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AKC judge says these dog owners must be aware and learn to think “ahead” of a protective breed to insure it stays out of trouble.





E. Katie Gammill, AKC Emeritus Judge, Exhibition Editor


Today, more than ever, pet owners must be careful and aware. Learn to think “ahead” of your protective dog to insure it stays out of trouble. When one takes possession of a guard dog, bully breed, or related mix-breed they are accepting responsibility for their actions.


Normally, protective breeds are very affectionate with their own people but the larger home protector breeds have a very rough play style and can get quite physical. Although puppies are cuddly, once they weigh between 50 and 100 pounds, their weight must be taken into consideration. So how can you protect your guarding breed and also protect the general public?


First, many people fear guarding, bully breeds, and chows due to media “hype” and sadly, this is rightly so in some cases. These instinctively protective breeds, despite their sweetness and personal relationship with their owners, are capable of aggression in the right circumstances, and even some other breeds are painted with the same brush. If you live close to a school where children play or walk by your home, their rambunctious activities may trigger the prey instinct response in your dog. Although protection or guard breeds are wonderful family dogs, they are territorial and perceived trespass may trigger an unwanted reaction.


NOTE: Underground fences, even when clearly marked, do not keep children or other animals OUT of your yard. Do display a sign warning of underground fencing but it may not protect you from litigation.


If you rent, be aware the landlord’s lease may forbid aggressive animals so read carefully before you sign. Make sure your home owners insurance does not exclude your breed and that is has no “rider” that will disallow purchase of a personal protection dog or guarding breed.


All large dogs, whether laid-back mastiff types or more active herding-guard breeds require a large play area which should be monitored and secured against innocent intrusion by passers-by or stray pets.


A board fence or 6 foot chain link fence is a good idea. An exercise program is necessary as well as socialization classes. Take it a step further and do some obedience training. Exposure to young children at an early age may help. However, responses and repercussions cannot be predicted if the dog is teased or aggravated.


When walking your dog, if someone approaches with another dog, walk around it by going into the street. Do not encourage confrontation. Carry a cell phone and call 911 immediately if an incident occurs. Owners of bully breeds, guard dogs, and watch dogs defend their pets as being sweet at home but lack of public socialization and exposure may trigger behavior that can result in a law suit. You are responsible for your dog’s actions. When walking your dog, FOCUS ON THE DOG!


Some owners let the dog wear a bandanna, goggles, or hat. This makes the dog appear “user friendly” but be careful if strangers want to pet him. Do NOT use a flexi-lead. The lead and collar must be appropriate for the size and weight of the dog.


Other people who see you walking a guarding breed may become apprehensive and give off “bad vibes” especially if they are elderly and/or walking their own dog. Dogs read body language and direct eye contact may be seen as a challenge, therefore, it’s best to carry something like citronella spray or simply cross the street to avoid a confrontation.


Just as some breeds were bred to fight, others catch prey, herd, or guard. An “unintentional” response can result in a bad scene. Do not leave large dogs in a room with a baby or small child as their crying and odor can trigger an unwanted response. Never leave food bowls in the floor if there are small children.


Be aware that every breed is genetically "hard wired" in a different way. Chihuahuas and other small breeds are well known for being “ankle biters.” However, an attack by a 5 pound Chihuahua cannot be compared to the bite of a 60-80 pound dog. Some breeds don’t like cats unless they are raised with them from puppyhood. This “acceptance” of YOUR cat does not carry over to strange cats or varmints. The dog considers them fair game.


It is a LAW in most states that no puppy can be sold or given away before 8 weeks of age. When puppies are removed from the litter prior to 8 weeks, they fail to develop “bite inhibition”. Guard dogs and bully breeds have “crushing bites.” It won’t be just a tear of the skin; it will be a “punishing” bite that can break a bone and YOU will be held responsible.


Guard and Bull breeds are in demand due to the times and they may keep us safer but I hope these precautions will also help. EST 1998 © 1802r09



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