Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Let's Talk About Doggies

Okay, I was "intemperate" in yesterday's post about bad doggies because I was pissed off, and for that I apologize (and I have removed said intemperate comment on my part). But since there is an issue here, I thought I'd talk about it in a new post rather than just in the comments.

You know, we've lived in the high country for more than a decade, and the only time I've had a lot of problems with unleashed aggressive dogs is over the last 6 months...some of it I think is new people moving up here and part of the local "mythology" is that now the dogs should have the "freedom to roam." Most of those free-roaming dogs will eventually end up in some other free-roaming animal's stomach, joining all those outdoor kitties who "deserved" some "free" time outdoors.

One of the big issues in this area are "rescue dogs." Quite admirably, this is a huge area for rescue dogs. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that there are people who get rescue dogs not out of altruistic reasons but because they are cheap, or simply out of ignorance, overlooking the fact that often rescue dogs often require a greater degree care, discipline and training. A few years back a neighbor rescued a huge German shepherd who hated cars, of all things. Early on, it slipped its lead and literally crashed into the side of my (moving) Honda Element, snarling and trying to bite the rear view mirror. Luckily, neither the dog nor the car were hurt, and the owner spent a huge amount of time over the next year or so gentling the big dog and making it a fine companion.

Alf the Wonder Beagle, bravely recovering from her assault and dreaming of bacon...

We are responsible pet owners. Granted, Alf is a beagle, originally trained as a show dog...as such, she may be the least aggressive animal I have ever seen. And yet she is always on lead, because she is our responsibility. I agree there are lots of off-lead dog up here, but they are overwhelmingly working dogs, and they represent zero problem...and are truly under "voice control." What voice control means is that the dog responds to the owner's command immediately...and the most important command is, "STOP!"

A large dog is a deadly weapon and clearly defined as such in the law. I say that as a person who has owned and raised malamutes, huskies and chows and spent vast amounts of time socializing and gentling those big, intelligent dogs. I also UNDERSTAND the kind of damage a big, or even a medium-sized dog can do. My chows were taught "STOP!" from the time they were puppies, with the specific purpose of being able to command them to break off an attack. Most people have no idea how fast a dog attack can happen and how amazingly violent it can be.

I was once walking my big male chow, Truffles, on lead when an alley cat I didn't see launched itself off a 5-foot stack of shipping crates straight at the dog's face. Before I could even respond in any way, I swear the chow simply "levitated," snatched the cat out of the air, snapped the cat's neck, then dropped it and kept right on walking as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened.

I once made the incredibly stupid mistake of stepping into a dogfight to break it up and ended up with the aggressor dog completely biting through my left hand. And it wouldn't turn loose, shaking and tearing. I was lucky enough to get a hold on the dog's neck and throat and choke it down until it broke off the attack, but it was a close thing. Amazingly, the bite didn't tear anything irreparable, but the hand took a long time to heal, and it scared the heck out of me about dog attacks.

Normally, we carry dog spray, but yesterday was a "walk of opportunity" in a public place; Alf was with us, the sun came out and the wind stopped for about 10 minutes, so we decided to give her a nice walk. Accordingly, yesterday I ordered additional spray cans of "enhanced" pepper spray for animals to carry in the vehicles so we'll have it when we do one of the spontaneous walks.

Most of our dog walks are on trails in the back country...that means if the dog is injured, as Alf was last year, it's a much longer transit to medical care. Even more importantly, if the person is injured, that delay can be fatal. A big dog (and by that I mean 50 pounds or heavier) can bring a person to the ground very quickly...ask Marshal Halloway, who was a military dog trainer. A huge part of the problem for us is that my Sweetie or I are going to move to protect Alf. That generally means scooping her up, which creates several additional problems — to grab her one of us has to put our hands and face into the middle of a dog attack...we then have a squirming, enraged or panic-stricken (and in the case of last year's attack, bloody) beagle in hand. If the other dog continues the attack, as it did last year, you're now off balance and can be brought to the ground, where you can quite literally be savaged.

The several attacks that have happened on the trail are even more dangerous because the aggressor dogs are already in motion, running full-tilt. If the dog decides to launch itself, you have virtually no time to react. It helps to "know" dogs...a growl, for instance, isn't an attack. In fact, my chows and my malamute went dead-silent when they were "serious." Growls and barks were warnings. In general, when we're approached by a strange dog off-lead in the back country, we watch Alf. Through scent and canine "body language," a dog will already know the "intentions" of an approaching dog. If the dog looks like Cujo, but Alf is bounding around like a puppy wanting to play, we're pretty sure it's A-okay. But if Alf darts behind our back, drops her tail or even urinates in fear, that's a whole different story...she's clearly gotten a message we need to pay attention to.

Obviously, laws regarding dangerous dogs vary from state to state and location to location. As a self-defense instructor, I'm going to come down on the same standards I would apply to an attacking human...am I or someone in my care "in the gravest extreme," that is, at risk for potentially massive or life-threatening injury? And size matters...a large aggressive dog, especially if I'm miles up a trail in the middle of nowhere, has the potential to do massive and fatal damage to me. A savage Pomeranian, not so much. I consider multiple off-lead dogs to be a proportionally much greater threat than a single dog, because I have seen a "pack response" — a single aggressive member of the pack triggers an aggressive response in all members of the pack.

Interestingly enough, in much of the West any dog "running, worrying or injuring" livestock can be killed, and the dog's owner is liable for all damages done by that dog (§ 35-43-126. Dog worrying stock). Colorado also has extensive "dangerous dogs" statutes.

Nobody wants to kill or injure someone's pet, however flawed that pet is. But here's the cold, hard fact...the second-to-the-last thing in the world I want to do is kill a dog, because I understand it's the owner's, not the dog's, failure. The last thing I want to is frantically try to get my Sweetie to a doctor before she bleeds out because I was too slow to respond to a clear threat.


Anonymous said...

When I moved to the Black Forest area of El Paso county in the mid '80s, a letter was printed in the local paper. It was from a resident that needed to walk when possible for medical reasons. It stated a concern with frequent run-ins with off-property dogs, threatening the walker. The sheriff at the time printed a response - carry a gun and shoot the dog if necessary. His deputies had a huge area to patrol, and the likelihood of a quick response was small. This was before shall-issue concealed carry, and I thought the sheriff's response was excellent.

Laura said...

i think the people who whine about mean people killing dogs in self defense refuse to understand that off-lead dogs are a danger UNLESS they're absolutely 100% perfectly trained. even a dog that is normally under control is at risk of misbehaving if allowed off-lead. you can see what happens at dog parks every day: dogs gang up on each other, sometimes tear each other apart. it's just an awful thing, sometimes, and there's no real easy way to separate fighting dogs. pepper spray doesn't work, usually. hitting them just ramps them up more. trying to get between them is even worse - they'll redirect on the human.

nj larry said...

"A gun never jumped up and shot anyone". We like to say that to the anti-gun crowd in defense of our rights. With dogs, and I've owned everything from 10lb mutts to 100lb shepards, that rule doesn't apply. Dogs are thinking beings. THEY DO JUMP UP AND HARM FOLKS. All on their own. For some totally unknowable reason. Trained or untrained, their primal brains are never under TOTAL control by us humans.

An 80 yr old neighbor used to enjoy walking his Neopolitan around the hood. I thought that combination of infirm elderly man and 200lb monster dog was a ticking freaking nuclear time bomb. But there was no way to legally prevent such a combo.

The bleeding hearts want all the gun owners trained up and licensed. Yet they don't raise a peep over 4 MILLION dog attacks EVERY YEAR.

I'm on the "shoot it" side of the argument.


Chas S. Clifton said...

I have used bear spray on a large, aggressive, angry dog. It worked great at changing his mind. My wife and I live in rural Colorado, and we keep a canister on the kitchen counter where it is handy to pick up when leaving the house for a walk.

Michael Bane said...

That's what I've ordered! Heck, we also have bears up here!


Frank W. James said...

Well, I guess that's one good thing about Colorado's laws because back here in Indiana it is a FELONY to kill a domesticated animal without the owner's permission.

Yes, there is a clause in there about defense of private property;i.e. protecting your pets and livestock, but guess what so far that defense has failed in every case on record.

In short, free running canines in Indiana have more 'rights' than you do.

Truthfully in examining the case record I wouldn't shoot an attacking canine in the state of Indiana until after the blood began to flow because a felony conviction is a felony conviction...

All The Best,
Frank W. James

Flash Powder Hal said...

I'm a life-long dog owner. My dogs are ALWAYS on leash when off our own property. I carry a 500+ Lumen flashlight, a pocket knife and a firearm when out walking (with or without dog). Even in our suburban neighborhood, guns running free is a hazard. Most time the super-bright light with an aggressive voice, will scare dogs away. If a really aggressive dog attacks me, wife (both over 60) or our little pug, I have no problem defending us with the gun. Safety comes first, if I'm alive to take legal action afterwards.

Jim said...

Having been cornered by a pack of dogs while working alone in the woods with no firearm in reach I learned real quick that "nice little doggies" are not so nice once they leave home and pack up.
The outcome, my cousin by chance was driving down that trail at the right time and the "nice little doggies" decided to make a quick exit.

Sanjuancb said...

Sounds like another Judge/Governor application to me...

Darrell said...

A young girl was attacked and killed by a pack of dogs running loose in the Breckenridge area, thirty-some odd years ago. And yes, they were family pets.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to apologize. We all know you were just blowing off steam. By the way, I just love "The Best Defense". Keep up the good work and thanks for standing up for our gun rights. Those Democrats who voted for the gun control bills in Colorado are going to be sorry when the next election comes for them. Many people who are anti-gun are apathetic at this time, but the pro-gun people seem to be energized. They won't forget!

TS, back east said...

If you want to turn off a whole heck of a lot of the support that gun rights has amongst members of the general public, just make them choose between your gun rights and their dog's safety from being shot by an angry old white guy with a gun. Go ahead. Make them choose. You will not like the choice that many, many people will make. And if you actually do shoot someone's dog, with these blog posts in the public record declaring that you are going to arm yourself specifically to be able to hurt someone's dog, you can kiss your carry permit goodbye.

Be more responsible with your words on the Internet because you are a very public face of gun rights in Colorado and in the country as a whole. I'm sure that your governor there in CO saw your post and read about how you were choosing your gun and ammo to be able to shoot someone's dog and he probably said to himself, "See, those gun guys are all like that. They are just itching to shoot someone or something. We were right to push these restrictions through because we can not TRUST these people to keep their tempers under control when they're out walking around with guns." Thanks, Michael, you have done more harm than Bloomberg could ever dream of because you have made it clear that we can not be trusted with guns.

Scott said...

I've sprayed one dog, a pit, and he looked at me. Brand name cop-carried whoop-ass. Streamed right at his face, and nose, and eyes. He looked at me. "WTF?!?" he said, looking at me. It doesn't always work. Be ready with Plan B.

Scott said...

Wow, you must be doing something right, Michael! Two Bloomy-posters in two days.

Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

My doggie Marshall looks like Alf's twin. There is a HUGE St. Bernard in our neighborhood that doesn't want to stay in his lawn. I really try to stay away from that house, going so far as to turn around and walk the other way if he is out. He is not a friendly dog - he stalks us and growls. I carry but would rather avoid the area as shooting a neighbor's dog (even if he is attacking) would at best cause neighborhood turmoil and hate and at worst land me in jail for negligent discharge or some other trumped up charge.

AK Matt said...

Thanks for that Mr. James from a fellow Hoosier! Good to see you blogging again too, I had missed that!

Glad I didn't actually have to shoot the neighbor's aggressive Pitbull before I moved. I was once cornered by it and an adolescent Boxer. I had just came home from work that is a felony NPE environment for both CC and parking lot (which I can only think of a few other jobs in IN that have that problem). I pulled in the driveway and they ran across the street to our yard. The Boxer, despite me witnessing it being mistreated, still had enough of the puppy in him that he was being playful and was just wanting to sniff me out and say hi (still didn't trust it). The Pitbull stayed its distance and low growled. They blocked the way into the house and no one else was home. I didn't feel comfortable turning my back and sitting back down into my car with the door's opening toward them. I used my large 4 foot trashcan as a barrier between the Pit and I, but the Boxer was still inquisitive enough to come around in a non-threatening tongue flapping way. I was still not comfortable with even the puppy-acting Boxer since I knew it could change its mind or the Alpha Pitbull would decide it was time to attack. All I had at the moment was a Surefire G2 and a paracord/parachute shackle keychain flail, neither of which gave me much more confidence against two large dogs. I just kept the trashcan as a barrier between me and the Pit as a slowly pushed it towards the door of the house, but still had the seemingly friendly Boxer sniffing me the whole way there. They then went down the street to another house that had kids, I strongly considered grabbing a firearm a give chase, bit decided to watch from inside instead. Luckily, they eventually went back to their house without much more problems.

With what you guys know about dogs, how else should I have handled it?

I then carried an expandable baton in the car but didn't sort out the spray before we moved shortly thereafter (also CCed when I didn't have to go to work and put a shotgun close to the front door). I feel much better now to be away from them with my two Pre-K kids, but definitely made me think about dogs with them in a park, current house, etc. Even then a gun may not always be the best option because of the difficult shot if it is on my kids (and now as Mr. James points out, I can't be as proactive with dogs as I would like and makes it a contact distance problem).

tablekiller said...

It amazes me, how many otherwise "Responsible" people, have NO CLUE as dog owners.

I've had dogs my entire life. My dogs don't run free, no matter where I lived.

The trust, that an animal shows to human's require us, to be the one who THINKS! It amazes me to hear people say, "my dog was killed by a car". No, your dog was killed because you didn't control it. Leashes are ways to control your dog, just like a life vest, keeps your sorry ass from drowning.

Another thing I don't get, is the people who have a dog, in a cage or pen, in the backyard and NEVER, do anything but feed and water the dog, if they even do that! Whats the point of having a dog, if they are not part of the "family". I am not talking about crate training, etc. I am talking about the dog locked in a pen, like a prisoner.

If you don't want the responsibility, then don't have a dog.

Michael Bane said...

God knows that if the only thing "bad" Hickenlooper thinks abut me is that I'm ready to defend my life against all creatures great and small, it'd be a miracle! LOL!

I don't carry a gun to make a statement; I carry it to protect myself and my family. Simple truth.


Anonymous said...

Couple years back neighbor had a spaniel that kept digging under the fence and getting into my yard. Animal Control hit him with 8 fines of $110 each over 3 years, didn't change the owner's attitude. One morning I went onto my back yard and found the spaniel and his 110 lb shepherd. In the 5 steps it took to return to my porch to call Animal Control (again) the shepherd bit me twice on the back of the leg.

Until that moment I did not think I needed to carry a gun in my fenced back yard. I was wrong.

Since then I do not open a door to the outside without a gun on my hip or in my hand. You want to keep Fluffy alive, keep it on a leash; if an unrestrained dog approaches in a menacing manner neither you nor the dog will enjoy what comes next. I don't own "bear spray" and don't intend to buy any. I do have several boxes of 230 grain +P Cor-Bon, and I know what dumpsters are for.

Anonymous said...

This was timely:

Mountain Lion Snatches, Eats Man’s Dachshund In Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – A terrifying mountain lion attack in Colorado Springs claimed the life of a man’s dog.


Thornton Austen said...

I ditto the judge and the PDX. A few years ago I was walking my Basset in a Florida state park when he was attacked by a 9-month pit puppy that a DA had off-leash. Most folks don't know how powerful a Bassethound is. The dude had tears in his eyes as he leashed and limped his bleeding dog away. Oh, The Judge??? The dude tried to insist I paid for the stiches and almost got violent about it. I had to get the park rangers to get him away from our camp.

BBJohnnyT said...

+1 for bear spray. I've heard of very aggressive dogs shrugging off Fox 5.3. The "dog repellent" sprays are worthless at a fraction of the potency of regular pepper spray, all in the name of being "more humane". Bear spray is more potent than all of these and if it'll stop a charging bear, it'll stop a dog.

nj larry said...

MB when you have time (lol) maybe you could also address a proper med kit to carry where dog attack is a possibility. I've come to carrying my auto a state of the art tourniquet. That, bandage and quickclot would be 3 important items to have in a small fanny pack. As you said a person may survive the attack but bleed out only 10 minutes away from help. We can learn from the troops in the sandbox that an immediate capability to stop the bleeding may mean life or death.

Will said...

Case study of why you had better be willing, and physically able, to control any dog you own:


Anonymous said...

well said, mr. bane, and completely agree with you.

Anonymous said...

Let's see: Dog attack, complete with injuries; possible "sympathetic" witness; major big-buck lawsuit against dog owner; 40/60 split with lawyer; still equals "big money". Oh yeah, can we also sue the dealer that sold these dogs? Can we also sue the breeder, or the "manufacturer" too?

Where can I find these dogs? ; )

Life Member

Mick said...

Late to the party here.. about 20 yrs. ago we lived in an isolated area; my wife with one infant and a 2-yr. old would frequesntly come home to have the car swarmed by dumped dogs that had packed together; various breeds and sizes. She had to actually drive to the door and fast-exit to the house. After several calls to the one-deputy second-shift Sheriff's dept. I was told that what my neighbors would do in such a situation is thin out the pack. He wouldn't tell me to do so, but the intent was clear. Six months later a number of coyotes were fatter and we had no more dog problems. Again, bad owners make for bad times.

Anonymous said...

I have had to shoot a pittbull that was attacking my neighbors 5yr son and it really bothered me, but I blame the owner more than the dog, since they raised it. I had a homeless man try to use his pitbull as a deadly weapon when I refused to give him a handout. I drew my PA-63 and and yelled for him to get the F*CK away from me while I aimed it at him, I had to say it 3 times, but he finally got the point, I wonder if his eyes have ever returned to their normal size........

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