Guest Post by Campbell County Animal Control Officer, Terri Baker
This article is NOT breed specific. With all the recent bites, attacks, maulings and the occasional fatality I feel this is important information to help make dog owners more aware.
Dogs are pack animals. If you own more than one dog, then you already have a pack. Just hope you and your family are in the upper status. If you only have one dog, then your human family is the dog’s pack. It’s easier to lead this pack.
A single dog is more likely to become aggressive and protective over humans in the pack and territory.
Multiple dogs can become aggressive just because they are excited and they feed of each others energy. Humans do the same thing. That is how riots happen.
Children are more likely to be harmed by dogs than adults. The child could be seen as an intruder to the “pack.” The child could be seen as prey, especially if the child is loud, screaming, crying or running. The child could be seen as a lower member of the pack and the dog needs to “reprimand” or “teach” a lesson.
A child can easily be killed by a single dog if that dog has the strength. Leash laws are so important because this keeps dogs home and under control. If your sweet family dog meets up with another dog while loose, they just formed a pack. If that other dog begins chasing and biting people, your dog will do it too. And your dog may like it and feel motivated to be “bigger and meaner” and turn it up a notch.
All dogs can bite. I do hate hearing the phrase “my dog would never bite. My dog loves kids. My dog would never kill a cat, he lives with cats.” Your dog is a dog. No matter what breed he was a wolf descendent, a predator, a pack animal and has teeth.
Just because we do not understand why or how, just always know your dog can justify it in his doggie mind and will do things that you did not expect. We all can not have Cesar Milan save our dogs, but we all can do simple things to ensure we are pack leaders.
1. Spay/neuter your dog. Remove biological and hormonal reasons for aggression. Mating times and/or mother dogs with pups cause attacks on both strangers and family members.
2. Confine your dog. Allowing your dog to wander expands the dogs’ territory that it must protect. Also you can not control the dog if it chooses to protect the sidewalk in front of your house, when the next jogger comes by. Keeping control of your dog puts you in the driver’s seat and the dog will respect you as the alpha pack leader.
3. Do not allow or force people that are nervous about your dog/dogs to interact with them. Especially do not leave them in charge of the dogs or alone with the dogs. Dogs know when they are in charge of a situation or not. Even the calmest sweetest dog can get an ego boost by snapping at someone or bullying someone. I hear “he’s never did that to anyone before” often. Different people get a different reaction from the same dog. Most dogs hate your mailman. Two reasons: he is nervous about dogs and he comes often and the dog barks and “makes him leave,” in that doggie mind. It’s another ego boost thing. They think they saved the family from that “evil” mailman again. Most mail carriers know not to hand the mail to people over the fence when the dog is with them or when the kids are in the yard. The dog becomes protective and may bite or attack.
4. This may be hard for some people, but DO NOT TREAT YOUR DOG LIKE A HUMAN! If your dog has the size and strength to harm someone you need to be in control. Teach basic commands, Sit, Stay, Come, Down, Leave it, release. If your dog is showing aggressive tendencies, do not let him on the furniture. You need to send a clear message that you are alpha in your pack (family) and he is not an equal. Crate training is wonderful. This gives you a tool for housebreaking, preventing chewing and you control the dog and he will learn self control. The crate is also a great place to put the dog if a nervous visitor comes over or if children come over. This gives your dog a safe place.
5. Know your dog and do not be in denial. Know if your dog is a resource guarder or not. If you have a large powerful dog and it gets aggressive over toys, food or space, you have a dangerous dog. I do not recommend children living in the same home. It only takes one snap to require plastic surgery or worse. Most of us have had a small dog with this problem. A small dog with this issue is not likely to kill or maim someone. If you are an alpha pack leader then remember to keep the kids safe. I do not give foster dogs toys, treats or food near my kids. They are given in their crate. That way, they have it at their leisure and do not have to “fight” for it or fear competition.
6. Never leave kids alone with a dog, EVER! Kids running in grass and being loud, sounds like prey and may trigger an attack. Kids that run are caught with teeth. Once the kid cries out the dog may continue to attack. If other dogs are present then they may join in. This is the nature of dogs. Dogs may feel protective of your kids, but feel outside kids are a threat and attack. If your dog perceives you as hurting the kids, he may bite you too. Pay close attention if you are horsing around and the kids start yelling. Stop any protective behavior. You do not want the dog taking over the situation.
I really hope this helps you recognize the potential your dog has and prevents someone from getting hurt. If you have any question or concerns please call 859.292.3622.