Owning a dog is an underrated privilege, without recognizing this we will one day lose it or at least a large amount of the freedom we enjoy now.
We seem to rate the importance of risks our dogs place on the community in the following order:
Ourselves & family
This isn’t wrong but the level of precaution, planning and education many people undertake is jeopardizing our right to have dogs.
Consider that, many people have a dog that is aggressive or reactive to other people or dogs, they don’t seek any help, will walk the dog in areas in which it may encounter people or dogs but plan on nothing going wrong. Their dog wears no muzzle and may be off leash at times.
Remember their dog is of no threat to them or their family and the care factor for others is very low. As I mentioned they plan for the best outcome only. Someone happens to come along and their dog reacts and or bites them. There is some exchange, sometimes apologetic, sometimes abusive, but often council are called and the dog is now in the process of being declared dangerous.
We often get calls like this as I handle a lot of these cases. Now I don’t like the structure of the dangerous dog declaration but really, I am starting to ask myself, what is the alternative?
As mentioned many people know they have an aggressive dog and use little to no risk management, something inevitably goes wrong and council have to imply severe restrictions such as mandatory muzzles, no off leash, caged when in the backyard, no minors to be in charge of the dog and the list goes on.
Personally I feel that self-management is much better than forced management.
People, especially children being attacked, bitten or mauled sells media, every time this happens now it gets blasted upon every screen we have and papers too. It has become so common now they are all looking at different angles to be better than the next report.
Within half a second the breed ban arguments ignite between both sides, nothing really happens overnight but breed bans creep closer. The thing is that the problem is not breed related – it is a people problem. This means these incidents will continue to occur.
How do I know this? Look at the event in Victoria with the young child killed, months have passed and there has been incident after incident. Laws have changed, people have been warned, dogs seized, people protesting, others scared, the attacks just keep happening!
Dog owners are not the majority in our country, that is easy to see when you notice how many places you CAN’T take your dog, whilst we think the dog ownership is a right, I am telling you it isn’t!
You like I will have friends that are “doggy people” and those that just can’t understand why we love our dogs so much, you smile and nod, but do realize that if those people were not your friends and had to vote on you being able to own a dog, how would you fare?
They may vote yes but under what conditions/restrictions? I am a little worried to say the least if this were ever to eventuate. Maybe that day will come soon?
In my view there are several issues that really need to be addressed by dog owners right now, the first is to unite. This means to form a common ideal that works for all of us, not have our own idea that works for us personally but not for the complete dog owner fraternity.
What I mean is, we have to stop working on the system I mentioned above, which was us, ours and then others. If we don’t start to work differently we will be forced to.
Since I began to have a strong interest in dogs, 30 plus years ago now, it has always been a very political field. This is one of the main reasons I have traveled overseas to expand my knowledge. I see a lot of time wasted by genuine dog people arguing and debating peoples training methods, philosophies, equipment choice and breed arguments, I really think that when bashing each other we are demonstrating we can’t even get along with each other.
Unity means adapting a common courtesy and foundation between each other so we can begin to overcome these problems dogs are having with community members.
Next we need to form a group in which dog owners can design a system that does work and perhaps work with governments to make them become laws.
Finally those of us with reactive, aggressive, overly fearful, highly-strung, poorly socialized and or unruly dogs need to lift the management level were using right now.
Some great starting points:
1) Off leash exercise should be carried out on a long line, this gives your dog space to run but not be totally out of your control.
2) If you know that your dog is reactive, muzzle your dog at all times that there is the slightest chance your dog may come in contact with others. People think muzzling is like some admission their dog has a severe problem, the reality is that muzzles are responsible risk management.
3) Never let your dog run up to anyone or their dog because it wants to “say hi” or because your dog is friendly. It is poor manners and causes many problems.
4) If you are anywhere other than your home, leash your dog, yeah ok your dog walks next to you, so does mine but there are leash laws, thumbing your nose at the laws doesn’t give others the confidence in letting you have a dog.
5) Today, right now, make a plan, and that means write down how you are going to see how you can reduce the problem your dog has. Don’t think about it, the difference between a wish and a plan is action.
6) Seek help, have a behaviour specialist assess your dog, if you have but it has been a while, go back or find another, don’t just write it off as “I have tried”. Ask this person to help you with a risk management strategy.
7) Train, exercise, play, teach, love, motivate and guide your dog, most of all protect all our dogs just not yours, your breed or just the state you live in.
I want to create a Dogs for Life mission statement that will let me put forward some ideas, maybe this can grow into a group that can help us keep our dogs, for life.
Keep an eye out for it and we will see what we can do.