Recently we heard news of the legislation regarding dangerous dogs which “go out of control and bite”, and how this is now extending beyond the original breeds which were classed as ‘dangerous dogs’ to all breeds and will go further than the destruction order, to in some cases include imprisonment for the owner for up to two years.
The reality is that ANY dog can bite. Not just dogs with ‘aggression’.
It doesn’t matter what has been said about the breed in books or by dog trainers, breeders or the media, or how lovely a temperment your dog has; every dog is an animal, and any animal could decide to defend itself if given a cause to do so. I have never been involved in a physical fight in my life, but if it came to the crunch I think that I would lash out if I felt that was the only option available for me to defend myself or those I am responsible for protecting. I have come across many dogs who have bitten, or warned that they may bite. I wouldn’t say that any of them were dangerous dogs particularly. They had just done what they thought was essential in the situation. The following are the typical reasons that they may do this:
1. Feeling threatened by someone coming into their personal space – rolling over to show the tummy in this case does not always mean ‘tickle my tummy’, if the dog is nervous, or unfamiliar to you it means ‘I am afraid, so I’m showing you my most vulnerable area so you’ll know I’m not a threat and will leave me alone’.
2. Seeing a visitor as a threat to the family – who is this person, what are their intentions? Do I need to protect my pack?
3. Protecting the family from strangers on the walk – joggers, children, people wishing to pet your dog, all can be seen as a threat. This will also extend to other dogs, we aren’t the only ones who are aware of the existence of potentially dangerous dogs, our dogs are alert to it too.
4. Neighbours leaning over the fence into their ‘territory’ – in the wild, encroaching the territory would lead to a fight to the death.
4. Feeling the need to protect their resources, e.g. food, toys (do not try to take food from a dog!)
5. Trying to stop owners from doing something they perceive to be dangerous – like slapping a childs hand away from a hot stove.
This is not an exhaustive list, and it is not intended to scare, it is simple to point out that there are lots of different occasions which could give a dog reason to bite and I have had numerous clients who’ve called me in because their dog has bitten someone ‘totally out of character’. I wish to equip you with the information that you need so you can make a choice to ensure that you protect your dog and yourself from any mistakes it may make. The key is LEADERSHIP. A dog which makes decisions at times of perceived danger is a dog which thinks that it is the leader of your pack. In extreme cases, the decision may be to bite. Let me point out here that I have also had numerous clients who have called me in, insistent that their dog knows its place and that the owners are top dogs, however I have yet to visit anyone where this has actually been the case. Obedience does not mean your dog trusts your decisions! For more information I recommend that you read “The Dog Listener” by Jan Fennell, or call me for an informal chat.