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This week's letters

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Page 4 of 8

North Vancouver

 

Re: For the love of Dog (Pique, Sept. 17)

As a dog trainer and behaviourist, who works with many so-called "difficult" dogs in the Sea to Sky corridor, I have been reluctant to wade into the debate about the banning of certain breeds. These emotional, contentious and circular discussions have been taking place in most western countries on the exact same issue for decades – with no definitive answers or results.

In his column, Andrew Mitchell touched on a number of very valid points and I would like to add a few for the record.

• Dogs are born with a pre-determined personality and this then translates to its position in the pack. While certain breeds have certain character traits, it’s the individual personality that makes all the difference. I have treated as many, if not more, aggressive labs & golden retrievers as pit bull/rottweiler types. (Not to mention the little nippers!)

• Most dogs aren’t born aggressive. They become aggressive for a variety of reasons. Incorrect or inappropriate ownership is very common, as is trauma during a dog’s formative years.

• Most owners don’t really know what their dog is likely to do, or indeed is capable of. Most owners are shocked and distressed when their dog finally bites, yet a thorough history usually reveals a buildup of doggy warnings and threats that have not been recognized as such by their human-thinking owners.

• While some dogs are encouraged to be aggressive through conditioning from owners who thrive on the tough-guy image, many other dogs resort to aggression as their only form of defence, because they view their owners as "soft" or "weak". These dogs feel very vulnerable and are putting on their biggest show of aggression because, well someone has to take charge here and ward off all those scary threats!

• Aggressive dogs should be muzzled when in the public domain. This is obviously a preventative measure, not a solution to the problem but at least it sends a message to people to keep their distance and be watchful of the dog.

I could go on for ages but the bottom line is, learn to read, understand and communicate with your dog. This takes commitment and work. Not for the months of cute puppyhood – for the whole of your dog’s life!

Research breeds and personalities before you choose a dog or puppy. Don’t get a dog because it will suit, add to or create an image for you.

Any breeder or shelter with a thorough screening process is the best place to pick up a dog.

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