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Trainer shares tips on how to keep your dog safe

By: Allison Chorney

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jul 24, 2014 10:38 am

Joe Horvat and Ramsey the boxer take a stroll July 21, demonstrating what Airdrie's Dog
Joe Horvat and Ramsey the boxer take a stroll July 21, demonstrating what Airdrie's Dog "E" Daycare head trainer John Murray said a simple way to keep your dog under control and out of harms way is to keep him close to your side while you walk. He said he is not a fan of the retractable leashes that can allow a dog to roam too far away from you to react if something should happen.
Allison Chorney/Rocky View Publishing

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Imagine taking your dog for a walk around the block. It’s a day like any other with Fido happily walking along next to you, periodically stopping to sniff the ground. You approach another dog-walker and give Fido some leeway on the leash to meet the oncoming dog. Both dogs are wagging their tails so you assume they are happy to meet each other. Suddenly the other dog bites Fido. It all happens too fast for you or the other owner to react.

A similar situation occurred in northeast Calgary on July 12, resulting in the death of a poodle. The dog that killed the poodle was euthanized on July 18, and charges are pending for the incident against the owner of the aggressive dogs.

John Murray, head trainer at Dog “E” Daycare, said ‘leash aggression’ is the most common form of aggression and means a dog who is friendly off-leash or in the home, reacts with aggression when meeting another dog while on-leash. The leash acts as a kind of trap for the dog and he is forced to walk closer and closer to the other dog, which in an off-leash situation he would have the choice to avoid.

However, Murray said there are steps owners can take to help keep themselves and their dogs safe.

“The dogs will give you the signs that they’re going to (become aggressive),” he said.

He said owners need to recognize and react accordingly to their dog’s body language. An arched, tense stance, ears pinned back, hackles going up on the back, a direct stare and an upright, tense tail are all signs the dog is “really telling you no.”

He adds a wagging tail is not always a sign of happiness and owners need to be aware of the different tail wags.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) website describes the different tail wags:

• Tail is in natural position – dog is relaxed

• Tail is relaxed and wagging side to side – dog is happy

• Tail is at a relaxed height and stiffness but is vigorously wagging side to side or in a circle – dog is really happy

• Tail is lowered or tucked between his legs. Tail may still be wagging from side to side, often at a more rapid pace than when relaxed – dog is nervous or submissive

• Tail is tucked up between legs and close to belly – dog is very nervous or submissive

• Tail is held higher than usual – dog is alert

• Tail is high, stiff and moving rigidly back and forth (flagging his tail) – dog is threatened and not feeling friendly

“It’s prevention rather than a cure,” Murray said of understanding dog body language.

He said if a dog is excited to meet another dog and approaches with that high level of excitement instead of in a calm manner, the other dog could become reactive. He said to think of it in terms of a human meeting, if you approach someone and get in their face or personal space, it’s not likely to be a pleasant situation for the other person.

“A lot of people let dogs meet face-to-face,” he said, “but they should be letting the calmer one let the other dog sniff his backside.”

Murray said another simple solution to avoiding problems is to get rid of the retractable leash.

“They let the dog roam quite some distance – too far to react if something happens,” he said. “It’s always best to have the dog to your side as much as you can. It doesn’t take much to train them to do that.”

Another simple step is to tell approaching walkers if your dog is reactive so the walker can avoid a situation and keep their dog away from yours.

If your dog does react aggressively, it could have costly repercussions.

According to the City of Airdrie Dog Control Bylaw, the fee for a dog bite is up to $350. However, if the incident goes to court, fees can increase up to a maximum of $10,000.

“If we feel it’s serious enough, we may (implement) the Dangerous Dog Act and it goes to the courts,” said Darryl Poburan, Manager Municipal Enforcement.

He added in serious cases, it is often the owner that decides to euthanize the dog but it can also be court ordered.

Murray suggests getting your dog in training as soon as you can, no matter what age the dog is when you get it. He also strongly suggests spaying or neutering your dog as this can help with aggressive behaviours.

Lastly, he said to remember to let your dog be a dog.

“We forget to teach them to be a dog. We want them to be our baby,” he said.

For more information on dog behaviour, contact Murray at Dog “E” Daycare at 587-775-1191.

For illustrated descriptions of dog body language, visit aspca.org and search “body language.”


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