Socialization, training key to safer dogs: Trainer

By ADAM JACKSON Herald-Tribune staff

Posted 1 day ago

In light of two dog attacks on Canada Post letter carriers in the last month, a local dog trainer is reminding owners to socialize their dogs to ensure balanced behaviour and disposition.

Rebecca Hayes-Copeland, owner and professional trainer at Partners Naturally, says while attacks from larger dogs often get more attention due to the strength of the pooch, smaller dogs can be vicious as well – an issue that can be remedied by socializing as much as possible.

The latest attack on July 24 sent a postal worker to hospital with serious bites. An earlier attack July 11 left a Postie with minor injuries.

“It comes down to owners,” said Hayes-Copeland. “If you’re not going to train your dog and socialize your dog…your dog is not going to be well-behaved.”

The Dogo Argentino breed – two of which were involved in Tuesday’s attack – is an Argentinian mastiff, bred from 10 different dogs. It was created in Argentina, in pursuit of a dog that is friendly, but has the strength to carry out difficult work, according to the American Kennel Club website.

“They can be bred to fight, but they are typically bred for protection, as a guarding breed,” said Hayes-Copeland. “They are bred to bark and defend territory.”

While Hayes-Copeland admits the dogs are strong and can be imposing, she adds that if trained correctly, they can be friendly, just like any other breed.

“We have a Neapolitan mastiff here in daycare, and she’s fantastic, plus we have an American bulldog – they’re both the large style of breeds and they’re lovely dogs,” she said.

“It’s not a breed thing.”

While large breeds typically get more attention because of the extent of the injuries they cause, Hayes-Copeland says it’s important to keep in mind that all dogs – big or small – can and will bite for the same reason.

“If you actually start looking at bites per capita, those dogs aren’t on the top end of those statistics,” she said. “Yes, if they are bred for protection work or guard work, they’re less likely to back down from a challenge, where another breed could say ‘Oh you’re scary’ and get one bite and run off.”

Dogs bred to guard and protect are usually suited for farms, where there is a risk of coyotes or other wild animals, but according to Hayes-Copeland, they can make friendly, family-based dogs.

“They are animals, so they need to be taken out and put in the human environment and taken for walks every day,” she said.

When it comes to training dogs to behave appropriately with humans, Hayes-Copeland says it is important to remember that a dog is an animal.

“I’m not saying not to love your dog…but they are still animals and don’t see the world the way that we do, so we can’t begin to understand.

“There aren’t really bad dogs out there, but there are bad owners – people who haven’t taken the time with their dog.”

Licensing an issue as well

According to City of Grande Prairie bylaw enforcement, a total of 1,768 current licensed dogs are in Grande Prairie.

Officials estimate there are between 8,000 and 10,000 dogs in the city as a whole.

According to Laureen Harcourt, executive director of the Grande Prairie SPCA, licences are important for the safe return of animals and quick pickups if a dog escapes and in turn, decrease numbers in the city’s pound.

“I think (the low percentage of licensing) falls hand-in-hand with…people just not being responsible and that is all hand-in-hand with not getting your animal spayed.”

While the fees are relatively nominal at $25 for a neutered dog, the transient nature of Grande Prairie contributes somewhat to the lack of licensing in the area, says Harcourt.

“It’s all about being responsible,” said Harcourt. “It’s ignorance, too. It’s people not taking the time to research the laws in the community in which they live.”

If bylaw enforcement is correct in its assumption of 8,000 dogs, and at an average cost of approximately $25 per dog, the city loses out on approximately $155,800 annually.

Adam.jackson@sunmedia.ca

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