Small Breed Ac­count­abil­ity?

Riverbank News - - PERSPECTIVE - DIDI McEl­roy

DEAR DIDI: I was out bi­cy­cling when a lady walk­ing her dog be­gan scream­ing be­hind me. I glanced down in time to no­tice a wiener dog at my feet. It ac­tu­ally man­aged to jump up and bite my foot! I ped­aled faster and sped away leav­ing the woman to re­trieve her un­ruly dog. I don’t know who she is or where she lives. When I got home I dis­cov­ered the dog left three punc­ture wounds around my Achilles ten­don. It has hurt for a week but wasn’t bad enough to see a doc­tor. I keep think­ing … if this had been a large breed dog. Are small dogs not held to the same stan­dards? I haven’t met one yet that was trained. Are small breeds not able to be trained, or at least, well trained? Why do small dog own­ers let them wan­der off leash through neigh­bors’ yards? -Anony­mous

DEAR ANONY­MOUS: Small breeds are ab­so­lutely held to the same stan­dards eth­i­cally and legally! Cal­i­for­nia is zero bite tol­er­ance state. The prob­lem is that peo­ple don’t re­port the bites be­cause they don’t want to make trou­ble. Med­i­cal bills, time off from work or ma­jor bod­ily dam­age was not in­curred. “So, what’s the big deal?” seems to be the thought process of many small breed dog own­ers. Some knowl­edge­able ex­perts es­ti­mate that up to 80 per­cent of all dog bites in Amer­ica are ac­tu­ally in­flicted by small breed dogs. Any dog that bites must be taken ex­tremely se­ri­ously no mat­ter the level of dam­age he or she is ca­pa­ble of in­flict­ing! It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny. Any owner that thinks the bit­ing, no mat­ter how oc­ca­sion­ally, can’t be helped be­cause of the type of breed their dog is, needs to get a clue! Get pro­fes­sional help from a qual­i­fied trainer or be­hav­ior­ist im­me­di­ately.

Sev­enty-five per­cent of claims to home­owner’s in­sur­ance th­ese days are from dog re­lated is­sues. The av­er­age pay­out is $30,000 ac­cord­ing to some statis­ti­cians. Had you seen the dog a few sec­onds sooner and swerved to avoid the bite you could have fallen and bro­ken some­thing. Worse yet, you might have swerved into an on­com­ing car and been se­ri­ously in­jured or killed. The owner of the dog could be held fi­nan­cially li­able for dam­ages to all in­volved. I am not an at­tor­ney, but th­ese are typ­i­cally sce­nar­ios I see as a be­hav­ior­ist be­cause own­ers fail to take steps to pre­vent is­sues ahead of time. Then they seek my ser­vices to fix things af­ter the fact. Own­ers of­ten think, “my dog wouldn’t do that”, “that would never hap­pen”, “you are ex­ag­ger­at­ing”, etc.

Small breed dogs are at­trac­tive to peo­ple be­cause they are so adorable and the size leads peo­ple to think that they are con­trol­lable. Small dogs are ab­so­lutely ca­pa­ble of be­ing well trained and well be­haved. Some small breeds are ac­tu­ally bred to be work­ing dogs and des­per­ately need di­rec­tion, rules, bound­aries and con­se­quences. Any dog with­out those things can turn into a tyrant, bully, or spoiled brat. Small breeds are not teddy bears, dolls, toys, or cats. They are dogs. They help our lives, make us feel bet­ter when we are down, make us laugh, and can be an ab­so­lute joy to have in the fam­ily. But, a pet dog that bites any­one, for any rea­son, is a se­ri­ous prob­lem and a li­a­bil­ity that should be im­me­di­ately ad­dressed. Re­spond­ing to a bit­ing dog with phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment will only make the dog (any dog) worse. Please seek qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional help if you have a small dog that chases peo­ple, bites fam­ily mem­bers to any de­gree, es­capes out front doors un­con­trol­lably, barks in­ces­santly, growls at fam­ily mem­bers, etc. Th­ese are not safe or ac­cept­able be­hav­iors from any dog, in­clud­ing the small breeds!

Dier­dra McEl­roy is a grad­u­ate of Texas A&M Uni­ver­sity and is an An­i­mal Be­hav­ior­ist spe­cial­iz­ing in ca­nines. If you have ques­tions or con­cerns about the pets in your house, you can get them an­swered through a fu­ture col­umn of Didi’s Dogs. Email your ques­tions or in­quire about dog be­hav­ior pre­sen­ta­tions at it­sn­ev­er­the­do­gs­

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