“Wild Dog” Question and Answer
Occasionally I get a question that I think would be best answered via one of our blog posts. Either it is truly unique, or it is a question I get fairly frequently. Oddly enough this next question is one that almost fits both categories.
Although we don’t really hear much about this in the USA I have heard this question asked by people in other areas in the world where dogs run more as wild dogs.
My dog came to me in April and he was about 2 or 3 months old. (I live on an island in Thailand where there are far too many dogs and no owners; it is a Muslim island where dogs and cats have been breeding out of control so we have many stray packs of dogs. My dog got lost off a pack and ended up staying with us. I never tied him, let him run free in case he found his pack, our house is in the jungle, he has never been aggressive with neighbor’s dogs or other packs of stray dogs that roam by. He actually loves to play fight and will run or be scared or try to play with a pack leader. He had many dog friends.
As he got a few months older he became afraid of people. At our house he could play with other dogs and not really see people, the back of our house has a lot of jungle and he could easily keep his distance from people. If anyone walked by our house he would always watch them from a distance but not bark and if our friends came to our house he would bark or growl to protect his/our area.
Because Muslim people cannot touch a dog it makes it difficult to get him to like people because they do not want to be near him either, never mind give him food or pet him. So I would tell him to stop, give him treats, pet him and eventually he would relax until people would start to move again and REPEAT. He would listen and obey.
Now the problem I have is that we have moved house 3 weeks ago. WHERE? To a small village that is crowded with houses and people, children, cats, chickens, dogs, motorbikes. Every house is has a perimeter of 2 meters with no walls or fences around the houses to separate them.
It is very close living conditions. When we moved I tied him for the first time and he was ok with that, he was so scared he was shaking and actually didn’t want to go anywhere, just wanted to hide. He was quite no barking and I tied him and made a small area on the front outside of the house where he could hide a little and I spent the first 2 days with him. A few days later when we would come home from work in the start I would let him off the leash (untie him) but even in my presence he had 3 times gone to nearly bite people so now he is tied always and I take him on a leash to the toilet and walk around (luckily we are nearly the last house so it’s close to the jungle and easy to get away from people) In the nighttime when everyone sleeps I let him off the leash he has made friends already with other dogs. I wake at 5am and give him to run with me (I am either on the motorbike or cycling) to the beach and jungle for 1 hour before people wake up at 6am we return and then he is tied for the rest of the day.
Lunchtime I come home and bring him for a toilet walk 5-10 mins. I feel very sorry for him but I cannot trust him. All the dogs here run free, owner or no owner. The chickens don’t bother him or the cats or the dogs… only the people and children, which is scary and dangerous. He has been sterilized already. The 3 times he tried to attack people there was no barking or growling just a quick decision to run at them and only for I was there calling and shouting at him I think he would have bitten them. ?? When people come close I try to take his mind off it and tell him to sit, give treats.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
I even took an adult dog that was imported from Mexico and tried to train him as a Service Dog, once. I quickly learned a few things about genetics and learned behavior when it comes to wild animals and dogs.
The first thing you need to know is that your dog is essentially wild. This is not your average “dog” that has been domesticated. In some ways you own a Tiger or other wild animal with big teeth.
Wild dogs learn to be aloof and stay away from people (for the most part) because it helps to keep them alive. And, although some people feed them and they seem to tame for that person, it certainly doesn’t mean they are tame for everyone.
Dogs, especially these dogs, don’t generalize like some other dogs do “One person is good so ALL people are good”. These dogs work on a very different set of rules.
He was young when he came to you and young puppies are very rarely overtly aggressive all the time. But when they reach sexual maturity (even though you had him neutered GOOD FOR YOU) their behaviors often change. They become more protective and possessive and territorial.
And when you took him out of his “normal” environment and put him in an environment full of things that terrify him, it multiplied his fear, his aggression and his negative behavior by 1,000.
Not only that, but now he is living on a tie down and has to hide and feels like he can’t get away.
Travel with Me for a Moment
Then one day one of these aliens is kind to you and feeds you and vocalizes kindly to you.
You begin to be attached to this nice alien, but you still get to come and go as you please and have your life the way you are used to it. But you decide to stay where the love, affection and food is.
When these aliens have alien friends over, you scare them away. Not only do you not want to “share” you also are still afraid of the species as a whole and don’t trust them… only yours!
Then one day they uproot you and take you to a place “crawling” with the things that terrify you; AND they tie you up. You can’t get away. No matter how scared you are, there is nothing you can do to save yourself except use your teeth.
By being tied up, you get frustrated and more and more aggressive and normally your aggression keeps these other aliens away from you; therefore rewarding your aggression. You learn that aggression is the only way to be safe.
Now when you are off leash and an alien gets too close you feel terrified, and even though you could get away now, you feel compelled to chase the alien and try to bite… it is how you have learned to survive.
Tie downs often create aggression, even in a normally social dog.
I could take a normal dogs and chain him for a few weeks/months and you would see his behavior deteriorate.
Heck, I sometimes use tie downs to frustrate my dogs for the simple fact of learning. But, I NEVER leave them on one.
It is frustrating and scary to feel tied up and not be able to do anything about it.
Similarly, even dogs left out all day behind chain link fences or fences they can see out of often suffer from the same behaviors.
The tie down or chain is escalating his behaviors.
Letting him Off to Run
I fear for anyone out wandering or running or working in the dark when this dog is loose. I am afraid he is going to bite, maul or kill someone when he is free even if it is at night.
In my opinion it is not worth the risk to let him be off leash anymore.
You have changed the dynamics of his life by taking him in and bringing him with you and now you have to find a way so that you can both get a little happiness.
I would build a crate or a box that he can go into like a crate (I am pretty sure you probably don’t have crates) and I would consider keeping him in the house or in a place where no one can get to him or taunt him.
Dogs are den animals and most will take to a cool dark place pretty quickly and easily.
If it’s not in the house (I know in some countries people can’t have animals in the house) then dig out something under the porch or in some area where you can leave him where he won’t be traumatized by the sight of other people all of the time.
Then it becomes about you giving him the exercise and attention he needs.
Obviously he can still play with other dogs while he is on a leash and should be encouraged to do so since he likes other dogs.
But, he needs to be hooked up to your bike, or motorbike and allowed to run, and run, and run until he is tired.
Exercise is going to be key to his happiness and his tiredness.
Try to run him at lunch too and when you get home from work.
AND, work on obedience and give him a job to do.
You must build his confidence.
My guess is that he will NEVER love and embrace people. However you CAN teach him that you are in control and he can tolerate them around you.
Teach him to give you eye contact, read more on teach your dog eye contact here.
And teach him the basics.
We have a wonderful puppy program with videos that will help you with training that you can access here. Check it out, it literally has over 60 videos that you can watch at your leisure with your computer and will help you train and understand more about dogs.
Because you have accepted him into your pack, it is now up to you to make sure that he doesn’t bite or maul anyone.
It is going to be a lot of work, but it will be worth it in the end and he will learn that working for you is a great job!
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I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.