On January 20, 2011 a ten year old boy was badly mauled by three dogs who escaped from their yard in Pinal county Arizona. The Boy had just got off the bus after school and was walking home accompanied by his younger brother, a friend and his friend’s younger sister when a Pit Bull and two Rottweilers attacked the boy. His friend ran to a neighbor’s house yelling for help when the neighbor ran to help armed with a bat. He struck the Pit Bull in the head. The dog had the side of the boys head in its mouth and let go when struck by the Good Samaritan. The boy lost an ear and lots of skin due to the attack and was immediately transported via ambulance to a nearby hospital. The victim reportedly placed himself between the dogs and his younger brother to protect him.
The worst part about any dog attack is that they are preventable. Many will immediately jump to the conclusion that the nature of the attack was due to the breeds of dog involved. Rottweilers and Pit Bulls have a bad reputation to say the least but the real question remains unasked. This question is why do people decide to get large powerful dogs and neglect to properly train and socialize these animals? The answer is that regardless of the breed or size of dog that people choose to bring into their home many neglect to do what is responsible. These responsibilities are especially important however, when you choose to bring a large powerful breed into your home such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, American Bulldogs and German Shepherds. There are many other Breeds that could be included but the list would go on forever. As a dog owner your responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Research the breed or breeds of dogs you are interested in BEFORE you bring them home. Get a book about the breed history and speak with some trainers or veterinary professionals to help you make your decision. Go to the American Temperament Test Society Website and check the rank of the breed you are interested in. http://www.atts.org/statistics.html
- Do not get a large powerful dog if you do not intend to be the leader of the pack. Dogs are not like humans (as much as we try to pretend they are) there are different social aspects to dog psychology. Any dog in your home will view your family as their pack. When the humans in the pack allow a dog to be their equal the dog will make attempts to rank above you in the pack sometimes leading to attacks within the home. Small dogs will do this too. Ever seen a small dog get on the bed and growl or bite to protect it? They are claiming your bed as their space and asserting themselves as the leader of the house.
- Aggression towards humans should never be allowed from an early age. When you have a puppy take their food bowl away so they learn that they do not need to protect their food from people. Any growling at house guests or family members should be immediately addressed. Do not treat your pup as if they are a child and tell them “oh it’s ok, poor baby, don’t be scared.” You are teaching your dog that if they growl at others in the home they will receive attention from you, thus reinforcing the bad behavior. If your dog or puppy shows any signs of aggression towards people you owe it to the rest of society and your friends and family to call a trainer immediately.
- Get your dogs spayed or neutered. Hormones can elevate any situation with dogs. Not to mention the vast overpopulation problem in this country. Intact dogs are far more likely to be territorial and guard their property sometimes aggressively.
- Exercise your dogs. Having your dogs locked in a yard all the time causes frustration. It is psychologically and physically important to the health of your dog or dogs to get them out on a walk as much as possible. It is good for the owner as well considering the growing obesity rate in this country so get out with your dog or dogs on a regular basis.
- Secure your perimeter. Weak fencing or gaps, holes, whatever the case may be, fix it. Do your job as a dog owner and make sure your dogs can’t escape. Dogs running loose can act out usually because they have not been properly socialized and they have pent up energy form lack of exercise and mental stimulation.
It is time for humans to face up to the mistakes that we have been making as dog owners and make a change starting in your own home. Any dog can be a great dog and any dog can bite. Remember to judge the deed, not the breed. If you feel there are improvements that you can make to become a more responsible dog owner please start today. It is never too late. Unfortunately neither Pinal county animal control nor Maricopa county animal control offer a behaviorist for the public to contact regarding having their dogs evaluated. Behavior evaluations are available at the Arizona Animal Welfare League at the cost of $200. To contact them visit their website at http://www.aawl.org/