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Are 'overly submissive' dogs more likely to be attacked by other dogs?? Any behaviourists about?

(18 Posts)
PacificDogwood Sat 20-Jun-15 21:11:17

We had a horrible encounter today, with my Ddog being the aggressor sadshock

We have only had him for 2/12, he has been v good in his encounters with other dogs, friendly, interested and very happy to have a play, never previously aggressive, seems equally happy with other breeds and sizes.

Today he had a right go and a poor little shitzu or lhasa apso (I am not sure) who from the start was very very submissive: slinking away, tail between legs, rolling over and showing her belly, her owner said she was 'timid'.
As my boy had met little white fluffy dogs frequently before and was always fine with them I did not see trouble coming. I also thought that submissive behaviour would defuse the any brewing aggression??

Ddog does not realise that he has just lost lead-free freedom.
Any suggestions?

PacificDogwood Sat 20-Jun-15 21:12:13

Oh, and the phrase 'overly submissive' is something I just learnt from another forum.

The victim's owner was exceptionally understanding btw and has since texted me that she is ok - thank goodness.

mrslaughan Sat 20-Jun-15 22:47:25

I just wonder if because this behaviour was different somehow that triggered some form of prey drive?.....

What I will say is my dog is really well socialised, he regularily goes to a home boarding place and she has never had a problem. Then one day a black lab came in and mine apparent tool against it, and was really aggressive towards it. Now many would say it's because he is entire, but he mixes with entire dogs regularily and takes the policy mostly to ignore. I talked to my trainer about It - he knows him really well and walks him with lots of diff dogs (not at the same time)he is one of the most reliably social dogs he knows,what he said is that you occasionally get that, where two dogs for some reason just don't get on. There is nothing to see that you would say that it was this or that.... But they just don't get on. Maybe it was that?
Or maybe the little dog smelt of something that triggered a negative memory?

JoffreyBaratheonFirstofHisName Sun 21-Jun-15 01:02:06

Hope not. My 9 month old staffy cross is very submissive. She loves meeting other dogs but is fearful of random ones and with dogs and people alike, will roll on her back, or hide behind mummy and daddy if there is something about a dog she dislikes. Last week, she was terrified by a tiny little fluffy poodly thing.

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 08:11:32

Thank you both.

I cannot tell you how shaken I am by the whole incident as he's been fine with other dogs, including small white fluffy ones.

mrslaughan, that's what I was wondering: never having chased another dog before (squirrels are another matter!) it seems that his prey drive just totally took over, an impressive but frightening thing to witness.

I don't really know how to exercise him adequately on lead - walking nicely beside me will never tire him out.

WeAllHaveWings Sun 21-Jun-15 09:58:36

dogs scrapping always seems worse than it is, think its because there is so much noise.

my 2 year old 33kg black lab is very submissive to everything, even to tiny dogs and puppies. He has been bitten a few times, and it has been sore, but no broken skin (yet). Quite a lot of the owners say they dogs don't usually react like that. If we see a dog we don't know to be friendly I put him back on the lead until they meet each other, and if its looking okay, let him off to play as he loves playing with other dogs.

Now you know your dog can be aggressive I guess you will have to do the same, perfect his recall and put back on lead if any unknown dogs are around. Only let off after they meet and the body language is looking ok/relaxed for both of them. If the other dog looks nervous/timid keep yours on his lead.

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 12:39:58

Yes, working on recall is a priority, also a 'leave it' command for him to relinquish toys etc when we play tug of war.

We are just back from the park and he was perfectly behaved, on and off lead. Took note of other dogs (including small white westies), but was much more interested in his (and their!) balls than the actual dogs.

Yes, I think the biggest learning point for me was to understand that I have to look at the other dogs body language as much as mine as he had looked perfectly happy and relaxed right up until he had her by the scruff of her neck.

HarrietSchulenberg Sun 21-Jun-15 12:43:31

Sorry to hijack, but are small, white Westies known to trigger problem behaviour? There is one that utterly hates my dog, and the feeling is mutual.

YouveCatToBeKittenMe Sun 21-Jun-15 12:50:23

My collie is not good with other dogs. She will always attack submissive dogs especially small ones, and I think it is because she is nervous around other dogs and knows she is unlikely to come off worst with a submissive dog. I don't really know why she thinks she needs to attack them though.
She will submit to some dogs immediately but she is never off lead around other dogs, I never know what her reaction will be and she will usually attack. It's hard work but she has good recall thank goodness.
I too rely on her body language a lot, luckily I have two other dogs who are good with others and I think seeing them not get stressed out by other dogs approaching has made her better than she was.
maybe there was something about the other dog that made your dog unsure, my collie would certainly have done the same thing!

SunshineAndShadows Sun 21-Jun-15 12:53:19

Hi Pacific hope you and your DDog are ok. Did you see the encounter directly?

The behaviour you describe is not submission (this isn't a term that applies in dog behaviour) and it's really important to distinguish this because submission implies a dog that is saying 'you're the boss' which is NOT what the behaviour you describe means.

The little dog was showing signs of anxiety and appeasement. Appeasement behaviour (lying down, showing belly etc) is actually a dog attempting to diffuse a threat BUT also giving a warning. It's a dog saying 'look I don't want any trouble - I'm small and here's my exposed neck - but respect my trust in you and BACK OFF' if the other dog (or person does not back off) then the nervous, appeasing dog will quickly escalate to aggression. Are you absolutely sure the little dog did not initiate the aggression via a quick snap or snarl and then your dog retaliated? This would be the usual behavioural pattern for this type of interaction. Aggression almost always comes from anxiety/fear.

It sounds as if your confident playful dog simply pushed this nervous little dog beyond his comfort zone - he might need a bit of help in recognising nervous body language

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 12:54:27

Harriet, I think one theory goes that small white fluffy dogs are too close to, say, a fluffy bunny rabbit, ergo equals prey and will make dogs react that are not reactive to other breeds.

Like I said, we had met many dogs that would meet those criteria before and he was never bothered other than curious.

So there seems to be something to it, the very submissive behaviour being provocative? V odd. I always thought that dogs' behaviour is designed to defuse situations, so would have assumed that a submissive dog would NOT provoke a more dominant dog. Oh my, it's a minefield.

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 12:55:17

Sunshine, thank you, that so makes sense!
Appeasement, that is exactly what it was, but from the word go.

SunshineAndShadows Sun 21-Jun-15 12:57:19

Here you can see that appeasement behaviour (lying down leg up) is about halfway up the ladder of aggression

This shows that the dog is 'charged' and ready to react and escalate up the ladder. It is NOT submission and this misunderstanding is one of the reasons people get bitten by dogs showing this behaviour

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 12:57:36

Yes, I did see it all first hand, I was right there chatting to the other owner while we were watching the dogs.
It seemed to me that she was genuinely trying to get away from him tbh and I did not see a 'provocative' nip from her. It just looked awful sad.

Yes, my boy needs to learn and needs to learn with dogs more his own size, me thinks. I can never let this kind of thing happen again.

SunshineAndShadows Sun 21-Jun-15 13:04:58

Don't beat yourself up Pacific is your boy's recall usually good?
If so, I'd allow him interactions with other dogs as he generally has a good track record and these positive learning experiences are important. Just be alert of anxiety body language in other dogs and when you see it call him back to you and reward. Keep him near you until the nervous dog has passed.

SunshineAndShadows Sun 21-Jun-15 13:08:13

Sophia Yins website has some great behaviour resources

PacificDogwood Sun 21-Jun-15 14:16:36

The owner just texted me again and she's fine. Massive relief here smile

Thanks for pointing me towards that site, Sunshine.

SunshineAndShadows Sun 21-Jun-15 15:05:38

That's great news. tbh if either dog had wanted to hurt the other they would have done - it sounds as if both dogs showed bite inhibition and cause no actual injury (which shows that neither of them really wanted to fight) and it was likely a lot of noise and snapping which looks awful to humans but is actually part of a normal dog behavioural repertoire and is in fact just a warning/squabble

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