We have a pair of Alsatians of similar age (2 years) which we reared from pups and a couple of ‘inherited’ cross breed dogs, from our predecessors who gave us the ultimatum four years ago; ‘If you don’t take them then they’ll have to be put down’. One is a feisty terrier cross and the other a male Labrador/ridgeback cross who was a rescue dog and has a docile temperament. This week two fights have been between the pair of Alsatians and the older nine year old terrier, the latter seems to have a death wish.
Almost everyone I know over here owns a dog, more often than not for ‘security’ reasons rather than simply as loveable pets. The idea is that their barks might be a deterrent to any intruders who might set on masterminding an armed hold up at your house. A pair of full size Alsatians barking and jumping up at the gate can be quite off putting to outsiders. The way we keep dogs here is usually a far cry from the British way, where dogs are considered family members and owners willingly share sofas, even beds with their precious mutts and are happy to go for walks carrying specially designed poop bags.
Most people here have ‘outdoor’ dogs and out of doors is exactly where they live. Feeding is often delegated to gardeners or house staff and thanks to a fairly clement year round climate, they can comfortably sleep outside, even if you are running the remote risk that your dog will be ‘taken’ by a rogue leopard or hyena during the night. (N.b. this still does happen occasionally in some suburbs of Nairobi).
Anyway, the dogs do have a nasty habit of impinging on their owner’s consciousness when they start a vicious fight whilst guests are visiting for tea. Adrenalin starts pumping and children are screaming as the dogs terrifyingly begin to pull chunks off one another in a ball of flying fur, blood and noise. Last Monday, I had one kind friend holding the back legs of our larger Alsatian and reversing in a kind of ‘wheelbarrow’ motion whilst another friend was trying to grab the second Alsatian by the scruff of the neck; meanwhile the terrier was locked between both sets of jaws and looked in danger of being pulled in two. ‘What were you doing then?’ I hear you ask. Well, the honest answer would be ‘just standing hopelessly, hoarsely screaming at the dogs’. The agony of dog fights is that they seem to go into a kind of blind ‘killer’ mode and can’t hear or obey you. When we finally managed to prise the canines a part, a trip to the vet was necessary, stitches put in and eye drops administered.
This was the first time such a fight had taken place between these dogs and I hoped it was a one off but sadly they were at it again yesterday afternoon. The second time round we found that a bucket of cold water shocked the dogs enough to momentarily release their grip, giving us precious seconds to separate them. Now we are keeping the little one from the others which means lots of shouting; ‘shut the door!’ and ‘don’t let the dog out!’ and we plan to send the Alsatian, who was instigator of the fights, to be spayed next week. The sweet old rescue dog was not involved.
A year or two ago other dog fights we were experiencing had also involved the little terrier but were started by a pure breed Doberman who had been ‘passed on’ to us by fellow expats in Tanzania who had been posted from there to an apartment in Nigeria. This time the Doberman and our Alsatian who has since died, viciously fought whilst the terrier attempted to chip in with some nips here and there for good measure. The situation worsened with more and more recurrences of dog fights. Our nerves were jangling and vets bills skyrocketing to we ended up finding a kind friend who was willing to take on the rather beautiful Doberman. Over the past two years we discovered that the Doberman has killed the kind friend’s faithful old cat and nearly killed her other dog on a number of occasions. It was therefore a joint decision to find a new home for the pure breed via a dog home nearby. A few weeks ago, the proprietor of ‘Puddle Pets’ rang to say; ‘I’ve found a great place for your Doberman! The people have no other dogs, just a couple of cats, do you think it’ll be a problem?’ ‘I’m afraid that won’t do’ we reluctantly admitted, imagining scenes of carnage.
Any helpful advice on how to tackle dog fight problems would be most welcome….