Saturday, April 10, 2010

We Don't Feel the Dogs Are Aggressive

Two Labrador Retrievers wandered off of their property and approached a horse and rider. The dogs charged, barking and nipping at the horse. The equine reared up, unseating his rider, who fell to the ground and suffered what appears to be a concussion. One dog chased after the horse, biting him several times. The other remained by the rider, barking.

The two dogs have been declared dangerous.

One of the panelists had this to say: "“We don’t feel that the dogs are aggressive, but are dangerous by statute”.

Is charging a horse and rider aggressive? Biting the legs of a fleeing horse? Barking at a human?

To me, the reverse is partially true. These dogs acted aggressively, although they probably are not aggressive in all/most circumstances. But context is important. These dogs may not show any aggressive behavior in any other situations. Kept confined, leashed or fenced in, they would  have no opportunity to aggress toward horses or people. Desensitized and redirected, these dogs could even learn to engage in appropriate behavior rather than dangerous behavior (dangerous is a descriptor here, not an indication of who the dogs are under most circumstances). I think the dangerous designation is not appropriate, but I do feel labeling the dogs behavior as aggressive is entirely accurate.

If these dogs were Pit Bulls, I think would be editorialized differently. Perhaps the decision would have been the same, but I think the perception about whether the dogs were dangerous or aggressive would have been different.  Point of fact: A similar incident involving three Pit Bulls resulted in more than a dozen news reports. The girl fell off her horse and hit her head, resulting in significant brain trauma. The horses were not seriously harmed, although the Pit Bulls did get into a couple of scuffles with the victim's dog (who ended up fine as well). By luck, the victim in the above mentioned attack was stunned after her fall but not as physically traumatized. The Lab attack was not reported in the media at all.


Jennie said...

Agreed! During my riding career, I had something similar happen on a few occasions (by Weimaraners, Labs, a GSD and a possibly suicidal Min Pin). Luckily, each time other people were able to intervene and it never came to me actually coming off the horse, though I'm sure it easily could have. Never on any occasion have I felt that any of these dogs should be declared "dangerous". They just haven't been properly introduced to horses, and they aren't being properly watched by the people who have put them in the situation.

Rinalia said...

Were these in on-leash or off-leash areas?

In Napa, there is an off-leash hiking area where a few horse riders choose to ride. It always struck me as odd and dangerous.

Mina likes horses. But I would always call her back and ask the rider if the horse was okay with dogs. Not everyone did this. The scariest was a fila chasing after a horse. It all ended okay, but it could have been so much worse.

Jennie said...

Off leash, on bridle paths where the dogs legally should have been on leash. I've encountered my fair share of well behaved off leash dogs while on horseback too, and SO appreciate people taking the time to ask if the horse is okay with dogs. Some are - Rivet generally is - but no horse is really okay with being nipped at or threatened. It should be equally scary for the dog owner in this kind of situation, since a horse can easily kill a dog with a solid kick.