“There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners,” says dog advocate Dylan Walton. A qualified canine behaviour and handling trainer, Dylan is an animal management officer for Auckland Council. He frequently encounters problem dogs, and says invariably the problems start with poor owners. As a result Dylan also has plenty of advice about how to be a good dog owner.
First, choose a breed that suits where you live. Too many people get a large dog without considering whether their home is suitable for the animal. They need a lot of room to exercise and burn off their energy, keeping a large animal cooped up in a small section can only lead to problems.
You must register your dog, and Dylan recommends microchipping and de-sexing the animal also, regardless of its breed. He adds that unless you are a breeder, there is no reason for not de-sexing your pet, “If you don’t, it only creates issues.”
Attending regular puppy socialisation classes will teach your pet how to behave around other dogs and humans. Properly socialised they are less likely to develop problem behaviours. Obedience training to basic commands is also very helpful.
All dogs will send warning signals if they are scared, nervous or stressed, and people should learn how to recognise the difference between a safe dog and a dangerous animal. For example, Dylan says when walking his rescue pitt bull Lennox it is not unusual for people to cross the road to avoid them and he understands that a big, bearded man with a pitt bull can appear intimidating. But he adds it is a pity, because if they understood dogs those people would spot that Lennox always walks alongside Dylan and his leash is slack. This shows that Lennox is under Dylan’s control. He does caution that when approaching a strange dog, you should always ask the owner’s permission before trying to pat or stoke it.
If you see an animal straining at the leash and dragging their owner, stay clear, because that indicates the dog could be dominant and may act unpredictably.