The Perfect Storm
Why dogs are aggressive to children and adults
This attack on 11 children in a playground in Blyth in May 2016 could only be described as The Perfect Storm.
On the left, you are looking at a one-year-old dog that is going to die because it knew no better. It will die because the breeder and owner let it down.
So at which end of the lead does the real problem lie?
Why these attacks happen and how we stop them happening is linked to a number of important and vital factors in the first 16 weeks of a dog's life.
This dog that attacked these children was a cross-breed Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Not a pure Staffordshire Bull Terrier as reported in the press and media. Once again the poor old Staffie gets the blame.
As an expert witness and banned breed assessor under the dangerous dogs act of 1991. I am called upon to define the breed or cross-breed of the dog I am assessing.
Therefore, I have some experience in categorising breeds or cross breeds of dogs. To the trained eye, (though I cannot see the whole dog),this dog looks very much like a Pit Bull x Staffie.
This dog was apparently bought at the tender age of 4.5 weeks. There's in lies the first one of the first big mistakes.
At that age that the puppy is still learning discipline and control from its mother. Without that discipline, we often end up with a difficult and unruly dog that is extremely difficult to control.
It is an offence in the UK for breeders or anyone else to sell puppies under the age of 8 weeks. Having said that recent research now points to 7 weeks being possibly the best time to re-home a puppy. I think that requires looking by government legislators. Probably DEFRA?
However, selling and buying a puppy at 4.5 weeks is ludicrous. The person that sold this dog and the person that bought it, clearly have no knowledge or understanding whatsoever of puppies or dogs. We have to take a test to drive a car? Why shouldn't first-time breeders and owners be required to take at least a short course on the requirements of how dogs learn and how to work and train a dog. You would only have to take it once.
This dog had bitten before, even though it was only about 12 months old. Because it specifically attacked children, points to the second big mistake. The fact that it had almost certainly not been socialised with children and possibly adults between one of the major critical periods in a puppy's life which is between 0 and 12 weeks. This is known as the Human Socialisation Period.
Young puppies must be introduced to, and handled by at least a 100 people, including children and adults before the pup reaches 12 weeks of age. This sounds onerous, but the reality is really not that difficult.
All you have to do is take it to your local pub, cafe, shopping centre or school gates where there are plenty of people about. Take treats with you that you can be handed out to people to treat the puppy whilst gently stroking and petting it. In fact, my daughter has recently opened a doggy themed cafe in Hampton Hill called Paws for Coffee which is ideal to take young puppies and of course older dogs. They even have a doggy menu.
If puppies do not get this vital socialisation during this short period they can become fearful, reactive, and sometimes aggressively stimulated to attack. It is the main reason for aggression to children and adults. These dogs as they mature can start to show signs of fear, reactivity and aggression to people. BTW neutering makes it worse.
The vast majority of aggressive canines that end up attacking people and dogs are created between this 0 to16 window of social opportunity.
We al know that socialisation at an early age is crucial for dogs well being.
But are we all aware of the time limits of what we need to put in place for the new puppy, and more importantly why?
The canine socialisation period is between 0 to16 weeks. Puppies must mix with other dogs, but more importantly pups of a similar age.
If they do not get this input they can lead a life of aggression and fear that is extremely difficult to cure.
It is no good just socialising your puppy with just adult dogs. Adult dogs do not do boisterous play fighting that pups always seem to do. It is through this play that they learn bite inhibition, body language, communication, socialisation and the acceptance of other dog and people outside of its own family or pack.
Children Can Act Irrationally:
Because children often act erratically, Running around screaming and jumping about which can stimulate either fear or predatory chase aggression in dogs that have not been socialised. This attack on the 11 children was an accident just waiting to happen.
It is because people do not research the requirements to socialise their puppies that lead to these unfortunate and dangerous incidents. Will live in a society where the mantra is "I want it and I want it now".
Lack of control, training and socialisation causes major problems as the puppy matures. No training in the world can put in what was not put in through careful and gentle handling in the first place.
Humans Require Social Involvement:
If we isolated a child from all human contact for the first five and a half years of its life then that child would be unable to ever communicate or feel comfortable around people. If speech and the understanding of language are not activated when the opportunity arises, then that opportunity if not stimulated will close down and cannot be reopened. Therefore, communication cannot be learned afterwards.
What we put into our children from the day they are born to 5.5 years old creates the personality and person that the child will grow into. Everything after this time in just adding knowledge and experience to that personality .
Why do we imagine it is any different for out closest animal companions. For dogs, that is the first 16 weeks. ignore those simple requirements at your peril. There are other critical periods during this time. These are shown below along with other important information.
So this poor dog had the perfect storm. A useless breeder that was probably breeding trophy dogs, the owner that bought it far too young not understanding the consequences. Then failed to socialise it with people and especially children during that critical 12 week period. Who almost certainly never took it to the all-important puppy classes and never socialised it properly with other dogs. It was probably never trained or walked regularly and started aggressing at about 7 months. From then on in it was an accident waiting to happen. There were 12 victims in this tragedy. The 11 children and this one dog, let down by ignorant breeders and mindless owners who think it is their god-given right to own a dog without understanding that they had to invest time and effort to get a well-behaved dog.
Critical Periods part 1
Critical Periods part 2
The History of The Staffordshire Bull Terrier
My Thanks to The Daily Mail Article
image courtesy of the Mail and ncjMedia Ltd