We have had numerous dogs over the past 20 years. Working dogs, pets, strays, drop-offs. You name it, we have had it. Therefore, that makes me a self-proclaimed dog expert. We currently have 9 dogs and one stray that appeared recently. I would like to share some hard truths with you that will hopefully save you some heartache in the future.
I had a friend whose dog attacked a cat and killed it. She was worried about what to do with the dog. Would it attack a child? She was in tears worried about the possibility of having to put the dog down.
Another story I heard was two inside dogs got into a fight over food. One dog was wounded pretty bad. The owner was so worried the dog might do the same to her kids and wasn’t willing to take that chance, so she got rid of the dog.
We recently had our two-year-old Great Dane chase and pin down a lamb. The dog had been around the sheep many times and never bothered them. But, for some reason this one night, she got to chasing them and couldn’t stop. Luckily I was close by and got her off of the sheep, but it was almost catastrophic.
All dogs are different. Some dogs are working dogs. They are bred with a purpose. No matter how much you try to make it your pet, it wants to work. This may cause it to be hyper, aggressive, etc. No amount of training can remove what a dog is bred for.
It is important to know what kind of dog you have so you can know what to expect. And when it acts opposite of what you want, remember it might be the breed.
Since rescuing dogs is the hot topic these days, let’s talk about that for a minute. I agree there are plenty of dogs out there already and rescue is a good thing. But, there are risks involved. The main risk is you don’t know what is in the Heinz 57 mix-of-a-dog that you just adopted.
The number one risk is most all rescue dogs are mixed breeds. You have no idea what you are getting. Just because the pound tells you it is a “lab mix” doesn’t mean it has one drop of lab in it. They say that because everyone loves Labradors and if the dog is black or brown, they pass it off as a “lab mix”.
There are many ways a dog gets to the pound.
- It was a stray and got picked up by the dog catcher.
- Owners didn’t want it, they moved, couldn’t afford to feed it anymore, etc.
- It was aggressive and they didn’t want to put it down so they took it to the pound.
- A dog had puppies and they couldn’t keep them.
It cost around $100 dollars to have a dog put down at a vet’s office. It also costs about that to have them fixed. This is expensive; therefore, people choose the pound instead. Or, even worse they drop it off in the country where people have livestock. Stray dogs dropped off in the country usually get shot by someone who is protecting their livestock!! Just know that when you dump a dog!
Think about this … a dog needed to be put down for some reason and instead, they took it to the pound and someone adopted it. That is a hazard to everyone!
So, what should you do if you are shopping at the pound? After all, it is a good thing.
- Get as much backstory on the dog as you can. Unfortunately, little is known when people drop them off. And, sometimes people lie about why they are bringing it to the pound. But try to get as much information as you can.
- Always look for a younger dog if possible. They are still trainable.
- Try your best to pick a breed that is not aggressive. When I have gone to the pound, I see lots of dogs that have pitbull in them. Study up on this breed so when you go, you don’t get a dog with pitbull in it…unless you want a pit. They have very striking features – especially their heads- so study up on them. Can they be good dogs? Certainly. But, they are known for aggressive tendencies. If you have kids or other animals, you need to be very cautious.
- If you don’t have any other dogs, it won’t matter as much what kind of dog you choose. It will get to be the alpha dog so there won’t be as many issues. Some dogs don’t like to share food. Some don’t like to share their human. And, in general, dogs act better when they are by themselves. — My dad had pitbulls growing up. We had a female that was a great dog…until she got pregnant. Then, she would kill every animal on the place. Horses, hogs, other dogs, etc. It was a bad deal. So, regardless of what people say, this breed is highly unpredictable.
- A lot of dogs act a certain way because of the bad environment they were raised in. Sometimes when you treat it nice, it will rise to the occasion. However, be aware that sometimes you can’t change what has already been ingrained in an animal.
There is always a risk involved with rescues. Try to be smart when you pick one to limit some of those risks.
There will ALWAYS be an Alpha Dog
One dog will always dominate the others. Usually, it’s the first dog on the place. If he or she was there first, the others have to fall in line. If you bring another alpha dog to your place, there will be a war. Two alpha dogs rarely mix. If it is a male/female it will work better, but rarely two of the same sex. If you have an alpha dog and you bring a puppy on the place, the puppy will usually always submit to the alpha. It’s grown dogs that don’t always mix well. If you remove the alpha dog, another dog will take its place and become the alpha. Usually in order of age and/or when they arrived.
The only person the alpha dog submits to is you! You should always be the alpha if you are going to control your animal. To become the alpha you set the boundaries early on. You make the dog mind you. You rarely get the chance to reset the dog after it’s grown. After all, that is why they say, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”?
Does getting a dog spayed or neutered help?
It may help mellow out a male dog. Less testosterone is good and keeps them from roaming as much. I think it makes female dogs more cranky. It also makes them gain weight. But if you have multiple dogs of different sexes, it’s still a wise choice. My belief is the longer you can give them to mature before getting them fixed, the better off they will be.
If your dog attacks another dog, will it attack a person?
Only you know the aggression level of your dog. However, because of this alpha mentality, one dog may attack another for many reasons. But they typically want to please you, their person, so it is unlikely they will attack people. And if you have had them around kids and there has never been a problem, chances are there won’t be. I say this with caution because it really depends on the breed and temperament of the dog. Some dogs don’t like kids. If they like kids but not other dogs, you are probably safe. But you have to know the dog and know the situation. If you can’t be certain, then, of course, remove the dog.
It’s my experience that most dogs will fight over food. This is always a hot button amongst dogs. Easy solution – do not feed together. Pen one and feed it while the other one eats. Don’t try to make them “get along”. They aren’t human no matter how much you treat them like your child. It’s useless to fight this battle, just feed them separately. My dogs bark at each other through the fence while they are eating separately. It’s crazy. We have one dog that will guard a feed bowl all day. He may not want it but he isn’t letting anyone else have it. If another dog comes close to it, it will start a fight every time.
We live in the country, so if a strange dog comes onto our property, it is the dog’s job to scare it off. The same goes with other wild animals that wander up. The dog’s job is to run them off. If he attacks random critters, that doesn’t mean the dog should be put down. It means he is guarding his territory.
We recently had a stray dog come onto our place. I had all the dogs out at one time because I was outside doing chores and they were running and playing. They saw the stray before I did and went after it. It took me some time to get to it, but once my dog knew I had him, he released him. Honestly, he probably would have killed the other dog had I not been there. He knew it didn’t belong on our place.
We have livestock and strays are not welcome. So, I praised my dog for a job well done. I didn’t scold him for his aggression. Once I told him it was okay, he accepted him. Also, this was a male dog. Had it been a female, my male would have been more forgiving, but he still would have let her know her place.
If your dog attacks a cat, will it attack a human?
It is very unlikely.
The cat and dog war has been going on forever. It’s literally the chase element. If the cat doesn’t run, chances are the dog won’t bother it. But when the cat runs, all bets are off. It is very very hard for a dog not to chase a cat. They usually don’t catch it but if they do, they might kill it. Their adrenaline gets going in the chase. Remember, they are a dog. They hunted and killed their prey before we domesticated them.
Leader of the Pack
Dogs have a pack mentality. It doesn’t matter how awesome your dog is, if it runs with a pack it will act like a hoodlum. It’s a given. It may have never done anything wrong, but it will when it is with friends. And just like people, they are guilty by association.
Unfortunately, I am speaking from way to much experience. We have had perfectly good dogs wound and kill livestock because they were with other dogs. It’s terrible. A pack of dogs should always be approached with caution.
Don’t ever try to break up a dog fight with your bare hands or your body. Even though they aren’t fighting you, they also can’t stop if you get in the middle of it. Holler at them (this usually doesn’t work) and use a large stick or something to bust them up. (I recently had good luck with a long rope that I was able to swing at them.)
Once you get their attention/startle them, they are likely to stop. When you do get them to stop, immediately separate them into different pens or rooms where they can’t see each other. You have to separate them and give them some time to cool off. A dogfight is ugly and it’s not the time to talk to them in your sweet voice. And, it’s no time to go easy on them. You need to scold them harshly and give them plenty of time to think about it.
Find a Dog that Fits
It is wise to research a breed that fits your family. How much space do you have for the dog? Will you need a fence? Will the dog dig out under the fence? Is the breed good with kids? When you decide on a good fit, seek out a known breeder who can help you. Some breeders get a bad reputation for being a puppy mill, but most are highly concerned for their dogs and where they go. This assures you know the breed of your dog. Also, get it young so that it can be trained. This eliminates a lot of unknowns. Also, it doesn’t have to be a breeder. It can be a friend who has puppies and owns or knows the parents. They can tell you the temperament of their dogs, etc. Pound puppies can also be great dogs. Just be aware of what you are getting and try to eliminate some risks factors.
Moral of the Story: a Dog is a Dog
While we want our dogs to be small, reasonable humans, they are not. There are risks involved. Most people don’t live on a farm or keep near as many dogs around as we do; therefore, they are likely to never experience this much dog drama. But, I write this for the ones who have experienced it and are left with a lot of questions about what to do. It’s the ugly side that no one wants to tell you sometimes, yet the more we know, the better we can manage our dogs.
Dogs are awesome, but there are risks and I hope I have provided you with a few common sense things to keep in mind.