When my dog Oskar was still a puppy, I once underestimated the length of a walk. It was far too long for him, he was tired and overexcited and gradually became tired. So when we met a – quite friendly-looking – white German shepherd, one thing was completely clear: if he gets to know him now and maybe even raves a little with him, then I can watch how I can drive a completely overwrought Aussie home and rest bring. So I just hugged him.
The owner of the other dog then spoke to a thundering stage whisper to accompany her: “This is the wrong thing you can do!”. With an exclamation mark behind every single syllable, not a lie!
On one of our next walks, Oskar was rested and enterprising, but the adult Labrador, who was pounding at him like a D-train, was still scary. So I picked him up. I waited until the other dog was with us and had a short sniff at me. After Oskar briefly eyed the now much quieter dog, he no longer found him creepy and so I dropped him off. The two dogs also had a nice, relaxed encounter.
Master and I not quite like that: “This is going to be a scary bitch!” The owner of the Labrador informed me. And he didn’t whisper … on the contrary.
That was over ten years ago, but every time I hear “don’t pick up!” I have to think about these two things.
So let’s take a look at it again.
Both times were situations that overwhelmed my puppy at that moment. In the first case, that couldn’t be changed at short notice, so I removed it completely. In the second, I made sure that the situation became more manageable for him and that he could then deal with it without any problems.
Oskar was always allowed to look at potentially scary things from the safety of my arm before he dealt with them independently. At least as long as I could carry it comfortably.
It did not frighten him, on the contrary. At moments like these, he learned one of the most important lessons in dog life: “My human being offers me protection!””. He still likes to visit him today if something unsettles him, but it is now enough for him to take cover behind me.
Yes, of course, he was a puppy back then!
But what exactly – apart from the weight – actually speaks against hugging an adult dog?
Especially those dogs that can easily do this in adulthood often have difficulties similar to those of puppies: everything around them is huge compared to them. Physically, they are hopelessly inferior to large dogs. And even if the other dog doesn’t mean it badly, they quickly get injured. This has nothing to do with the pounding of lap dogs: if I stumble over one of our Patous in the dark, I fall on my nose and can then feel my ribs. If I overlook a Chihuahua, it flies and I feel its ribs.
I am absolutely and absolutely in favor of dogs of very different breeds and sizes learning to interact with each other, to communicate and – if they enjoy it – to play too. But they actually have to learn it, and learning cannot work if either of them is overwhelmed with the situation from the start.
When it comes to training with dogs that react to something with fear and / or aggression, you regularly hear “distance to the trigger!”: The dog should only be brought up to the trigger of the fear or aggression behavior to the extent that it can can still endure.
And from people whose dog has a problem with their peers, there is also the regular complaint that one cannot always avoid: the other, despite requests, comes closer and closer, the footpath is too narrow etc.
With a small dog, a new dimension opens up here: I can not only move horizontally, but also vertically. And not only that: I offer my dog a retreat that he knows as a safe place.
Always assuming, of course, that my dog does not find it uncomfortable to take it up as such and also had a chance to actually experience my arm as a safe place. If, for example, he is patted by other people there, although he does not appreciate it, he will hardly be able to rely on it.
When evading horizontally, one often hears the argument that this confirms the dog’s fear. And that would even be true if I panicked aside. But I don’t do it at all. I calmly walk a curve.
And of course I don’t panicly pull my dog up, but rather – ideally with notice – pick him up early and calmly.
Incidentally, this means exactly that: Please do not pull a dog by the harness under any circumstances! Instead, please use both hands, even for small dogs, to stabilize your rib cage and buttocks and, if necessary, practice the whole thing at home beforehand: Not every dog appreciates lifting up spontaneously.
And no, of course I don’t do that every time another dog appears on the horizon. Just like with my puppy, I decide again and again in each individual case whether my dog will be able to cope with the situation alone or with little help, or whether I – one way or another – will provide the necessary distance.
Since our dogs are generally able to “read” their peers much better than we do and, moreover, they also know better how much they can trust themselves, it makes sense to agree on a signal with which the dog can ask for it himself to be picked up if he wants to.
But at some point he has to deal with his fear!
Ideally, such a discussion takes place when the brain has the necessary capacities – the fear may be felt, but should not be overwhelming. It works much better from a distance (or from a safe perspective) than in direct confrontation.
Pinschermix Ollie, for example, which I had in care for a while, was afraid of moving cars, buses and trucks were particularly bad. 300 meters of our usual gas route led along a road that was very busy during rush hour. I always wore it in the beginning. Then only when the traffic was heavy. A little later only when a truck came into view … Each time the little guy (who could have been a little smaller to carry) had more to rely on me to “save” him when it got too bad. And so he became braver.
When it comes to picking up dog encounters, the risk of injury is also regularly pointed out.
Indeed, if a dispute is in full swing, it is not without danger to simply grab one of the opponents and take them away. No matter in which direction. But that is not exactly what is meant here.
I do not wait until there is a confrontation, but if I can see that my dog will be overwhelmed by an encounter, I will take it in my arms early and calmly. In addition, I turn away and / or run a curve. When doing so, I make sure that my dog’s tail doesn’t dangle seductively in front of the other’s nose, but also lift it up.
The fact is, I have to count on the other dog – be it with friendly or unfriendly intent – to jump up on me and should therefore be careful to stand stable. And it cannot be ruled out that he also expresses his frustration by biting me. I deliberately write “bite” because I don’t want to write “pinch” in a glossy and playful way. Even a pinch hurts and is neither beautiful nor harmless. However, there is no serious injury intention behind such a bite out of frustration.
This can be remedied by a handful of feed that I throw on the floor to offer an attractive alternative behavior.
Although the vast majority of dogs have greater inhibitions about biting a person than another dog, it can happen that people who have taken their dog in their arms protectively get bite injuries. In these cases (unlike biting out of frustration), it can be assumed that bites with an intention to damage would have occurred one way or the other – regardless of human action.
The worst case among dog encounters. It can actually happen!
In most situations in our lives, we are aware that there is a worst case scenario, but it happens only very rarely – driving is a good example: we know the number of accident fatalities and (hopefully!) Behave accordingly carefully, but we are not convinced that we will be involved in an accident as soon as we drive the car.
This is exactly what we should be aware of when encountering dogs: the majority are unspectacular and injuries are the exception, not the rule.
Why it – as you regularly hear – anyway! To be better, to stand in front of your own dog and to block or chase the other one, frankly doesn’t want to make sense to me. We want our dogs to be relaxed and de-escalating. What would be the advantage of showing them that we ourselves do it differently?
Stopping an approaching tutnix with a single look or – if absolutely necessary – with a threatening posture while your dog leans back in the background is a big deal, no question!
“I stand in front of my dog and put the other one to flight!” But if you pay attention to the subtleties, it does not necessarily mean “I have successfully done this several times”, it can also mean “I would do it” . And stories with an alternative course of action such as “and then my dog shot past me and attacked itself”, “and then he just ran around to my dog”, or possibly “I was so scared that I did it.” could not react “tend not to be hung on the big bell. The picture that appears to be from stories of other dog owners is very distorted.
Perhaps the best case of confidently defending your dog when it comes to the likelihood of their occurrence comes head to head with the worst variant. There are no corresponding statistics.
Ultimately, it is a very personal, situational decision how we protect our dog from being harassed or even attacked. We have to do what is suitable and feasible in exactly this situation. “I’m going to hug him!” Is simply one of the options we should consider.