Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Human: suposed to be smarter than dogs... but not....

Photo: Leah Hennel for the Calgary Herald
Last week, a Didsbury couple was viciously attacked by a couple of akita dogs. This headline provoked howls of "put them down" (the dogs) and all sorts of knee-jerk freak-outs.
Not to downplay the seriousness of the attack - because it was very serious and two people are very seriously hurt - but the humans in this scenario fall just short of deserving what happened. Had they any sense, they would have known and they would have acted prior.
Here's the article - and there are loads of similar reports. However, not one of those reports expands on certain key details of what happened. The Herald(amazingly) quoted the director of this city's animal and bylaw:
"Keeping the parent dogs together after a litter was born isn’t recommended ...," said Bill Bruce, director of Calgary animal and bylaw services.
“It’s likely (the mother) is going to be highly alert and not trusting [the breeding male],” Bruce said.
"Bringing the beagle into the situation possibly aggravated things further," said Bruce.(ABSOLUTELY aggravated!)

What the media fails to report and what the humans in question utterly ignored is this: the female dog was protecting four-day old pups; a "threat" - the couple and their beagle - entered the garage, which amounts to her den for the bitch; the couple put themselves and their own dog at risk by invading (in the dog's understanding) the nursery. If the 'threat' was on the ground, meaning the beagle was loose or even on a leash, one could - and should - expect that the bitch would see that as a danger to her puppies and that she would react to protect them.

If, in addition to invading the den, the couple that was attacked came near the puppies at all but certainly let their beagle near them, an attack is exactly what one might expect to occur, particularly considering the proximity of the mating male.

The dogs' owners obviously had not enough breed knowledge but also didn't have basic dog knowledge or they would have know that the breeding male of any breed should never be anywhere near the pups or bitch. Had they had breed knowledge, they would have known this applies particularly to akitas. They would have also known to provide a safe, sheltered, away-from-traffic location for bitch and pups. The garage, through which the attacked couple had to pass every day to get to their accommodations, was not a safe place for the dogs, the puppies or the humans.

If one understands how aggravating it is for dogs that letter carriers come every day, make a bit of noise and leave, it isn't much more of a stretch to understand how a new mommy dog, who is already protecting her brood from a male that would just as soon eat the pups, could react to the annoying comings and goings of humans and yet another dog.

This is a horrendous situation for all involved but the events were predictable. Dogs, despite being domesticated, are instinctual and their instincts will override their training and their attachment to humans in certain situations - new puppies being an obvious case.

The owners are to blame to the extent they did not provide a secure, protected area for the bitch and her brood, where the other couple would not have to pass by, regardless of previous interaction. The attacked couple might also have informed themselves about what behaviour to expect. These dogs did exactly what an informed owner would expect them to do in this situation.

One can never, ever assume anything with any dog no matter how domesticated, docile or 'known' the dog is. Dogs are still animals and they will, when they perceive a threat, protect themselves and, as in this case, their young. Common sense. Any dog behaviour book will make this clear.

I can speak to this personally: when my eight-year-old dog was injured and in terrible pain, he did exactly what I expected and tried to fend off anything that might have been the cause of that pain. He didn't know what had happened; he didn't know if he was being attacked; he knew that he was in great pain, on the ground and unable to retreat so he made to bite me. I dropped a towel into his mouth, which allowed him to bite down but also to focus on me long enough to know I wasn't going to hurt him more.

What SHOULD happen in this "attack" (which is more aptly described as a protective attack) situation is that the couple that was attacked sue the owners for putting them and the dogs in a very dangerous situation; and the owners should be banned from ever owning dogs. What will probably happen is two healthy dogs, who acted on instinct - exactly how a knowledgeable owner would expect - will be euthanized to pay for the stupidity of their owners.

I theorize often that most humans WISH they were as smart as dogs but, given Dunning-Kruger ("...occurs when incompetent people not only fail to realise their incompetence, but consider themselves much more competent than everyone else. Basically - they're too stupid to know that they're stupid. they're actually not smart enough to realise it."),situations like this will occur again. For sure. Guaranteed.

In the age of the Internet, why dog owners don't access the endless free information out there is beyond me.

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