Have you ever seen reports of dog-on-dog aggression with a quote to the effect of, “next time it will be a child?” It seems to be a staple in news reporting, and it’s problematic: dog-to-dog aggression does not equal dog-to-human aggression.
Let’s be clear. If a dog injures another dog, that’s a problem. Some of these news stories have tragic outcomes and they should be treated as the serious animal control issue that it is. But if a dog fights or attacks another dog, does that necessarily mean that it would do the same to a small human? We asked Shelagh Begg, head trainer at Dizine Canine Pet Dog Training, for some insight into this. “When we think of dogs being aggressive, we imagine barking, lunging, attacking, fighting, biting and a variety of other actions. But why do dogs display these actions? In most cases, when dogs are being aggressive it’s usually a fear response to an external stimulus. For example, if a dog is afraid of another dog, it may bark and lunge if on leash (and if this is the case we refer to this as leash aggression, as opposed to dog aggression). If a dog bites another dog, again, it’s likely because the threat, or the perceived threat, of danger was imminent and the threat (the other dog) was not going away.
Many dog-on-dog attacks reported in the media are more often than not sensationalized, making the incident sound more dramatic than it probably was. And in several of these reports, they quote someone saying “it’s just a matter of time before that dog attacks a child," or “there are children in the neighbourhood," leading us to believe that if this dog attacked another dog, it would only be a matter of time before that same dog would attack a person.
Dog behaviour, put simply, isn’t that black and white. But most importantly, dogs know the difference between dogs and children. We also need to remember, dogs don’t seek out conflict, in fact, they often do everything they can to avoid it. Rarely do we see a dog attacking another dog without provocation, or in the absence of a trigger (territory, resource, sexual status, etc.).