Archive for February 11, 2008

The Most Dangerous Dogs

Despite the media’s current obsession with stories about packs of aggressive dogs running loose and attacking strangers – the vast majority of dogs who bite belong to the victim’s family or friends. Yes, believe it or not, contrary to what you’ve read in the news, most dog bites come where and when we least expect them.  From good dogs. In our own homes.

People who report dog bites often say that the bite was ‘completely unexpected’. When they describe the dog that bit them (or their child or their friend) the first thing they’ll do is tell you what a great dog he is.

And most of the time their description of that good dog includes a long list of aggravations that good dog has endured. 

“The kids chased him around all the time and it never bothered him before.” 
“He never used to care when we grabbed him.”
“We always encouraged him to bark at the door, we never imagined he’d actually bite someone.”
“But we didn’t know he was injured and it hurt when we touched him there.”

We live in a culture that endows dogs with human virtues and denyies them our vices, and that twisted ideal leaves us with good dogs that unexpectedly do bad things.  People love their dogs for the good things they do and excuse them for the not-so-good. This gives them a false sense of security and leads to a lack of supervision and training. 

After all, a good dog doesn’t need to be trained or supervised, does he?

What our society seems to have forgotten is that the goodness of a dog won’t stop him from biting. Responsibility on the part of the people who own and interact with him does.


How to keep a good dog from going bad:

Supervise ALL interactions between preschool children and dogs.

Teach children to respect dogs. Set aside a ‘time out’ location (like a crate or laundry room) that the dog can go to when it doesn’t want to be with the kids. Enforce a ‘leave the dog alone’ rule when the dog is there. Don’t allow children to tease or harass the dog and discourage rough play.

Obey leash laws.  Keep your dog safely in your home, on your property or under your supervision at all times.

Pay attention to your dog’s health.  If he seems crabby or lethargic, take him in for a checkup even if nothing obvious is wrong with him.

Don’t force your dog to accept the attention of strangers (including the four-legged ones). Not all dogs are social butterflies. You don’t let every person you meet hug you or paw at you – why should your dog?

Train your dog. Training creates a common language and strengthens the bond between you and your dog. It does NOT turn a dog into a mindless robot. Rules and boundaries create predictability in a dog’s world. Predictability reduces anxiety, and reducing anxiety decreases aggression.

Don’t let your dog fence fight.  Don’t let him lunge and bark at people or dogs when you go for a walk.  Don’t let him charge the door, windows or gate when visitors approach. When your dog does these things he’s not protecting you, he’s expressing his own insecurity.

Don’t let your good dog go bad.

February 11, 2008 at 7:15 am 7 comments

Because A Dog’s Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste


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February 2008