Sunday, August 7, 2011

A well-trained dog is less likely to attack

By Dr. Mark Rubensohn, Calgary Herald

The recent, very unfortunate event in Didsbury, where two Akitas attacked and seriously injured two young people who were known to them, as well as their dog, highlights the problem of dog attacks and what brings them about.
There is no doubt a number of facts led to this particular attack.
There were newborn (four days old) puppies and the mother dog would have been increasingly protective. The owner, who would have had the most control over the Akitas, was away. She would instil a sense of trust and calm in her dogs, which was not there due to her absence.
The couple's beagle coming into the environment of the bitch with the newborn puppies would almost surely have aggravated the mother Akita's protective instincts. Dog aggression will be compounded by the flight and panic of the object of their attack. If the beagle and its owners were yelling in flight, then the aggression would have been aggravated.
What has made this incident even more sinister is that the couple and their beagle were well known to the Akitas, and that despite their attempts to escape, the Akitas pursued them until they could fight their way out of the garage.
The reality remains, however, that despite the fact we are talking about people's pets - our best friends and constant companions - animals we love dearly, and pets that are regarded as part of the family, we experience aggression, biting, nipping and dominant behaviour continuously from our dogs. As a veterinarian, it is of great concern to me that so many of our dogs cannot be controlled by their owners, and that they are undisciplined, regardless of their size or breed. One need only tune into an episode of Cesar Millan's Dog Whisperer on TV to see how dogs are ruling their people's behaviour, rather than the other way around.
The statistics of dog attacks show without exception that dogs that have been trained and are obedient have a statistically hugely lower incidence of attacks on people. This includes all breeds, both large and small. In the U.K., Labradors have been one of the top listed breeds involved in attacks. Here in Canada and the U.S., German shepherds were for a long time on top of the list, but have now been replaced by the power breeds of pit bulls, cane corsos - and now, we have a case of Akitas. The big difference with the power breeds, of course, is that they do more harm than the smaller breeds.
We would do well to remember that the happiest dogs are those to which we assign jobs and work, and from which we demand respect for our rules. No matter what the breed, all of our dogs have been bred to work, and we need to not only allow them, but to teach them how to do this. All dogs should know how to sit on command, to heel, lie down, stay, come, and walk on a leash without pulling.
No dog should jump up on us without being invited to do so, or jump onto the furniture without invitation. Food should not be available all day, but should be given twice daily with the requirement that the dog sits obediently and only takes the food on command. Praise and reward should be earned, and not unconditional.
And the best love that you can give your dog is to give it adequate exercise and attention. If you need help in how to do this, watch the Dog Whisperer, and if necessary, enrol in training classes, which are available all over, and conveniently for us, with the Calgary Humane Society.
If you want to see a happy dog, attend a show of Super Dogs or go to any dog agility trial.
All of this is available in Calgary. Empower your pet to attain its true potential with your help. That is what loving your pet is really about.

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