dog attacks

Dog attacks in Australia

So it won’t take you long to figure out that I wrote this article with the recent dog attacks in mind, in something like 5 days there were 4 dog attacks on 4 children, one resulting in the death of a little 1 year old girl.

Of course there was an instant explosion from the “ban the breed” believers, but I really don’t feel that will help, maybe it would initially by reducing the dog population but it is not a solution to dog attacks in general.

The bad news is that the ONLY solution to these dog attacks we are seeing so much of lately is education, responsibility and change.

This is bad news because traditionally people do not like any of these.


We struggle so much with education in Australia when it comes to dog training because there a very heavy focus on politics over results, and that so many people have graduated from the University of the Internets 5 second course, that we can’t seem to agree on anything at times.

It can often be that the biggest authorities on dog training and behaviour simply have the biggest mouths and copious amounts of time to frequent every corner of the internet telling everyone who disagrees with them that they are wrong.

I simply don’t know how they find the time to post so much when they are so busy training dogs…

I have my own Philosophy on dog training of course but I feel that my thoughts are easy for people to get along with, if it works I am ok with what you are doing.

I feel that the education needs to be focussed on what behaviours that our dogs need to be able to display and what behaviours need intervention.

How that each person chooses to train their dog to meet these standards I do not care, just so long as they do.

These would of course start with what is Effective Socialisation?

Effective means that the result of the exercise is effective in meeting the goal, therefore you need to have a goal, other than “I need to socialise my dog” and really not know what this means.

This article I wrote may help you to understand what I am aiming at and why.

Know that a high percentage of why a dog behaves the way they do is based on the things they learned or didn’t learn in the first year of their lives.

Next is, how do you actually train a dog?

I don’t think it matters as long as the dog is learning, the methods are not riddled with pain and the dog can meet the requirements.

There are so many people that are attending training, be it through classes, trainers, behaviourists etc and they are just not getting anywhere.

I have met people that have had their dog in training for months and or even years with no appreciable difference in their dogs behaviour, only to see a big difference in one session with me or one of my trainers. This is not a rare occurrence but one that happens a number of times every week.

Other than the dogs education, owners need education on how to manage and train their dogs. I 100% guarantee that the people who owned dogs that attacked people this last week did not know this was going to happen.

They just ineffectively housed and secured their dogs at the right or wrong time.


As dog owners, some of us need a big shake up, there seems to be 2 groups essentially.

Group 1

I have added a list below which I am sure you will have seen some of these behaviours, which are most common, but of course add some more in the comments below!

  • They feel that their dog can do no wrong, and the world should accept everything they choose to do, because it is a free country.
  • Their dog has free access to the suburban street so he or she can race out at you walking by with your dog, any time it pleases.
  • They don’t walk with a leash because “he / she is friendly!” (and totally disobedient / won’t come when called)
  • Their dog jumps all over yours when off leash but you should accept it because “he / she just wants to play“.
  • Their dog “is” under effective control, even though the owner is talking on his or her phone 300 metres away on the dog beach or dog park.
  • When you are out with your dog they believe that you and your dog are there only for the amusement and entertainment of their dog that pulls on leash racing up to yours, dragging the owner along, even if you say that you don’t want your dog to meet theirs.
  • They actually do own the council owned dog park, didn’t you know?

Group 2

  • They are sensitive or even over sensitive about their dog upsetting anyone or anyone else’s dogs peace, so they do the best they have been taught not to let this happen.
  • They know that their dog has a behaviour problem so they do not allow the dog to impact anyone else by, keeping their dog on leash to prevent any problems arising.
  • They seek training and help to relieve or reduce the behaviour problem/s.
  • They practice responsible dog ownership for the benefit of all rather than the individual benefits.
  • They consider if the environment is suitable for their dog at the current level of training their dog has.
  • They house their dog securely so that it cannot hurt, chase or frighten anyone walking by.

Which group are you in?


Another big one… there will not be a change until you make one, if you love your dog and value being able to own a dog then something will need to be done.

Because right now there are an excess of dog attacks going on in our country and our Government are under pressure from voters, so they will have to take some major action soon.

If you make a small change you may find that it saves Government making a big, broad sweeping change that may restrict or remove dogs from our lives.

Let’s face it, no matter how much we love dogs, they cannot continue to kill children right? Surely we have to agree on that!

So of course your sitting there saying that “my dog would not…“, well I can tell you first hand that people I have worked with who own a dog that has bitten a person or a dog never dreamed they would.

No dog attacks until they do.

  • What change do I think needs to happen? Well first I would convert group 1 above into group 2 people!
  • We have to lose the selfishness that drives us to give our dogs these freedoms they cannot handle.
  • If you want to have your dog off leash, no problem at all, train your dog so that he or she will follow instruction off leash no matter what distraction pops up, then leash free your life away, but until your dog is at that level, leash him or her up!
  • If you want your front gates left open, hey that is your right, but house your dog in the back yard or train your dog to stay in the front yard with gates open, effectively.
  • Most important over train, over manage and over secure your dog so that he or she is welcomed everywhere you go.

I feel that dog ownership in Australia is a right and a privilege, let’s keep it that way before rights and privileges are removed.

Ten tips on how to improve public opinion of pet dogs and reduce dog attacks

  1. If your dog is aggressive, secure the dog. If you’re out, on a very secure leash and collar, not a harness, harnesses can slip off. If you are not home make sure that your dog can in no way get out of your yard. Yes there are enclosures that will stop any dog from escaping.
  2. If your dog has a behaviour problem, get help. If you have got help before and it did not work, search for better help. Help is available, people send dogs to us from Perth via air craft, how bad do you want it?
  3. If your dog is aggressive, overly playful, rough or excited by chasing other dogs, do not allow this behaviour to be rehearsed, fights start this way and dogs learn to be aggressive in fights. No off leash parks where the behaviour can be rehearsed.
  4. If your dog can meet other dogs in a nice manner, ask the other dog owner first, many are working on their dogs behaviour and do not want un invited approaches from your dog right now. Observe their rights over your dogs wants.
  5. Training your dog is not an option, it is a requirement. The training does not have to be formal but it needs to be effective in making sure that your dog can meet the laws and guidelines of your state.
  6. Off leash park does not mean “free for all”. Dogs that are in an off leash park must be under effective control. Yes I know most aren’t but when something goes wrong that will come down hard against you.Effective control for your dog at his or her current level of training may mean that you have a long line attached to your dog. I am working on a legal case at the moment where a dog crashed into a person in an off leash park and the cost of this case will be very high, effective control means effective, control.
  7. If you want to get a large or strong dog that has guarding abilities, you more than anyone need to promote responsible ownership by training your dog to a level that is impressive to anyone concerned about your breed of choice.
  8. Similarly, if you have a small dog that is “too small to do any harm“, you also have the same obligation to train him or her. It is a common opinion that small dogs are vicious, nasty, snappy little monsters.I don’t think that is true, we have many small dogs that come to us for training and behaviour rehabilitation, but yes there certainly are some like that.Don’t want to be classed in that group? Train your small dog.
  9. Realise that dog owners are not viewed as two groups as I have done above by the general public, we are all grouped together and laws made will not be directed at group one or two, but all of us.
  10. Report. If you know if a dog that is getting out, displaying aggressive behaviours, is frequently off leash and the owner is not going to change, report it. I hate to give this advice because this may lead to the euthanasia of this dog, but we have to start looking at the big picture here. I don’t think that council or Police action will change the owners opinions, it will force better security for the dog which will help us all.

Seriously, no one wants children being hurt by dogs, even group one’s from above, and very few people expect this to happen, but let’s lift our game a little more to make sure it doesn’t.

Let’s stop saying it will never happen to me, my dog would never and if you need a reminder of how serious this is, click here and see what is actually happening  (CAUTION DISTURBING IMAGES)

We all need to be open to change, take responsibility for our dogs and we need to learn better ways to do this, including learning effective ways to train our dogs, accepting our dogs are capable of behaviours that could hurt others or their dogs and this needs to be prevented by management until you have the behaviours under control.

We are always grateful for shares and comments, please help spread awareness.

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

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  1. I am so grateful you posted this article. I have an Aussie Bulldog who I keep on a leash at all times when out walking (because if he sees a rabbit I will never see him again!) and we are constantly rushed at by other dogs off leash. It is quite frightening at times and every time, the owners just keep reiterating “it’s an off leash park, don’t come here if your dog is a woos!” It happens in non off leash parks too. I just hope many type 1 folks read your post and maybe change their attitudes so every one can enjoy walking their dogs and no one gets hurt .

  2. Many years ago we had a young Dachshund that because of circumstances not all the dog’s fault, he bit three people in one week. All adults thank God but one needed sutures. We spoke to our vet, he had nothing else to offer us so we had the dog put down, our children were hurt by his loss and we were hurt by their pain and his loss it was awful. There were no other options where we were, at that time, with what we knew.

    I don’t know what has to happen to make things safer nowadays.

  3. Thanks for a great article Steve. Too many times while I am walking my 3… I have some loose dog run over and get tangled in the mix with the owners always saying “they’re OK” etc etc … My response is” No.. they are not OK and please keep them away from mine or have then on a leash”….

  4. Thanks for another spot on article Steve. Unfortunately the very people who need this excellent advice are least likely to be reading it because ‘their dog is just fine’ but hopefully your advice will be shared far and wide by those who appreciate the wisdom. And I couldnt agree more about your views that dog ownership in Australia is a right and a privilege. This is something that all breeders, vets and rescue orgs should be banging into people’s heads. I seem to be bumping into Group 1 peeps all the time in the city – I wish I had your calm demeanor!!! 🙂

  5. Another excellent & extremely timely/relevant article Steve – although still a work in progress, thanks to the help of you & Michael Burling, I happily count myself in group 2, however in the current training climate it can easily go pearshaoed if you don’t honestly look at both your own leadership (or lack of) & both the temperament/genetics & current behaviour of your dogs & take action to make whatever changes are necessary to improve.
    Advocate for both your dog & everyone you both come in contact with.

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