German shepherd James Bartholomew

James Bartholomew

We all get upset on hearing tragic stories involving dog bites (often with children). The truth is that however well trained, dogs are still wild animals, so it helps to know how to approach strange dogs, and know that nearly all serious bite incidents involve dogs that (often living outside) have never been properly socialised. Long term, the best preventive method is to give your dog a happy life with plenty of exercise and positive training, so it’s unlikely he or she will attack.

First, a few common sense tips. Never stare at or walk direct up to any dog, nor pat it on the head or cuddle it. If you want a dog to approach you (say in the park), crouch down diagonally and offer an open palm, for the dog to approach you, if wished. Never let children (or other dogs) play with other dogs, unless you know it’s safe to do so.

Many dog bites are on posties, due to ‘attacking their territory’. Keep your dog in a closed room while posties visit (never open the door with dogs behind you) and use a letterbox guard (to stop snapping at fingers) or buy a lockable outside box to deliver letters and parcels. If you feel your dog has been unfairly accused, there are dog lawyers that specialise in these of cases.

If you witness a dog fight, experts say the best thing to do is for each person to grab the hind legs of each dog and then wheel them away from each other in a large circle (a bit like using a wheelbarrow but backwards) so they can’t bite each other. Keep them separate to calm down, and then seek vet attention, if needed.

deed, not breed

Blue Cross is does not agree with breed-specific legislation, which bans certain breeds on looks and measurements, rather than behaviour and temperament).

time to give staffies some good press!

happy dog Sophie Gamand

Sophie Gamand

Apart from Robbie Williams, the most famous resident of Staffordshire is the bull terrier. Sadly now maligned in the media, a good portion of shelter dogs are now staffies. 100 years ago staffies were known as ‘nanny dogs’ as they were protective of children.

Nearly all cases today of dog attacks are due to poor welfare, lack of training and not knowing how to approach strange dogs (kneel diagonally avoiding eye contact, and let them come to you). Heading straight-on to any dog (especially letting children scream) is not the way to go.

Positive Training for Aggressive & Reactive Dogs features instructions and illustrations to help eliminate aggression, barking, timidity, fear and reactivity. It includes case studies and interviews with top trainers, vets and behaviourists. The author is a highly qualified dog trainer and behaviourist in the US, who specialises in training troubled dogs (especially ones that are reactive/aggressive to people or other dogs).

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