coworker's dog bit my dog, what to say?
March 11, 2014 11:46 AM   Subscribe

A coworker's dog was acting incredibly viciously at the dog park and bit my dog,  causing puncture wounds. What should I say to this guy about what happened, and should I offer any advice about handling his dog?

Someone who is a friend of my coworker from grad school recently got a job at my workplace and moved here from another state. When my friend coworker told me that new coworker had a dog, a big St. Bernard, I suggested we go to the dog park on Saturday with my boyfriend and the dog (lab mutt) that we own. When we got to the dog park and the dogs met each other, the St. Bernard immediately snapped and bit my dog with no provocation. It happened really quickly, and the St. Bernard bit my dog on her butt as she was trying to get away. My dog never gets into fights and absolutely did nothing to provoke this. We didn't immediately notice any damage and continued into the park, thinking it was just a bad meeting. As we got to the part of the park where people generally let their dogs off leash, we let the dogs get a little close again to see if it was a one off thing, but the St. Bernard lunged again and tried to bite my dog. I was feeling pretty bad about the St. Bernard at this point. After about 10 more minutes of walking, New Coworker let his dog off leash (!!!) and his dog ran off to meet some other dogs. I was thinking that this was a terrible idea, but I'm really shy and didn't say anything. In about five minutes, the St. Bernard bit someone else's dog and New Coworker ran after her to break it up, and kept her on a leash (but still at the dog park) thereafter. New Coworker went walking around the park with one of his friends, and later came to hang out in the open field area where a bunch of dogs were off leash. At some points off-leash dogs (I kept my dog far away) came to sniff around the St. Bernard, but she would lunge, snarl and try to bite any dog that came near, although thankfully she didn't attempt to bite any humans and seemed totally fine around people.
New Coworker didn't seem phased by any of this behavior, insisted that his dog had been to dog parks before and was fine, and didn't inquire into whether my dog was ok. My dog seemed ok and wasn't noticeably bleeding. The day after this all happened, my boyfriend shaved the area where the St. Bernard bit our dog and found two large puncture wounds where the St. Bernard had bitten her. He's keeping an eye on them and will take her to the vet if they don't heal in a couple days or start to look infected.
I feel that I need to talk to my coworker about his dog's behavior. My boyfriend told me that if he has to take our dog to the vet he will send the guy the bill. I really hate confrontation with people, but I feel that this guy needs to know that his dog's behavior is serious. If my dog had been smaller or had been bitten on the neck or face, she could have been seriously injured or killed. If this dog gets loose somehow it could kill another dog. What should I say to this guy, and are there any constructive suggestions I can offer about what he can do?
posted by permiechickie to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
"Hey, Coworker, can I talk with you about our trip to the dog park the other day? When your dog bit my dog, we found out later that it caused some pretty serious puncture wounds. I also saw your dog bite or try to bite several other dogs. I'm concerned about the likelihood of your dog seriously injuring or killing another dog, or even a human. I'd like to know what steps you're going to take to prevent that from happening. I'd like to suggest that you get some help from a professional trainer, and that you stop taking your dog to the dog park until it stops biting other dogs."
posted by ottereroticist at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

The day after this all happened, my boyfriend shaved the area where the St. Bernard bit our dog and found two large puncture wounds where the St. Bernard had bitten her. He's keeping an eye on them and will take her to the vet if they don't heal in a couple days or start to look infected.

Ok, first things first, you need to get your dog to a vet. My dog was bitten by another dog and all that was visible were a few puncture wounds. The emergency vet said that for bites, the majority of the damage is under the skin and not visible. There is also the risk of infection. This is not a wait and monitor situation.

If the other dog's owner has renters or homeowners insurance it may cover the cost of vet bills. I would not talk to the other owner without first talking to legal representation. You are also free to report this to your local animal control department (or, depending on jurisdiction, you may be required to report it).
posted by melissasaurus at 11:59 AM on March 11, 2014 [13 favorites]

If this dog gets loose somehow it could kill another dog.

That's a bummer and all, but personally I'd be worried the dog could get loose and kill a child. Even if you don't go to Animal Control, put something in writing to this person to put them on notice that their dog is a biter. And get your dog checked out, and see what your vet recommends for documenting this.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Dogs aren't people, they're dogs. So the St. Bernard was being a dog. Your new co-worker could claim that he didn't know that the dog was dog-aggressive. If it's true, he wasn't on notice. Now you need to put him on notice. Here's what I'd say:

"You know Dave, I was rather surprised at how aggressive Cleo was at the dog park. It turns out the our Buttercup had puncture marks from where Cleo bit her. I don't know if this is a new behavior or what, but I thought it might be a good idea to keep Cleo out of the dog park until you can get to the bottom of it. She's so big, and she probably doesn't mean to cause injury, but she can really hurt a smaller dog with her nips."

Take a snap of your dog's wounds on your phone, so if he tries to play it off, you can say, "I know! It didn't look like anything to me either, but check this out (show gory pic of your dog's boo-boo.) See? And that's from playing!"

Once you've informed him, it's over. He can choose to do or not do anything about it. Hopefully, he won't show up at the dog park again. If he does, you can tell others that the dog is dog-aggressive, and warn them away. If there is an issue at the dog park, you can file a report with the police saying that this isn't the first time, and that you've told him personally. Hopefully it won't come to that.

Give your doggie kisses, and keep some neosporin on the wounds.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:04 PM on March 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

Ruthless Bunny has it right (as per usual).

You do need to raise this issue - it is very important - but you need to do so in a way that is mindful of the fact that you have to work with this person. It's a shame, I guess, that the world is like that. But, at the end of the day, berating or interrogating this person is going to sour them on you at work and will probably make it harder for them to really hear your message. You don't want to to demand answers from them re: what they're doing to fix the problem; that will make them defensive.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:18 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please follow melissasaurus' advice. Dog bites are serious and you should get it checked out.

I'd also report the event to animal control because if a dog of that size is aggressive the next time it attacks someone's pet it may kill it. Or a human.
posted by winna at 12:19 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Take your dog to the vet now, instead of in a couple of weeks from now when you're pooch could potentially have a nasty abscess.
posted by gumtree at 12:23 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

It could help to start the conversation from a position of empathy for coworker and coworker's dog: "Freida seemed comfortable with the people, but for some reason the other dogs really set her off -- did she have some kind of traumatic experience? She was so scared and angry she wasn't really herself and even behaved aggressively. I know she's really a sweet girl, especially with you; she acts like you've always treated her really well. But she was so freaked out by the other dogs that I really think it was no fun for her, and it was really dangerous for the other dogs."

Don't minimize the seriousness of the situation, and do mention the ramifications above, but recognize the real love involved and don't talk about peoples dogs (or children) as though they were criminals :)
posted by amtho at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's a little hard to parse legislature on recourse for vet bills when dogs bite other dogs, but if this guy doesn't offer to pay to get the dog checked out or treated, do we have legal recourse? We live in MA.
posted by permiechickie at 12:34 PM on March 11, 2014

From my vast experience watching court shows, (and listening to my Mom talk about legal stuff at the dinner table) here is what I see. It depends on the jurisdiction.

You really don't have a leg to stand on if your Co-Worker had no idea his dog was a biter. What should he have done differently? When they met, they were both on leashes and presumably in both of your control. If you can prove that he was neglegent, that he knows his dog bites, and he brought her over of a different color.

You can ask him to pay the vet bill, but he's not legally required to do so. I'm on the fence about reporting his dog to Animal Control, if you take your dog to the vet, it may force your hand, the vet may need to report, no matter what.

If you go during the day, with an appointment, it shouldn't be too expensive. An office visit and antibiotics should take care of it. (Sez I, the former owner of a bitey dog, who got bit, and had to go to the human vet, for antibiotics and a tetanus shot).

You never know, the dude could be a mench and he might offer to pay because he feels bad. Probably not, and now you know and you can avoid him in the future.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Regardless of your legal rights, you probably don't want to sue your coworker.

Honestly, based on his reactions at the time, I don't think anything you can say will do much good. I'd tell him that your dog had some puncture wounds from the bite, that your dog had to go to the vet, and that you think it would be right for him to cover the bill. That both officially puts him on notice about his dog's biting and outlines your expectations for his concrete behavior regarding your vet bills. If he resists paying, I'd probably just let it drop rather than escalating to legal action.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:40 PM on March 11, 2014 [4 favorites]

You don't get to tell him what to do, but you can tell him what happened and that you ended up getting treatment. It's up to you whether you want to ask him to pay for it, and he may not believe he is at fault.

Dog parks are terrible places for some dogs, it's not at all a natural social behavior for strange dogs to be forced together (by people who largely don't know anything about canine group dynamics).

You can't apply human logic to why the other dog bit your dog (your dog may very well have "provoked" the other by not conceding leadership the way the other dog expected it to - this isn't a bar fight, it's a power negotiation), and he can't go home and lecture his dog about not being snappy and dominant, and the dog snapping at your dog in a terrible dog environment does not automatically mean the dog ever has or ever will eat a child. (In the grand scheme of things one really does only want the non-doggiest of dogs around children, yes, but dogs doing dog politics with each other does include biting, that's an option for them, it's not exactly the same as generalized aggression.)

The dog *stopped* biting when its point was made and/or it was redirected, which is normal behavior. Some dogs don't stop. And then other dogs join in. That's why dog parks are dangerous, once the dogs get big enough that you can't hold them up at arm's length (though you can still get your own legs bitten to shreds doing that).

This is awkward because it was a coworker's dog, but it could have been a stranger's dog. You took your dog to the dog park, you made the decision, you accepted the liability (and you may have literally done so if there was signage to that effect at the dog park). That this happened really only means you should think harder about going to dog parks, and so should your coworker.

Do take your dog to the vet if there are puncture wounds. Antibiotics now are so much easier than surgery later.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:57 PM on March 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

I love Ruthless Bunny and agree with most of the comment from RB above but I think I'd be a tad more aggressive here.

1. Tell your co-worker about the bites and show the pictures. Ask for a commitment that there will be no further visits to dog walks or allowing his dog on leash within biting distance of other humans/dogs. If co-worker can't/won't make that promise then

2. Notify animal control.

Or, I might just tell co-worker about the bites, show the pictures, and also tell animal control.

I adore dogs, but this St. Bernard has got an owner who is not managing extremely dangerous behavior. The St. Bernard is at risk of causing really terrible injury to another dog or, perhaps, a human, and that will result in the death of the St. Bernard, serious legal consequences to the co-worker, and incredible grief for whoever is harmed by future bites.

posted by bearwife at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

Suing a co worker is not just burning a bridge, it's dropping a nuclear weapon on it. You work with this person, come on, think about it, think about the costs; financial, social, professional. I know you're upset but take a couple of breaths.

Secondly, dog sounds dangerous, to people and animals. I would put a call into animal control. I would not say anything to co worker about it, at all, ever. Your desire to say something is premised on a need for justice or restitution that your co worker clearly does not share. Any conversation you have about this will leave you feeling worse I promise.
posted by smoke at 2:57 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Notify Animal control, let the guy know you notified animal control. Has his dog had its rabies shot? Do you have actual medical proof of this from him, not just a tag on a dogs collar? You need to report the bite so he will provide proof his dog has been vaccinated. If nothing else you need to report it, so the bite is on record.

Once reported his dog now has a history of being a bite risk, I believe in some states this means the dog could end up on a dangerous dog register and the owner will have to show he is taking steps to restrain the dog. By telling Animal Control you are fulfilling your legal duties to report a dangerous dogs, any actions after that are up to them, which should make things easier at work as these things are not coming straight from you.

When my brother was eight had one half of his face pretty much peeled off from nose to ear by a boxer dog the owner swore up and down was friendly. I hate to think what might have happened if the dog had bitten a few inches lower or been a bigger dog, or I hadn't beaten the dog off of him with a skateboard.

Also I'd go to the vet, puncture wounds can be nasty festering things that look fine from the outside.
posted by wwax at 3:07 PM on March 11, 2014

At a minimum, I would report the dog to Animal Control. I would also say something to the owner and approach him about getting reimbursed for vet bills. Why is the onus on the OP to preserve a working relationship with the new colleague when this person clearly doesn't care about doing that himself? I mean, this is a person who is brand new to the organisation whose dog has attacked a co worker and he basically brushes it off like it means nothing.

Any decent (not to mention career minded) individual would be trying hard to make recompense because this is really not the first impression you want your workplace to have of you and gossip travels fast. But like I said, he doesn't care, so do what you need to do to protect your dog and other people's. Your reputation will remain intact. His, not so much if he's not careful. Irresponsible people like this drive me crazy and his actions now tell you a lot about who he is - you've been warned.
posted by Jubey at 4:01 PM on March 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Hopefully, you've taken your dog to the vet by now! Pre-emptive antibiotics are easier, cheaper, and less gross (and painful) and draining an abcess - ICK.

I would definitely contact Animal Control. Most people are unlikely to take unsolicited advice from a peer, but may listen to an "authority". Animal Control should be able to say something like "someone at the park saw your dog biting and behaving aggressively" and give him some flyers or pamplets or something outlining expected park behaviour, consequences if he fails to do so, and local resources for dog training. YMMV, but this is what the Animal Control equivalent in my area does.

There's also a... yellow (?) ribbon campaign where I am, where if you've got an anxious/bitey kind of dog you're encouraged to more or less "flag" him, so other dog owners know that their dogs/kids/etc should not come over and say hi (these dogs should be on a lead, etc.).

If you feel like you can talk to him, do that too and mention the puncture wounds. If they've recently moved, the dog may very well just be handling the move poorly. Training and behaviour modification will help.

This is serious - I'm on the other side of those subpoenas when the sh*t hits the fan, and it's not dogs that are aggressive who end up getting put down - it's dogs who are aggressive and their owners and unable/unwilling to take reasonable precautionary measures (training, leash, muzzle, good backyard enclosures, etc... although of course, well trained and non-aggressive is best!). It's really sad, and processing these pretty much ruins my day, especially when there's pictures (of the injured/dead parties AND the poor dog with the sucky owner). UGH. (I note that his dog would NOT get put down for this - he's got to be a vicious, uncontrolled repeat offender - but this is an offence, and this is where it could start. Easiest time to change course is now.)

Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2014

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