Don't play the blame game
First off - don't blame yourself. I'm sure you didn't ask the owner of the other dog to let them attack your dog. Perhaps there is more you could have done to prevent, perhaps not. But as we say a lot around here - we are where we are.
Plus, staying worked up and angry at the other owner isn't particularly helpful either. Though clearly I'd probably be hopping mad at the time!
I work on the principle that I'll worry about the things within my control. It simply isn't possible to do that with other people's behaviour. My goal is to inspire people my showing them what's possible.. you'll have more influence that way.
Then let's look at how serious an attack we're talking about. Was it a verbal assault with lots noise but not a lot of substance? Or was it more worrying, and your dog has puncture wounds and required immediate veterinary attention?
Do you need professional help?
Either way, how your dog then responds to dogs in the future is largely determined by the personality of your dog. If you have a confident, happy-go-lucky type of dog, you might find them to be a bit cautious on new encounters. But generally they have enough good experiences in the bank to outweigh the bad.
But if you live with a more anxious, pessimistic personality then I would suggest enlisting the help of an experienced and qualified trainer or behaviourist to help you out. I wouldn't go with the hope approach - e.g. perhaps it will get better? Because now your dog is giving off stressful vibes, chances are dogs who are inclined to bully are more likely to pick on them.
Find a behaviourist in the UK:
- CAPBT: Association of Applied Pet Behaviourists & Trainers
- APBC: Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors
Let's get personal..
I'm going to get personal now too. How as the attack affected YOU? Are you more anxious and inclined to tighten your lead when you see another dog?
If you are struggling, the tips in this blog post will help but I would also highly recommend seeking the help of an experienced and qualified trainer or behaviourist as I've suggested above.
Our dogs are too closely intertwined with our lives to be able to ignore when we're feeling stressed or anxious. Whether we like it or not, it will have an effect on them and how they view future meet & greets with other dogs too.
Making a plan
I attended a seminar with the very knowledgable and entertaining Kamal Fernandez who had this very important gem to share. He likened raising a puppy to raising a child, with the phrase..
It takes a village
So the first part of the plan is to rouse your villagers! Because you're going to need help from them and their dogs to put this bad experience into perspective.
Who are your villagers?
"But Gemma", I hear you cry, "I live alone and I don't have anyone I can ask to help me!". Perhaps not yet, but here's some ideas to build a tribe of dog training support around your local area.
Keeping your dog pain free
Find a canine physiotherapist or veterinary rehabilitation specialist. You need someone you trust to tell you your dog is pain free. Because if they're not, then it WILL have an influence on their behaviour.
My dogs are treated by..
- Specialist veterinary surgeons & canine physiotherapists at The SMART (Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Therapy) Clinic in Cardiff & Swansea, South Wales
- Human and Canine Osteopath Matt Butcher, Devon Osteo in Tiverton, Devon
Use Facebook to help you connect
Use Facebook to set up a group for local dog walkers if there isn't one you can join for your area
Ask people in your local dog walking group if they'd be able to help you with your plan.
Dog training enthusiasts
If you're not already, why not find a local training club (click here for my top tips in finding a good one)? These people are on your wavelength as they're already investing in their relationship with their own dog. So they know how important it is to get things right.
Location, location, location!
To work through any kind of training plan, you need to do so without interruptions. So check out Dog Walking Fields UK:
And meanwhile, think about the low traffic dog walking spots in your area. Consider the time of day you walk. These are the places that you want to walk whilst you're working through your plan, so that your diligent effort isn't undone by a rogue dog & owner.
Ideas to incorporate
Once you've set the scene and you have your helpers at the ready, here's some ideas for re-building some meet & greet confidence:
- Parallel walking (dog-dog introductions video by professional trainers Rachel Trafford & Roz Pooley below)
- Check out professional dog trainer Grisha Stewart's BAT (Behaviour Adjustment Training) approach - I highly recommend her training manual below
- Film your sessions if possible - this way you can review what happened and it will help you plan next steps
My hope would be that you never need the information in this blog post. But as we don't live in an ideal world, well.. best to know what to do should it happen.