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Dogs Can’t Choose Their Owners!

Parent Category: Dog Talk
Created: 19 August 2013

We don’t believe that there is such a thing as a dangerous breed of dog that warrants ‘breed specific’ legislation. It may well be true that certain breeds of dog have over generations been ‘genetically engineered’ by humans to develop certain capabilities, however, just like people, dogs have individual temperaments and personalities – ask any loving dog owner!

No matter what their genetic background, given a loving owner, there is no reason to say that any one dog is predisposed to be dangerous more than any other. If your dog is fearful or aggressive, then this says more about you!

In fact we’d go so far as to say that breed specific legislation focuses attention at the wrong end of the lead!

No matter what their genetic background, given a loving owner, there is no reason to say that any one dog is predisposed to be dangerous more than any other.

If your dog is fearful or aggressive, then this may say more about you and the way you behave around your dog!

Now we don’t mean that you are necessarily doing anything on purpose to make your dog fearful or aggressive, but you may well be doing something or not doing something in a way that causes your dog to react with that kind of behaviour… and believe us when we say that most dog owners are the same!

People do not have to prove any competence in order to own a pet – that may be where we are going wrong. It’s not just that people may not know how to train or even behave with their dogs; if people behave badly towards each other or if there is a lot of stress and aggression in the household where a dog lives, don’t be surprised if the dog learns that this is normal and so also behaves aggressively!

It is also true to say that many people prefer to have one of the so-​called ‘dangerous’ breeds because they feel it says that they are tough or macho!

There has been much recent suggestion in many countries of tougher penalties for irresponsible owners and this is definitely a step in the right direction, supporting the premise that it is the owners’ behaviour that promotes the ‘dangerous’ aspects of their dogs’ personalities.

But will dog owners change if their dogs behaviour is considered potentially dangerous?

A new law came out in the UK in October 2014 [you can read about it on the Government Website] and the fines can be hefty (up to £20,000) if police or local authorities find that you did not take action to prevent a dog attack before it occurred. You can also face a prison sentence if your dog attacks…

If the law labels some dogs as inherently ‘dangerous’ by punishing them for their breed with no regard for their individual personality and temperament, then this reinforces the myth that society is better protected by ‘breed specific’ legislation. If we were talking about humans, this would be racist in the extreme!

All dogs need ‘leadership’ and they look around them to find that, if they don’t find it then they assume the mantle. It is also not only when a dog first meets us that they are assessing who is in charge, but also every time we leave them (even to go into another room) and come back that our dogs reassess what their relative position is. It is easy to teach a dog to be relaxed, we just need to be relaxed around them — it’s as simple as that. If you don’t make a big deal out of coming back from wherever you have been or the arrival of a guest or the ringing of the doorbell or even a telephone, then your dog will soon ‘get’ that it is no big deal!

If we are loving owners, we will seek to behave in a way that gives our dogs no notion of any angst or responsibility on their part – their role is to relax and have fun, there is nothing to get excited about… unless of course we get excited about something. When a dog believes it has responsibilities, in the home, garden or out on the walk then this mantle will bring with it much stress and we must always remember that the options for a dog in a stressful situation are flight, freeze and fight, in that order.

Even the sweetest, most loving dog can be provoked in ways we may not understand if we don’t properly understand their behaviour and seek to train them to remain calm in situations that they would otherwise naturally react to badly. Our eldest Border Collie, who normally ignores other dogs and calmly gives them signals to help them understand that they must leave her alone, actually chased down a terrier that was playing with our other dog on the local sports field, for what seemed like no apparent reason at the time! Minutes before she had heard something that caused her to race off in the direction of home (I successfully called her back) and I didn’t recognise the signs that she was upset because I was watching the other dogs play. An innocent approach from the other dog then provoked an aggressive act far in excess of what her normal reaction would have been!

Many owners say that their dog is better behaved outside when they are off the lead, one of the main reasons for this is that they can then communicate in their normal canine way — which means that they can choose ‘flight’ or ‘freeze’ as an option in dealing with uncomfortable situations. When we remove the option of flight by putting a dog on the lead and don’t allow them to freeze as we drag them along with us, there is only one option left…

If you are walking a dog and are fearful of what you might experience or are angry with those around you, beware! The dog you are walking WILL pick up on that emotion and magnify it, perhaps in an aim to protect its weak pack member (you!) or else they may feel that having sensed you are fearful or angry, that there is something to fear and they will be prepared to respond aggressively to whatever comes along.

So rather than being fearful or angry and prompting an uneasy dog that is ready to respond with ‘fear aggression’, we need to have a mind-​set of happiness, calm, confident control when we are with them, whether inside or out.

We also need to understand that they are dogs, not people, and respond in different ways to us to things they encounter in our world and our homes…

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Be Safe With Your Dogs!