New, and seeking info/help

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New, and seeking info/help

Post by Desna » Wed Nov 04, 2015 8:32 pm

I've been working with dogs for over 20 years, used to be the director for a massive sleddog kennel in Idaho with more than 300 dogs under my care representing over 20 breeds. I studied behavior and nutrition in college during my pre-vet studies, didn't finish school because my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the same time she found out she was pregnant with my baby sister and I had to go home to help her. I've never in my life been afraid of dogs, I can read them well, understand how they think and have always been confident and happy in my work as a trainer/teacher. That was until 3 years ago. I was walking my dog, a yorkie mix, and a neighbor had a friend dogsitting their Pitbull mix. The dog got past the sitter and shot straight to my dog, snatching him up in her jaws and trying to kill him. I fought, I knew dogs, I'd broken up countless fights, I grabbed back legs and the dog whipped around and attacked me until I fell then went back to my motionless dog as he was not dead and she was determined to make him that way. She ignored me until I would get a fresh grip on her, then she would turn on me until I was down and return to my dog, 3 times this happened before the dog sitter finally stepped in and got the dog off of us. I lay curled around my bleeding dog sobbing, so lost in terror I could barely breathe, thinking to myself that dear God my dog is all I have, I am not healthy and I dont have anything in savings, what am I going to do?! The sitter gave me the number of the owner, apologized and left me with another neighbor who helped me limp back to my home carrying my crying bleeding little dog. Family came and we rushed to the 24 hour vet, punctures to the throat, jaw, head back and belly were treated on my little dog but he had no broken bones, I had fought hard enough to keep her from managing that.

More than 20 years in dogs at that point, hundreds upon hundreds of dogs handled, dogs of all shapes and sizes and never had I been afraid of any of them. I love dogs, and my passion for them was strong. That dog, it acted like none I had ever dealt with, her focus was pure and deeply driven, she wanted the death of my dog, she cared about nothing, not me, not the sitter, not the neighbor who came out because of my screams, nothing mattered but killing my dog, and she was willing to hurt me to get me to let her do that. I had worked with Wolves for a while, even got to spend time with Apex predators learning to handle leopards and tigers for a while, that dog, she was very like the Leopards and Tigers, she was not a normal dog during that attack, something primal and stronger than anything else in her had taken over, that she was a 8 year old dog grown up since a puppy in a loving family with kids and had traveled all over with her family and had never even growled at anything in her life before that day was gone from her during that attack, no amount of training mattered, she was a trained dog and knew come and sit and stay and didn't pull on a leash, she had been through classes with her family and done well in them, never once worrying them that anything might be amiss in her temperament, for 8 years she had been a loved and well cared for dog. My dog hadn't even seen her coming, I hadn't either, we were just walking by enjoying a bright Saturday morning.

I read all of the articles about not blaming a type of dog, I've been cursed at by Pit owners who got angry when I did not want their dog to approach mine or get near mine. What I want to know is, how do I fix this? Pitbulls honestly terrify me now, to the point I have let go of my life long career, I have struggled with my health for a long while, and now, with this too, I just can't be as un-biased as I once was, being objective about Pits when I have listened to their owners for decades describe what happened to me, that their dog was wonderful, a model loving dog they had had since puppyhood until the one day it wasn't and now they were afraid of their own dog, or their neighbors dog. Instead of calmly explaining management was everything, I can not say "It's all how you raise it" because I have seen that it is not true. I've seen families that have done everything right, raised dogs with good training, diets, love and excersize and still had this sort of thing happen so I know it's not true that it's all how you raise them. I've seen training fail, seen it and have survived it. I'm am afraid, and people who own Pitbulls want to hate me, shut me up, tell me I'm all wrong. They dont care what I went through, what my dog went through, dont care about my scars or how horrifying being suddenly approached by their dog uninvited is for me. There seems to be limitless support for Pitbulls that have harmed or killed people, but nothing but scorn and blame for the victims. There must be something, I still have nightmares, still freeze when I hear dog tags and can't see the dog or when a door suddenly opens. I love dogs, have worked with hundreds of Pits over the years, even reversed aggression issues in Pits, Cane Corso, Dogos etc. I am a trust and bond building trainer specializing in Service Dogs for people with psychiatric disablities, but now, I am crippled by terror I can not shake. It's irrational, I know it because I know dogs, but my head can't control my broken spirit. are there support groups for people who have survived dog attacks? There must be something to help people with this level of fear. It is hard not to hate something that scares you so painfully, that triggers such hideous memories, I dont hate them, but I admit, I am painfully afraid of them now.

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Re: New, and seeking info/help

Post by Nettle » Thu Nov 05, 2015 5:44 am

Hello and welcome. I'm going to ask for your story to be moved to the 'Training and Advice' section so more people will see it. :)

You cannot possibly overcome this on your own. You need a mentor on the spot who really knows dogs and people, the psychology of fear, how to manage trauma. Meanwhile we here are happy to help in the small degree that is achievable over a keyboard.

Countless people immerse themselves in dog training and the world of dogs without ever realising that the dog is a class A predator too. That pit's behaviour, while unwanted, was perfectly normal. Dogs often attack other dogs, often want to kill other dogs. We arrange their lives so that they don't try to, never get the chance to, never feel the need to - same as we do with ourselves.

You have worked with a ton of social species (and a few unsocial species) each in an artificial environment, and these aspects are usually glossed over because we find them inconvenient, or they scare us. You have had an awful fright. You were right to be afraid. Treat it as the most amazing learning opportunity because without it you would still have an artificial idea of what dogs are. Dogs are the most wonderful creatures: they enrich our lives, they help us, they are superb companions, but we must never lose sight of the fact that they are animals. So are we. You have had an animal reaction to an animal incident. A normal reaction. Nothing is wrong with you. You are allowed to be afraid and upset.

The world of dogs needs people like you who understand what they really are in every circumstance of the lives we try to give them. Sometimes life's opportunities and challenges are a baptism of fire. Without that horrible experience, you would have continued as you have been over your 20 years of experience, not to know that aspect of dogs. Because you now do, you have the ability to study more, learn more, help more. The dog is an awesome tutor, and you have had a masterclass. Use it. We'll help.

To quantify the above, I am a professional behaviour consultant and aggression is my specialist area.
A dog is never bad or naughty - it is simply being a dog


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Re: New, and seeking info/help

Post by JudyN » Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:36 am

I would just add - you are allowed to have any fear/phobia you want. Given what has happened, it's completely understandable that you have developed a fear of pitbulls. And putting aside the whole question about whether pitbulls are more dangerous than other breeds, you recognise this as being an irrational fear - well, that's what phobias are. Just try telling someone with a spider phobia that they have nothing to fear because the spider won't hurt them.

If it had been another breed of dog, one with a better public image, you may well have developed a fear of that breed, but owners of that breed may not be so sensitive about your fear - I imagine the average pitbull owner is quite defensive as they so often encounter people who will cross the road to avoid them or even tell them they shouldn't own a dangerous dog.

I have a friend with a general fear of dogs, and it makes no difference how cute and adorable the dog looks. She knows her fears are irrational, and of course I don't get offended if she wants to keep a good distance from my dog.

So first, try not to worry about the dog owners who curse you for your fear - they are not being fair and reasonable. And as Nettle says, you do need to find someone who can help you with this fear, because it is affecting your life so profoundly.
Jasper, lurcher, born December 2009

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Re: New, and seeking info/help

Post by Shalista » Thu Nov 05, 2015 12:32 pm

I'm not a trainer or a professional of any type so all I can offer is my condolences that this happened =( That must have been terrifying, I can't even imagine. I hope you find healing and soon get back on your feet again doing what you love!
Baxter (AKA Bax, Chuckles, Chuckster) Rat Terrier, born 01/16/13

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Re: New, and seeking info/help

Post by Ari_RR » Thu Nov 05, 2015 8:54 pm

Sorry this has happened to you.

I've been flipping the sides though, in my mind... Imagining a dog being attacked, what kind of long lasting fear that can lead to... We (humans) can at least try not to generalize...

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