To the editor:
In light of the recent dog attacks in St. James City, I have noticed a marked change in people's attitudes when out walking their dogs, riding their bikes and just out for their daily exercise or stroll. People are armed with pepper spray, sticks, stun guns, wasp spray or anything else they can use if they or their pets were attacked by an aggressive dog. I, too, as a St. James City citizen, dog owner, handler and dog walker, am seriously concerned whenever I am out on the streets of our beautiful and supposedly safe community. Just a week ago, I assisted in the burial of a sweet 2-pound Yorkie mix that died unnecessarily by the ferocious bite of an off leash German shepard. Let me tell you folks, it was heart wrenching to watch this poor woman bury her best friend all the while feeling numb from the shock of what happened, or why it just happened. But ... it did not have to happen.
This message is intended for all the dog owners out there. You know your dog best and you know if you have an aggressive dog. Over the years, I have heard so many dog owners acknowledge that their dogs have aggressive tendencies. They say things like, "My dog doesn't like men," "my dog doesn't like people in uniforms or delivery people," "my dog is protecting me," "my dog doesn't get along with children, or cats, or bicycles or small animals" and the list goes on. The fact is, there is no excuse for a dog to be aggressive. An aggressive dog is an aggressive dog, period; end of story. It's like going to any self help group and taking the first step by admitting that you have a problem. That done, the next step is getting help, and there is help for you and your aggressive dog.
The number one thing any dog owner must do is keep your dog on a leash! This goes for every dog, friendly or not. This is for their safety and yours, as well as the community. There is a leash law and for good reason; please adhere to it for the safety of all involved. I will admit that I have been remiss at times with my own dogs on this, but have amended my ways with a renewed, and vigilant attitude.
Getting angry at the dog after it has attacked or misbehaved, or towards the owner that did not keep their dog under control does nothing but cause feelings of insecurity and hostility in the community. What would be more productive is to make sure that the owner of the aggressive dog becomes educated on how to handle their dog so everyone in the community can live in peace and harmony. To be a responsible owner of an aggressive dog (and you know deep down inside who you are because you have witnessed some type of aggressive behavior in your pet at one time or another), there are pertinent steps you must take to protect your own pet, protect all four and two legged community members, and protect yourself as well. Firstly, you have to receive the proper training to handle an aggressive dog. I'm not talking about the basic obedience classes that provide a good foundation for responsible dog ownership. I'm talking about one-on-one sessions with a dog behaviorist, a Cesar Milan of sorts. Call your local vet for recommendations. These sessions will teach you the proper way to handle your aggressive dog in any situation, including the ones that seem to trigger the unwanted behavior. Keeping your dog under control at all times is key to owning an aggressive dog. Secondly, once you have the proper training, you must invest in the appropriate tools to implement the skills you have just learned. There are excellent tools out there for you and your dog, i.e,. special harnesses, collars, leashes, etc., designed specifically for the aggressive or unruly dog. Lastly, and most importantly, you must don a muzzle on your aggressive dog every time your dog is outside; whether for a walk, to do his businesses or just to get some fresh air or be with the family while they are outside. This tool is not inhumane in any way and if introduced properly (a trainer will show you how to do this), your dog will accept this on him without any fuss or to-do, as part of his daily regime when going 'out'.
Let me say again that there are no excuses for an aggressive dog. You can't take back the damage that your dog has done after the fact. There is documented proof that the dog who is the victim of a dog attack will become dog aggressive themselves for survival sake. I can't blame them but this can become a snowball effect, with our beautiful and safe community to take the brunt of it. Take responsibility for your dog by being a responsible owner.
St. James City