Dog fight, or, always trust your gut instinct

So. Reasons for the bit of silence here lately: Had a really rough weekend.

On Saturday afternoon, Rainer got in a fight with a potential adopter’s German shepherd, which landed my husband, this dog, and this dog’s human in the ER. The good news is that everyone is physically OK (although still kind of emotionally shaken); the woman and her dog required stitches, and my husband a tetanus shot and a lot of pain meds, but we will be OK. Rainer was uninjured.

I learned a lot of things this weekend, after this very traumatic incident, but the main thing I learned was this: Always trust your gut instinct.

When this dog was walking down our driveway to meet us, I brought Rainer out on leash to greet them. The dog immediately lowered his head and stared straight at Rainer. One of those cold, hard stares that is instantly unnerving. His human said not to worry about it, that he did this with other dogs… and so I did the thing that my gut was telling me NO, NO, NO, DON’T: I let Rainer walk forward to meet him.

In a split second, Rainer had the dog by the throat down on the ground and he was not letting go. The fight was completely silent, which made it all the more terrifying. Rainer was not trying to scare this dog off; Rainer was trying to kill this dog. In the madness, the woman and Guion got bit; I was kicking Rainer as hard as I could to get him off. Finally, after a third or fourth kick, Rainer loosens his grip and I am able to drag him off. The other dog’s ear was ripped a bit at the base and he had a puncture wound in his ear. The fight felt like it lasted for hours, and even though it was over in two or three minutes, it was a horrible, horrible span of time.

Rainer has to be quarantined for 10 days, according to Animal Control’s rules, and they are going to let us quarantine him here. The only complicating factor is that we’re supposed to go out of town for a full week on Friday, so the rescue is going to arrange a boarding situation for him.

In the future? I’m going to listen to my gut. I’m going to say, “Nope. They shouldn’t meet. I’m sorry,” and walk away. Even though that feels so rude to me. Dogs give us really clear signs with their body language, and we were stupid enough to ignore these signs on Saturday. Sigh. Lesson learned, the really hard way.

The bit of bright news in all of this is that Rainer has another adopter interested in him, a young couple with no children and no pets who can give him the care and attention he needs. I explained Saturday’s incident to them on the phone, as well as some of his other issues we’ve noticed, but they sound well-equipped to care for Rainer and give him a secure, loving place. Hope that it will work out. I will keep you posted!

Whew. I feel REALLY ready for this beach week…

22 thoughts on “Dog fight, or, always trust your gut instinct

  1. I am so sorry you had to go through such a horrible situation. You are absolutely right to trust your gut! Maybe it seems rude, but some people just don’t get it. “Life With Dogs” just posted a great article on a reactive dog versus an aggressive dog. IT’s the still and intense body language that is more concerning than lunging and barking on a leash – that intensely silent feeling is one of a dog that is saving up his energy to do some damage.

    All of that to say, I hope you’re all doing better and I hope Rainer finds his forever home soon. Maybe you deserve to foster a puppy next after all this stress 😉

  2. So scary but glad Ranier is still considered adoptable since the humans got in the way rather than being targeted. That dog’s body language sounds like it could set off a lot of dogs. When we had a dog-dog bite after a 3rd dog growled and stared (a silent CHOMP and refuse to drop). I couldn’t get him to stop. My husband instinctively reacted like you did, knowing we had to do something before the other dog got hurt more badly or humans got in the way. It worked but he yelped so we went straight to the vet’s booth (we now know that’s his surprised yelp, not his injured yelp), and we were told to do whatever was necessary to end the altercation in the future. Unfortunately, since there were no signs of reactivity previously, we were in public and the people at the booth where he got growled at yelled awful things to make my husband feel horrible. I hate to share that long story, but did because we looked more into what to do if that happened again. The safest solution if 2 people are present seems to be grabbing both dogs by their hind legs and dragging them apart but I’m sure there are a lot of situations where things happen too quickly to do that. Side-by-side walks with dogs across the street together can work well for intros in case you haven’t yet done that.

  3. For everyone’s sake, I’m really sad to hear about this 😦 I don’t mean to be annoying or forward, but situations like this are exactly why we NEVER allow nose to nose greetings. Ever. Even the most socially secure dogs can feel tension in those scenarios… It’s just not natural for dogs to be forced to meet face to face, and on leash to boot. Anytime we introduce two dogs, particularly in situations such as a meet-and-greet, we first take them on parallel walks. Only when they are calm and exhibiting proper body language do we gradually allow them to move closer. It makes me sad that this situation could have so easily been prevented. I still think you guys are doing great things for Rainer! We all make mistakes, and I sure know that fostering is a learning process. Fingers crossed that the next meet and greet goes well!

  4. Dog fights are so scary! I am sorry this happened. We’ve been having issues of our own here, and Morgan is going to be exploring some better living through chemistry. I hope that the new potential adopters work out for Rainer, because it sounds like you all need a break at this point.

    And just remember, it’s okay to say “no” to fostering for a little while after he finds a home. Sometimes you need a mental health break! There were times we had to take a break and I was never sorry that we did.

  5. I am so sorry. And very glad the injuries weren’t worse. But you do have confirmation that your dog sense is very good. Now you just need the confidence to rely on it when someone understands things less well than you do.

    Hopefully you won’t need it. But you might want to invest in some tools to help break up fights without everyone getting hurt.

    I used to take my dog to a group at the SPCA to help us work on reactivity. The volunteers always had air horns and citronella to break up fights. They also had broom sticks and blankets to toss over the dogs if the sound and smells didn’t work.

    I never witnessed a fight. Everyone was very watchful to head off tense situations before they got to that point. But if they needed to break something up, they were ready.

  6. Good Afternoon Abby,

    I ask before, I am not trying to be intrusive.
    What is Rainers status when you go away

    Do you need someone to tend to him as a sitter or does he require
    full time care/
    I have been following his story for a month or so.
    Let me know if I can help in some way.

    BIll McChesney
    I live in Charlottesville

  7. Wow. I’m sorry about the fight and everyone who were injured. I hope everyone is healing and that Rainer has not been emotionally hurt by this.

    I hope that she will still be eligible for adoption and she gets a forever home if she is eligible.

  8. This is definitely a confirmation of Pryrha’s dog sense, too. Her initial wariness seems very wise. Sorry to hear the day went so bad for everyone two-legged and four.

  9. That sounds frightening and severe! As awful as it was, I bet you learned a LOT from that incident… whether you wanted to or not. A cold reminder that the creature at the other end of the leash CAN be built to cause great damage, despite the great amounts of affection they also deliver.

  10. Oh no 😦 I’m glad everybody is ultimately okay. I do hope that this new prospective adoptive family works out; that kind of living situation (from what I know here, anyway) sounds like the kind of thing he would need.

    Enjoy your beaching! You’ve earned it.

  11. Oh my, that *is* scary – I’m glad you’ll all be ok in the end, and that no one seems to think that Rainer must be some “monster dog” to react as he did, but rather try to learn from it.

  12. Take care, Abby! These things happen to all of us on some level. Every time I’ve witnessed a bite, I look back and realize my mistakes or the mistakes of others. All we can do is learn. Thinking of you guys.

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