German Shepherd

Responsibility, part 4: Unforeseeable circumstances

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Even when all parties involved have taken proper precautions, something unfortunate still can happen. Someone, for example, could fall into an unfenced yard belonging to a dog that has never threatened anyone yet sees the person who falls as an invader. A feral dog or dog pack could attack a child on the way home from school or a man taking his evening jog.

 

Incident:

Parents in a pet store with their children asked a German Shepherd owner whether the children could pet the dog. The dog owner agreed after first making the dog sit. The older children petted the dog by rubbing its head and back; the dog loved the attention.

 

The little girl, who was about 2 years old, however, patted the dog by smacking the palm of her hand on the dog’s nose. The owner and the parents spotted the situation and moved to intervene on the correct assumption that most dogs being smacked on the nose, quite understandably, would bite the girl.

 

Before any of them could actually take a step toward the dog and girl, however, the dog had ducked its head under the little girl’s hand and proceeded to lick her ear. This stopped the objectionable nose smacks while also positioning the girl’s hand right into the dog’s soft cheek fur.

 

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Responsibility, part 3: Taking responsibility as a dog owner

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Dog ownership is more than having a beautiful animal to love or show off as a status symbol. Dogs depend upon their owners for their needs, among which are owners who are competent leaders that set clear, reasonable boundaries around their dogs’ behavior.

Unfortunately, some dog owners acquire a dog without accepting that responsibility. This puts themselves in jeopardy legally for the dog’s behavior, for everyone who may be in physical jeopardy from the dog’s uncontrolled behavior, and for the dog’s life if a serious incident occurs.

Incident:

A dog owner entered a pet store with a German Shepherd, which was on a lead but allowed to run six feet ahead of the owner. The dog approached another customer, sniffed the scent of the customer’s dog on the customer’s jeans, then growled. The other customer immediately grabbed the lead, gave it a quick snap to break the dog’s concentration, and ordered the dog to sit, which it did immediately.

 

The owner complained that the other customer was mistreating the dog. The other customer said the owner was not controlling the dog’s aggressive tendencies and refused to give the lead back to the owner until one of the store’s trainers took control of the dog.

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Responsibility, part 2: Common sense behavior around dogs

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Anyone who wishes to avoid a dog attack needs to know something about dogs and how to behave toward them. Some children, for example, seem ignorant of rules taught me as a child, when rabies was more common among domestic dogs than wild raccoons. A group of children will gather to tease the dog in the neighbor’s yard or one chained to a tree. A child will stray into a dog’s yard.

It is fortunate that such actions do not always have immediate consequences. Nevertheless, any one of them creates a situation in which a dog attack can and often will occur, even if the dog is normally calm and friendly.

Incident:

A boy about 10 years old rushed directly toward a German Shepherd on a lead sitting beside its owner in a pet store checkout line. The dog barked and lunged toward the boy. The boy went away while the owner reigned in the dog, which returned to its calm state.

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Responsibility, part 1: How dangerous is that dog?

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Residential complexes or local governments in recent years have reacted to dog attacks by restricting or prohibiting certain breeds. This approach to reducing dogs attacks is doomed to failure, because the root of the problem normally has little or nothing to do with the breed.

 

Instead, research shows the factors that best predict dog attacks are either circumstantial or related to whether and how the owner trains, handles and treats the dog on a daily basis.

 

[For details, see Delise, Karen. Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics. Manorville, NY: Anubis Press, © 2002 by Karen Delise.]

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