Every time you read a story in the press about a dog that has injured or killed someone, don’t you wonder who the owner is that’s behind it? Do you assume that that owner is so far removed from your version of pet ownership that it could never be your dog in the papers? Think again.
These tragic cases have an owner there somewhere, the dogs are never strays. There’s often a helpful neighbor too who always says they saw the dog acting aggressively and were in fear for their lives. So what sort of owners create these pets that do such incredibly evil things? Could you be one of them?
Dogs don’t choose to stray or bite people. They behave in the way they have been taught or allowed to do. Humans are incredibly self centered and egotistical. We all know people who are experts on something based on ownership of one breed of dog, or one make of car or one week doing a job. These people constantly tell you the error of your ways whilst at home they have a badly behaved dog, a car that doesn’t go or are unemployed.
People like this never listen to advice. In fact they wouldn’t even ask for advice because that would make them look weak and they’d never cope with that. Some of these people own dogs. They buy dogs because they want to look a certain way or seem worldly or rich. Their dogs are never trained because they think they can do it themselves. When things go wrong, it’s the dog’s fault. It’s never their own lack of skills or judgment that’s to blame. These personalities often own cars they drive too fast. Drink too much and get into fights. Treat their partners badly and sometimes abuse them. They got a dog to show off with. Always a big dog, always a dog that struts down the street looking just like its owner.
Lots of you will recognize that description and it will be someone you often point at and comment on how one day “that dog will kill someone”. So where do you fit into all this? Are you so different to that obviously bad owner? How well trained is your dog? Is it safe off the lead or does it drive the rest of us mad running up to us and our dogs whilst you shout “don’t worry, he’s friendly”? Or is your dog one that never goes off the lead because it won’t come back? Or maybe you fear what it will do if it did run up to another dog or human? Do you flatter yourself that because you don’t let your dog off the lead it is safe and the bad behavior isn’t important because your dog will never get a chance to display it?
I get lots of enquiries for help from owners of dogs who have been badly behaved for a long time. They have spent that time containing rather than solving the behavior One day a mistake is made. Someone comes round a corner unexpectedly or another dog causes a problem or a door isn’t closed properly. The dog gets away and causes a serious incident. Owners always say the same thing,“Oh I know we should have asked for help before but we’ve always been so careful”.Not careful enough.
Why don’t owners get the help they need? Sometimes it is arrogance or embarrassment. An owner once told me he was traveling 200 miles to me for training so that nobody would know he wasn’t training the dog himself. Occasionally it is financial. Behavior therapy is specialist and so can be expensive. You wouldn’t avoid getting your dog an operation because of cost surely? You’d find the money. Often owners avoid therapy because they can’t stand the thought of someone saying their dog is mean or spiteful or nasty or being told to destroy it. So they live in their own fantasy world making endless excuses until something happens.
What of the dogs in these situations? Does keeping an aggressive dog on the lead or in the home make you a responsible owner? Of course it doesn’t. What quality of life do these pets have? They are often pampered at home because of the guilt the owner feels at not being able to do normal dog things. Dogs who rarely go off the property are usually spoilt, overweight and ill mannered. Owners make up for their lack of stimulation by feeding them endless treats and petting them. This makes the problem worse as the dog treats them like sad friends rather than leaders. These dogs are what I call “vampire” dogs as they only go out in the dead of night for fear of meeting people.
What is the best you can do for your dog? Feeding the best quality food you can afford, getting the best training and behavior help and giving your dog the right set of rules and boundaries that mean your dog has no responsibilities and no stress. You owe them that at least, don’t hide your problems, get help.