Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why Did This Pit Bull Attack Happen?

Why did the pit bull attack? We can't say for sure, but at a bare minimum here's what it looks like to me:

a.) The Yorkie was too small, relative to the larger dog, to withstand such an attack. I have spoken to many dog owners that have had small dogs killed by larger dogs, even in their own home. I never think it is a good idea to mix dogs that are too far apart in size. I've even seen accidents, where a friendly sleeping Bullmastiff rolled over onto a Chihuahua and nearly suffocated it.

b.) The Yorkie was probably in the pit bull's territory. What we consider our property, and what a dog considers its territory, aren't usually the same. Dogs typically regard a much larger area than our property lines as theirs. In addition, even though we all tell people to socialize their dogs, and that is a good thing, all the socialization in the world won't take away the motivation for a dog to defend it's territory, especially against another dog. That kind of behavior goes all the way back to what the wild ancestors of dogs did and still do - wolves mark out a territory, and then defend it against wolves that aren't members of their pack. So, this is not abnormal behavior. It is normal, and we should be aware of it, whether we own the Yorkie or the pit bull. When you are walking on your street past homes with dogs, you are entering into their territory, and your dog is at risk of being attacked if any of those dogs get loose, regardless of the breed. And if you own a dog, your dog might be the friendliest dog in the world, but they will defend their territory and they might even attack an intruding dog.

c.) It appears to me that someone wasn't managing the pit bull properly. You need to have adequate security measures at all escape points of any home, to prevent dogs from exiting your home. You also need adequate security measures to prevent other dogs from entering your property. If the front door of this home had been better secured, maybe the pit bull couldn't have gotten to the Yorkie. If the property also had a fence, the Yorkie would be shielded from being noticed that it was so close to the pit bull's territory, and there would have been a second line of defense to keep the pit bull on the property.

d.) Dog on dog aggression isn't abnormal. Even though we try to breed sociable dogs, it is still not normal for dogs to instantly like other dogs they meet. Apparently the person walking the Yorkie wasn't the dog's owner. People that don't know a particular dog, and how it triggers the behaviors of other dogs, always take a risk by babysitting or walking those dogs.

This was a preventable tragedy. Small dog owners need to know their dogs are vulnerable to being injured, and to let those that care for their dogs know what kinds of safety precautions they should be taking. Dogs that are smaller than the average dog will have above average amounts of damage if attacked. So, with small dogs, you always need to have an escape plan, and know that your dog is more vulnerable than the average dog. Big dog owners need to take extra precautions with their dogs. All the training in the world, all the socialization in the world, aren't substitutes for escape proof (if there are such a things) doors and fences. Dogs on their turf will defend that turf.

I really don't think this is a "pit bull" thing. This is a dog behavior thing. We hear a lot about pit bull attacks, because they make the news. But, this can and does happen with a wide variety of dogs that we'd normally consider to be friendly. Territoriality is hardwired into dogs, and it isn't going away.

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