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I have a 5 year old irish red and white setter. He has been attacked 5 times by other dogs severely enough to have suffered puncture wounds or require surgery. My husband and I are active and frequently take him hiking and running which puts him in contact with other dogs almost daily. He is well trained and has consistent recall. When approaching another dog he is placed in heel. The dog attacks have occurred by a friend's dog at their home, on leash at a dog class and on leash while either walking or hiking. I am looking for information on dog behavior. Is he presenting himself in a way that makes him susceptible to attack by some dogs? He almost appears uninterested in other dogs especially if running or hiking. Is there anything he or I can learn to minimize attacks in the future?
 

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Holy smokes that is horrendous luck!!! I'm inclined to say that most of the problem lies with the dog owners in your particular area. Dogs that are fear-aggressive towards other dogs can sometimes be more perturbed by breeds that are (a) larger (bigger size = more threatening) (b) bouncier/move around a lot.

Still, that doesn't even begin to explain 5 dog attacks. You might do well to find a new hiking area if he got bitten 3 times there.

This article has some great tips on fending off unfriendly dogs: Hello Off Leash Dogs. Meet My Friend Direct Stop. « Dogs in Need of Space
 

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Oh wow. Poor guy!

It's impossible to say what, if anything, your guy is doing to contribute to these attacks.

Study up on canine body language, especially the more subtle signs of discomfort.
This is a nice site to start with. It's geared towards families and bite prevention but has good body language info.
Learn about dog body language

I have a couple of jerkbutts ( and I'm saying that with love:) ). They are re quick to correct anything they see as rude from unfamiliar dogs or just plain uncomfortable with them. Problem is that if not familiar with subtle body language I would completely miss the warnings. The average person totally misreads or just doesn't see such signals from my dogs and often their own.

Lack of social behavior (play invitations, appeasement gestures)/ignoring to me is a clear indication that a dog doesn't want to greet another at that time. My general rule with my guys is that both dogs (mine and the other) need to mutually wish to greet. I look for play bows, loose wiggly body, relaxed faces. Stuff like that. If one or both is still, stiff, avoiding looking at each other, staring while still, tight faces, etc. it's a no.
 

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Poor guy!

Dog behavior is complicated, but we have had problems with our dogs fighting, however, the only time it was ever serious enough that the dogs were actually trying to kill one another was when our spayed dog somehow went into heat at the same time our unspayed dog did. The second (unspayed) had had a litter with her former owner and didn't want another contender, so she attempted to kill our dog. Needless to say, we found her a new home and got her fixed. She still comes over to be watched while her family is on vacation, and there is no fighting, but we have quickly learned that serious fights are way more likely if it involves a girl dog.
An uncertain dog, uncertain owner (on either side), or a dog that hasn't been fixed may provoke an attack. However, I'm not really sure. I hope your dog says safe though!
 

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Aw, poor guy!

Dogs on leash can also behave TOTALLY different than dogs that are free. There can sometimes be some barrier frustration or there can be some fear that they can't get away, so they react.
 

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I'm no dog behaviorist, so take this with a grain of salt. I don't believe that dogs have the same dominant and submissive roles that their wolfie ancestors do, because they're different animals and they don't work that way anymore.

BUT I've noticed that some dogs can act similarly to human bullies/jocks, while others are treated like the stereotypical 'nerd' - meaning some are prone to picking on the weaker personalities, and others are more prone to getting picked on. My friend had a dog that was ALWAYS getting bullied, similarly to yours, and I've seen it with other dogs, too. It's just something about them attracts the bullies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Thanks for the responses
Well, I've always thought my dog was special :) I'm starting to think you may be on to something--maybe my dog really is a 'nerd'. I know that several of the dogs that attacked him are the youngest dog in multiple dog homes. They had the submissive role simply due to their age and size. Then along comes my guy and they finally have an opportunity to display their dominance.
 

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I'm no dog behaviorist, so take this with a grain of salt. I don't believe that dogs have the same dominant and submissive roles that their wolfie ancestors do, because they're different animals and they don't work that way anymore.

BUT I've noticed that some dogs can act similarly to human bullies/jocks, while others are treated like the stereotypical 'nerd' - meaning some are prone to picking on the weaker personalities, and others are more prone to getting picked on. My friend had a dog that was ALWAYS getting bullied, similarly to yours, and I've seen it with other dogs, too. It's just something about them attracts the bullies.
This is my Shih Tzu, he’s always being bullied and it makes me feel so bad, it’s gotten to the point now that when other dogs approach he crawls up my leg wanting to be picked up, and of course I do, I just don’t get it
 

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My first rule: NO dog comes up to mine without my express permission. My dogs do not need to interact with strange dogs that I haven't vetted. That prevents most potential problems. Your dog will prefer not interacting rather than being bullied.

Is your dog neutered? If not, he can be seen as a threat to other unneutered males. An unspayed female who has just gone out of heat can be aggressive towards an unneutered male also. After all that attention while in heat, she's done with it.

Having been the victim of bullying as a child, my first reaction to the OP is "of course it's not your dog's fault he is being bullied!". I still believe that, but how YOU put your dog out there can create a problem.

Is it a certain size or sex or breed or look of dog that creates the problem? Maybe you or the dog is fearful of that specific.

Maybe your dog just needs more private space than other dogs.

My Cat-dog was attacked by a dog(s) before the shelter got her. She is very fearful of other dogs. Her stance and emotions affect the other dog's behavior towards her. My reaction to her stance and emotions has an affect also.

Try working with a trainer for a few sessions and see if they can find a cause. Otherwise, just let your dog keep his distance from other dogs.
 
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