Recently I visited a leash-free canine wonderland in Vermont. While there, my dog was attacked by another dog without warning or provocation. Actually, my 25-pound, well-behaved, leashed, neutered 20-month-old male Cocker Spaniel was attacked by two unleashed, aggressive dogs.
I’ve heard when something traumatic happens, it’s as if life is moving in slow motion. What was a 15-second attack felt like an eternity. The attack was traumatic and distressing, but I refuse to let it dictate my Cocker Spaniel’s well-being or attitude toward dogs.
Dog attacks on other dogs are on the rise. The AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) says at least 4.5 million dog bites in the United States every year involve people. If you search “dog bites” in your favorite search engine, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of reports every day.
Looking back, I should have done things differently before my dog got attacked. As a Cocker Spaniel expert of over 30 years, I always want to learn. Let my experience be a guide for you should your dog ever be involved in a dog attack.
What Happened When My Dog Was Attacked By Another Dog
My spouse and I were visiting Dog Mountain in Vermont for the fourth time. Dog Mountain features 150 acres of land for dogs to roam, a dog chapel, and a gallery in St. Johnsbury. It features a pond, trails, and fields for off-leash roaming. Rules are posted online, and aggressive dogs are not welcome.
On this particular beautiful fall day, we shopped at the gallery, spent time at Dog Chapel, and looked forward to a relaxing afternoon with our dog, Alvin.
We decided to explore the pond area and move on to the agility course. We spent about 10 minutes sitting at a picnic table, taking in the breathtaking beauty of Vermont’s fall foliage when the attack occurred.
From out of nowhere, two snarling Boxer dogs looked down on us from atop a hill about 75 yards away. The dogs charged at us, circled our picnic table, and bolted back up the hill.
“Stop it, get out,” my spouse shouted.
No other humans were in sight.
I slowly rose from the table to walk away, as Alvin was right by my side. We only had a small poop bag holder, a water bowl, a container of drinking water, and a 50-foot lead we planned to use later that day.
As we tried to leave, the dogs charged us again, circled our table, and lunged into the nearby pond. After slurping the stagnant, dirty water, things got worse.
The two Boxer dogs charged us and tried to bite and attack Alvin. My mind immediately went into life-or-death mode. Alvin was wearing a harness attached to a six-foot lead.
I screamed at the dogs. Alvin was squirming and trying not to get bit as I tried to lift him into my arms. After about 15 seconds, I was successful. Throughout that time, the dogs snapped and lunged at Alvin like their prey.
Descending from the trail, three older people appeared: two women and one man. All three witnessed the attack and did nothing.
The man jokingly said to us, “They’re just playing and egging each other on.”
I am a dog lover of the highest order and well-versed in dog behavior. Those dogs were not playing. This was a dog fight, and my dog was their innocent target.
They were attempting to attack us and then our dog.
After The Dog Attack
Thank Dog for my spouse, Darlene. I went pale and nearly fainted but kept my composure. She did everything she could during the attack to keep the dogs away from me and Alvin, even swatting one of the dogs with the leash clip on the 50-foot lead. It didn’t even phase the dog.
I immediately examined Alvin while yelling at the people to ‘leash their dogs!’
He was not bit, but we were all visibly shaken and distraught.
We slowly walked away as the people acted as if nothing happened. One of the women grabbed the female Boxer, leashed her, and left down the dirt road. We have no idea if she was the owner of the dog.
The man was angry and told me, “It would make things worse to leash the dog.”
The third woman asked what we planned to do. Darlene and I ignored her because I feared what they might try to do to us.
I walked slowly to our vehicle, closely examining Alvin and giving him water. The most important thing is that Alvin was physically fine.
We shared our nightmare with the two female workers at the gallery. One of the women was leaving for lunch with her dog, who was chased into the gallery earlier that morning by the same dogs!
We could not stay at the mountain any longer. It was too traumatic, we were upset, and we didn’t want to risk Alvin’s well-being in an unleashed setting.
Dog Mountain’s Rules and Reaction To My Dog’s Attack
Dog Mountain’s website states, “Leashes are optional on Dog Mountain. Dogs are not just welcome here, they are cherished. Dogs are free to run, play, swim, and, best of all, meet other dogs. The dog ponds and obstacle course are pup favorites!”
On their website, I filed an Incident Report. I received a phone call the next day to discuss the attack. The woman I spoke with stated she saw the people in the parking lot while leaving for lunch. She told them not to return as aggressive dogs are not welcome. The dog’s owner had no business being there in the first place!
There are rules in place at Dog Mountain, and aggressive dogs are not welcome. They are not responsible for the attack, which I understand. However, those people had no right to bring extremely aggressive dogs to Dog Mountain without leashes.
What I Wish I Did Before My Dog Got Attacked
Learn from our mistakes. Before our dog was attacked, these are things I wish I had done:
- Keep a dog repellent spray on me at all times. I always carry personal protection in the event of an attack. On this particular day, at that particular moment, I left it back at our hotel.
- Took photos of the people and their dogs and tried to get a license plate. Get the owner’s phone number. We were both so stunned and in shock that we didn’t think of this. I could have given that information to Dog Mountain and possibly the police.
- Do not frequent an area where unleashed dogs are free to roam. The majority of people we encountered over the years at Dog Mountain were amazing, and so were their dogs. All it takes is one, or in our case, two.
- Stayed at the gallery and chapel and did not visit the off-leash 150 acres of land. This was one of the main reasons we visited Dog Mountain, but we will not frequent off-leash properties going forward.
I don’t know if the dog-repellent spray would have made a difference, but we’ll never know. The first thing I did was pack the repellent spray into my walking pouch.
Dogs deserve to have fun and be off-leash if they can be supervised and are properly trained. Sadly, not all people believe in or follow these basic common sense rules. Dog-on-dog attacks happen more than many people realize. There’s a reason Dog Mountain has a page of rules and an incident report link.
The owners of these dogs had to know they showed clear signs of aggression. They openly admitted the dogs do this all the time and ‘egg each other on.’ The humans and their dogs do not belong in a public place like Dog Mountain. Responsible owners know better, and these people were ignorant to it all.
After our second Cocker Spaniel, Dexter, got kennel cough twice, we also stopped going to dog parks many years ago. A month after stopping dog park visits, a wolf-hybrid attacked and killed a Yorkie. The park was eventually closed. It’s a good idea to understand the rules of any park your dog frequents.
Another famed dog trainer, Victoria Stillwell, says if an aggressive dog is attacking, you should:
- Avoid eye contact
- Turn away slowly
- Cross your arms
- Ignore the attacking dog(s)
- Be still and attempt to move away
- Try to get to an area where a barrier can separate you from the dog
None of that worked for us, as the aggressive dogs were trying to harm Alvin. Stillwell feels spraying an attacking dog with pepper spray could make things worse.
What To Do If Another Dog Bites Your Dog
If another dog bites or attacks your dog, there are things you need to do immediately. Our situation could have been much worse. I shudder to think of what could have happened. We are fortunate and lucky, and I truly feel our canine angels, Brandy Noel and Dexter, stopped what would have been a fatal attack.
If another dog bites your dog, here is what to do:
- Tend to your dog immediately. Examine your dog head to toe, face, body, tail, gums and mouth, legs, etc. Puncture wounds can be tricky and hidden. Immediate medical attention is paramount.
- Get the other dog owner’s name, address, and contact details. Take pictures then and there. Gather as much contact information as you can.
- Get the other dog’s vaccination records. You really want to be sure the dog is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination. Likely, the owner will not be carrying the rabies certificate, so follow up.
- Get any witnesses’ names, phone numbers, and contact information.
- Take photos of your dog, the injuries, and video if possible.
Your dog will be upset and not even understand what is happening immediately after the attack. If your dog is nervous or has pain, he may lash out without realizing what’s going on. Dogs with a serious injury may bite if they are in pain.
Do your best to stop bleeding, cover wounds, and locate the nearest emergency veterinary facility. Even if the bite wounds do not appear bad, they should be examined, cleaned, and further assessed by a veterinarian.
Your Legal Rights When Another Dog Attacks Your Dog
When a dog injures, maims, or kills, the owner is ultimately responsible and can face fines, a lawsuit, or jail time.
We had no legal recourse because our dog was attacked, but no direct contact was made. If your dog is bitten by another dog during an attack, here are some things you should do.
- Document the incident and collect information as listed above.
- Take photos, collect details, and keep hold of it.
- Know your state’s leash laws.
- Report the incident to local animal control and local authorities. Consider filing a police report.
- Look into local law and dog bite laws to determine what course of action you have.
- Depending on local laws, Medical expenses and veterinary bills may be reimbursed. This is often handled in civil or small claims court.
- Consult with an attorney for legal advice to determine if legal action can be taken for something like negligence.
Make sure you consult with an attorney specializing in animal law or personal injury to fully understand your legal options.
Know How To Read Dog Body Language
In our case, nothing could have stopped the attack. There were no warning signs, no posturing, and no owners to stop their dog’s erratic, aggressive behavior.
Each dog has their own personality and quirks, just like people. However, dogs have body language, too, so watch for these tell-tale signs and what they mean:
How To Help Your Dog Recover From A Dog Attack
Laurie Williams, founder of Pup ‘N Iron Dog Training, says aggressive dogs are a risk to others and themselves. She believes no dog wants to be aggressive, but rather, the dogs are in constant turmoil and mental anguish. Owners, she relates, should treat the situation as they would any other life-threatening illness.
Your dog will likely suffer some form of trauma or distress from an attack. Our greatest fear was that our dog might be afraid of other dogs. That is not the case at all.
Give your dog plenty of time and space to be around other dogs. This isn’t always the case, even if you ask an owner if their dog is friendly.
You may need to consult with a positive reinforcement trainer if your dog’s long-term behavior is affected. Extra love and emotional support is always key.
We continued our vacation and took Alvin on walks and to play. He was fine within 30 minutes of the attack. Realizing dogs pick up on human moods, we smiled, laughed, and left the anxiety and tears for when the dog was in another room. Hotel bathrooms are great for letting out all the emotional distress we felt.
The best thing we did is continue on with our vacation, keep Alvin active and happy, and make sure he didn’t become a fearful dog.
Has your dog ever been involved in a dog attack? Let us know in the comments below.