There was a story on the news last week that caught my eye. According to reports, a 7-year-old girl in a city housing complex downtown was attacked by a Pit Bull – one of 24 breeds that are banned from the NYC housing authority. The complex also has a “dogs under 25 lbs only” rule that isn’t enforced.
According to witnesses the 7 year old was riding in the elevator and eating a popsicle alongside the dog and his owner. When the girl exited the elevator the Pitt tried to snatch the popsicle away and bit the girl’s arm.
The owners were arrested and charged with child endangerment even though this dog has no known attack history, was not previously considered to be a dangerous dog* and is called “sweet”, “well behaved”, and “good with kids” by neighbors. The dog was seized by Animal Care and Control and is most likely doomed for euthanasia.
This incident could have been prevented, yes, but when your dog doesn’t have a history of violence its easy to let your guard down and assume your dog will continue to behave. However, the 7 year old was holding food at the height of the dogs face. It’s easy to see how a dog would think that this treat could be meant for his consumption and try to take it. Unfortunately, he missed and got the girl’s arm instead.
Who’s fault was it? Should the housing complex be blamed for not enforcing their own dog rules? Should the owner have been charged with child endangerment even though the dog has no history of violent behavior and the owner had no reason to believe he was putting a child at risk? Should this Pitt be considered a dangerous dog when he was clearly trying to get a treat and did not attack unprovoked?
Your comments, please…
* A “dangerous dog” is one that “without justification” either (a) attacks and injures or kills a person, “companion animal,” farm animal or “domestic animal” or (b) “behaves in a manner which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death” to one or more of the foregoing. (Sec. 108, subd. 24(a).) There is an exception for dogs assisting the police. (Sec. 108, subd. 24(b).) The conduct of the victim, either on the day of the attack or at a much earlier time, also can exempt a dog from “dangerous” status. (Sec. 121, subd. 4.)
Episode 4: SOMEONE IS GONNA GET HURT
Quote of the Week: Justin says that when dogs’ mouths are open they are smiling and you can read their facial expression. This is 100% false. Dogs mouths will be open during nervous panting, panting from overheating, stress reducing displacement behaviors such as lip licking, etc.
Client: “Celebrity” Yorkie Carlie and owner Elaine
Issues: Elaine’s 2 other dogs “dominate” Carlie at home (Annie and Lexie, 2 dachshunds). Annie and Lexie barely ever go outside.
Justin Silver’s Solution: Met owner and dogs in central park. Introduces her to a small dog meet up group around the corner from her house so she can get out and be less lonely and the dogs get more exercise and stimulation. Dogs did really well, just not sure why the Yorkie was being carried on the walk.
DEBUNKED: Carlie does not look happy having it’s photo taken, so maybe Elaine should stop obsessing over just Carlie. The only other thing I felt compelled to point out was that it looks like the dachshund’s are trying to play with Carlie, not dominate her. This issue was simply one of owner laziness and Justin did a good job motivating Elaine to step up to the plate.
Client: Stella (8 month old Goldendoodle) and the Fable family.
Issues: Stella bites playfully. Kids play inappropriately with the dog – running doll strollers into her and whacking her on the face with dog toys. Mom not okay with Dad roughhousing with the dog, influencing the kids to play this way.
Justin Silver’s Solution: Justin sets up a puppy play date and brings a dog that is good at moderating play – excellent advice. This way Stella will begin to learn a soft mouth from this older dog. Justin then put Stella on leash in the house, claiming that the leash will make her calm down (?) and can be used to pull her off the kids. He brought appropriate dog toys for her to play with. Teaches drop it by tapping her back end.
Walking: chaos and pulling everywhere. Solution is “123 sit”, rewarding for sitting.
DEBUNKED: They should call this nipping… Stella is being a puppy and needs to learn a soft mouth. While setting up play dates with older dogs that can help teach her this skill it is also important to teach the owners how to teach her this skill. The owners (and children) should shriek when Stella’s teeth touch their skin and stop play to teach her that biting (the inappropriate behavior) causes play to stop. Play that is too energetic or rough should also cause play to stop – this would be a good way to teach that calm behavior gets rewarded and excited behavior gets ignored. While “drop it” is a good command to teach Stella doing so by tapping Stella’s back end could be dangerous in case of any guarding issues as she would be able to turn around and snap at the hand that was tapping her. My last critique is that while teaching loose leash walking Jusin rewarded Stella for sitting when he should be rewarded her for walking. Also, we aren’t shown the family walk with Stella for more than 3 steps at a time (this is walking?).
Client: Chihuahua (Mia) attacking Pit Bulls (Jeda/Sky).
Issues: Couple is engaged and recently moved in together. They are not on the same page about good training. The dogs have never been in the same room together inside but have been together outside. They also mention doorbell issues.
Justin Silver’s Solution: Doorbell work: Justin says that Mia is getting excited because her owner said “sit” too many times and is giving Mia nervous energy. Justin introduces treats to teach a proper sit. He also has the owner say “stay” and keep eye contact with the dogs while backing away. Walking: Took Sky and Mia to the park.
DEBUNKED: To teach “Stay” one needs to progress slowly. First the dog needs to have a solid “stay” with the owner in place for 15-30 seconds before introducing small movements and graduating to larger movements. This is why the dogs are following their owners… the owners are saying “stay” and backing up immediately. The dogs don’t understand the command. Next he takes Mia and Sky to the park for a walk. Rather than separating them with his body he walks them next to each other which is not wise for dogs who have attacked each other in previous situations. He does not talk about how to create coexistence at home and only works with the dogs outside where they are already ok with each other.