Reports of dog attacks are making the news frequently in Jamaica. A few weeks ago a three year old child was mauled to death by a pack of stray dogs. Then just recently an infant barely escaped with his life when the family’s pitbull escaped from it’s kennel, rushed into the house, seized the child, and began biting him up. At least, that’s the story that’s published in the papers.
It is really sad that the media is sending the Jamaican population into panic mode where dogs are concerned. As an acquaintance wrote in a recent article, dogs for the most part are mistreated in Jamaica. And the mistreatment goes beyond kicking, stabbing, burning, and using the animal as target practice, but includes emotional neglect, like tethering the dog in the backyard, or kenneling it without any human interaction or socialization. The media paints the picture of dogs as blood-thirsty “wolves” that will devour children, justifying, it would seem, the cruel acts that are performed on man’s best friend.
The problem isn’t the dogs. It is the appalling poor sense of responsibility that people have towards these animals. As I wrote in an article some time back, a dog who by himself would exhibit no proclivities towards harming a human, will do just that when he finds himself in the company of a pack of dogs. Stray dogs do form packs; that’s what they do in the wild to survive. Dogs should not be allowed to roam the streets.
Dog attacks do not happen “out of the blue.” There are always signs that precede an attack. Owners need to recognize these signs. The owners of the pitbull must have known they had a vicious animal on their hands, one that was no doubt poorly socialized, and perhaps may have been traumatized in the name of aggression training. Why would anyone keep such a dog in a home where there are small children? Apparently the owners had the dog for only a month. Why did the previous owner, who MUST have known that this dog would attack, sell/give the dog to this family with a small child. That is just irresponsible.
Truth is, any breed of dog will attack, if the animal hasn’t been socialized or treated humanely. Dogs attack out of fear. It is their way of surviving and preventing harm to themselves. So how could a child possibly hurt a dog? In Jamaica it is a common pastime of school-aged children to torment dogs that are locked in their owner’s yards. My six dogs are all house pets, and frequently school children on the road knock on the gate, or imitate dog noises to get my animals barking. Because my dogs have been teased by children, I do not allow them near children. I just don’t know how they will react.
The bottom line is, if you are planning on getting a dog, research the breed, research dog behavior. Then, ask yourself some tough questions: can I contain the dog in my yard? Will I take the time to socialize my dog, and invest time and money in training it? Socialization is necessary even with dogs that are being used for guard purposes. Also, you do not need to train dogs to be aggressive for them to guard your property and person. Dogs naturally do that for the humans they bond with. None of my dogs have ever received aggression training, but they will bite if given the chance.
Not all labradors are gentle, docile dogs. Conversely, not all pitbulls are man-eaters. Ian Dunbar, world-famous veterinarian and animal behaviorist makes some great points in this video: