Fierce and dangerous or badly trained? Pitbull animal attack in Lucknow reignites big gun dog debate
While breeds like Pit Bulls, German or Alsatian Shepherds, Hounds, Dobermans, St. Bernards and Great Danes continue to be popular and in demand, understanding how to handle and care for them as recommended by veterinarians, animal behaviorists and dog trainers.
A rottweiler in training
UNDERSTANDING THE BREED BEFORE BRINGING ONE HOME
Pet parents like Uttarkashi resident Pallavi Duffy swear by German Shepherds and Hounds. “I have had German Shepherds and Rampur dogs as pets for decades and they are the most loving and loyal pets. But with breeds like these, you have to first understand their temperament,” she says.
Cyrus Cowasji, animal keeper, trainer and pet parent in Lucknow, who has fostered, rescued and kept dogs such as hounds, Alsatians, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Malinois and Pit Bulls in his home and farm and trains them, says, “The problem is that most of the time people buy or adopt breeds without understanding the nature and needs of the dog. A big dog needs a lot of exercise to burn off his energy. Unless this is channeled properly, the dog will tend to get frustrated and will end up hurting someone when provoked or irritated further. Soumya Nanda Mohanty from Bengaluru, a dog lover who grew up with big dogs and is also a dog trainer, says, “Remember, no dog is aggressive! It is how we humans raise, treat, socialize and train them that shapes their behavior and temperament. Some breeds require lots of physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction.
Citing a recent case of pet pit bull attack, the Lucknow Nagar Nigam was quick to publish an advisory (left) which stated that ‘people should avoid keeping hunting dog breeds like the pit bull American or the Rottweiler as pets because they tend to get fierce”.
“TRAINING IS IMPORTANT – OF THE DOG’S PARENT AND THE PET”
Christopher Vicky Franklin, a certified dog trainer and behavioral therapist who specializes in training aggressive dogs, insists that owners be trained to handle large dogs first, followed by the dogs themselves. “Training yourself to handle this big dog is more important,” he says, a thought that is backed up by dog trainer Cyrus Cowasji. “A lot of pet owners come to me with a Rottweiler or a German Shepherd saying they bite. My first question for them is, how can you afford this? How much have you learned raising this puppy? I insist on training the dog and owner together so they know how to behave with each other,” he says.
Varuna Kaur, dog trainer, says that pet parents of any medium to large breed should have their dogs trained at a very young age. “It’s not just breeds like Rottweilers, Dobermans, Pit Bulls and German Shepherds, I’ve had tons of cases of Golden Retrievers, Labradors and even aggressive Beagles and Cockers. Even if you’ve had dogs all your life, there is nothing wrong with following the advice of a trained professional.Unfortunately, many pet owners only consult behaviorists after a biting incident.
“With dogs, you have to tell them at the start who is the boss because they are beasts of burden. Before they begin to see themselves as the leader, the parent needs to establish their authority and let them know gently and firmly that they are the leader of the pack,” Christopher explains. Mitali Parekh, who runs a canine service, says big dogs need an experienced hand to direct that guarding and protective instinct. “Pitbulls used to be bred to fight, so there are those instincts that need an experienced handler, to socialize, to route. And they need physical space to exercise. Another problem is that for large breeds like these, people usually hire a rude trainer and the trainer uses harmful methods to exaggerate the undesirable qualities of the dog. If you use positive training methods with a dog, you have more success.
(LR) Rottweiler, pit bull and doberman
‘SEARCH ON THE DOG YOU BRING HOME’
Christopher says there are several factors to keep in mind before acquiring these large breeds. “Always ask about the dog’s lineage. Are the parents aggressive or passive? If the parents are aggressive, the puppy will likely be the same. Second, if you’re going to keep dogs like these, be prepared to put in a lot of effort and practice to make sure you’re in control.
A lot also has to do with the sex of the dog, according to some experts. “A female will not be as aggressive as a male simply because of the difference in hormones in her,” says veterinarian Dr. Vikas Singh. “A female will be softer and the male louder. Hormones not only control their physical state but also play a huge role in their mental makeup. But that doesn’t mean a female dog can’t be mean. When in heat, female dogs also become irritable due to hormonal changes in their bodies,” he adds.
A German Shepherd with his owner
“LARGER DOGS ARE OFTEN MARKED AS AGGRESSIVE DUE TO THEIR SIZE”
“These are not easy breeds to keep and maintain,” says veterinarian Dr. Abhishek Gupta. “These dogs need exercise, they need playtime, bonding with their owners and socializing with strangers, so people who keep them need to have that in mind. You can’t discriminate between breeds and assuming that these dogs are aggressive and not friendly. I’ve worked with such breeds enough to know that most of them are gentle, especially females,” he adds.
Shirin Merchant, canine behaviorist and trainer, adds: “Rottweiler, pitbull, doberman, German shepherd were bred as working dogs. They are dogs that were bred for a certain purpose and some of those purposes include guarding and protection. So, innately, they may be predisposed to this. But that doesn’t mean that all of them turn out to be biting dogs. “Most large breed dogs like pit bull, cane corso, bully kutta, rottweiler are genetically meant to do specific activities. For example, pit bulls were used in blood sports like bear baiting and bull baiting, so their temperament is by default aggressive,” adds Sahadev Yadav, animal behaviorist and professional dog trainer.
“Bigger dogs tend to do more damage due to their size and therefore be aggressive,” says Kamna Pandey, member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and activist and broadcaster for animals. more powerful jaws that inflict a deeper wound if they attack. Also, due to their size, it becomes difficult to control them when under attack. “Bigger isn’t always better, especially for new dog owners,” says RK Pandey, a retired police officer who trained dogs for UP police. “They are difficult to control even when playful due to their strength. So only an experienced person should guard large breeds.
CANINE TRAINERS AND CERTIFIED BEHAVIORS SUGGEST SOME DOS AND DON’TS FOR PET PARENTS OF LARGE DOGS
- Learn more about the breed
- Train yourself
- train the dog
- Make the dog understand that you are the leader of the pack
- Vaccinate the dog
- Give him enough time and exercise
- Socialize the dog to other animals and people
- If the dog shows aggression, give a command in a firm but calm voice
- If the dogs are fighting each other, pour water over them
- Set behavior limits for your dog
NOT TO DO
- Don’t get a breed you can’t handle
- Do not keep the dog locked up or chained for very long
- Don’t provoke them (children pull their tails or their ears)
- Do not deviate from their daily routine unless absolutely necessary
- Avoid sudden movements or loud noises around them
- Aggressive Behavior Leads To Aggression In Dogs, Avoid This
- Don’t try to separate fighting dogs
- Do not encourage bad behavior even when they are a puppy
—— With contributions from Debarati S Sen and Dharitri Ganguly