Bully Syndrome

This monster is my friend Angus.

Angus “The Lovable Beast” (and sleeping Monkey)

Recently Angus visited our home and more or less tried to eat Monkey, our sweet submissive and sometimes skittish female greyound. (You can see Monkey sleeping in the background of this picture; that was accomplished with some calm leadership, a lengthy pack walk, a rawhide chew, and just a little nervous sweat from most of of the humans involved.)

What struck me about Angus’s aggression was that he isn’t generally a dominant dog. He submitted instantly to Monkey’s brother, Turtle, after being barked at, mostly ignoring him but once later even trying to initiate play. Then I saw one other interaction:  Turtle glared at Angus when Angus got too close to Turtle’s bed, and Angus responded by instantly veering toward Monkey to set in again. Of course I blocked and Angus settled for picking up one of  her favorite toys (“Hah! Got your little fluffy squeaky squirrel!”)

I was suddenly reminded of my other friend Hairston’s sometimes perplexing behavior at the dog park. Here’s Harry swatting snowballs out of the air (also notice his perfect sociability at the end):

The snowball-swatting isn’t a problem; it’s just so ridiculous I had to show it. I’ve been called in to help, however, with a little problem Harry has of picking fights with little peaceful dogs, even puppies. To the big ones, or the dominant ones that offer resistance, Harry is as submissive as little cupcake with! In fact, his owners tell me that Harry’s attacks on little defenseless pups often seems to happen right after a big dog puts Harry or another dog in his place with a dominant growl.

This is what I call “Bully Syndrome”. Neither Harry nor Angus is a generally dominant or aggressive dog. Dominant and aggressive dogs will challenge other dominant, aggressive dogs, and will be triggered by those dogs’ signs of dominance and aggression to react in kind. That’s NOT what’s going on with these guys. These guys are like grade school bullies:  they get picked on because they’re kind of, well, wimpy, and then they feel the need to prove that they’re really tough! So they pick on the next smallest or weakest guy they can find. That’s a bully!

“Who me?”

Bully Syndrome is much easier to deal with then unadulterated aggression or dominance. I stuck up for poor sweet Monkey, telling Angus to back off in a way that she didn’t feel safe doing. Angus of course laid right down and smiled “Who ME?”

I keep Harry off the bench at the park, or other positions that make him feel bigger and tougher than he really is, and I stick up for the puppies, telling him if he wants to mess with them, he’s got to mess with me!

Bullies aren’t jerks (at least the canine variety). They’re just under the misguided impression that they would be so much cooler if they were.


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