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Episode 308 - Panic Attack

“Dogs are normally social pack animals that follow leaders, but when humans don’t provide the leadership, the dog will take over. When that dog is a large, powerful breed, the humans’ lack of leadership can have disastrous results. My role is to teach the people how to be in charge again.”


Q&A with Cesar

In the case of an extremely aggressive dog, isn’t it safer for everyone to keep that dog locked up so it can have its own territory and not be tempted to go after people or animals?

Isolating a dog is the worst thing you can do for it and will only make the dog more territorial and aggressive. Unfortunately, I see people all the time who think that the best way to deal with an aggressive dog is to leave it alone in the yard or lock it in its crate in a spare room for hours at a time.
Dogs are social pack animals and they need the structure of the pack in order to find balance. They can’t learn the rules of the pack without a pack to do it in, and they won’t learn anything if you don’t give them pack leadership and work with them every day. It does take time and it may be safest to muzzle the aggressive dog at first, but once he begins to feel secure in your leadership and comfortable around other dogs, his rehabilitation will come quickly as he learns that he doesn’t have to defend you or his territory constantly.
An isolated dog is a frustrated dog, and one of the main ways that a dog exhibits frustration is through aggression. Locking that dog away doesn’t fix the problem, it just hides it — it’s about as effective as treating cancer with a Band-Aid and thinking that, because you can’t see it, it’s not there anymore.

When Ovechkin bit Trish’s sister, she had to have thirty stitches. If you are bitten by a dog, what’s the best way to minimize your injuries?

If you have the chance, the first thing to do is make sure that the dog bites you somewhere that will not be fatal — or somewhere that isn’t you. If you’re wearing a sweater or jacket, pull one arm out of a sleeve and try to get the dog to go for that. If she succeeds, let her pull the article of clothing away and make your escape. In these circumstances, the dog will think that she’s gotten a piece of you and may not even notice you walking away.
If you don’t have a sweater or something else as a decoy, then you want to get your shin or (preferably) forearm in the way and in the dog’s mouth. This is because the bones in these two limbs are closest to the surface and they’re an area where the dog is least likely to hit a major vein or artery.
If a dog bites you in an upper limb — the inner thigh around the groin or the upper arm near the armpit — you can be dead in minutes from loss of blood. You also want to protect your chest, throat, and head from being targets,
But if the dog bites your forearm, you have the best chance of escaping major injury. Be sure that your forearm is oriented so that your wrist is pointing at your body and your thumb is up. This way, the dog will be gripping the bone the long way and won’t be able to bite into the bottom of your wrist or shear into the muscle between your arm bones.
This also gives you the most control and stability. If the dog bites your shin, he may be able to pull you down and make the attack worse. If he bites your forearm, then you have a strength advantage and can resist his efforts to “shake” his prey to death or drag you to the ground.
Once you have been bitten, the most important thing to remember is to stay calm and stand your ground. When a dog gets to the point of actually biting, that’s pulling out her nuclear option. She doesn’t have any more weapons after that. If you can resist crying out, screaming, or trying to run away, it will often confuse the dog because their attack hasn’t had the desired effect. It may even intimidate them into giving up — after all, the dog just did its worst and you’re still standing. In the dog’s mind, that may mean that you’re about to come back with your worst and it’s time to retreat.
Also, while a dog only has one mouth, you have two hands. Letting him stay latched onto your arm will neutralize his weapon and allow you to try to lift his back feet off the ground, which will usually end the attack.
After the bite, there are certain steps you need to take in order to take care of the wound, ensure that you have not contracted any disease from the bite, and make sure that the owner assumes financial responsibility for your medical costs. Ideally, being bitten by a dog is something that none of us will ever have to deal with — but it can happen, so it’s good to be prepared and know what to do in advance.

I was bitten by a dog when I was a child and I’m still afraid of them, but now my boyfriend wants to rescue a dog. How can I get over my fear?

The short answer is to do it the same way a dog would: by living in the moment. Dogs are only afraid of things that are an immediate threat — for example, your dog may run away when you start the vacuum cleaner, but he won’t avoid the closet you keep it in because it’s not a threat then.
People, on the other hand, are capable of being afraid of things that aren’t happening to them right now, or that may never happen to them. We also have the intellectual capability to imagine scary things that could happen to us or to vividly recall scary things that did happen.
We run into trouble when we come into a situation carrying that fear. It makes it impossible for us to experience a situation objectively and, in the case of a fear of dogs, we project our insecurity and uncertainty through our energy. That can put any dogs we encounter into a state of alert and even make them treat us with anxiety or aggression, which can reinforce our fear.
To get over your fear of dogs I’d suggest the same thing I’d do with a timid or fearful dog: change the mental associations that go with an object until the fear is replaced with a neutral reaction or, better yet, a pleasant association.
You can get a dog that’s afraid to ride in a car to love the experience if you associate it with affection and treats. You can also help a human get over a particular fear in much the same way — you have to remove the intellectual and emotional components of the fear first, then replace them with pleasant associations.
In your case, my best advice would be to start volunteering at an animal shelter — explain that you’re doing it to get over your fear of dogs so they can start you out with minimal interaction, then slowly work your way up until you’re doing things like feeding and walking the dogs. Since shelters assess a dog’s temperament when they take them in, you can easily avoid aggressive dogs and focus on the ones that are human friendly.
Dogs don’t dwell in the past and humans shouldn’t either. By letting go of one bad experience with one dog a long time ago and meeting lots of different dogs now, you should be able to completely change your perception of what “dog” means. And who knows? While you’re volunteering at that shelter, you might just find the ideal dog for you and your boyfriend to adopt as well.

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