“Intense Pit Bull Encounter”

by Prince Of Petworth January 31, 2017 at 12:30 pm 74 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user Julian Ortiz

“Dear PoPville,

This happened at the intersection of 7th and Gallatin NW, just south of Kennedy St.

Yesterday my husband and I had an intense and scary encounter with a pit bull while walking our dog Lucky, a twenty-three pound mixed breed. Before I give you the harrowing details, know that everyone’s ok, but I want to share it to highlight three important message:

1) NEUTER your dog! There is absolutely NO reason for anyone who isn’t a professional dog breeder to have intact dogs (and even that’s questionable in many cases). Especially male dogs. Period.

2) EVERY DOG should have BASIC OBEDIENCE TRAINING and SOCIALIZATION with both dogs and people. Especially larger, powerful breeds.

3) NEVER let your dog roam freely and never just stick it out in your yard, even if you think it can’t get out.

Here’s what happened. We took Lucky on a long walk yesterday afternoon. About a mile from our house in a residential neighborhood we spotted a large pit bull that was off leash with no human in sight across the intersection we were approaching. This was a big dog, I’d guess 70-80 lbs, with a huge head, ripped muscles, and an intense stare.

Now, I know that pit bulls are great dogs and that most problems associated with them are 100% caused by how people raise and treat them. But I’m not so naive to think that there’s not the seedy pit bull dog fight/guard/status culture going on in DC where these dogs are trained and encouraged to be aggressive, especially towards other dogs. We had no way of knowing which kind of pit bull we were about to encounter.

It locked eyes on us from diagonally across the intersection. I had to make a split-second decision to either turn around and walk away from him, or keep going forward. Not wanting to trigger the dog’s natural predator response by turning our back and moving away from him, I decided to stay calm, not make eye contact and just proceed forward on our side of the intersection.

Of course, the dog made a beeline directly towards us, with a hard focus on Lucky. I braced myself–it was either going to go directly into an attack on Lucky, or it wasn’t. There was nothing we could do either way. It was an awful, awful feeling of dread and adrenaline.

I should mention that I work with and handle potentially dangerous wild animals professionally as a wildlife educator, some that could easily kill me, and am experienced in reading animal body language. I also have a lot of experience with dogs. And frankly, dogs are way more potentially dangerous than the ambassador wildlife I work with. Dogs generally lack a fear of humans (that’s part of what domestication means) which makes them bold and willing to offensively attack, and because humans sometimes deliberately instill aggressive behavior in dogs.

So, in those seconds as it approached us, I was locked in on that pit bull with every ounce of my attention, reading his body language, trying to maintain a calm yet assertive body language myself, and to try to position myself between him and Lucky. This dog’s body language was extremely intense and focused–not a good sign.

Thankfully, its intensity was not attack-driven. But it was instantly clear to me that this was a young but fully mature, un-neutered male dog that was raging full of hormones. And that it had absolutely no socialization with other dogs or with humans–a dangerous scenario with any breed. And that it was targeted on Lucky.

It ran right up to us with a stiff-legged posture and jerky movements–signs of a highly stimulated and potentially aggressive animal. It kept its focus on Lucky, immediately moving to stand over him, which is an act of dominance. It totally ignored me, and even body-checked me to get me out of its way so that it could get to Lucky.

Now, you might wonder why I didn’t just pick Lucky up as soon as we saw the dog. In my experience it’s generally always best to let dogs meet each other on their own terms, using their own ways of greeting each other. There’s a whole dialog of body language, scent, and movements that dogs have between themselves when they meet. Sometimes that includes growls, pushing, hard pawing and even mounting–which is totally normal. But that’s when people tend to panic and try to snatch their dog up or yank on its leash, which is only going to make a potentially aggressive dog more stimulated and more likely to lunge and attack, or your dog to panic and snap defensively out of fear. Also, picking up a small dog is a sure way of getting a large dog to jump up on you to get at the smaller dog in your arms. Not good.

So in the small hope that this dog was just friendly and curious and that they’d sniff and that would be it, I left Lucky on the ground and let them greet, all the while talking to the pit bull in a clear, friendly voice and keeping my own adrenaline in check and my body language calm. But within moments it was clear that this dog was intent on totally dominating Lucky, who at this point was beginning to get intimidated and defensive. All it might take was a warning nip from Lucky to set this other dog into an attack.

At this point we’d made it across the street and were on the sidewalk. The house in front of us had a fence and so I was able to pull Lucky out from under this dog and hold him facing the fence with my back to the pit bull, so it couldn’t reach him. As I knew would happen, the pit bull then started jumping up on me, trying to get at Lucky.

When that happens, it’s your natural reaction to kick or push back, but I knew that with this amped-up dog that clearly had no regard for human authority, that it could potentially turn into an attack on me. So I stayed calm but held my ground without becoming aggressive myself.

I was able to quickly hand Lucky off to my husband and told him to get inside the fence and into the yard of the house we were in front of, keeping myself positioned between him and Lucky and the pit bull. The dog was aggressively jumping up on me, gripping me with its front legs and humping my leg, trying to knock me over or get around me to get at Lucky. I could feel the incredible strength of this animal and knew that if things went south and it got aggressive, I wouldn’t be able to fight it off. Once my husband and Lucky were inside the fence, I was able to shove it off and get inside myself and slam the gate on it so it couldn’t get in.

At that point the pit bull became manic, running up and down the fenceline trying to find a way in. It was a standard three-foot wrought iron fence, so the dog could see us standing there behind the metal posts, which thankfully were close enough together that it couldn’t fit its huge head through. But it actually started ramming its head under fence trying to get in, and in the process cut open its forehead on the metal post, which didn’t even phase it. There was one spot that I knew it would be able to fit under the fence, so I positioned myself there and every time it tried to get in, I was able to use my foot so shove it back under.

At this point we were safe but trapped inside the fence. My husband was holding Lucky keeping him safe and I was trying to call animal control while guarding the space under the fence. I called 311 and had to deal with an interminable phone tree and then got put on hold, but finally got connected with an animal control operator, who said he’d try to get someone out as soon as possible.

The man whose yard we were sheltering in came out at this point and we quickly explained what was happening and why we were in his yard. Then the pit pull spotted an older woman on the other side of the intersection, and ran right for her. She began to panic and yell for help, and all we could do was tell her to stay calm, while we yelled to distract the dog. It worked and the dog came running back to the fence and tried to get under it again. I kept shoving it back with my foot. Then, it spotted another women, a mother with two kids, walking down the street. In a flash it ran at them, but thankfully they didn’t panic and just let the dog sniff them. I had a moment of dread when it jumped up on one of the kids–it was as tall as she was on its hind legs–but she pushed it off and they kept walking and the dog again shifted its focus back to trying to get in the fence to get at Lucky.

Based on how it responded to the people on the street, I knew it wasn’t outright aggressive towards people, but I could also tell from its body language that it could potentially become so if it was met with aggression. And I knew we weren’t going to be able to keep it off of Lucky if we tried to leave the fence. We were trapped.

At that moment a car came tearing down the street and a guy jumped out, screaming at the pit bull. Upon seeing him, the dog immediately cowered (which was in stark contrast to how it responded to me). He ran up to dog and punched it in the head, then dragged it to the car and shoved it in, cursing the whole time. He then hit the gas and tore off down the street. A few seconds after he was out of sight, an older gentleman came running down the street from the direction the car had come, also looking for the dog. He was clearly upset and was much friendlier than the younger guy who dragged the dog away–but he was also carrying a big wooden shovel handle like a club as he searched for the dog. It was disconcerting. We told him that the younger man had already gotten the dog, and he left the way he came.

And that was it. We thanked the guy whose yard we’d sheltered in and then continued on our way home. It was traumatizing–I have adrenaline coursing through me just typing this up–and ultimately a really sad incident. I don’t have much hope for that dog and pray that it doesn’t hurt anyone or anyone’s pet, and that it finds better owners.

So, again, I share this to drive home those three points I started with. Neuter your dogs. Make sure they know basic commands and are socialized. And never let them roam off leash or leave them unattended in your yard, even if you think it’s secure. If this dog’s owners had done these things, this wouldn’t have happened to us.

I hate to tell such a depressing story and leave it at that, so to end on a positive note, I want to promote adopting a pit bull. They really are sweet dogs when raised like a normal pet. (Even though some are unfortunately exploited by the worst of people and turned into monsters, giving the entire breed a bad name. The dog we encountered seemed likely to be on that path.) The shelters here in DC are filled with perfectly wonderful pit bulls or mixes that, with proper care and training, would make a great part of your family. Check out the Washington Humane Alliance and the many rescue organizations such as Ambassador Pit Bulls.

  • Bob

    Did you report the animal abuse that you witnessed? Get a license plate number? Anything?

    • anon

      +1. You witnessed the owner PUNCH the dog in the head and you are more concerned with your fake PSA than reporting animal abuse (as someone else noted, Popville readers are not the ones who need a lesson about neutering and obedience). Also FYI, an 80lb dog is NOT a true pit bull. It is a mix and/or may not be a pit bull at all. Many people mistake mastiffs and American Bull Dogs for pit bulls. If it’s an 80lb white dog, it is likely an American Bull Dog or mix thereof. American Pit Bull Terriers fall in the 35-50 lb range.

      • Anon

        You’re harping on the breed, which makes it seem like you missed the point of this message. The OP wanted to vent, and notify others about a large, aggressive dog on the loose. Seems like she succeeded.

      • James W.

        Relax. This isn’t about you. I’d also argue that the potential for someone’s pet – or child – to get ripped to shreds by an aggressive dog on the loose is far more concerning than a dog being punched in the head. I’ve been punched in the head myself. It wasn’t fun, but I survived (unlike most pets or children who are mauled by dogs). Glad you’re here to speak for the dog rearing habits of all Popville readers and stick up for vicious dogs everywhere.

  • wdc

    Poor dog. Good on you for staying calm. I might not have managed it.

  • Q

    That is terrifying. I can’t believe you had the presence of mind to do the right thing–and were lucky enough to know what the right thing was. Thank you for the lessons. Both me and my pup would likely have not come out of that as unscathed as you luckily did because my instinct would be to do the opposite of almost everything you did. I guess I need some training too.

  • 8th Street

    I know the dog. It lives across the street from us on 8th street. It is generally friendly, but very unsocialized and massive. It also gets out of the house’s back yard more often than I can understand.

    I was on Gallatin with my 18 month old son and our 10 year old dog. As soon as I saw the white dog running around I turned away.

    The older gentleman you referred to is a deeply committed community member and is not related to the dog’s owner. He cleans the triangle park between Illinois, 9th and Gallatin every morning and shovels his entire block around 9th and Gallatin when it snows. He is one of the kindest folks I’ve had the pleasure to meet in the community in the 5 years I’ve lived here. The stick OP references is his walking stick. After the dog’s owner got the dog inside, the older man came around the corner and had some calm but stern words with the dog’s owner.

    • KG

      I’ve recently become engrossed in my own neighborhood dog dilemma (other side of gallatin in NE) and at our latest community meeting a detective on the case of a local owner who terrorizes people with his pits on purpose specifically said to be vigilant with calling police about aggressive dogs. Or at least vigilant about calling animal control. There’s no reason why this poor dog should be in that home anymore, especially if it’s getting punched. You have every right to call animal control and report these conditions. And I encourage you to do so.

    • Thank you for clarifying that! It is always good to know all the facts, especially when they are about good, concerned neighborhood people.

    • Ms. D

      I get the feeling from this extra info that the man whose yard the OP was hiding in might have called the “good neighbor.” Or one of the passers-by. Still, if this is a known issue, Animal Control needs to be involved before something tragic happens. Stern words from a respected neighbor are good, but I doubt this is the first time there’s been a problem if the neighbor was alerted, knew where to find the dog, and continued the action once he knew the owners were home. And I mean a problem beyond the dog being loose. I had a neighbor a while back whose wily Jack Russell used to get loose constantly…but if we found him, we just took him home…he wasn’t the least bit threatening – he’d let you pick him up or put a leash on him (yes, JRTs can be an aggressive handful! This one wasn’t) – just a dog that could climb a fence and wanted to go say hi to the neighbors. He came to my house *a lot* because he liked my dog (I SWEAR he knew when 6 PM was, because I’d regularly go to take my dog out and find him pacing around my yard!). Please press AC and anyone else who will listen for action before someone or their dog is injured or worse. Not everyone is going to have as much awareness and coolness – or a convenient and safe place to escape to – as OP.
      And, of course, need to say…I blame the owners, 100%. OP clearly knows how to read animal behavior, and I trust that she didn’t unnecessarily agitate the dog to cause a problem. When the dogs ran at me, as noted below, I thought giving them a command to halt and lay down might work because their demeanor was not outright aggressive. They were coming at me, but in a kind of loping way, with soft mouths, relaxed ears, and tails wagging high and fast (“silly butt”) (also, thankfully, they had natural tails and ears, so I could read them). I got the feeling they wanted to play, but still had my pepper spray unlocked and trained on them in case they didn’t respond to the command. They were Rottweilers, and I still gave them the benefit of the doubt and tried a firm command (yelling is not a firm command – low-pitched, sharp, and forceful but not overly loud) at 12′ away (my spray is effective at 8′). It’s not Pit bulls, American Bulldogs (what this one likely is – at least a mix – given its size and color description), Rotties, GSDs, etc. that are the problem. It’s dogs in the wrong hands, in general, and, often more specifically, strong, large, loyal breeds – or feisty, potentially aggressive breeds of any size (Poodles (all sizes), JRTs, and Dachshunds fall in this group) – in the VERY wrong hands.

  • ke

    Wow, thanks for sharing the story. Sounds like OP has a cool head (and a cool job). It did occur to me this was situation where 911 was appropriate. OP was safe-ish at that point, but other people (like that mother and kids) were not.

  • John

    A long read, but worth it. I appreciate the details both about how to properly respond to a dog in this situation but more importantly why it is proper.

    It’s also a good thing you called animal control instead of 911. I was caught up in a similar situation outside my house not too long ago, in which I ended up holding the aggressive dog until animal control arrived. A police officer arrived first, though, and the officer straight-up told me to make sure I had a good handle on the dog because he would shoot it otherwise.

    • Marty

      In the OP’s case, I would be totally fine with MPD putting that animal down. No second thoughts.

      • PJL

        Seriously? I empathize with OP and am amazed by all of her quick thinking, but putting a dog down because it’s misbehaving, isn’t neutered, and hasn’t been socialized properly does not warrant killing it. Maybe try, oh I don’t know, other things like obedience classes, neutering, etc. first in a controlled environment?? Unless there are indications that it has actually physically harmed other animals or people, I’m glad you’re not the decisionmaker.

        • Q

          I don’t know about putting this dog down, but did you read to the end? Who exactly do you think is going to train or neuter this dog? The owner who punched it and threw it into the car? In general, that’s the answer, but what are you supposed to do in this specific situation?

          • PJL

            Yes I did. Hence animal control, reporting animal abuse, etc. I’m not saying that it’s the current owner who would be doing it.

          • PJL

            So the better solution is someone shooting it the next time they see it?

          • Q

            I must have missed the part where I said someone should shoot that dog on sight, PJL. Can you point me to it? And does animal control generally neuter and train abused dogs that they seize?

          • PJL

            @Q, no Marty did re: MPD putting it down. Animal abuse and forfeiture of the animal would generally lead to sheltering/adoption, which 99% of the time requires neutering and obedience training as conditions of adoption.

        • Marty

          I mean that in the situation where a dog is trying to get through a fence to attack me or my dog, absolutely I support calling 911 and having them handle the situation. As we know (for better or worse) most police have a pretty low tolerance for an animal that is potentially dangerous.

          • PJL

            You need to re-read OP’s description. The dog was getting dominant and hers was getting defensive. From the description once they were on the other side of the fence the dog was overstimulated and excited hence it’s reaction to not being able to get to them. There was no “attack.”

          • Marty

            Given this description of the event, I stand by my comment. It seems that the dog was looking for any way in to get to OPs dog, and (likely) didn’t want to just play chase.
            >>At that point the pit bull became manic, running up and down the fenceline trying to find a way in. It was a standard three-foot wrought iron fence, so the dog could see us standing there behind the metal posts, which thankfully were close enough together that it couldn’t fit its huge head through. But it actually started ramming its head under fence trying to get in, and in the process cut open its forehead on the metal post, which didn’t even phase it. There was one spot that I knew it would be able to fit under the fence, so I positioned myself there and every time it tried to get in, I was able to use my foot so shove it back under. <<

          • PJL

            Regardless, I disagree that this justifies killing the animal.

        • Herbie

          Pjl lives in LA La Land. The dog is a ticking time bomb who is beaten by its owner. Obedience classes???

          • PJL

            Yup. Just kill it. Don’t bother to see if it just needs proper care and attention.

          • PJL

            You also seem to fail to understand biology. The vast majority of aggressive male dogs shed that aggression if they’re neutered.

        • Seriously? Of course no one wants to have a dog shot, but did you read the part about mom and kids walking along? Lucky the dog did not attack the children – but luck should not be any part of this equation.

          • ParkViewneighbor

            think about the children !!
            That never fails to amuse me

      • Ally

        You can’t be serious. This dog should (likely) be removed from the irresponsible, abusive owner’s home, given an assessment as to his adaptability, then given a chance with a real human.

        • Ally

          adoptability* (siri)

        • Herbie

          And then what? It rots away in a kennel?

          • PJL

            Do you understand how adoption works?

          • Herbie

            Abused, full grown pitbulls aren’t in that much demand. Have you been a kennel recently?

  • Angry Parakeet

    Unfortunately the type of person who needs to be told to neuter a dog is not the person reading your account. Although that Greenline real estate agent (man) who made the cool neighborhood videos has an unneutered dog as is evident in one of those videos.

    • textdoc

      +1 to “Unfortunately the type of person who needs to be told to neuter a dog is not the person reading your account.”

  • b

    Thanks for sharing this. My husband and I were actually walking by on Gallatin when you were on the phone with 311, but made the decision to keep moving instead of engaging with the dog. I have seen it off leash a few times before, and always called it in. I’m glad you made it home okay.

    As someone who owns a leash-aggressive rescue, seeing this dog so frequently roaming the neighborhood is scary. I know that my dog would go nuts if approached by any other off-leash dog, and both would get hurt in the process if the other was aggressive, too. It’s easy to avoid other dogs when they are on leash, but I am nervous on every walk because of the possibility of encountering a roaming dog.

    • Q

      My dog is also reactive and has no idea that she’s only 15 pounds, so she’ll lunge at big dogs just as often as small dogs. If we ever ran into a dangerous dog, we would be in serious trouble. (Yes, I know–training. I’ve tried but it hasn’t been working. Time to start trying harder.)

      • b

        I’m sorry to say that I have been working with my dog for 5 years on this but there are limitations on what can be done. He was a rescue from an apparently bad situation and, in every other respect, is an amazing, sweet, well-adjusted dog but turns into Cujo when we see other dogs out and about.

        • Q

          Well that’s discouraging (but also makes me feel like less of a bad mom…). Luckily she’s small, so I can control her. If she were big and strong, reactivity would be much more of an urgent problem. Hell, even at 15 pounds, my pup can pull with surprising force. When it’s icy outside and she sees another dog, I sometimes end up sliding along behind her. It’s like the cutest Iditarod you’ve ever seen.

      • Angela Malley

        As an owner of a well behaved and friendly pit bull, I have had many encounters with small dogs that have lunged at and tried to bite my dog (my dog does not react thankfully). Those small dogs are also dangerous and can cause damage to another dog. On a side note, I hope someone calls animal control and that dog finds a new home where he can be cared for properly.

    • kharr89

      +1 I get a little defensive to OP’s #2 suggestion because my dog is extremely dog reactive but we can control him on leash. I wish he could be socialized, but we have the power to avoid interactions with other dogs – unless they’re off leash. Props to OP for doing all the right things and for sharing this in detail. I think it could help others who might encounter off leash dogs.

    • DCbyDay

      Agree — my parents have a dog that is just lovable to humans, but just does not do well with other dogs. However, he is easily controlled, as long as he is leashed and we can keep him at a safe distance. It’s dogs that are off leash that are the issues, and whose owners need to do better.

    • CatieCat

      Same here. Our pup has never been aggressive with humans or attacked another dog, but she is so leash reactive. the minute we take off the leash, she mellows. And, even if we are at the dog park and shes off the leash, she seems to been super intense around dogs when THEY have a leash on. (why people keep their dogs on leashes at dog parks is another conversation for another day.)

      We live around the corner and haven’t seen this dog, though I too fear what would happen if we ran into him. Our 27 lb mutt would not handle it well!

    • flieswithhoney

      Can I also suggest to the dog owners with leash reactive dogs that if your dog is aggressive to other -leashed- dogs, please use a muzzle when walking your dog. And never use a retractable leash. This keeps both dogs and sets of owners safe.

      • Pixie

        I know people feel bad about muzzling their dogs but it’s a responsible and smart thing to do for your dog’s safety and for the safety of others, especially if you have a reactive or aggressive dog. If you muzzle train your dog properly they will learn to love their muzzles and not view it as a punishment. I encourage all dog owners to Google “the muzzle up project” to learn more info.

      • kharr89

        Totally agree with not using a retractable leash (reactive dog or not!), but some dogs are triggered by muzzles and it makes things worse. I personally will not get within sight of another dog (if I see one coming, we cross the street, change direction, hide between cars, etc.) so a muzzle wouldn’t really change anything. But I’m so glad to see everyone be accepting of reactive dogs and providing pragmatic solutions rather than taking a holier than thou “just train your dog” stance!

        • b

          +1 to all of this! My dog is triggered by muzzling, so we take extra care to cross the street and avoid others. In a situation where we’d encounter a roaming, aggressive dog, a muzzle would only put mine at increased risk anyway. I am loving the acceptance of “what we cannot change” about our pups, though :)

        • flieswithhoney

          You both sound like great dog owners. Best of luck with your training. If you or your trainer are seeking a non-reactive dog for walk training, please let me know and we can talk offsite. We’ve walked with a couple other leash aggressive dogs before and it seems to help.

      • Admo1

        +1!! Just having these dogs on a leash isn’t enough–even if they are small! Reactive dogs need to be socialized and trained–there’s no excuse. I’ve encountered many dogs on leashes that lunge, bark, growl, snap, etc. at my dog (also on a leash) on sidewalks, in parks, or even in my building. You cannot simply “avoid” other dogs in the city (maybe you can in the suburbs), and claiming you can is not fair to others with dogs who have to pass you every day. I’ve even had people ask me to go around to the other side of the street because their dog is aggressive…. I get it, dogs are tough and confusing, but there are trainers/programs/classes out there who can work with you (and your dog) to figure out how you can walk your dog around other dogs in the city without you and everyone else having to go through that every day.

        • kharr89

          I have spent so much time and money trying to figure out how to make my dog better with other dogs, but he’s 6 years old and grew up in a fighting situation. It’s just not happening. I have been successfully avoiding other dogs with him for almost 2 years. 99% of the time, my foresight prevents my dog from even noticing the other dog. In the event he does react, we are far enough away that your dog wouldn’t be in harm’s way. I have asked other people to give me space ONLY when my dog is actively pooping or I am picking up poop. In which case I simply say, “Hey, can you give me one sec to clean this up? My dog is reactive. We’ll get out of your way ASAP!” Believe me, my dog is way more of an inconvenience to me than he will ever be a threat to you.

        • Mamasan

          I’ve had my reactive dog for 9 years – he’s been trained, does great most of the time, and still occasionally loses it when he sees an intact male dog, or, more likely, when someone who thinks their dog is “friendly” lets it run straight up to him on the sidewalk, nose to nose (very rude in dogville) or jump on him, “playing”. So if your dog is consistently getting snapped at, maybe you need to reassess whether your dog is actually intimidating others, when you think he or she is just being energetic. Because it is a city – not everybody is going to handle their dog the same way, but each of us is responsible for our pet’s safety and keeping them from creating situations that endanger them or others.

  • PetlessInPetworth

    I probably would’ve called 911! But woah – you did an awesome job to avoid a more dangerous situation. Glad you and Lucky are ok!!

  • AinDC

    OP, I’m impressed with your reaction to the situation and definitely have learned some lessons of my own if I am ever in a similar situation. I come in contact with dogs like this daily on walks with my dog in our neighborhood. Luckily, they are all fenced in/chained/tied up and have not escaped, at least not when we are physically there.

    Specifically regarding the neuter/entact issue, I wonder what people’s reaction to this event would be. Last summer, I was walking up Chillum Street NE with my dog when I saw a man and his dog on a porch. The dog was tied up. The man said to me “want another dog?”, insinuating that he wanted to get rid of this dog on the porch. I said no thank you but there are many safe shelters/groups around DC that would take your dog. He said he didn’t want do to that because they would circumcise him and he’d lose his “manlihood” (I know he what he meant was neuter, not circumcise). At this point, I was about to go off but bit my tongue, wished him good day, and continued walking. I also have a very large dog and to stand there for what would be several minutes continuing to argue with this man would have made my dog anxious and impossible to contain and I didn’t want to have to deal with an entirely new bad situation. I wonder what other people’s reactions be to this interaction?

    • textdoc

      I think there’s some anthropomorphosizing going on. I was once in the waiting room at a vet and a guy there was talking about he wasn’t going to get his male pit bull (maybe 7 months old?) neutered because it would be “cruel”… but he was there to get its ears cropped. The dog had beautiful soft-looking ears, too. :(

  • AsAMother

    Pit bulls can be some of the sweetest dogs in the world, and you’re right that it’s terrible owners that can ruin them.

    I used to frequent the dog park, and one week I noticed a new woman who had begun to bring her white unneutered pit bull. The park is a park of regulars, so a newcomer is quickly noticed. The dog was clearly aggressive and she was really amused by his behavior. He would try and dominate other dogs who wanted nothing to do with him, and she cheered him on to “get him, get him!” Even other dogs she would encourage bad behavior by encouraging to jump on her or give them treats. When asked by their owners to stop, she would laugh and say, “It’s okay, I love spoiling them.” I made it a habit to avoid the park when I saw she was there.

    Until one morning. I’m there with my dog and I see the woman enter with her pit. He is acting especially aggressive today, so I call my dog over and begin to leash her up. That’s when an older woman enters the park with her small poodle, and the pit bolted across the park straight for the opening gate. The dog lunged, and knocked the old woman to the ground, and begins attacking the small dog. Within a second, all of the other dogs in the park rushed the gate as well, trapping this woman and her dog in the gate.

    We all run over there and try to pull our dogs out of the fray. It’s absolutely chaos. And where is the owner of the pit? She’s off the side laughing her ass off. She thinks it’s hilarious, yelling, “get him, get him!” She’s doing absolutely nothing to help. We all begin yelling at her to get control of her dog, and she rolls her eyes and comes over to grab him.

    As she pulls him off, we all begin yelling at her about her irresponsible behavior and that she can’t bring her dog back until he is better trained and probably better yet, neutered.

    This is where she finally lost her cool. How dare we imply that her dog is unruly, he is just having fun. And she has to come here, she can’t go back to any of the other parks in the city because all the other dogs have it out for her dog and are always attacking him. How he is harmless and wouldn’t hurt a fly. So she needs come here so he can get some exercise. And besides, she won’t neuter him because she wants to breed him.

    I say, “Are you serious, the city’s shelters are full up with unwanted pit bulls, and you want to become yet another untrained, unlicensed breeder? Why do it want to breed him?”

    She is about to say something, but closes her mouth. I grab my dog and start to leave, and she begins ranting outloud that she is a DC police officer, and we can’t even try and keep her out of the park.

    Funny, because I never saw her there again.

  • nonanon

    PLEASE someone report this incident to animal control- this needs to be documented, especially if it happens often. an irresponsible owner with an unaltered dog that frequently escapes is a disaster waiting to happen for this neighborhood, including for the poor dog who had no choice in the idiots who own him and are failing to take the most basic level of responsibility.

  • GP

    I agree with this. I’ve experienced something similar on a few occasions at the Guy Mason dog park in Glover Park. A woman brings her sharpei mix there, and at this point, I won’t let my dog in the park if I see the sharpei. The dog doesn’t listen, and she gets incredibly aggressive, to the point where she barks/growls and bites hard at my dog and others. The most the owner does is to tell her dog to stop barking. I said something to her about it once, and she got very confrontational, telling me that if I don’t like dogs “playing”, then I shouldn’t bring my dog to the park.
    I have a big dog, and she can more than hold her own. That said, it’s very irresponsible of the owner to put the burden on me to protect my dog, when it’s her dog that’s untrained and is the aggressor. It’s a big public safety problem.

    • CatieCat

      I have a rescue pup who is NOT aggressive, but is a barker! Like barks at all the other dogs at the dog park, essentially saying “play with me!” Two trainers have told us this is perfectly normal. The only times it becomes an issue is if 1) another dog just doesnt like being barked at and reacts aggressively, at which point we separate them (but 98% of the time the other dog just ignores); and 2) the OWNER doesnt like the barking, conflates it with aggression, and starts getting sassy. I would say this has only happened 3-4 times since adopting her. Most owners do get that it is a dog park, and dogs bark, and can tell the difference between barking and aggression/danger.
      I’m NOT saying the glover park sharpei isnt aggressive (although I did have the sweetest sharpei growing up!), i just share this story to remind people that not all dogs behave the same way, and obviously trust your instinct, but also give people the benefit of doubt that they know what they are doing. And of course there are obviously the outliers (like OP’s story and the sharpei’s owner).

      • GP

        I mean, like I said, this dog BITES. BIG difference there: It’s not the barking. It’s that the owner doesn’t see a problem with BITING, and only stands back and vaguely says, “[dog’s name], stop barking.” It also drives me absolutely insane when owners say, “I know my dog, and she’s just playing”, when it appears to me that your dog is being overly aggressive or dangerous. Is your dog biting at mine? I don’t care if YOU think she’s having fun; it looks to me like she’s trying to bite my dog. I’m NOT okay with that, and it’s VERY irresponsible of any dog owner to naturally assume that everyone else will be, too.
        We’ve already dealt with 1 bite that broke my dog’s skin because the other dog was “just playing” and we didn’t step in. I *won’t* give another owner the “benefit of the doubt”, because clearly, there are a lot of people who are NOT responsible. Dog parks are uncontrolled environments, and frankly, if a dog has any sort of aggression issues, she doesn’t belong there.

        • Marty

          breaking the skin is of course too much, but lots of the play that occurs between dogs (mine or others I’ve seen over the years) involves having one dog’s coat in another dogs mouth. I guess that’s “biting” but really it is (often) just playing.

        • CatieCat

          yes, definitely a difference between barking and biting. though i agree with Marty that sometimes dogs do playfully bite each other, I think breaking skin is the threshold to indicate aggression, and perhaps not letting your dog come to the dog park!!

  • Ms. D

    Accounts like this make me physically queasy. My dog is friendly, but a bit leash-reactive towards *unleashed* dogs (and only unleashed dogs…and it’s not like he goes for the jugular, he just gives a warning growl to stay away) and won’t tolerate being dominated (again, no jugular-going, but a stern growl and movement away). This would have ended very badly for us. Though, I probably would have pepper-sprayed the dog if it didn’t respond to commands while approaching. I had a couple dogs get out of a yard several years ago and thought it was going to end that way, but they actually responded to “stop, lay down” and I was able to get them home.

  • heyhowsitgoin

    Yeah I live in that neighborhood and off leash dogs have been a common problem for me. I have a 75 pound lab/pit mix who is himself aggressive. I am VERY careful about always keeping my distance from other dogs but on at least 10 occasions over the last 5 years we have been approached by off leash dogs. Usually I am able to escape just by crossing the street or walking or running away but on two occasions the other dog has pursued us and jumped on my dog. One time it was a tiny little dog that my dog body slammed and didn’t injure too badly before I was able to get him off, and another time he locked onto a dogs neck and didn’t let go for like 20 seconds before I was able to get him off, which was scary. I’m not sure what happened to that dog. It would be REALLY cool if people didn’t let their dogs off leash whatsoever in urban areas.

  • Ally

    I’m so sorry for what happened to the op and op’s dog, but what I am mainly appalled by is the blatant abuse of the pit bull by its presumable owner. Punching a dog in the head?! WTAF.

  • asdf

    Never quite understood the “pit bulls get a bad rap, they’re so sweet” narrative.

    Yes, that may be true. Some pit bulls may be sweet and well behaved but just about ALL pitbulls are built like trucks and could rip a limb off if given the opportunity. They were originally bred for blood sports like bull-baiting and bear-baiting for f’s sake. When that was outlawed, they were bred for dog-fighting. No sense in sugar coating the breed’s origins!

    That said, my 18 pound rescue mutt (yes, neutered) has been attacked (or very nearly attacked) by loose un-neutered pit bulls three times in DC. Two times in Meridian Hill Park, and another time in Columbia Heights.

    First time the loose pit bull ran across the park and pinned my dog down, biting a chunk off its ear. The second time months later the same pit bull charged us from across the park, so I picked my dog up by the leash and swung him around my body like a tetherball for a while, giving the owner just enough time to run to us and pin his dog down. I told him if I ever saw his dog off-leash again I’d call the cops. Never saw the dog again.

    The third time we were walking down Sherman AVE and out of nowhere this loose pit bull in somebody’s front yard with a low chain link fence charged at us. The dog had almost made it over the fence when this Latino dude jumped up off his porch and started punching the pit bull hard in the ribs repeatedly. Absolutely disturbing.

    Honestly, there’s a socio-cultural problem with pit bulls in DC. Low income and immigrant groups appear to keep and/or breed them exclusively for status, protection, or fighting. It’s really disconcerting.

    • Ms. D

      This is true, but it’s a tough nut to crack. An old neighbor, who was clearly on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum AND in his 20’s, had a Dogo Argentino (a bully breed…usually pure white, large and muscular). Cropped ears…the whole nine yards. I avoided him and his dog for a long time, assuming the worst. Then, one day, I was walking home past his house, and heard a dog whining from several feet away. His gate was closed and he was sitting on his porch with her. He asked if he could allow her to come say hi to me…she really likes people. I reluctantly said that was fine. He told her to “go say hi” and, then and only then, did she get up off the porch, walk down to the fence, and sit down for a pet. She was *perfectly* mannered! He said “I know she looks scary, but she’s as sweet as can be. I got her from the pound. Sorry her ears look so stupid.” I assume he had noticed me avoiding them, to some extent. She and my dog eventually became friends, when we met on a walk and my dog was all “OMG HELLO!” (once again, so long as the other dog is *also* on a leash, he doesn’t mind and just wants to make friends) and she just sat down and waited to be sniffed before sniffing herself, and waiting for a command to “play” before really engaging. My dog is, like, 1/4 her size and her response to the “play” command was to give him a BIG play bow and engage in some light pawing back and forth.
      THAT GUY can have any dog he wants! But how to we screen for “that guy?” It wasn’t money, race, age, homeowner status, or any other box you can check that made him a good (nay, GREAT) dog owner. People can lie. They can say they’ll get the dog training, that they won’t fight it, that they won’t use it as a guard dog, that they’d never hit a dog, that they know how to do positive reinforcement training. The only way to reduce the rate of bad owners *somewhat* is consistent action *against* bad owners by Animal Control and the police (where fighting/uncontrolled and attacking are concerns). These types of persistent and forceful actions against bad owners haven’t happened anywhere in the country.

  • NE DC

    Lucky you, my dog was attacked by an unleashed pit bull on Thursday in NE DC and sustained some horrible injuries. A large laceration on her leg and a deep puncture wound on her chest. My dog was sniffing a tree when the owner on a bike and his dog passed by. The dog was wearing a leash but the owner wasn’t holding it. In the minute it took him to get the dog off of her the damage was already done. The owner took off of course because (yes I’m generalizing), most people who 1) have aggressive dogs and 2) leave them off leash don’t give a damn about rules or the law.

    It’s great that OP works with dangerous animals and knows what to do. Most of us don’t and it’s hard to process a situation when you look up and 2 seconds later your dog is being chewed up. I wish I’d had more than a second to scare that dog away from mine. It would have saved my dog from pain and suffering and my wallet.

    That dog needs to be removed from the owner but DC animal control won’t do anything.

    • houseintherear

      Rally your ANC commissioner and council members for better laws. The HRA (which is also animal control) can only do what they are allowed to do by law.

    • Anon

      I am so sorry to hear about this incident and your poor dog. My 22-pound dog (smallish? medium?) was also injured by a bully breed that ran up and immediately grabbed him by the neck and shook him. Fortunately, his injuries weren’t too extensive so he recovered. But I know how traumatizing it may be for both of you. I hope she recovers and you have a long and happy life together.

    • AinDC

      May I ask what neighborhood this was in?

  • dcspring

    Please, please report this to the Humane Rescue Alliance. At minimum they can log the incident and use should they need to investigate the dog or owner again.

  • DE Warrell

    While I hold the dog owner, not the dog responsible, the city itself does nothing of significance to deter bad dog owners. My cocker spaniel was attached by a large off-leash dog. The owners of the attacking dog paid $300 or so in boarding fees while the dog was held by the DC Health Department. The owners of the attacking dog also paid a $125 fine for having an unleashed dog on public property. I paid over $3,000 for my dog’s surgery.

  • YJ

    My dog was attacked by an off-leash pit, in Columbia heights, 3 months ago. Fortunately, he is 75lbs and can hold is own. I called the cops, filed a report, and began carrying pepper spray ever since. I will never let that happen to him again. You should definitely report this to the proper authorities cause someone else might not be as lucky as you are.

  • Frances

    You handled the situation very well, but you are very lucky as are all of the people who encountered this dog. I have to disagree with you re: a pitbull’s disposition is 100% based on environment. Pitbulls are terriers–terriers were bred to go after small things…rats in England, etc. The Pit-bull was bred for blood sports (bull and terrier mix)–bear bating, bull baiting and fighting in a ring or “pit”. This is bred in them. Yes, there are some that have sweet dispositions–these are mainly the females. Everyone should be cautious around a male pitbull. Most do not get a long with other dogs–it’s just in their genetics. My brother has the sweetest female pitbull–he thought she might like a friend so he rescued a male puppy of 5 months old. 8 months later both dogs got out of his fenced in area and killed the neighbor’s dog–the neighbor came out and shot the male pitbull. Major drama ensued. His sweet female pitbull was taken away for a month and almost euthunized. Luckily her life was spared when we all wrote letters to the judge explaining her disposition and recognizing it was a big mistake for my brother to adopt a male that he did not know anything about. She was spared and now lives at his home, but he has to bare a sign on his fence “Dangerous Dog”. Nobody should adopt a pitbull without knowing how to handle them and their history.


Subscribe to our mailing list