Two years ago I witnessed something I would never forget that reconfirmed the power and the danger of dependency.
It was my last night in India in 2014 working as a volunteer with Vets without Borders in Sikkim. I was out celebrating with a local Vet and three awesome young ladies that were also volunteering from NSW, TAS and NZ.
We walked down the main busy street past the bust of Mahatma Gandhi looking for a place to eat and celebrate and ended up in a Karaoke restaurant singing Rolling Stones and having several drinks.
On the way down the busy street the New Zealander decided to make friends with a street dog. This dog became so over excited that a human was paying attention to it. It was like watching kids on christmas day opening gifts. The dog and a couple of others then followed us full of excitement to the restaurant as we went upstairs for several hours.
When we came out the street dog and a couple of other dogs were waiting for us and again showed great excitement and affection to our Kiwi friend.
As we started walking the dog circled this young lady and aggressed the other dogs he was with. Then as we got a little bit further the dog started running out and showed strong aggression to any indian male that came within 20 feet of the group. As we all had a bit to drink we were a little slow off the mark but we thought it wasn't a good look having a bunch of Aussie and Kiwis with dogs trying to attack the locals.
As we walked further the dog aggressed and snapped another indian male walking near us. We all jumped in a taxi and headed home leaving the street dogs behind us.
The reason this was so extraordinary to me was the speed this street dog showed dependency and over protectiveness and established rang structure in the pack.
The street dogs of india have to scavenge for food and hang around bins or local food stores for the odd scrap food. The shopkeepers will smack or use a cane stick to whack the dog over the head to move it on.
So if this is how quick a street dog can become overprotective then think about the rescue dog that you are living with? The foster carer or new owner can cause most of the problems turning a dog that can be rehabilitated and have a wonderful life into a nightmare. As a result the dog my end up been put down.
I have had the pleasure to work with 100’s of dog welfare groups and animal control in many countries. I teach K9 evaluation for training and rehoming to many groups and I have a box full of K9 evaluation tests from around the world. So here are some tips to avoid some aggression problems.
Abused dogs may be unsocialized and have been beaten by the old owner so the dog may be timid to humans due to past experiences. The dog may also have no fear of other dogs as they have caused no bad experiences. If the dog is unsocialized to dogs or been attacked by another dog then you may see submission or aggression to dogs.
When the new owner or foster carer takes on the dog, this may be the first time the dog has seen such love and affection.
The dog will be much more prone to becoming super dependant on the owner and overprotective. So even if the dog is not human and animal aggressive you may see a change where the dog wants to attack anything that comes near the owner.
So I want to highlight this again the dog may be great around people and animals but through a strong dependency on the new owner the dog can become animal and human aggressive. This is because the dog may see other dogs or people as a threat to the rank structure and is defending his position but only around the owner.
The dog wants a pack leader and one of the worst things you can do is have the dog sleep in the bedroom. This will fast track the dependency and re-establish the dog as rank number two. This can be a danger to other family members as the dog my try to assert his dominance by growling or peeing in the other family members bedroom.
When you bring in a new dog to the family home, get the dog used to spending time on his own and have several people interact and walk him. Create the dog or put him outside at night and condition him right from the start to be solo half of the time.