HARARE, ZIMBABWE – There have been news reports of late, regarding the death of a security guard, a property owner in Bulawayo and in a separate incident, of a child, (just to mention a few) killed by PIT-BULLS.
The tragic events left many Zimbabweans, with mixed reactions such as shock and disbelief
The reports have precipitated calls to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) from worried Pit-bull owners and other large breeds.
Pet lovers are now concerned about their safety and that of their families with the majority, no longer interested in keeping, these bully breeds.
“We need to put things into perspective here, ANY BREED OF DOG can bite but dog attacks are not a normal or common occurrence.
A non- reactive family dog isn’t suddenly going to turn into a man killer,” said the SPCA statement.
So, what shapes dog behaviour and temperament?
– GENETICS definitely play a role in the temperament of a dog.
The underlying personality of a dog is the temperament, which has a strong influence on the dog’s behaviour (which can be modified through correct handling from birth, learning and training.)
The ENVIRONMENT in which puppies are born like correct early handling and socialization, diet and gentle exposure to different experiences.
Play and exercise can hugely influence the future temperament of your dog.
The biggest concern is the number of dogs bred by indiscriminate backyard breeders of popular breeds such as Pit-bulls, Boerboels , German Shepherds and Rottweilers.
They are bred purely for profit owing to the huge demand for aggressive dogs due to a spike of cases of violent crimes.
Sadly some pet owners buy certain breeds as a status symbol yet they know absolutely nothing about care and other special needs for those types of breeds.
There are working breeds that require regular training, mental enrichment and the correct type of stimulation and exercise.
This has resulted in the market getting flooded with dogs with unpredictable personalities that are thrown into small cages or are chained for most of the time, without any social interaction, play, or correct training.
Most owners of such dogs have confessed that they can’t even handle their own dogs once they mature.
This is a recipe for disaster.
The idea that a confined dog is good for security is a misconception as professionals will argue that the behaviour of a particular dog (depending on the breed) depends on how the owner handles it.
Unfortunately, it has become common practice in Zimbabwe to confine dogs during the day and let them out at night to guard properties.
Subsequently the dogs have not learnt to identify family and family friends versus an intruder and they view anyone as a potential threat.
Some of these dogs are so intelligent and study ways of getting out of their properties and prey on innocent victims within the same community.
As such, the SPCA receives many calls on a daily basis, for help with regards to aggressive dogs threatening the safety of residents in neighbourhoods.
So who is to blame? The dogs?
These behaviours are a result of bad breeding, incorrect handling, unethical aggressive training carried out by unqualified trainers and ignorance regarding particular dog breeds and the physical, mental and emotional needs of these breeds.
Confinement leads to boredom, frustration, fear, anxiety and above all the lack of social skills.
These can lead to fear where the dog feels the need to protect itself and not the owner or the property.
As an example, if a toddler is locked up alone in a room to grow to adulthood, without affection, schooling, exposure to different things and situations, balanced diet, play and socialisation, the child ends up not human.
– dogs are family.
A close bond between the dog and its owner is essential.
LOYALTY and protection of the home and family grows as the puppy becomes a confident adult.
The manner in which you treat your dog nurtures an innate protective instinct.
The SPCA is aware of the puppy mills churning out popular breeds that have lived their entire lives confined to concrete and wire cages, living in filth with poor nutrition and almost entirely unexposed to human contact.
Many are sold unvaccinated or with fake vaccinations papers and therefore are carriers of killer viruses such as Parvo Virus and RABIES.
The upbringing of these puppies is accompanied with neglect and cruelty and as such these dogs develop behavioural issues.
A well-balanced family dog that has a protective instinct comes as a result of independence to roam freely on a well secured property.
Dogs may be allowed inside homes, for them to know what they are protecting.
Most importantly teach your children how to behave around your dogs as well as alien dogs.
Teasing and taunting is not recommended, interfering with a sleeping dog is a bad idea as much as sitting or riding on the back of the dog.
Learn to train the dog yourself with the help of a qualified, ethical, Positive Reinforcement trainer only.
Given the chance and a good upbringing in a caring environment the much misunderstood and maligned breeds can make fabulous pets and family guardians.
The original article was authored by Desi Hacker – a Dog Psychologist with SPCA.