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Discussion Starter #1
Background:
Fluffy is a 5 month old miniature american eskimo puppy who is normally shy around people but not so much around dogs.
Fluffy never so far shows any aggression towards other dogs unless the other dogs initiated it.
Scenario:
#1 (This was located in San Mateo) I was at a park bbq with gf's family and I brought Fluffy so she can meet the rest of my gf's family and play in the park too but she was leashed the entire time(Easier to supervise). Another owner walking three dogs walks by and the pitbull notices Fluffy (I had a bad feeling so picked her up in my arms), about 10seconds after I picked her up somehow the pitbull escapes and runs toward me (I still had fluffy in my arms) snarling/teeth baring and tackles my leg. I almost lost balance because the dog tackled my left leg (which is my bad leg) but was able to recover and the owner quickly runs up grabs the pitbull by the collar and pins it down, apologizes then takes her away.
The entire family and I was shocked at what happened and if I hadn't picked her up, things would have been a lot worse.
#2 (This was in S.F) I was leash walking Fluffy one night and as I was passing this laundromat on the right, when a pitbull (what are the odds? and at least 60lbs/fairly big from what i can tell and not on a leash), dashes at Fluffy(she was on the left and about 2 feet ahead), snarling/teeth showing out the store towards Fluffy. This was during 8pm and no other dogs were around me. Fluffy notices and runs the opposite direction left, towards the street. I tighten the leash on my left hand so she can't get away and at the same time I use my right hand and like a claw machine I drove my hand into the dogs neck from the top and pinned it to the ground.
The owner came out quickly grabs the pitbull and apologizes while being very surprised.

This is the first time owning a dog and while these are the biggest incidents that has occurred so far, I wanted to be prepared later in the future.
I have brought her to off leashed parks but only to play with the smaller dogs there. She has had some interactions with much bigger dogs but all of them has been fairly good.

Was my actions justified?
 

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Pretty sure you're misindentifying the breed of at least one of the dogs (based on your size description). However I'd keep Fluffy in the small dog area to help reduce the chance of further incidents. At times it's not dog aggression that's causes attacks on small dogs, but prey drive. MANY dogs, of all breeds, have issues with strong prey drive and it greatly increases the chance of a small dog being attacked by a larger one. You might also consider a play group of well adjusted dogs instead of the dog park, too many stupid people who don't have proper control of their dogs at the dog park.

I also suggest you play this little game to help you properly identify breeds
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Pretty sure you're misindentifying the breed of at least one of the dogs (based on your size description). However I'd keep Fluffy in the small dog area to help reduce the chance of further incidents. At times it's not dog aggression that's causes attacks on small dogs, but prey drive. MANY dogs, of all breeds, have issues with strong prey drive and it greatly increases the chance of a small dog being attacked by a larger one. You might also consider a play group of well adjusted dogs instead of the dog park, too many stupid people who don't have proper control of their dogs at the dog park.
Thanks for the advice. To me it looked very much like a pitbull in both situations. I could be wrong. I have attended small puppy social gatherings supervised by trainers but stopped that because it was too much money to fork each week. As for the parks, I drive around/walk in golden gate park and look/scout for areas where there are small dogs and have her socialize with them (if the owner is okay with it). I try to keep the socializing to a playful manner and be alert if I see any big dogs in view. If I do I usually leash her and keep her close by.
Play groups sounds like a pretty good idea. Thanks.
I have to agree with your last comment. Experiencing owning a dog first hand, people tend to overlook or exaggerate how much control they have of their dog and does not put as much consideration in other dogs well being.

As far as walks right now, whenever I notice a bigger dog ahead or near us, I walk to the opposite side of the street or pick her up until the bigger dog is gone.

While we can only control so much, if in the future a bigger dog lashes out or attacks my dog, am I allowed to respond by defending fluffy? If fluffy's within reach I would pick her up, scream at the other dog, use force to pin the other dog down, or worse kicking/punching the dog away? (I know I should never hit a dog and would never want to but just wanted to put that out there. I'm not fairly strong but I am confident about my striking power.)
 

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Could the second dog have possibly been not really trying to attack? None of my dogs have ever been attacked (or attacked anything) so I'm by no means an expert, but I don't see it being possible for someone to hold down a "pit bull" with one hand if that dog is seriously focused on attacking another dog. I have an 8 month old bully breed and I have a hard time holding her back with two hands if she gets too excited and just want to play with my other dog.

I would think you'd be allowed to protect your dog. If another dog was attacking then you can bet that I'd be hitting, kicking, and screaming to get it off my dog.
 

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In Texas (and probably other places as well), if a policeman comes onto your property for any reason, and the dog runs at the officer barking (not growling and snarling), the officer can shoot the dog. That's as extreme an example as I can think of.

You'll have to determine the specifics in California, as well as in dog parks, but I'm fairly sure that you have the right to defend yourself, your family, and your property with enough force to stop the attack.

As far as I know, it is OK to squirt a questionable dog in the face with a squirt gun filled with vinegar or ammonia. Most dogs will stop... some might enjoy it and think it's a game (you don't need to worry about those breeds).

On the other hand, as leahoo suggests, some dogs are only pests, not attackers. When my Lab mix was much younger, he would 'intimidate' smaller dogs (all dogs really, but large dogs understood play signals), running up and barking, as a request to play. Some owners got upset, other owners recognized the 'invitation' but asked me to retrieve my dog, b/c theirs wasn't interested, and some owners let their dog snark mine (which is appropriate in a dog park when you have the experience to recognize pest [soft dog] vs. attack [hard, focused, quick moving/or stiff dog]).

But anytime a loose dog comes at you or your dog, you always have the right to defend yourself... Even in a dog park, dogs are supposed to be watched by their owners and follow a little etiquette. However, I admit even my dog can still get away from me...
 

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Some times picking up a small dog actually causes more of a prey drive in the approaching dog. However leaving the small dog down, can be a bad choice as well. You definitely can defend your dog. Keep in mind, pinning a strange dog may actually lead to an attack on you. If you are having a lot of trouble with stray dogs trying to attack yours, a cattle prod works well. It keeps you out of harms way, and will stop most any dog, causing no permanent damage.
 

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Get a cattle prod or boat air horn or stun gun (the noise the stun gun makes when you turn it on sends most dogs running).
Avoid dog parks with large dogs.
 

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I've always liked the idea of an air horn...It gets attention, it may be painful, but it is comparatively harmless...
 

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I just picked up an airhorn myself. I've had a few situations where strange larger dogs have come running up and, not being exactly comfortable with larger dogs, I just screamed like a fool, LOL. Having an airhorn in my pocket makes me feel a little more secure.
 

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I'm not proud of it, but I've kicked dogs in the head and whacked them across the face with sticks and umbrellas. I'd feel terrible if they were permanently injured, but I'm not going to allow another dog to injure my dog*. If the owner gets upset, and they often do, I calmly point out that they make these amazing devices called "leashes" and if they would use one, this wouldn't be happening. That doesn't make anyone less upset at me, but it does make me happier to say it.


*I used to have a 90 GSD mix that was highly dog aggressive, so a year ago if I were kicking or hitting another dog, it was to protect that dog, because my dog would have killed them had they gotten too close. Now I have a 45 lb mix missing half his teeth, so it's my dog in danger.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Could the second dog have possibly been not really trying to attack? None of my dogs have ever been attacked (or attacked anything) so I'm by no means an expert, but I don't see it being possible for someone to hold down a "pit bull" with one hand if that dog is seriously focused on attacking another dog. I have an 8 month old bully breed and I have a hard time holding her back with two hands if she gets too excited and just want to play with my other dog.

I would think you'd be allowed to protect your dog. If another dog was attacking then you can bet that I'd be hitting, kicking, and screaming to get it off my dog.
From what I can tell the pitbull in the 2nd event acted the same way as the pitbull in the first event. And at the way it was growling, I could only assume it was going to attack as I never seen a dog acting like that if it wanted to play.
 

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If a dog were getting ready to attack myself and my family or my pets, I will defend them in whatever way I need to and I expect anyone in that situation to do the same.
Recently in our newspaper there was a dog attack. Someone was walking their dog and someone's Pitbull (Just a coincidence) attacked the dog and it's owner. The owner of the Pitbull tried to intervene and her arm got broke in the process. Both humans had to be ambulanced to the hospital and the small dog was sent to the vet with minor injuries. I don't know what's going to happen to the Pitbull, but it can't be good and I fully blame the owner.
While walking any of my dogs, I do my best to avoid any dogs that we may come in contact with, I don't even like dog barks.
I sometimes see ads in the paper or on Craigslist with people advertising dog play dates, it's not a bad idea if all people take the right precautions. I've been tempted to create my own in my area.
Sometimes local shelters also have something going on, a socialization type thing. I did it once years ago and I think it was $150, once a week for 6 weeks.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
If a dog were getting ready to attack myself and my family or my pets, I will defend them in whatever way I need to and I expect anyone in that situation to do the same.
Recently in our newspaper there was a dog attack. Someone was walking their dog and someone's Pitbull (Just a coincidence) attacked the dog and it's owner. The owner of the Pitbull tried to intervene and her arm got broke in the process. Both humans had to be ambulanced to the hospital and the small dog was sent to the vet with minor injuries. I don't know what's going to happen to the Pitbull, but it can't be good and I fully blame the owner.
While walking any of my dogs, I do my best to avoid any dogs that we may come in contact with, I don't even like dog barks.
I sometimes see ads in the paper or on Craigslist with people advertising dog play dates, it's not a bad idea if all people take the right precautions. I've been tempted to create my own in my area.
Sometimes local shelters also have something going on, a socialization type thing. I did it once years ago and I think it was $150, once a week for 6 weeks.
Wow, that's a pretty frightening attack. I never thought of craigslist but good idea!
The place I went for a puppy social gatherings was sfpuppyprep. You had to bring proof your dog was up to date on shots and the interactions was supervised by trainers. The price was $15 per gathering and it was held 3x a week. I attended it for about a month 2x a week.
 

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We have a pretty good dog park group that meet every night at the same time. Usually who is there varies on work schedules etc but last night we all showed up and there was an excess of 15 dogs at any given time. Everything from my 20lb rattie to a 8month old GSD well over 100lbs. There was no issues and all the dogs have met before. A friend brought a new rescue, a little pup and had him on the table because she was too small to be with the other dogs. A collie who comes every night and has never shown aggression bit me when he jumped on the table to get at her and I pulled him off. He has NEVER done that, but does bark non-stop at newer smaller dogs. I immediately grabbed him an moved him away from the table maybe a bit roughly but in concern for everyone else sitting there and held him until his owner came over to leash him. He then went after his owner, never breaking the skin but obvious deliberate bites. Was the owner upset with me for "manhandling" his dog? No. Because any responsible owner understands the aggressor needs to be stopped BEFORE someone gets hurt.

I have also seen pup play dates ads on CLs and think its a great idea, also many parks we have been too driving up and down the keys and south FL have 2 separate areas, one for big dogs and one for smaller ones. You should try to find one that has that and then there is less fear for you.
 

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From what I can tell the pitbull in the 2nd event acted the same way as the pitbull in the first event. And at the way it was growling, I could only assume it was going to attack as I never seen a dog acting like that if it wanted to play.
Hard to say really. Pit bulls in general are very vocal dogs and make growly, yelpy, whiny, etc noises for play or to get attention and such. When my dog and my recently adopted-out foster pit/lab mix would play in the backyard, I was surprised none of my neighbors showed up concerned. The growling and noises were LOUD. It also looked a little violent if one was not used to a)those dogs and b)dog body language. If the owner was truly surprised, then my guess is that it was not a dog-aggressive dog and the owner was more surprised by your reaction than by the dog's actions.
Dogs do slip their collars and leashes, even from responsible owners, so that is also a possible part of that equation.

I think you are justified in using REASONABLE force to protect your dog. I would however caution you on a few things-

One is that San Francisco and the Bay area in general have some of the strongest laws on weapons. I don't just mean guns, I mean weapons including stun guns, pepper spray etc. So before you carry anything tougher than a large Maglite (which is actually a great weapon if need be), find the law in writing that allows you to carry that item.

Also think of things to scare off a dog without permanently hurting them- air horns, water, pepper spray if legal, maybe vinegar but never ammonia or anything that could cause eye damage etc. I'd be pretty pissed if you permanently injured my dog when the worst my dog was going was rushing up to play (slipping a leash for example)

Two is learn dog body language. You want to use the minimum amount of force needed- I've had dogs rush me and my dogs before who were scared off enough with just shouting and a strong body posture. Those were mildly aggressive dogs, mainly being territorial. But I've had other dogs rush us just wanting to play. I simply held my dog behind me and shooed the dog away.

I had a previous foster pit bull slip her collar. It popped open and she darted for a big lab. She was 100% looking to play with that lab. The half dozen people walking with me on the hike agreed she was trying to play. She was bouncing around, open mouthed but never biting down, etc. all the signs of playing. The lab's owner freaked out and thought my pb was trying to kill her lab (who was very happily playing along). I really felt sorry for her panic, but I was doing my best to hold my other dog and grab the little loose one and she was simply screaming. Had she recognized the dogs' body language better like the other people around us, things would have been much smoother and less stressful. I'm not directly equating this to your experiences, simply showing the benefit of understanding different breed's play styles and such.
 

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I think it's the media that causes fear in people when it comes to large dogs. It seems like they are always eager to print about vicious dogs and certain breeds when the few times I have actually been bit, were by dogs under 10lbs.
I do get nervous when I see a dog running towards us, no matter the size or breed. I don't know that dog and I don't know how my own dogs would react to it either.
 
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