Monday, August 23, 2010

What's a FIGHT? How bad is 'Bad'? Ranking conflicts

What's a FIGHT? how bad is 'Bad'? ranking conflicts

Lower-level conflicts -

Grade 1 - snarks are short-lived snaps with a snarl and
light tooth-contact, or an air-snap with no teeth/growl, etc.

Grade 2 - spats are very-short fights with lots of barks, snarls,
growls, many air-snaps or light mouthing -- but leave NO bruises
under the haircoat, NO punctures or scratches from teeth or claws,
etc - noises and threats and swearing - LOTS of swearing.
they generally last 5 to 20-secs at most, but seem longer.

24 to 48-hours later, bruising, swelling, heat or inflammation are
detectable - if in doubt, see a vet for a careful exam.

Resisting handling, flinching, guarding body-parts are all signs of
pain and possible injury. tiny punctures can become big-problems,
depending on where they are; a puncture between toes, close to
a joint, near an eye, etc, are potentially very serious [lose digit,
bone infects, eye-injury or abscess, corneal ulcer, etc].
dogs who practice snarks and move-on to spat, need help -
to prevent a fight and to prevent bad-feeling.

Fights -

Grade 3 - low-intensity fights include growls AND
maybe - punctures, but definitely scratches and bruises -
the combatant[s] 'mean it' - things will not improve spontaneously -
blood was shed, or pain was inflicted.

Spats + snarks are THREATS - fights leave HURTs.

Low-intensity fights will escalate - 'get bigger + worse' -
if nothing is done to not only prevent a fight,
but Change the feelings that start the fights.

Grade 4 - moderate-intensity = multiple punctures,
some torn skin; rips are bites with pulling.

Grade 5 - serious intensity = add tears with bruising
and small crush-areas to punctures;

Grade 6 - severe-intensity = pieces of skin or muscle
missing, crush-injuries / necrotic tissue; one to 3 drains;

Grade 7 - mauling = multiple crush-injuries, multiple
serious-trauma, 2 or more drains, skin-grafts;

Grade 8 - the only step left is 'kill' - one or the other,
or both, die of injuries or blood-loss.
the worse the fights... the worse the prognosis for

Generally, the quieter the fight, the worse
the emotions and the damage are - the dogs
do not waste energy swearing, but aim to
inflict maximum injury.
This is a very-bad sign, and poor prognosis.

terry pride, APDT-Aus, apdt#1827, CVA, TDF


  1. hey, Robin! :--)

    I have posted this scale on several trainers lists and a few pet-owners forums, and some questions have popped up regarding both the *Dunbar Bite-Scale* and the *Dog-Dog Conflict-Ranking Scale* -

    BOTH require a context for the event, to provide any useful info that might allow us to draw conclusions, make predictions, and hopefully have some estimated prognosis for an individual dog.

    We are rating the severity of the bite [Dunbar scale] or the fight [my scale], but alone, neither is very informative; they only delineate how much damage was done, to a human or a dog, in a single event.

    CONTEXT is complex, since it includes the physical setting -
    [the vets waiting-room, the sidewalk in front of the dog's house, the busy pet-supply store in a narrow aisle...] - and the *emotional states* of both [or all] dogs involved, before, during and after the event...
    plus any dog's behavior after the event.

    as an example -
    context in a Dog-Bite event:
    A person enters a dog-run and the dog flees but cannot escape; s/he chases the dog, swearing loudly, and eventually corners the dog and grabs the dog's collar -
    one would strongly presume that any bite delivered by the dog, would be significantly worse than the usual bite from the same dog.
    Because the dog is obviously fearful, the person appears threatening, and the dog is trapped.

    EX: context in a Dog-Fight:
    A dog is dragged unwillingly into a dog-park and immediately is the center of a curious mob of dogs, several of whom are very intrusive and pushy; a fight breaks out.
    In this context we would again expect any bites inflicted by the dog dragged in, to be worse than that dog would usually inflict -
    because the dog was already intimidated before entering the space, was approached by multiple dogs, and there were very-rude dogs among them who were physically provoking a reaction.

    AFTER the fight, a dog may flee, hide [under, behind or inside], lie prone, immobile and unresponsive [shut down due to fear], stand head and tail down with body contracted [defensive], or stand rigid with head and tail up and weight on toes [passive threat].


  2. part Two... ;-)

    That same dog in a large fenced area, with ONE other dog, might easily succeed in getting more social-distance simply with a hard-stare or a short freeze -
    there is no actual conflict whatever; the dogs communicate and conflict is averted.
    A pet-owner might miss the signals entirely, or misconstrue them, or think they were unimportant; anyone who missed that early interaction could easily think the OTHeR dog was not dog-social, as the other dog [once warned off], never made any attempt to interact... when in point of fact, the other dog was polite: the anxious-dog asked for space, and the other dog moved away.

    So... if we assumed that the bites inflicted at the dog-park were typical of this dog, who apparently fears other dogs, we would do a terrible dis-service and could shorten the dog's life, or convince the owner that this dog is hopeless and behavior-modification is a waste of time and effort.

    CONFLICT is an event; CONTEXT is the physical and emotional setting of the event, which both frames and affects the behaviors of those involved.
    Emotional states are very influential, as are any physical factors - pain, whether chronic or acute; illness; medications which can affect behavior or perception; hormone levels [estrus, intact vs desexed, hypothyroid, lactating, etc], mobility, and so on.

    Such things as mobility may seem innocuous, but can be critical - a stiff arthritic senior will be much-crankier than that SAME dog, meeting an active, bouncy puppy, years earlier; tolerance can change even in the same individual, from event to event, or over time.

    I hope this scale will become helpful to shelters, rescues, trainers, vets, and other dog professionals, to rate the intensity of conflicts and possibly predict the likelihood of future fights, or the possible prognosis of B-Mod for particular dogs.

    If anyone has suggestions or criticisms, *please* contact me directly -
    [this prevents spambots from swamping my in-box, i am sorry for the trouble; just copy and paste the address, and substitute the symbols for the words.] Thank you so much.

    happy training,
    - terry

    terry pride, APDT-Aus, apdt#1827, CVA, TDF