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Owners' Guide to Powerful Dogs

Jul 12, 2016

We've outlined a path to success for a friendly pet that represents their breed, and other powerful breeds, in the best light possible:

It is important that as an owner of a powerful breed you ensure you are an advocate for your pet by owning a dog that can be a breed ambassador and a good Canine Citizen. Powerful dog breeds such as Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, "pit bulls," Mastiffs and other large, strong dogs are the first to be scrutinized in the media and given a bad reputation.

A Pawsitive Start

Puppy socialization is very important. By exposing your puppy to controlled situations with people of all ages and other animals, they will become more confident and self-assured. This will in turn make them a happier, friendlier and safer dog.

Spay & Neuter

Unsterilized dogs are more likely to show behaviours such as aggressive displays of protection, dominant behavior toward other dogs or the desire to roam and bite. Every dog has the ability to bite – prevention is key to ensuring their safety and public safety. A spayed/neutered dog is more likely to live longer too!

Annual Veterinary Exam

Some behaviour issues that arise in our pets are caused by pain or health conditions. By staying in communication with your veterinarian on a yearly basis you will ensure the well-being of your pet and you will be able to provide preventive care before a condition becomes a problem!

Muzzles & Preventative Action

A muzzle is a great tool and making all dogs (even small ones) comfortable with a muzzle at an early age is a way to prevent them from biting. A dog that is comfortable with a muzzle will have a better experience at the veterinarian and when in a situation the owner feels could be uncontrolled.

If you allow your dog outside without supervision, install a spring loaded gate with a security latch so your dog is less likely to escape your yard. Dogs can act differently when they don’t have the security of their owners with them. Defensive aggression is commonly seen in loose dogs.

License your dog and know the bylaws in your community. Being bylaw compliant shows you are making an effort to be a responsible owner and will make your dog’s ambassador status skyrocket.

On A Positive Path

Training classes are an excellent way to learn how to communicate effectively with your dog and develop yourself as a leader. Training must continue from puppyhood through to old age. We encourage dog owners to seek positive reinforcement (R+) trainers. The profession is currently unregulated so when choosing a trainer, look for ones who continue to educate themselves on science-based methods.

Once you find a trainer you like, take training to the next step and pursue a Canine Good Neighbour certificate for your dog! There is no better way to promote your dog's breed!

Training with negative responses – pain, discomfort, control or fear – can lead to long-term fear and aggression. Negative training methods such as loud verbal corrections, hitting, use of pinch, choke or shock collars, and pulling or pushing can develop behavioural issues that will often lead to aggressive behaviour.

Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!

A mentally and physically tired dog is a much happier and safer dog. Not only should physical exercise be worked into a dog’s daily routine but mental exercise too. Enrichment activities such as scent detection (Nosework), agility, swimming and the use of puzzle feeders or other hide and seek games will provide your dog with a richer fuller life, and the need to “act out” will dissipate. Many of these activities can be adjusted to also engage your dog even when you are not with them.

Don't Ignore Warning Signs

Dogs don’t come with a manual and most dog owners learn how to interact with their dog by watching others. Most entertainment shows about dog training are just that – entertainment. They do not provide the appropriate methods for dog owners to support their dog in developing good behaviours. Barking, lunging, growling and other aggressive behaviour displays are usually labeled as “bad dog behavior”. However, your dog is simply trying to communicate that they are not comfortable with a situation. Do not punish or discourage this behaviorlisten to your dog!

If you remove your dog from the situation they are uncomfortable with, they will trust you and turn to you for guidance next time. Once you recognize your dog’s "worried" behaviour seek the help of a trainer to help your dog learn how to work through their concerns in a positive way. It is always best to avoid stressful crowded situations with your dog – you may enjoy having them with you but it is not in their best interest.

Redirect, Reward and Reinforce for Success!

If you have any questions, please contact:

Delta Community Animal Shelter

7505 Hopcott Road
Delta, BC V4G 1B7

p: 604-940-7111
e: dcas@delta.ca