WHY A DOG WOULD KILL ITS OWNER
by Dr Melvyn Greenberg Accredited Animal Behaviour Consultant (ABC of SA™)
It is regarded as bizarre that man’s best friend for at least the last 12,000 years should turn on its owner and kill that person.
A dog does not suddenly develop this intention but rather the early warning signals given out by the dog are either ignored or not recognized by the family. Failure to detect warning signs of aggression is most likely to occur when people have never developed a rapport of communication with this type of pack animal.
For any dog to kill its owner or any other person there could never have been a meaningful and respectful bond.
The fault lies entirely with the dog owners!
There are almost 200 hundred breeds of dogs to choose from in this country, why choose, for example, a pit-bull terrier? There are many reasons for this irresponsible selection:
- The reputation of aggression appeals to men harbouring aggression – the dog reflects the owner’s personality. Certain characters experience frisson when their dog kills other dogs or attack people; unfortunately society has people of this ilk.
- Some men who feel inadequate enjoy the image created by owner a dog of strength and tenacity
- There is an urban legend that aggressive dogs are suitable for protection. They are not a deterrent for determined intruders
- Ignorance of the breed’s genetic potential. The pit-bull terrier has been specifically selected genetically for hundreds of years for dog fighting and coursing. This instinct does not dissipate when the dog is offered a home, food and the occasional pat on the head.
- Possibly owned a pit-bull terrier in the past where no incident occurred.
- Ill-advice from friends or relatives who have no sound knowledge of dogs and their traits
- Certain minority clans in some culture groups choose aggression in their dogs and will opt for pit-bulls and boerboels.
Why do dogs bite? Because they can! The determining factor surrounding canine aggression is based on the severity of the bite. Any dog that has bitten many times and never bruised or punctured human skin is easily rehabilitated by professional dog trainers or animal behaviourists. Once a person is badly injured either the person or the dog may die. A dog that can be deterred or fought off will most likely be euthanased.
What is the background to an “evil” dog that kills its owner?
- Bad genetic material. Puppies bred from aggressive parents have a high tendency for viciousness due to the strong hereditability of aggressive behaviour.
- The breeder of the puppies failing to socialize the pups from 3 weeks of age. It is expected that pups of certain breeds should be exposed to over 100 different people from 3 – 12 weeks of age. The contact has to be positive, gentle with good impressions. Aggression starts in puppyhood with the failure to develop tolerance towards children, adults, elderly people, both sexes, various races, able-bodied or disabled, calm or raucous etc. If pups do not obtain good imprinting during their impressionable period from 3-20 weeks of age then all may be lost!
- Failure to subscribe to puppy socialization classes with reputable dog trainers and/or members of the Animal Behaviour Consultants group. This is the opportunity to educate pet owners about canine behaviour, positive reinforcement and develop an intimate bond with the animal.
- Failure to continue with basic and advance obedience training so that the dog becomes a socially acceptable pet; trust between human and dog
- Many people do not spend enough quality time with their dogs to instill reliability and the “canine companions” are often ostracized to a fenced off area on the property. This detaches the pet from the family “pack”.
- Dogs, isolated from the family and visitors, lose coping skills, trust and tolerance towards people. Children running past fenced-off dogs “tease” them on a regular basis to the point of them being a tragedy waiting to escape.
- Barriers cause chronic frustration; dogs locked up in a courtyard; fenced off in the swimming pool area – away from visitors; dogs fenced off on the property left to their own devices. Dogs that are never part of the family, and the social scene, will express one of their instinctive strategies when given freedom, which is freeze, flee or attack. The fact that some dogs attack their owners proves beyond any doubt that the “pets” never developed a bond with them and regard their “family” rather as strangers by showing complete intolerance to the “intruders” on their territory. These people are always at fault, not the dogs!
- The vast majority of dog owners punish their dogs inappropriately. Too often people hit their dogs for reasons the animals cannot understand. How does one expect a dog to trust being patted and hit by the same person? This causes serious confusion and conflict within the dog’s mind. The human aggression often causes canine aggression.
- Many men enjoy badgering and teasing their pups deliberately trying to get a growling response. This is not a game. Dogs do not play games. What is construed as play is nothing more than puppies exercising survival skills for adult life.
- Confinement situations e.g. closed off courtyard, fenced off area in garden or a totally walled-in property, particularly where there is no visual, physical and tactile stimulation dogs acquire a seriously low threshold for human behaviour. They lose the experience gained from mixing with the family or going for walks.
Any dog without appropriate socialization with ignorant owners in an unstimulating environment is the breeding ground for canine “criminals”. However, in any given year, anywhere in the world, markedly more parents kill their children than dogs kill people. Why, then, does the media draw so much attention to a canine-human attack? Is it betrayal?