Journal Archive

How not to have a Dangerous Dog

First there was Dog Licensing, abolished in 1988 as many dog owners didn’t comply. Then the Dangerous Dogs Act, 1991, found to be ineffective in that it didn’t get rid of banned breeds and has not reduced dog bite incidents.  So now it is proposed that all puppies are micro-chipped and the owners’ details held on a database.  But will this new measure reduce dog bite incidents? 

Not whilst dogs still have sharp teeth and retain their dog-like instincts.  And obviously it won’t have any effect on the owners who want their dog to bite humans.

Rather than label some dogs “Dangerous” or some dog breeds “Dangerous”, it is more realistic to consider all dogs potentially at risk of biting humans. 

So instead of focussing on regulation, two simple strategies will reduce the chance of dogs biting humans:

  1. All breeders should ensure puppies are socialized to humans from birth.

Breeders, professional and otherwise, often keep the whelping bitch somewhere quiet and away from humans.   Much more preferable is that she and her puppies should be amongst people and hopefully children.  Puppies should be handled and exposed to as many new experiences as possible before they start a new life somewhere else.  This early socialization helps prevent nervous tendencies in puppies, whilst not discounting the influences of breed and mother’s temperament.

Potential dog owners taking on a puppy should see his or her mother and see where the puppies were born and kept for their first weeks.

 

  1. Dog owners need to commit to continuing socialization and understanding normal dog behaviour

Socialization and desentisation can be as easy as frequent trips to the vet, shops, school, park, riding stables etc.  The more dogs get used to new noises, smells and situations whilst they are young, the less suspicious they will be when they are older.  Friends and relatives can be encouraged to approach the dog with a treat so that the puppy learns that people are friendly.   There should be a rule for everyone involved with the dog that there is no mouthing from a young age.  When the puppy is playing and attempts to bite into the human’s hand, the human needs to “yelp”.  If the puppy tries to bite again, another “yelp” and also the game is stopped and either the human removed from the puppy or the puppy put back in his crate or bed.

The owners should be aware of normal guarding behaviours and use strategies to change this, ideally so that anyone can take a toy, bone or meal away from the dog, or sit in his bed with no growling or anxiety.   They should also be aware that other problems cause a dog to potentially bite humans, eg. Pain or illness.  Whilst training is ongoing and there is a doubt about the safety of the dog around humans, strategies such as securing in a crate or wearing a muzzle should always  be used.

19.5.2012                          Lydia Burke MSc, BSc  affiliate of Institute of Modern Dog Trainers