Children, Dogs, and Aggression

“How To Behave So Your Dog Behaves” by Sophia Yin D.V.M. is one of my personal favorites. The title describes the most effective way to communicate with our dogs. How to act both emotionally as well as physically and my personal way for describing this behavior is being Cool, Calm and Collected, the three C's! I’m going to begin by first exploring some statistical numbers related to dog bites. First, according to literature and studies it would seem the incidence of dog bites is a growing problem. The problem is many of these studies have flawed results. The contributing factors include the specific populations studied (urban vs. rural), guarding type dogs who are socialized to be aggressive, tend to be favored in urban environments as opposed to rural and the number of social contacts is directly influenced by the environment is which the dog resides. In addition, the number of favorable social contacts with dogs compared to the number of fatal dog attacks would indicate this is a rather rare occurrence. Also, according to statistics “…the average child is at a far greater risk of being seriously hurt or killed by a parent or relative than by the family dog” (Lindsay, 2001). Even the number of dog bites reported annually in the United States is widely disputed by the reporting agencies. Contributing factors include errors in “population estimates…inconsistent definitions of what constitutes a dog bite…tallying dog-bite incidents…widespread underreporting” (Lindsay, 2001). The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) suggests “standardized forms be produced for collecting information” including information on the age of the victim, circumstances, extent of injury, and specific information related to the dog involved. This “task force” would like to see better-defined “legal requirements for reporting” and developing a better source of “collecting and keeping dog-bite statistics” (Lindsay, 2001). Lindsay also suggests, this task force failed by not including a “professional dog trainer” saying “…most owners with dog-aggression problems turn to such people for advice and guidance” (Lindsay, 2001). In 1997 the AVMA estimated “52.9 million” dogs lived in the United States and the Pet Food Institute estimated there were “57.6 million” dogs averaging at least one dog to every U.S. household at that time. According to Lindsay, the number of dog bites ranged from “2 to 5 million” annually, with many by family dogs going unreported. The estimate for children bitten is “1.5 times” more likely than adults and “over 3 times” more likely needing medical attention. Estimates in 1999 compiled from the Insurance Information Institute, estimated dog bites costing the American public approximately “1 billion dollars in losses” with claims totaling “$250 million” and according to State Farm the average payout is $12.000 per bite (Lindsay, 2001).

What is the difference between training and behavior problem solving

“Behavior modification exercises are NOT, repeat NOT, obedience exercises. At the very outset, clients should be disabused of the notion that this is fancy obedience.” Karen L. Overall, MA, VMD, PhD, ACVB, ABS Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, Psychiatry Department, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. In August 2006, the first Journal of Veterinary Behavior was published. This first publication included an article titled “Good trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your practice of veterinary medicine.” The article emphasized why it is important to choose the right dog trainer emphasizing characteristics, training methods, tools and how punishment should be addressed. Understanding the differences when making your choice for training and behavior problem solving creates a win-win situation for you and your pet.