My oldest daughter and I watched “ParaNorman” the other night which is a movie that highlights bullying. My daughter was recently a target of bullying. The school did an excellent job of dealing with the issue but for my daughter understanding why it happened to her was very difficult.
Our dogs can also experience bullying but in dogs we usually have much clearer answers for the why. For example some breeds of dogs look different making them a target. A study found that dogs with shorter tails get into more fights because other dogs misread their signals. Chows have more problems with other dogs because their hair always looks like it is standing up. Sheepdogs fur often times covers their eyes leading to mixed signals and increased risk for a dog fight. Our Husky Alusia Sue is snarky with other dogs so she will growl and walk away. Our foster dog is fearful of big dogs so she will growl and snap at them while backing away. All of these things attribute to dog fights and can lead to bullying. For example a fearful dog is giving off very mixed signals both chemically and physically which can make even the most neutral dog react to them. A sick dog may get attacked because another dog does not understand them. Unlike in humans most of the time if we look at a situation carefully we can figure out what caused the bullying with the dog. Usually it was that the dog misread a signal or another dog was giving off a strange odor due to fear or illness.
So what can dog owners do? Be vigilant, watch body language carefully. I’m not a huge supporter of dog parks largely because some owners don’t watch their dogs and I often times see one dog bullying and another dog cowering unnoticed by either owner. So I can’t stress enough to stay vigilant and as we would with our kids stop bullying before it escalates, the warning signs are always there. Also remember your dog may be the bully or the victim and those roles can change depending on the situation. The best thing to do is remove your dog and come back another day. If you continue having issues then first get a wellness exam to make sure your dog is healthy and then seek the help of a professional dog trainer in your area.