Welcome to our weekly 'Ask a Vet from the SF SPCA' feature on 7x7.com. Dr. Jeannine Berger, DVM, DACVB is a board certified veterinary behaviorist who counsels guardians whose pets’ issues are beyond the scope of training. Think of her as a pet shrink…at your service. Ask your own questions in the comments!
Q: My dog is a six-pound, four-year-old male neutered Chihuahua, and was just attacked by a 20-pound male Terrier type dog while we were walking on quiet street. The dog ran out of a house and attacked for about ten or fifteen seconds before his dog sitter came out and restrained him. It was very fierce attack and my dog was on a leash and was shrieking. The dog sitter apologized profusely and said this has happened once before. My dog has no scratches or bite marks but I'm writing to ask if there's anything I should do for him. Behaviorally, he seems normal, and after the attack the sitter, his mom, his girlfriend and I all held him and we fed him. Then I gave him a few commands to refocus his mind and we walked back and forth where the attack had been while eating treats so that the area wouldn't feel scary. What do you think?
A: How unfortunate – but this can happen especially in a busy “dog environment” such as SF. If a dog has attacked in the past, especially around his home territory, the owner of the terrier should not take this lightly and should not leave this dog unattended or even off leash. The dog should be wearing a head collar for more control and might even have to be introduced to wearing a muzzle until they can modify the attacker’s behavior. I also recommend having that dog neutered – the SPCA offers a low cost neuter program.
You did a great job to immediately redirecting your dog’s attention to an alternative option by keeping him busy with commands. You have obviously already worked with your dog on these commands – this is wonderful! These little things that we do on a daily basis with our dog pay off in such unfortunate or emergency situations.
You want to continue to watch your dog closely:
1. When walking in that specific area - continue to be proactive - giving him commands and treats – or use his favorite toy when walking by that home
2. When seeing terrier type dogs that look similar to the dog that attacked him, immediately get his attention with focus commands and reward him for calm and relaxed behavior in the presence of that dog. If he has any dog friends that he can play with, encourage that as well.
Fortunately most dogs get over an incidence like this without any problems, unless they have preexisting fear or the incidence was very traumatic.