Understanding Aggressive Canines and Society
Each year, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people, a number the Center for Disease Control considers to represent an “epidemic.” Of that total, more than half a million people require medical attention from dog bites.
The killing of the woman in San Francisco by a Presa Canario thrust the issue into the limelight. It is clearly time to do something about the epidemic of dog bites. Below are guidelines that could help to extinguish this problem.
How to Stop Aggressive Dog Bites to People
Bad Dog Breeding Should Be Discouraged
A few years ago Time magazine ran a cover story titled “To the Dogs – the shame of over breeding.” They were, as usual, right on the money. Some – but not all – the blame rests on the breeders’ shoulders. Indiscriminate breeding practices, with no consideration for temperament, have tarnished the nature of some breeds. Breeds that were “pussycats” 25 years ago are now known for aggressive tendencies.
Commercial, rather than private, breeders shoulder much of the blame. For example, puppy mill breeders have nothing to lose by purveying pups that look like a desirable breed but are temperamentally flawed. Good breeders usually insist on taking back pups that develop unlivable problem behaviors or other defects. The puppy mill breeders are not so scrupulous.
To illustrate what can be done if a breed group puts their mind to it, take Doberman pinchers. The Doberman club became aware that the breed had developed a reputation for aggression and decided to breed out these aggressive tendencies. The result is that today, American Dobermans have a much more stable temperament and have fallen in the ranking of aggressive dogs.
Select The Right Dog Breed for You
Unfortunately, most would-be dog owners know very little about the breed they want to acquire. Amazingly, they’ll choose a new dog – a living creature that will share their home for some 10-14 years – in a heartbeat. Would-be owners should fully educate themselves about the breed, including temperament.
Some dogs are specialist breeds that need dedicated and knowledgeable owners, not novice dog owners. You should think twice about dogs bred for jobs that include fighting, intense predatory skills, guarding, and protection. While okay with the right person, dogs with such a heritage may be time bombs in inexperienced hands.
The size of the dog is important. If you don’t know how to train a dog and don’t have the inclination to learn, don’t pick a huge dog of a potentially aggressive breed. While Yorkshire terriers can give a nasty nip, an Alaskan malamute can maim or kill.
Train Bite Inhibition to Your Dog
Once the right breed is selected, the next critical factor is to train bite inhibition. When pups are young, they will reach an age when they start to mouth and bite moving things around them.
That’s normal, but you need to draw a line. The way to do this is to yell “ouch” loudly and withdraw if the puppy’s nipping becomes too intense for comfort. This teaches the pup that people are soft and “ouchy” and that the dog doesn’t need to bite hard to leave a lasting impression! In addition, socialization to all dogs is vital, right from the get-go. This fact can’t be emphasized too strongly.
Socialization is an active process. Arrange pleasant experiences for the pup in the presence of children, strangers, and other pets as soon as his eyes first open. Training shouldn’t end after puppyhood, either. It should be an ongoing process throughout the dog’s life. And remember, always shield your dog from unpleasant experiences, like being tied up outside next to a school route or getting jerked around by a physical (metal collar) trainer.
Know Where to Buy Your Dog
Now you understand the importance of socialization, you should know what to look for in a breeder of psychologically sound pups. If you see wire enclosures outside with pups being raised like battery chickens, or if you choose a dog from a pet store, you will be a getting socially deficient pup. A cellar or bedroom in the house is no better because it offers few, if any, opportunities for the pup to gain confidence around people. The critical age for socialization is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. Even at 8 or 9 weeks a lot of opportunities to produce a confidant, well-rounded individual will have been missed.