Letters December 2010 Issue

Bark Back

First let me say that I devour every sentence of every issue. I love it! Now, let me say how disappointed I was to read in “A New Threshold,” October 2010, the statement concerning Pit Bulls and Rottweilers being able to inflict more damage when they bite than other breeds. What?

Aggressive Dogs

Photo by Penelope Brown

Border Collies (such as this one) are among breeds with a lower tolerance for inappropriate human behavior and who are sensitive to violations of their personal space. Their self-protective behavior may contribute to society’s fear of dogs.

Why would you add to the stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding Pit Bulls? Any large or medium breed can inflict terrible damage. A Golden Retriever is a large powerful breed as well. Do I really need to tell you this? The level of damage inflicted has to do with arousal, fear, motivation, etc., not the breed of dog. If you haven’t already, please read The Pit Bull Placebo, by Karen Delise.

I never stop my quest for more information. I hope you are open to educating yourself as much as your readers!

Kelley MacConnel
Via e-mail

Thanks for writing, and for your kind words about WDJ. We, too, are fans of continuing education, especially when it comes to canine behavior. However, I beg you to read the paragraph again. The author, WDJ’s Training Editor Pat Miller, did not say that Pit Bulls and Rottweilers are able to inflict more damage when they bite than other breeds. Not even close.
What she did say was that our society has gotten more reactive (the word she actually used was “oversensitized”) about dog bites. She also she gave a number of theories as to why humans are more reactive and phobic about dog bites today than they were 30 or 40 years ago. One of the contributors, Miller speculated, is the increased population of breeds that many people find frightening. Here’s the paragraph again:

“There has been an increase in popularity of dog breeds that contribute to our cultural sensitization – large, powerful breeds who can do serious damage if they bite, such as Pit Bulls and Rottweilers – as well as breeds who are sensitive to violations of their personal space and have a lower tolerance for inappropriate human behavior, such as Border Collies and Australian Shepherds.”

Miller never said Pit Bulls and Rottweilers bite more, or bite worse, than any other breeds. She suggested that their increased populational presence – and a number of other factors – has helped sensitize and frighten society about dog bites. That’s all.

It is an odd phenomenon, because, as you mentioned, there are also an awful lot of large, powerful Golden Retrievers “who can do serious damage if they bite” in our society, too, and yet few people associate them with a dog bite epidemic.

I enjoyed Pat Miller’s article on dogs who can’t or won’t climb stairs (“Help for the Stair-Impaired,” November 2010). I thought your readers would enjoy seeing the lift I installed in my home for my dog.

Helena Doerr
Olney, MD

Thanks so much for sharing that with us! What a caring owner! Your dog looks very comfortable with the lift!

Regarding your editorial about the Dyson DC 23 Animal vacuum you received for review (“Cashing In? No.” November 2010): I have a purple Dyson DC-14 Animal vacuum. I’ve had it for four or five years. They don’t lie when they say it sucks up hair better than anything else. I have four Mastiffs, a flat-coated retriever-mix, and a Chow-mix. I vacuum up about at least two canisters of hair a week.

Trouble Climbing Stairs

I almost didn’t buy it. It was $500 at the time and I thought that was a lot to pay for what looked like a pile of cheap plastic. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The vacuum is very well designed and easy to use. You really appreciate it after you use it for a while then switch to something else. Nothing else compares. Don’t send it back. Keep it. You won’t regret it.

Dave Hala, Jr.
Via e-mail

Before you wholeheartedly endorse the Dyson, please take it to the home of someone who owns a Newfoundland or Great Pyrenees – maybe a Collie. I have a Newfie/Pyr-mix. A couple of years ago, I purchased an expensive Dyson DC 17 Animal. While this vacuum does have amazing suction, I found it to be horrid as far as long hair. Not only would the hair wrap around the beater bar (typical and to be expected) it tangled around the internal gears and caused the vacuum to make terrible noises. I would have to stop and de-hair the darn thing at least four times while vacuuming my 1,000 square feet.

A plea to Dyson resulted in them telling me to try vacuuming without the beater bar engaged, and then vacuum again with it engaged. This did not work; without the beater bar engaged, the hair remained stuck to the carpet. Vacuuming became something guaranteed to make me very angry. I finally found a slicker brush on a long handle and resorted to brushing up dog hair before I vacuumed. Even then, the Dyson would tangle once or twice and require the entire beater bar assembly be taken apart and dehaired. What should have taken 20 minutes in my small house ended up taking over an hour.

The Dyson now sits in the basement unused. I use a Bissell pet hair eraser. It is not perfect. The cord comes out of the machine at an awkward spot and when the dust bucket is removed for emptying it causes the dust up above it to spill all over the machine. But I do not have to stop and dehair it and it cost about a fourth what a Dyson costs.

I hope they have improved on the DC 17. It is my belief that the manufacturers of vacuums do not test their machines on homes with long-haired dogs. Note that I have chosen to blame vacuum manufacturers for this issue – not the fact that I choose to have a huge hairy dog (I can’t imagine life without her).

Karen Stenson
Via e-mail

I appreciate the suggestion. I’ll be sure to invite myself and my Dyson to the homes of friends with long-haired dogs. My research is ongoing!

My husband and I have subscribed to Whole Dog Journal for many years. We were shocked when we read the article about the dog that was shot (“Dog Shootings by Law Enforcement Seem to Be on the Rise,” November 2010). There is so much unthinking cruelty in our civilization toward all animals! The facts about the shooting have haunted me since. I applaud your publication for bringing this shooting and others to your readers’ attention. Keep fighting the good fight!

Lynda Lloyd
Via e-mail

Thanks for your concern. We’ve been somewhat heartened to learn about a few law enforcement departments across the country who have instituted remedial training for law enforcement officers who may have to deal with dogs when they go out on calls. Pat Miller has a further suggestion:

“We need a grassroots campaign that insists our law enforcement officers be trained and equipped to appropriately and non-lethally handle situations in which dogs are involved. Call your own police department tomorrow to inquire about their department policies for handling dogs, and to ask if their officers are equipped with and trained in the use of humane canine capture equipment. Then ask three of your friends to call, and have them ask three of their friends. Get it started.”

Dog Play Groups

Otto enjoys a nice, small, supervised “playcare” group.

I just finished reading your article on dog daycare (“Dog Daycare: Yay! Or Nay?” November 2010). I thought it was a fabulous article with one exception: Your warning about facilities that do no allow unscheduled viewings of all areas of the daycare.

I have been in business for 15-plus years and operate a smaller facility, both in size of dogs and number of dogs. Typically, we have a 10 to 1 dog to handler ratio. I do not allow viewing of the entire facility unless dogs have been moved out of the play yards.

My #1 concern is and always will be the safety of the dogs. Some dogs get over-excited when they see new people. Also, one of our specialties is hosting fearful dogs. We integrate dogs slowly for small amounts of time. The best part of my work is when I see a dog who wouldn’t willingly enter the facility now running in and not even looking back.

Otherwise, it’s a fabulous article. I’m glad that you made the point that owners should understand that just because their dog is not a good daycare fit, doesn’t mean it is not a fabulous dog.

Another question worth asking prospective daycare providers: “How many of the dogs who are evaluated are good daycare candidates?” If they answer that they rarely have a dog who doesn’t work out well, I would also run away!

Debbie Oliver, CPDT-KA
Miss Daisy’s Dog Camp
Tomball, TX

Thanks for your letter. You make a good point – but it sounds like you manage your facility in a way that controls the real source of my concern about not being able to see the dogs at play; you have appropriate dog : handler ratios.

I’ve seen facilities that keep 60 or more dogs in the same play area. Before I’d put my own dog in such a potentially volatile environment, I’d want to see that the facility keeps enough well-trained staff members on the yard and has performed adequate screening of the canine clients to ensure my dog’s safety. I’d also want to be certain that the staff members did not use aversive handling methods to maintain order in the pack. Unless I could put these concerns to rest, I wouldn’t enroll my dog at a facility of this size. – NK

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