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When a dog kills another dog...

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When a dog kills another dog...
  • This has been an awful week for for two families.  My cousins dog killed a neighbor's dog and we just got back from a vicious dog hearing in the town.  I'll try to be breif, but I would love to hear your input.
     
    Sasha is a German Shepard, and at 8 years old has been a very good girl.  She has not been an aggresive dog, and in fact is nervous of small dogs.  I saw this personally as my two little guys made her nervous and she ran from them.  However, when the door was not open to the house she turned to the dogs and showed her teeth when she felt cornered.  She moved recently and in her new setting she mingled with the neighbor's six, small dogs.  It was brought out at the hearing from the other dog owner's that Sasha was always a good dog and that the dogs often went from one yard to the other, and played together.  However, at times the small dogs would bite Sasha and she would react by wrestling and posturing, but never did she hurt another dog, and when called by her owner, she came running. 
     
    Tragically, one day Sasha (90pounds) killed a pomeranian, (5 pounds).  There was no blood to be seen.  It seemed that her neck was broken when Sasha shook her in her mouth. As you can imagine the owners were devestated and there were acusations thrown back and forth, I can't tell you how awful it was for everyone! 
     
    My question is this?  Although Sasha is a big dog, and the little Pom is tinny, could Sasha have felt threatened by her and her companions?  There are six dogs that would constantly taunt Sasha. Three in tact females and two in tact males.  At the hearing it was brought out that Sasha was so big and the Pomeranian was so small.  But can a big dog be scared of a small dog?  Esspecially, 6 small dogs?  The SPCA officer was the most knowlegeable it seemed about amimal behaviour.  The police cheif was the only one who said he thought the dog was vicious and was almost silly about how he took it to so personal, without really knowing what had gone on. 
     
    Sasha was used to a home in the country where she could come and go and now she will be very limited.  My cousin intends on moving to help the situation.  Sasha was found not guilty, of being a vicious dog.  The two other's on the panel said that it was a terrible accident and said that Sasha should be on a leash and not let in the neighborhood, and of course that is what my cousin will do, but that she was not a vicious dog.
     
    How would you all feel about this?  I woule die if another dog killed my dog.  But if my dog were free running and the other dog was also let out, it's hard to say if one was provoked or not.  If my dog had a history of nipping at the dog, like this one did, I fear I would have to chalk it up to animal behaviour. 
     
    I am chastised for not "socializing my dogs" yet this is one of the reasons I don't.  I have a large fenced in yard where they go and they come in the house.  We go to the beach and play sometimes, but I'm afraid of the other dogs on a leash that are there, so I keep my dogs at home. This is just a rotten rotten thing that has happened, but I'm trying to understand it better.  Has this happened to any of you on either side, and what did you do?
     
    Thank you for your comments.
  • Oh, that is terrible, I'm sorry for everyone involved. [:(]
     
    I am not at all qualified to say, but my opinion as a Random Person on the Internet is that picking up a small animal and breaking its neck sounds more like predatory behavior than dog aggression. GSDs can have a high prey drive.
  • Thanks Jones, it really is awful for everyone!  It was brought out at the hearing, that since the dogs had played so much prior to this event, that is was curious as to why this would be a vicious attack over a dissagreement.  ???
  • [linkhttp://forum.dog.com/asp/tm.asp?m=239853]http://forum.dog.com/asp/tm.asp?m=239853[/link]
     
    This thread? 
     
    I read it and felt sorry for the owner, but had nothing of value to add. 
     
    Bottom line is that I don't think we can ever know the why's of a situation like this.  If Sasha has been nervous about smaller dogs in the past, her behavior needs to be managed (kept away from small dogs) or trained under careful supervision of a behaviorist.  And yes, larger dogs can be intimidated by smaller dogs, especially if there was something in the larger dog's puppyhood that caused this. 
     
    It's very sad for everyone involved.  My sympathies.
  • In my opinion, letting six small dogs play unsupervised with a 90lb dog was an accident waiting to happen.  I would say she probably got fed up with being taunted by six little creatures and lashed out.  But breaking the neck instead of just a bite does sound more like predatory behavior.  I would restrict her to on-leash or fenced in playing from now on. To avoid future mishaps.  So sad for that little dog, though.  My sympathies.
  • Too many things could make the dog to do that, from prey drive till frustration for lack of  a dog's need, from feeling the need to correct the small dog till feel that the small dog was a threat, only by being there at that moment then maybe we could be able to get closer to the real reason
  • I agree with you.  I think she should be leashed as well.  What is predatory behaviour?  I would think that means that she's out on the hunt, but I have to say, that doesn't describe this dog.  I feel personally that she was taunted.  Knowing that animals can't reason as we do, I can get that she was scared.  I think all dog owner's shouldn't just trust past behaviour of dogs and that they should be under constant supervision, unless in the case of Sasha's past home where she could roam freely.
     
    This site is very helpful.  I've been reading quite a bit and I learn alot.
  • with such a size difference it could even have been an accident-- Sasha may have thought she was playing and whoops. I think one of my Danes could accidentally kill a tiny dog by stepping on it, so we don't let them interact with small dogs.
  • What I meant by predatory behavior is the dog following its prey instincts... treating the other animal as prey rather than a fellow dog. The prey drive instinct can be triggered by small animals or just any small moving object - like when dog plays and "kills" his squeaky toys. The level of prey drive varies by dog and breed, from a dog who exhibits no interest in toys at all, to a dog that will try to chase and kill any small animal. There is no anger or real aggression in that behavior... but it can be dangerous all the same if a dog's prey drive is so high, he can go from playing with a small dog to switching into chase/kill mode all because the dog zig-zagged a little too fast.
  • ORIGINAL: jones

    What I meant by predatory behavior is the dog following its prey instincts... treating the other animal as prey rather than a fellow dog. The prey drive instinct can be triggered by small animals or just any small moving object - like when dog plays and "kills" his squeaky toys. The level of prey drive varies by dog and breed, from a dog who exhibits no interest in toys at all, to a dog that will try to chase and kill any small animal. There is no anger or real aggression in that behavior... but it can be dangerous all the same if a dog's prey drive is so high, he can go from playing with a small dog to switching into chase/kill mode all because the dog zig-zagged a little too fast.


    Also, socializing your dog is a GOOD idea, but it should be done from puppyhood.  After the age of about 12 weeks, it's pretty much the end of the "socialization period" and to be safe, whatever you want your puppy to tolerate as an adult, the pup should have already been exposed to by that age.  I opt for socialization, even if it means bringing my pups to class before they have finished their vaccinations.  More dogs die due to behavior problems than from disease IMO.  That said, I do think that it is foolhardy to let huge dogs play with tiny dogs.  Even a misstep could really hurt a tiny dog, never mind a predatory grab and shake, as seems to have happened in this case.  Proper socialization does not eliminate predatory drive, and some breeds are more apt to have this than others, Huskies and GSD's are usually at the top of the list when it comes to killing small animals.  I hope that your cousin will learn from this mistake, and be able to keep the dog contained.  Also, the other family also bears some responsibility for allowing their small dogs to torment another dog, no matter its size.
    Sad all around. [:o]
  • I'm very sorry to hear what happened. [:(]

    ORIGINAL: Sheltieluvs

    Tragically, one day Sasha (90pounds) killed a pomeranian, (5 pounds).  There was no blood to be seen.  It seemed that her neck was broken when Sasha shook her in her mouth.


    That is why I'm very, very, very leary of letting small dogs interact with big dogs. What it sounds like to me is that the Pom triggered Sasha's prey drive since she didn't attack him per se, but shook him like she would a stuffed animal.

    The very same thing almost happened to Gingerbread about a month ago. In fact it was this close to happening. A very nice girl had her German Shepherd on leash and when I said I wasn't sure about her dog interacting with Gingerbread she said that her dog is good with other dogs. So I let her come over to Gingerbread and in an instant she swooped in and was overtop of him, not in a playful way either. There was no greeting, she was just on top of him in a second. [:o] I have very quick reflexes and yanked Gingerbread off the ground by his leash (he wears a harness thank goodness). The girl said that her dog wasn't going to hurt him, just wanted to sniff him. That's when I made the HUGE mistake of listening to her instead of trusting my own judgement. I let her dog come over to sniff Gingerbread in my arms and the dog instantly tried to bite him in the face! Thank goodness I jerked him away and she only got his topknot. The girl felt awful and kept apologizing. I learned a really important lesson that day about trusting my judgement of a dog's body language. I can't tell you how guilty I felt about putting Gingerbread in such danger. [&:] A month later I'm still feeling bad that my little angel could have gotten hurt or killed because of a bad decision. It's a horrible feeling that I don't wish on anyone. Anyway, I don't mean to hijack the thread. Hopefully my story was relevant in saying that especially with large breeds known to have a high prey drive, it's important to be very careful with little dogs and cats around them.
  • I've got a big dog who just loves small dogs and is very gentle with them (he loves being chased and will stop and wait for a small dog to catch up before taking off to be chased again). If I had small dogs, I'd be cautious of letting them play with just any ole big dog, but I would try to find people to have playdates with who had bigger dogs who were gentle with smaller dogs. Don't do what the person with the teacup yorkie that I saw at our dogpark do and just drop her tiiiiny little fuzzball into the middle of a pack of 6 large breed dogs. That dog nearly got pancaked just from the bigger dogs trying to sniff it's butt, let alone play.

    But I do think it's important to socialize your dog to all different kinds of other dogs, not just other dogs of the same size or breed. That's how you get big dogs who are terrified of or aggressive towards small dogs, and small dogs who bark and freak out at every big dog they see.
  • Thank you for your comments.  My cousin and I, in fact have learned so much from this, including the fact that you may think you "Know" your dog, and  you may, but dogs react to things differently than we do.  She is moving, as I mentioned and is determinded to keep Sasha on a leash at all times.  She held the dog that died in her arms and can't forget that.  It was just awful!  If nothing else it's good that we learn from this horrible experience.
  • Sadly it happens a lot. I think people can#%92t quite grasp the concept that their pet is an animal. When I was nine or ten the neighbors GSD came into our yard and killed our Miniature Poodle right in front of me. I knew the GSD was not to blame because it was an animal and didn#%92t know better. I think these things can be prevented if people supervise their animals properly at all times and have them under absolute control.
  • My big dog is great with small dogs, and we often use him to get small dogs used to larger ones.  But, he's a dorky hound couch potato.  Unfortunately, the really prey driven dogs can be set off in a heartbeat, and it doesn't take much for some of them to cross the line from just interest to out of control from predatory drift. 
    I'm glad your cousin is moving, and will not have to face the neighbors who lost their dog.  And, I'm glad that the hearing officer seems to be ok with that solution.  But, she really does need to keep her dog contained now.  Please tell her that a 6' privacy fence is best - GSD's often get worse at predatory behavior when they can see things going by that they bark at and "chase away".