The local park has been carefully planned to enable dogs to enjoy the facility as much as humans. Dogs are allowed into the whole park area, but they are meant to be kept on the leash, to avoid incidents between dogs and humans, and to prevent fights between dogs and other dogs. There is one large field that has been cordoned off for specific use as a “dog park”: this has been designated as the only area where dogs are allowed to run off the leash. This allows dogs to get much-needed vigorous exercise, and they can socialise with each other too. In general, the system works well: humans can walk in the park in the knowledge that they will not be bothered by uncontrolled dogs running off the leash, and dog owners have somewhere that they can let their dogs off the leash in a safe, confined area.
One week, Odie was being taken for a walk with the family in the park. As is often the case, each of the children wanted to have a turn at holding the leash. Zachary who is 9, his seven year old brother Oscar and his five year old sister Tilly. When it was Tilly’s turn, her Mum kept a close eye on her: she isn’t old enough to be completely trustworthy yet.
When the dog attack happened, it almost seemed to be in slow motion, like many accidents. Odie saw something that he wanted to chase, and he darted away. Little Tilly was taken by surprise, and she let go of him. He ran off, with the leash trailing behind him. A large Doberman-type dog was on a leash with its owner, just ten yards away, and Odie ran right under his nose. The big dog reacted instinctively to the small furry animal in front of him: he jumped forward, forcing his owner to let go of his leash, then he reached down and grabbed Odie in his mouth, starting to shake him in the same way that a rat might be grabbed and killed.
It happened so quickly that everyone seemed to be paralysed, watching in horror. This is when Zachary leapt into action: he rushed up to the big dog shouting “Get off Odie”. He was fearless, grabbing the big dog from behind, and yelling at him to drop the little dog.
The big dog did as Zachary wanted, dropping Odie to the ground, and backing off. At this stage, the situation came back under control: Odie was gathered up by Zachary’s Mum, and rushed off to our vet clinic. The big dog’s owner was full of apologies, and she generously offered to pay Odie’s vet bills because she felt so bad about the situation.
Odie was badly injured: he had a wide laceration on each side of his rear end where the large dog’s teeth had torn his skin. We were concerned that he might have serious internal damage, and for the first twelve hours, his life was in the balance. Luckily, he responded well to treatment, and he’s now healing well. He’s even started back on his daily walk in the park. There’s one difference: when Tilly has the leash in her hand, an older person is holding a second leash at the same time. One life-threatening incident is more than enough.
- Aggression between dogs when out on walks is common
- Dogs that are safe with humans can sometimes be aggressive to other dogs
- In areas where there are lots of dogs together, they need to be carefully monitored