Defenders of the so-called “vicious breeds” will often say, “It’s not the dog’s fault, it’s always the owner’s fault, when such attacks occur.”
And, there’s some truth to that statement.
Owning any dog is a big responsibility.
Owning a dog which is physically and mentally capable of massive damage to living things adds some very important additional responsibilities. It is widely recommended that families with children younger than teenagers not own susceptible breeds.
In 1998, the top five breeds accounting for the most bites were pit bulls, Rottweilers, Malamutes Huskies and German Shepherds. If you cannot be dissuaded from owning one of these, here are some recommendations that may increase safety.
One, you have to be committed to spending a lot of family time with your puppy from the beginning. Not only will doing so familiarize you with any tendency he might have to behave in unsafe ways, spending time familiarizes him with who is family. Obviously, family is not the enemy.
Training is crucial during this early time. While classes are great, and an effective way to socialize your new puppy with strangers, the bulk of the training can be done at home with a good book. My favorite is Good Owners, Great Dogs, by Brian Kilcommons. It uses a method that teaches both you and the dog each one’s place in the pack, or family.
While almost all dogs aspire to become an alpha, or leader, the more effective you are at teaching your dog that the humans in the pack are alphas, the less likely it is that a dog will mount a serious challenge. The Kilcommons book teaches you how to do that. Studying and practicing his recommendations doesn’t guarantee your safety, however. You must still remain vigilant.
That vigilance must continue for a lifetime. Personalities change with time. Dogs who are put in the back yard and ignored will perceive the family differently from dogs who regularly get attention, play and exercise.
Now, we all know that kids like dogs, and kids like adventure, and that parents can’t watch them every minute. Take the same precautions with potentially dangerous dogs that you would with a loaded gun in the house. Just as children can be taught to handle firearms safely, with supervision, they must know not to interact with the dogs when adults are not present. Go one step further: Lock the dogs up so that they are not accessible to your children.
Regular medical care can be crucial to safety. Of course, a rabies vaccination is required on an annual basis. Prevention of other diseases, such as Distemper and Parvovirus are important. Annual or semiannual physical examinations can reveal sources of pain, such as shoulder, elbow and hip arthritis, which all of the above breeds have a predilection to. A painful dog is more likely to lash out for “no reason” than one whose arthritis pain is controlled.
The subject Rottweilers were shown to have heartworm disease. One has to wonder is their other medical care needs were kept up to date.