March 2003
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Dog Attacks Concern Parents in New Brunswick
By Matthew M., Grade 11, Marystown Central High, Burin, NL

Another dog attack has taken the life of one more child.

Dr. Norma Guy who runs the Clinical Behaviour division of the Atlantic Veterinary College says that she will need more time to find out exactly what happened to the 4-year-old boy who was mauled to death by a group of dogs in New Brunswick, March 1. People, parents especially, have been left in the dark about why these dogs are doing what they are. They can hardly feel safe. It happened in New Brunswick. It happens in your community.

Guy says that although it may seem like more and more attacks have been occurring, with the dog population of North America now at about 55 million, you are still more likely to be attacked by your spouse. This type of dog attack happens about 25 times a year. "In many cases even though dogs have the capacity to injure us ‘cause they're running around with teeth all the time, it doesn't mean that they will necessarily do so," she pointed out.

Who exactly is at the most risk of an attack then? Well, according to Patricia McDonnell of Comprehensive Pet Therapy, it's no surprise that children are at the biggest risk it seems. "Children are small people, they are closer to dog size. So the dog often views them as playmates, you know, rather than someone as leader." Boys ages five to nine are most at risk according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. ( web posted Feb 25, 2000)

Experts warn that even though children are the most often attacked, anyone can be a victim. In any case though, you should never judge a dog on its look. No matter the breed of the dog or the size of the dog, all are capable of a potentially serious attack. On an interesting note, half of all children are bitten by dogs at some point, and half of those attacks occur at home with a familiar dog, research shows. But why?

"Too many parents get dogs that do not fit their lifestyle," mentioned Carlos Mendez, a dog trainer with K-9 Express. "When we put them in the backyard, we start to build up separation anxiety, we start to build the negative behaviour like barking, digging." Keeping a dog chained on can make him or her become more aggressive and angry according to Mendez. If the dog must be confined, it is suggested that owners use a crate in the home, allowing the dog to feel more comfortable and secure. But, Mendez warns, too much of any type of confinement can lead to negative consequences. Keeping the dog confined and away from all sorts of people causes the dog to be more afraid of people, even those who may consider themselves "close" to the dog. ( web posted Feb. 25, 2000)

As in many cases though, education pays. A dog will stiffen, lean forward and the hair on its back may rise before an attack. According to the experts, anyone at risk of a dog attack should never look the dog in the eye and never turn around and run. Backing slowly away while keeping the dog in sight is the best plan of action. Most importantly though, dogs can sense nervousness and you should try to appear calm. Knowing how to react in such an event can possibly save your life.

Educating parents as well as the children about dogs and their ways, can help solve a situation before it starts. Choose a good dog for your lifestyle; if it must go outside, rethink your situation. But, what is most important, be prepared for an attack, know how to respond. In many cases, a dog's bite may be way bigger than its bark.


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