Why we don’t let our dogs chase anything

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Val (and Bandit) waiting for something interesting to happen.

We have four dogs, they are amazingly calm and social beings, but they are still predators. We make it a strict rule in the humpy that dogs are not allowed to chase anything. The human component of the family is in charge of chasing goannas, snakes and spiders outside and away these days. Our old dog Spot (19 years old this year) used to escort goannas out of the yard and away from the chooks, but he is retired now as he can’t seem to remember which direction to herd them in (resulting in some interesting course corrections). We keep this rule for several reasons; firstly, dogs are predators and have an instinct to hunt and kill (no matter how sublimated that instinct may be) so we don’t want to encourage any behavior which may lead to killing. Secondly we don’t want visitors like goannas and snakes hurt during their visit to the humpy.

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This is Spot, still going at 19 years old. He just doesn’t know where he’s going these days.

Yesterday we added a third reason for the rule; one of our dogs had an argument with a goanna. The poor little thing (the goanna) was asleep in a clump of lantana when I walked by on my way out to photograph some bower bird bowers, he was startled and ran past me towards the relative safety of a big tree. Meanwhile, Val; our youngest dog, saw the goanna and either mistakenly assumed it was heading towards me or just had an excess of hunting instinct that morning. Val jumped over the fence (an impressive feat in itself) and attacked the poor goanna, while I yelled myself hoarse and whacked at them both with a stick. She eventually let go and slunk back to the yard while I tried to follow the fleeing goanna to see if there were injuries. He ran away very fast and probably hasn’t stopped running yet. I never did catch up with him.

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When I got back to the humpy my youngest daughter was checking Val over for injuries and found a wound on her inner thigh via the age-old cinematic convention of suddenly finding one’s hand covered in blood. That particular daughter has a blood aversion and has been known to faint in the vet’s office or during medical procedures at home. This time was no different; she quickly handed Val over to me and prepared a sterile salt water bath and dressings for me before sitting on the floor with a grayish face and shaking hands. I began cleaning away the blood, which was copious but not frighteningly so. Once the wound was clean it became apparent that Val had three slash marks from the claws of the goanna on her left inner thigh area.

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The wound just after we cleaned it.

As goannas carry some wicked bacteria and actually have venom of a sort,  we decided to take her to the vet for a professional check over, antibiotic shots and proper cleaning. So into the car we climbed, armed with towels, water bottles and money. Val was in a lot of pain on the two hour drive to our family vet, she sat mostly quietly and didn’t even show interest in passing cows. When we got to the vet office (which had stayed open for us past the normal lunch time closing on a Saturday) Val was sedated and began to relax somewhat. In fact her face bore an expression reminiscent of my own after several bottles of home made wine. Her wound was cleaned out and she was injected with heavy duty antibiotics, anti-inflammatory agents and more mild sedatives. The vet decided that she needed to stay overnight because the risk of infection with goanna wounds is very high and they can get very messy, very fast. Also the slash had just missed her femoral artery making the risk of systemic infection even higher.

We returned this afternoon (a four hour round trip) to pick her up. She was very glad to see us (and still a little stoned). We left with explicit instructions for wound care, a pile of assorted medications and our overjoyed Val. The wound will need twice daily cleaning and I will have to give her the many pills and potions, but I am confident she will heal.

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This is the wound after two days.

We don’t go rushing to the vet for every little wound, but I am glad we decided to go for this one. I am still worried about the goanna as we haven’t seen him again and he may have been as badly injured as Val. The rule of ‘no chasing’ will continue to be firmly enforced, after all, we don’t need any more injuries.

 

Edit- Val’s wound is healing well and the goanna has been spotted again. He has some small wounds around his neck but seems OK (whew).

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The wound after a week.

 

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