and report back using followup feature.

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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