Features April 2016 Issue

Aggressive Behavior Information

Yellow Dog Project – This is a project to encourage the use of a yellow ribbon tied to a dog’s collar and/or leash to let others that this dog needs space. The reason could be varied; perhaps the dog is fearful, may bite, or perhaps just had surgery and is in pain. For more information, go to yellowdogproject.com.

“Dangerous Dogs” – In some states, dogs that have a “vicious propensity” can be deemed dangerous – the canine version of being on probation. This means that while you may know your dog is a sweetheart much of the time, one bite can be enough for the authorities to label him dangerous, and two bites could result in an order to surrender or euthanize the dog. Also, if your dog bites someone you could be sued and found liable, and if the building ownership had knowledge of the dog’s propensity for aggression (a past bite), it could also be found responsible (which is one reason why many building owners and managers are reluctant to rent to dog owners).

Muzzles are Useful Tools! – If you know your dog is prone to biting, get to a positive behavior consultant who can also teach you how and when to use a muzzle, which can keep everyone safe while you work to modify your dog’s behavior. I like Baskerville basket-type muzzles, because they have a lot of ventilation so the dog can pant and even accept treats. Another advantage of using a muzzle is that it will enable the handler to relax, which will also help the dog! For more information, see Karen Pryor's site.

Breed Prohibitions

It has become all too common to see lists of breed bans in multi-unit residences as well as municipalities. Books could be written about the drawbacks of breed-specific legislation (BSL), but suffice to say that all dogs have the potential to bite and no breed has 100 percent benign membership. The “bully breed” lovers among us (count me in) would point out that many of these dogs are model citizens and great companions.

Further, breed bans provide a false sense of security. See the position statement of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) on this subject.

Rather, encourage or require new owners to provide proof of having properly trained their dogs through programs such as the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) certification and encourage your building’s management to develop and enforce common sense rules, such as, “All dogs must be leashed when outside their apartments,” and “All dogs must be licensed.”

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