Mamas, Don’t Let Your Puppies Grow Up to be Bullies

dog bully pixabayThis morning, I saw a beautiful 8-month-old pit bull lying on his back. Was he waiting for tummy rubs? Taking a sunbath? Nope. He was lying there, afraid to move lest the three dogs who were bullying him start in on him again. The pit’s owner kept telling him to get up, but I could see that he was afraid. I said something nicely to the owner of the bullies, and then separately went and spoke to the owner of the pit bull. I commented on how handsome the dog was (really, he was) and mentioned that the dog didn’t look like he was having much fun. We chatted a bit and I explained that once the teenager became an adult he might not roll over so easily, and might well fight back instead. And that, unfortunately, does not often end well for pit bulls, regardless of whose fault a fight is.

I wish this incident were unusual, but it’s not. I see dogs being bullied by other dogs all the time. Some owners stand there, chatting away, completely oblivious to their dogs’ behavior. Others explain it away, saying things like, “Oh, they’re only playing” or “Dogs will be dogs.” I’ve even seen one owner laugh about his dog humping another, saying, “That’s his wrestling move.” Know what? It’s not funny, and it’s not okay. Sure, humping can be part of play and if the humpee doesn’t mind, fine. But if he clearly does mind, that’s when the line has been crossed from rough, dominant play to bullying. If a dog is lying there for a prolonged time, afraid to get up, that’s no longer play. That type of interaction can be dangerous, either in the moment if the bullied dog decides he’s had enough, or in the future, when the bullied dog matures, and is decides he’s simply not going to take it anymore. It is true that some dogs stay submissive all their lives, and never retaliate or stand up for themselves. Does that excuse bullying? Nope. It just means that poor dog is in for a lifetime of it.

Not everyone is aware of the intricacies of canine body language and behavior, but I think we’re all pretty clear on when a dog is being steamrolled by others, especially when it’s happening repeatedly or non-stop. The dogs aren’t likely to stop the interaction; it’s up to the owners to intercede. Even at home, having one dog who bullies another constantly is very likely to lead to the bullied dog going out and doing the exact same thing to others. It’s just one more reason to—sing it with me now—don’t let your puppies grow up to be bullies.
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You can find my books (including my latest Keeping the Peace) and seminar DVDs at www.nicolewilde.com, and my artwork at www.photomagicalart.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter.

7 Responses to Mamas, Don’t Let Your Puppies Grow Up to be Bullies

  1. Puppylover88 says:

    Thank you for posting this. It is fascinating. I too have a part time bully in my house that needs to be watched closely. There’s a pecking order going on. I don’t let him get away w/it. He plays a little rough and needs to be gently taught otherwise, all the time. Thank you.

  2. Bobbie says:

    This is exactly what happened to my dog. I took her to a dog park in our small town when she was eight months old where there was a group of dogs who were used to playing together. They would often bully her which worried me but the regulars assured me that she’d “find her place”. One day she had enough and turned on one of them. That was the last time at the dog park. I now have a 95 pound German Shepherd who has never met a person she doesn’t like, but is reactive to any dog who looks at her.

    • wildewmn says:

      I’m so sorry to hear this, Bobby. This unfortunate story illustrates exactly what I’m talking about. I wish more people would at least be open to considering that this can happen, rather than having such a cavalier attitude.

      • Puppylover88 says:

        This reminds me of the time I took my JRT to the doggy beach. Three labs ran up to her and flattened her to the ground like a pancake. It was traumatic to all. At least the owners were apologetic. She survived, but I will never do that to a dog again. I cannot do dog parks. Too volatile of a situation, sorry to say.

  3. Storulven says:

    Reblogged this on AkashaTalking and commented:
    A must read for dog people!

  4. Carmen honey says:

    Yep, this has happened to my dog, he is more flight than fight which just ends up in him getting chased. Some dogs are so nasty they will herd him away from us as he and we try to get to each other. It’s usually German Sheppards and Collies, those working dogs who sit at home most of the day (I think that is what leads to a lot of the problems those breeds cause at dogs parks).

    Just two days ago I was sitting on the beach with my boy in my lap (sleepy bear lol) and was bailed up by two chihuahuas showing teeth and were yapping and growling so loud that it hurt my ears, I honestly felt scared because they were so close to my bare arms. I had to fling sand at these dogs faces as I knew if my dog even sniffed at these dogs he would be bitten, and if he bites back he would be the villain and be euthanised (he’s a staffy or aka to dumb humans a great white shark ready to kill). The owners of course by this time had just walked on and left me to deal with their monsters.

    Thankfully my boy has never bitten but he has shown teeth and made horrible noises and thankfully that snaps the aggressor out of it so I can get to him. It really pisses me of when owners just stand there, even more when they call their dog knowing they have no recall training.

    My dog is not perfect, I wish I had done a few things different but I know him well and can control 90% of experiences so he grows positively as a dog.

    P.S A decent recall can prevent a lot of bad things happening, it is one of the things I’m so so thankful we have down pat. 🐕🐩🐕🐩

    • wildewmn says:

      Carmen, it’s sad that this has happened to your dog as well. And especially being a bully breed, of course against 2 Chihuahuas, it would not have been a good thing had he retaliated and the Chi owner blamed him. You’re so right that a solid recall can prevent tragedy–it’s a matter of the owners actually using it.

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