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Little Bits of All Sorts continued 2

Romania revisited

This week I returned to Romania hoping the EU had managed to confirm a meeting with the mayor of Bucharest in order to learn about his personal views of their roaming dog problem. A little bit late in the day I understand there is an EU government letter waiting for me back in the UK stating that they have been unable to organise this because of Easter and this being Romania’s electoral year.

Never the less I have met old friends again and been introduced to many new ones all of whom have lavished me with more good food, drink and friendly hospitality.

As far as the drink goes everyone seems to have plastic soft drinks bottles full of some interesting fruity brew that should come with an alcoholic warning. Some have a beautiful smooth sweet taste which I love and have what I can only describe as having an after shock that literally takes your breath away as well as removal of ones memory. Whilst I have been here, I have had a cold and though these drinks may not be a cure, they at least stop me caring.

I have seen more of the roaming dog population but this time met many of the normal pet dogs owned by ordinary Romanians. Even though there is the largest number of roaming dogs anywhere in the world there is non-the less a thriving pet dog population with the usual dog breed and obedience competitions.

None of the dogs I encountered showed aggression and the consensus here is that most roaming dogs are not frightening. All the dogs I actually met would when I stroked their muzzles show differing levels of submission with many rolling over on to their backs.

It is possible that some guard dogs kept in private grounds will be very aggressive but these they say are rare and certainly not like the percentage that we see in Spain.

In general, most Romanians have no choice but to tolerate roaming dogs, as they are everywhere. With such numbers, they find it easier to simply ignore them. This is interesting as this is an important method of self-protection. I too use the same trick whenever I visit the home of an aggressive dog.

On this visit, I had the opportunity to meet a local Police dog handler. For me this was very interesting but it was still easy to see that the training involves the enforcement method. Though the dog would chase a ball, it showed no interest in playing with it as a valued toy.

I have not yet seen the duties required of a Romanian Police dog but tracking searching and agility training do not seem to be evident. It was though encouraging that the dog showed no sign of aggression and only wished to play with everyone and with the other dogs.

For Romanian roaming dogs, food is plentiful so there is no competition between them and so no need for aggression either over resources or for personal territory. This is a problem throughout Europe as everywhere there are always far more rubbish bins than there are numbers of dogs and increasingly other preditors like foxes and bears.

Looking at so many dogs with plenty of food they simply wander about or play together. You can often see these dogs lying asleep in the warm sun next to a road, path, railway line, park or bus shelter in fact anywhere they are not likely to be disturbed.

Travelling back to Bucharest I witnessed a number of flocks of sheep where roaming dogs simply walked right through them without scaring them. They only gave the dogs a cursory glance and this looked like quite a normal sight. The sheep must be so use to seeing roaming dogs so they have no fear of them. For the dogs why hunt sheep when food is so easy to obtain.

If you ever watch a nature programme where predators are hunting some herd of game they will all run to escape being hunted. Once the predators catch and kill one of the animals in the herd the need to escape for the rest ceases and they will recommence grazing even close to the predators as they eat their kill.

This is simply they recognise the predators have stopped showing predatory aggression because they have stopped hunting. It is the same with the roaming dogs passing through the flock of sheep where they too recognise the dogs are not showing predatory aggression because the dogs are not hungry so the sheep know they have nothing to fear.

The shape of dogs to come

I see many different shapes of dogs in my work and the normal wolf head appearance is still the most common. I have though begun to notice that more often I see the shape of the mastiff head occurring in crossbreeds more frequently.

One of the greatest genetic advances in the Canine world must be the biting power achieved by dog breeders using selective breeding that have culminated with the American Pit Bull. Whilst German Shepherds may achieve a bite of 300 to 400 pounds per square inch, the Pit bull can achieve 1500 pounds per square inch. This is awesome power and for me has no place in our civilised world.

The improvement in such bite power must be something similar to the American Red Indians changing from bows and arrows to using the rifle. This certainly changed them into phenomenal enemies but imagine the sort of canine bite power with a wolf if this gene ever crossed from domesticated dogs. This would make wolves one of the most powerful preditors of our time.

This is unlikely to happen because domesticated dog have no idea how to lead a pack; this is a learned skill not a genetic skill. Even if a cross breed Pit Bull could kill the Alpha Male of a wolf pack he could never successfully lead them so the pack would die out.

As we can see from all the examples of roaming dogs in the world they live the life of loaners because food is so plentiful, it does not require a need for them to hunt together.

There is always the possibility that somehow this mastiff gene could cross over into the wild. Should wolves ever acquire this then man would face a very powerful and frightening predator?

We understand Dogs better today

Quantum mechanics is not so difficult to learn today because we understand most of the laws and rules. Once knowing these rules then understanding becomes easier and it is the same for training dogs. We know so much, of what makes our dogs tick today that training and correctional work is becoming increasingly easier for anyone to learn. Much of what we are learning now seems quite logical.

Very many years ago when I was just beginning with Police and competition dogs, we had an interesting incident. We had many theories of why this happened but with our current knowledge, it is far easier to understand.

In York, some how someone had left the garden gate open letting the owner’s dog escape. Passers by were so alarmed and scared they called the Police. Shortly afterwards the house was surrounded by police officers all kept at bay by one highly aggressive dog.

Pc Alan Smith and Pc (Big) John Poole of the then York Police Dog section were on duty and shortly after a radio call arrived at the scene. Alan Smith simply got out of the dog van and walked straight over to the house. He walked into the garden without even looking at the dog. He then walked right past it, completed an about turn, walked up to the dog’s side and them with a pat on Alan’s leg he then walked the dog back into the back garden, and shut the gate: end of incident.

Why did this work? Had the dog been to training classes or did Alan know the dog but was not admitting this. Was it Alan’s show of a dominant role that made the aggressive dog become submissive? Did the dog have a history of aggressive behaviour?

We learnt later from Alan that he had called in at the owner’s house to inform him what had happened and learned the dog was not aggressive at all. No one had even complained about the dog so what was the cause of the incident.

Quite simply the fear shown by the complainants boosted the dog’s confidence at its attempt to guard its house. Arrival of the Police also showing direct confrontational eye-to-eye contact and backing off from the dog made it more confident and even more aggressive. All these signs of fear simply boosted the dog’s confidence in its ability to guard it territory.

When Alan Smith walked into the garden and ignored the dog, as would a leader dog, it just submitted to the command of come which, what ever command is used, usually includes the handlers slapping his or hers left thigh.

Both Alan and John learned these skills from years of observations of working with dogs within the Police service. Now looking back we are better able to understand why so many previously observed actions and solutions worked.

I still use the same technique of ignoring the dog today whenever I enter property where there is believed to be an aggressive dog. Only the other month I telephoned the owners of two such supposedly aggressive dogs to tell them I was close to their property and would they unlock the gate so I could walk in. They were surprised that I did not wish the dogs to wear muzzles or leads and for the owners just to stand in the garden near their house and I would walk in to meet them.

Again, even though there was a major show of aggression because I did not look at them and as I was not an apparent threat an actual attack was unnecessary. I can also lick my lips, as this too is a sign to dogs that I mean them no harm so helps me act out an appearance of being a leader type dog that they recognise.

Today with so many people investigating canine behaviour we now have a mass of documented evidence of how better to understand many of the body stances, language and what it is canines are needing to achieve and why.

You may recall the young lady who was fearful of dogs in her street and her dog reacted to her fear so showing these dogs major aggression in order to protect her. Once she was aware of this, she stopped showing her fear, and her dog stopped showing aggression: it was as simple as that.

Dogs in the infinite pack are not naturally dangerously aggressive to one another or towards humans. It is are use of protectionism and using dogs for personal and boundary protection that creates aggression. Peace with our dogs comes from sociability.

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