Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When the worst happens...

This past weekend a good friend and fellow positive dog trainer Charlotte of Diamond Dogs was out walking her rescued Doberman pinscher with her family in Kananaskis. Her dog isn’t an ordinary dog either; his name is Aspen and he had a really hard start in life. Aspen came from a breeder who crops ears. He was placed in a home where he suffered severe neglect including malnutrition and the tissue around his ears died. Aspen came into rescue underweight and missing both his outer ear tissue. He also missed out on crucial socialization and training due to this neglect. His story is unfortunately a common one however he had the good fortune of finding a one in a million home where he was nurtured back to health, trained and socialized.

(Aspen when he first came into rescue as a puppy with no ears and very thin)
For Charlotte he is not only her pet and companion but also a key member of her dog training team. Aspen helps fearful and reactive dogs find confidence and relax. His temperament is wonderful and she had worked hard to develop these skills in him.

She takes him everywhere so an on leash hike in the back country is a regular event. You can hike with your dogs in Kananaskis but they have to be on leash by law. Hikers are also advised to carry bear spray, make lots of noise and watch out for wildlife. Charlotte was fully prepared and took all the necessary supplies to keep herself, family and dog safe on what should have been an enjoyable trip out in nature.
(Aspen after training and at a much better weight)
As they were hiking they spotted two extremely large off leash dogs. The dogs were running towards them so Charlotte called out to the woman walking them to put them on leash. Unfortunately she could not call her dogs back and had no control over them. The dogs attacked Aspen. Charlotte tried using hiking poles to hit the dogs and make them let go. Another family member used the bear spray on the dogs. The attack was so vicious that one of the dogs was sprayed three times before he let go. Aspen had done nothing to provoke this attack and even offered calming signals to these dogs to avoid a conflict. Aspen is not a fighter.  

The owner of the off leash dogs only had 1 leash with her and was unable to contain the dogs even after the attack had stopped. She did leave her information however that’s little consolation to a family that has been traumatized by seeing their dog attacked. Poor Aspen has a long road ahead of him that included surgery to have a drain put in and stitches. He will also need at minimum months of rehab for physiological damage. He’s a young dog and is quite sensitive; only time will tell if he will be able to work again.
(Aspen's injuries)
This attack devastated this family and their dog as well as the countless dogs that Aspen could have helped. And the worst part is that this isn’t an isolated case that rarely happens. Dog attacks occur regularly. I’m not trying to scare anyone as I love dogs and want them to be immersed in our society but this comes with work. Good dog owners will keep their pets on leash in on leash areas and will maintain control in off leash areas. They should have adequate equipment to control their dogs at all times. Aggressive dogs should never be off leash even in the back country where you think you might be alone. Large breed dogs come with the added responsibility of knowing what you can handle. Owners should never take out two large dogs that weigh more than them and have aggressive tendencies and even really nice, easy going dogs should be able to be contained at all times. It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure safety. All dogs should have training that allows the owner to recall them back and remove them from an unsafe scene.

Rules to live by:

1.      Train your dog well (not just a 6 week course and he sort of listens sometimes)
2.      Keep everyone safe by having appropriate equipment for your dog
3.      Do not take aggressive animals off leash even if they are muzzled
4.      Only take a dog that you can handle and remember that walking more than one dog at a time is a challenge
5.      Always carry safety equipment whether it is bear spray or an air horn with you