He tried to separate two dogs that were arguing and was attacked by his own Doberman in a violent way. It happened in the city of Jervois in South Australia. Police intervened after receiving a report of a dog attacking a man and were forced to shoot the animal. Witnesses claim to have seen the man’s intervention in the dispute and the dog turning against him.
The owner, a 40-year-old, was first taken to Murray Bridge hospital but then had to be airlifted to Flinders Medical Center in Adelaide. Here he underwent a difficult surgery but his life is not in danger. The police spokesman said the dog was subjected to euthanasia at the request of the municipality.
“Cases like this can happen, and they are not that rare, even if not always so dramatic – he explains Luca Spennacchio, canine instructor, teacher and author of various books on dogs – I am unable to provide an in-depth comment on the incident because there is little information, we do not know the type of relationship between the dog and the attacked person, and it is not enough to know that the man was the owner to figure it out. We are not even given to know the dog’s state of health: very violent behavior on his part could also have had unmonitored clinical origins ”.
The Dobermann is a recently born breed, recognized in 1898, in Germany. The selection from which it was born is not clear, the basis was the pinscher, then probably the rottweiler, the greyhound, the ancestor of the German shepherd and others. It was used in the First World War for guard duty but also for searching for missing persons. He bonds closely with his owner, learns easily and is also a good companion dog. According to psychologist Stanley Coren, it is ranked fifth among the smartest dogs in the world.
“What happened looks just like a case of redirected aggression, which in essence is an aggression aimed at a third party not directly involved in a conflict or with the trigger of the aggression. This behavior can see both a human being and another as a victim animal, another dog, for example, who to some extent interfere in a fight: in this case the man tried to intervene to stop his dog’s violent aggression against another subject”, continues Spennacchio.
But why could such a thing happen? “The elements to take into consideration are: the level of arousal and the emotional state of the dog. Obviously when a dog attacks another dog there can be many reasons, for example territorial defence, inter-species socialization problems, fear, protection of someone or something, and so on. In these situations, the dog’s level of excitement skyrockets, supported by mostly negative emotions, such as fear or anger. When a dog is in these conditions, his state of disposition changes from ‘reflective’ to ‘reactive’, and this is where the trouble starts.The higher the level of excitement (which is called arousal in psychology) the more the situation worsens because a very high level of reactivity causes the subject, in this case the Doberman, to lose his lucidity”.
This is probably what happened in Australia, and it has nothing to do with the breed of the dog. “This sort of blurring and reactive, fast response, conducted with the maximum possible intensity, exposes anyone who intrudes to the same aggression that the dog was leading towards another referent, regardless of the type of social relationship existing between individuals. It is not in fact, it is rare to see the two dogs of the house, which always get along, intervene violently at the gate because they are solicited by something (e.g.: an intruder, another dog, a cat, man, etc.) end up fighting just because in the heat they touched. Physical contact, in these situations, is central. Tactile solicitation, when an individual is in the aforementioned state of excitement and reactivity, is the trigger of the redirected behavior. Basically, the dog does not realize account (he is not lucid) to continue the aggression on his human companion”.
Generally however, after a first bite, the dog realizes what is happening and stops the aggression. Why didn’t this happen in this case? The reasons can be many. “the dog could have been suffering from violent pain at that moment, or had chronic pain that exploded in that precise circumstance, or because in defending himself, the man fomented the aggression even more, preventing the dog from regaining lucidity… I am but only assumptions that would require, as mentioned, a more in-depth analysis”.
Intervention in a dog fight is a very complex topic that deserves a separate chapter. You should always keep your cool, don’t scream, don’t intervene except in some cases and with certain moves. But that’s another story.