Aggressive Dogs and Society

Dog Behavior & Training > Bonding With Your Dog >

Sadly, there are some sick individuals who set about to a) purchase and b) train “hounds from hell.” A number of such individuals contacted Presa Canario breeders after the San Francisco attack to ask where they could purchase these pit-bull-on-steroids facsimiles. Some of the people who crave dangerous dogs just want to impress their friends, others want to attack-train the dogs for protection or intimidation, and yet others want the dogs for pit fighting (still). Techniques used to make dogs mean include isolation, starvation, torture, and aggravation. I think the punishment for these individuals should be the maximum that can be metered out under the law. If you select and train a vicious dog that kills or injures someone you should pay a high price. In the case of the San Francisco attack, one of the people involved is being charged with murder. A high price indeed.

Owners in Denial that They have an Aggressive Dog

Some people just don’t know what’s going on until it’s too late. Just because their dog appears sweet and curls up happily on the rug in front of them they think he can do no harm. This is not necessarily true. As mentioned, all dogs can bite if so inclined, particularly if they are set up for it by earlier experiences or the lack thereof. Warning signs from the dog include:

  • An obsession with squirrels or other small varmints – indicates high predatory drive. Predatory drive can become displaced on to rapidly moving prey facsimiles, e.g. children, joggers, skate boarders, bicyclists.
  • Growling, lifting a lip, snapping, or biting family members for any reasons – implies some dominance. Dominance aggression is enhanced if the challenger is of low social standing with respect to the dog, such as a child.
  • Growling (or worse) at strangers on or off the owners property – indicates fear. Fear aggression is usually worst on the owners’ property or on the streets surrounding the property (areas that the dog marks with urine during walks). It is also more marked from the safety of the owner’s car or from behind a fence or barrier.
  • Apprehension around children or strangers without overt displays of aggression.

    Conclusion: What’s the Answer to Aggressive Dogs in Society 

    Should certain of our dog breeds be banned? I don’t think so. Even breeds ranking highly in the aggression demographics could have been selected, trained, and contained so that they did not feature in the ranking at all. The problems are bad breeding, uneducated pet selection, uninformed rearing practices, poor socialization, poor leadership, inadequate control, and unrealistic expectations. I favor proper owner education and an owner test as a prerequisite for all would-be dog owners, especially would-be owners of specialist breeds. Owners of aggressive free-ranging dogs should receive mandatory re-education classes at their own expense and should be jailed for a second offense.

    There is one possible exception to the owner education and accountability scheme: the Presa Canario itself. These dogs, and one or two other rare large aggressive breeds, are one level of dangerousness above what we are dealing with now, partly because of their size and partly because of their breeding. One breed aficionado of the Presa Canario breed wrote, “As a guardian breed with man-stopping ability – [this dog] will not hesitate to attack anyone whom it perceives as a threat to its family or home. Such an attack could only be a hopeless situation for any man involved.” How prophetic this turned out to be.

    Until I see a well socialized Canary dog, I will reserve judgment on the beast. As things stand presently I have some reservations about this particular breed’s place in society.


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