Monday Morning Quarterbacks – Who is at fault? Death of a Dog.

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This is another piece that was originally written for Northern Virginia Today Print Edition.  It is from 2013.

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When we watch the news, it is easy to Monday Morning Quarterback and assume something should have been done differently.  However, having been in various situations with loose dogs causing major problems as a citizen and a canine professional, I want to comment the assumption that things should have been done differently.  The subtitle of this could be “Who really killed the dog?”

As I type this, (Sept 2013) there is a situation regarding a man being harassed for killing his neighbor’s dog that was on this man’s property.  Does this sound extreme to you?  Killing a dog simply for being on your property? When I read comments about the article, the consensus was “The dog was only on his property, he should have done something else.” Well, as the late Paul Harvey would say: “And now, the rest of the story.”

The dog’s owner used the popular electric/invisible fence to confine the dog.  Those of us seriously into dog training and behavior recognize that these fences often lead to undesired behaviors.  We also know it is not uncommon for dogs to escape electric fences, even when the shock is set at the highest level.  Here we have a dog being managed in a way we know is not behaviorally or physically safe.  Now we need to know the dog’s history in the neighborhood.

The dog was off the property fairly regularly.  The owner was alerted frequently to her dog roaming at large.  At one point the dog entered the garage of the man who would eventually shoot him and menaced a child. The owner was cited twice by law enforcement because of what she allowed the dog to do.  The owner did nothing to rectify the situation.  The owner was warned the dog could be shot.  The owner did nothing.  Fast forward several months.

Once again, the dog was on the neighbor’s yard.  The neighbor attempted nonlethal means to get the dog to leave.  The dog stood his ground and growled.  This time there would be no chance for the dog to be a menace again: the dog was shot.  “Oh how horrid!” were the comments,  “This man killed an innocent dog!”  Did he really cause the dog’s death or was he just ending a persistent, dangerous situation?

Remember the other human involved: the dog owner.

For many months, the dog’s owner knew the problems her dog was creating.  In many areas it takes several calls before a citation is issued.  This woman had two citations against her for her dog being off the property and causing trouble.  Could the fence have played into the behaviors we saw?  Absolutely!  Behaviorists and serious trainers know aggression and fear issues go shock in paw with electric fences.  Obviously it was failing as a containment device as well!  Had the owner gone to a local home improvement store and invested less than $250 and a couple hours of work, a kennel could have been erected and the dog safely confined.  For a fraction of that, she could have purchased a cable tie out for the dog.  The owner refused to physically contain her dog on the property.

The neighbor, fed up and having to deal with a persistent and dangerous situation had to protect himself and his family. He did not know what the next “visit” would bring.  Would that be the one where his child would be attacked?  The dog was refusing to leave the property and was behaving in a very threatening manner.  The owner ignored citations and requests to keep the dog on her property.

So, who really killed the dog?  Was it those who had obviously tried other means to get the owner to better maintain the dog?  Was it the owner who did nothing to prevent the dog from escaping and causing trouble even after being cited by law enforcement and warned of what could happen?  Think about it.  Now go to a mirror, look into your eyes and ask “Could this dog owner be me?”

Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project, a published author, wife, mother and the manager of a multi-dog, multi-species household.

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