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Jim Williams



Dog Bullying

People often ask why certain dogs and people are constantly bullied/ intimidated by other dogs and other dogs and people are left alone. It is because of the natural rank of the dog or person and the signals and energy that dog or person gives off, combined with the level of energy of the dogs doing the bullying. Dogs sense weak, negative energy and want to correct it. It all boils down to survival of the pack and keeping strength in the pack (hence why only the alphas are allowed to mate in a wolf pack). If you study the natural behaviour in wolf packs, you will often see the higher ranking dogs bullying the weak Omega dog when they all have heightened energy (eg. playtime/ the hunt). If you always maintain a calm but assertive energy around dogs, then they will most likely leave you alone. If you show weakness and/ or let your energy be heightened by jumping up and down, running, squealing etc. around dogs, then you are more likely to be given a warning nip by the dogs to calm you down.


In HK our local Asiatic dogs are direct descendants from the Chinese wolf, so their natural instincts are more prevalent than in certain breed dogs. I often see this bullying behaviour amongst them, especially in village settings, where the villager’s dogs are let out and left to roam around the village without supervision or any form of mental or physical stimulation. It either happens immediately (i.e. when they are first let out with heightened energy) or when they seem to get bored and look for things to stimulate them (chase cyclists, joggers, cats, cars, the Pizza Hut delivery guy etc.). If they can't find anything (or the thing they found to chase has gone away) and their energy levels have increased, then they often turn on the weakest member of the pack and bully them. If they are supervised by an effective human pack leader and their energy is channeled into walking or playing games, then this is less likely to happen.


If you make sure that the energy level of your dog is always very low before you take them out for walks and you always stay calm and assertive and keep your dogs energy levels low throughout the walk, then bullying or protective/ aggressive behaviour by your dogs is less likely to happen (but may still occur, as at the end of the day, dogs are predatory animals). As soon as you see any unwanted behaviour, you need to correct it by calling the dog to you and calming it down. The important thing is to be a good pack leader, stay calm and assertive and keep your dogs and the people/ other animals around you safe. If you have a nervous or fearful dog then other dogs may want to bully it, so you need to stay calm and assertive, protect your dog and try to avoid walking your dog in areas where there are unsupervised and/ or unleashed dogs. Always remember that Lassie does not exist and dogs act instinctively to situations. You need to learn to manage your dog’s individual personality traits calmly and safely and try to avoid situations/ places/ other dogs/ people that cause/ increase unwanted behaviour in your dog or other dogs.


As “time outs” are not an option on walks/ outings, I find a “calm hold” helps to calm the dog down. Get the dog to sit and hold it calmly and firmly by the collar at the back of it’s neck (make sure the collar is not too tight or too lose; so that the dog cannot get away but it is comfortable and can breathe easily). It is often one dog in the pack that is winding the others up, so if you calmly hold that dog in a calm hold and lower its energy level, then the other dogs’ energy levels will follow. It is vital that you stay calm and assertive throughout this process, as your energy will be reflected to the dog.


If you are in a dog park/ country park/ ungazetted beach setting, then you should not let your dog off leash with heightened energy. You need to wait until their energy level is low before you let them off (and only if the area is safe and you have already established 100% recall with that particular dog). If you have more than one dog, then you should never let all the dogs off at the same time (i.e. in one go). You can let one dog off leash at a time but only when each dog’s energy level is low, there is an obvious gap since you let the last one off and all dogs’ energy levels are low before you let the next one off. You can then do things (like play ball and practicing recall/ sit/ stay/ come/ heal/ leave it etc.) to channel your dogs energy into something positive and to keep them focused. If you have a dog that needs a lot of mental and physical stimulation, then perhaps you could try doing agility courses with them.



If you have a pack of dogs, then you need to be extra careful that your dogs do not pack up against individual dogs or other packs. It is a fine line (that takes experience to see) between allowing your dogs good playtime with other dogs and letting their energy levels increase to the point that you and/ or the other dog owners cannot control them. If in doubt, do not let your dog(s) off leash. A safe and a stress free environment is what will really help you (and others) to enjoy spending quality time with our four legged friend(s) .

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