Wednesday, September 25, 2013

How To Break Up A Dog Fight

Here is my general game plan for breaking up a dog fight.

Monday, September 23, 2013

2 Pit Bull Attacks

Yesterday, there were 2 dog attacks in the news, one in Gilbert, AZ and the other in Queens, NY. Both stories shared the some elements. First, they both involved "pit bulls". Now, when any of us hear that term, we all should know that could mean just about any kind of mixed bred, or even pure bred, dog. There are 2 types of pit bulls, the pure bred American Pit Bull terrier, or a type of bull breed that could be mixed or pure bred. The media is notorious for mislabeling dogs in the news, but until we hear differently, these were some kind of bull dog. Second, they involved a dog fight. Dogs fight for various reasons, too complicated to list all of them here. A dog fight is a scary thing. Third, someone got in the middle of the fights. In the Gilbert case, a babysitter was injured and a 2 year old child was killed. In the Queens case, a woman was injured. Both women were friends of the other people involved.

There is no safe way to break up a dog fight. I tell that to everyone who asks. One of the first rules, however, is to remove all minor children from the area. I always practice people safety first, then dog safety.

I've been criticized by a friend for posting these articles, saying a dog trainer shouldn't be hurting the pit bulls by linking these articles on Facebook. There is a saying: Don't shoot the messenger. a metaphoric phrase used to describe the act of lashing out at the (blameless) bearer of bad news. The advice "Don't shoot the messenger" was expressed (very obliquely) by Shakespeare in Henry IV, part 2 (1598)[1] and in Antony and Cleopatra: when told Antony has married another, Cleopatra threatens to treat the messenger's eyes as balls, eliciting the response 'gracious madam, I that do bring the news made not the match'.[2] Prior to that, a related sentiment was expressed in Antigone by Sophocles as "No one loves the messenger who brings bad news".[3] 

On a daily basis, I look for dog news. I stay informed, because animal welfare is my passion. Most of my friends here are also animal advocates, and we all share good and bad dog stories here. We like to be informed.

I have been a responsible dog ownership advocate for 16 years. Most dog attacks could have been prevented. People come to me to ask about aggression prevention, and I stay well informed. Today, the Gilbert story will be national news. Not because of me, but because of the magnitude of the tragedy. If we, as animal advocates, bury our heads in the sand, hoping it will all go away, we'll see breed specific legislation proposed for Arizona. My position is to face the tragedies and see what we can learn from them, and then also to be able to expertly defend why it isn't fundamentally about the breed but how we manage our dogs. In the Gilbert case, going off the news reports and assuming they are accurate, we can summarize the following: a.) the more dogs you have in a home, the greater the chance for a dog fight; b.) we need to be better informed regarding the risks of owning a dog, and the methods for having a dog safely; c.) children must be properly supervised around dogs, and if a dog fight breaks out, the children should be removed first before anything else is done; d.) the more non family humans in a home with multiple dogs increases the stress among any dog pack, and we should exercise heightened awareness in those circumstances; e.) pit bulls are used, and have been used, and selectively bred, to fight other dogs. Knowing this, we need to understand how to properly manage them when living with other pit bulls, otherwise, get some other breed. f.) parents should be more aware of what kind of situation they are putting their kids in. I've read too many stories of kids being attacked by dogs at a friend's house. There were 4 dogs and, I believe, 4 small kids at that home. That is a lot of supervision for just one adult. I worked with 3 year olds back in the 1990's, and just one 3 year old is a handful. 4 small kids is a zoo.

We can't control the media, but we can speak up. But, we can't speak up if we don't know about what is happening, or if we don't know enough about animal behavior and the tendencies for public outrage when a kid is harmed. In Seattle, a child mauling resulted in a horrible new city and statewide dog bite law. We either stay informed and involved, or we'll lose the right to own a dog at all.