Dangerous dogs – what about educating owners?
In Quebec’s dangerous dog regulations just announced, the Society for the Protection of Animals (SPA) Canada is disappointed that the measures are aimed mostly at cases after an attack has happened – and about dogs instead of their guardians.
Dogs use a different communication system than humans, and it is imperative that all animal guardians be educated before even owning a dog. People who give up dogs to shelters are concerned with behavioral issues. The cause: a lack of comprehension of the dog’s needs and of canine language. Many bites could be prevented if only the public knew how dogs send signals to people around them. Some are obvious – growling, hairs standing up on the back, ears flattened against the head and barking. Others are less well-known: yawning, licking their muzzle, looking away, lowering or turning their head and putting their tail between their legs. Dogs rarely attack without warning.
The way you approach a dog and “read” its body language is important. Allow the animal to approach you first. Always approach a dog from the side and hold out your fist to let it smell you, waiting for it to take the first steps towards you. If the dog does not seem interested, respect it and leave it alone.
It should be mandatory for all guardians to take a course before owning a dog, not only for a better understanding of animal communications, but to reduce the number of people who get dogs on a whim. Training adds an accountability for their dog’s actions, so guardians and their dogs should both take a canine education course.
In addition, sterilization should be mandatory for all dogs, not just dangerous dogs; this reduces aggression and overpopulation. Head halters do not prevent bites, unlike basket muzzles, so why demand halters on dangerous dogs? Adults should supervise dogs in the presence of children, but children and adults need education on giving calming signals and how to behave around dogs.
These simple procedures could reduce bites and dogs left at shelters, and create an ideal relationship between humans and their best friends.