Sep 08, 2010
Thanks to Al Diamon for his "Pariah Dogs" column last week. As he made clear, a call for breed bans in Maine is based on fearful imaginings rather than reality. Janis Bradley, author of "Dogs Bite But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous," combed statistics from the Centers for Disease Control to put dog bites and fatal attacks into perspective nationally.
Among her findings: One is five times more likely to be killed by lightning than by a dog. Children, more often than adults, are victims of fatal dog attacks, but a child is 82 times more likely to be killed by family or friends.
Drowning kills 208 times more children, guns 49 times more children, and bicycles 48 times more children. Let us not ignore the tragedy of any such deaths, but trying to outlaw these possibilities would be absurd.
Most dogs of "dangerous breeds" prefer not to [be aggressive] at all. Of the 51 pit bulls taken from Michael Vick's Bad Newz Kennels in April 2007, 47 were thriving in foster or forever homes 20 months later.
In 1995, I heard veterinary behaviorist Ian Dunbar discuss research by a graduate student at UC-Berkeley. The project explored what kinds of interactions preceded dog bites to children and, accordingly, assessed traits of various breeds. The surprising conclusion was that "a well-bred, well-socialized" rottweiler is the safest dog to have in a home with young children.
As a dog trainer, I've met such outstandingly good-natured rotties (as well as sweet pit-bull types) that I adopted one: Jolly Good Fellow, who became a Canine Good Citizen, a registered therapy dog, and a welcome visitor to area schools and the library. By what reasoning should owning such a dog be illegal?
Regardless of breed, a well-socialized dog understands that there are a thousand degrees of bite and chooses not to break flesh when an air snap will do — bite inhibition that is learned via play throughout a pup's first four months. Equally important, a puppy needs to learn social confidence through positive encounters with dozens of unfamiliar people, dogs and situations before reaching 14-16 weeks of age. Otherwise, the adolescent dog is hard-wired to begin experiencing new situations as scary or suspect.
Mr. Diamon is correct that keeping the public safe from your dog (and your dog safe from the public) is easier if the dog is neutered and that it is imperative for your dog to be securely contained when you are not present. Responsible owners also exercise their dogs daily so that frustrations and excess energy do not build up in their pets.
They socialize and train so that they can guide their dogs' behavior. They do not allow dogs and children to mix without supervision. In a society that tolerates no communication with teeth, it is the owner's job to keep a dog on the right side of skin and law — and, evidently, to watch out for misguided legislative proposals, lest they bite us where it hurts.
Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed
Here is the source of the statistics I was looking for regarding a previous post. This is an excellent article and I think the following is so true and I wish more people understood this no matter what type of dog they own.
“Regardless of breed, a well-socialized dog understands that there are a thousand degrees of bite and chooses not to break flesh when an air snap will do — bite inhibition that is learned via play throughout a pup's first four months. Equally important, a puppy needs to learn social confidence through positive encounters with dozens of unfamiliar people, dogs, and situations before reaching 14-16 weeks of age. Otherwise, the adolescent dog is hard-wired to begin experiencing new situations as scary or suspect.”
It all boils down to responsible ownership of one’s dog.