Dog behavior relies on responsible ownership

  • Published
  • By Capt. Marth Petersante-Gioia
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Various dog breeds throughout the years have been labeled as "vicious" or "dangerous" and in many areas, legislative bodies have enacted breed-specific bans or legislation to limit ownership of particular dog breeds. Recently, Ellsworth banned ownership of three dog breeds - the Pit Bull, Rottweiler and the Doberman pinscher in base housing.

Responsible dog ownership is key to safety, both for the animal and those surrounding it, said Sharon Bolda, Ellsworth veterinary technician. Personnel owning strong breeds, such as the Rottweiler, American Pit Bull Terrier, German Sheppard and others bred for protection, must educate themselves on the proper way to handle the inherent traits of those breeds.

"The bottom line is you must be able to handle a large, strong breed if you wish to own one - this includes receiving proper training in dog obedience," she said.

However, having an obedient dog can't guarantee safety around strong-breed dogs. People must know how to act around a dog, especially one that is unfamiliar, Ms. Bolda said. "Parents must educate their children on the proper way to approach an animal and when not too."

According to both the Humane Society of the United States and the Journal of American Veterinary Medicine, No. 11, June 2001, a dog's tendency to bite is not solely based on its breed. Factors include, but are not limited to: heredity, early experiences, later socialization and training, health (both medical and behavioral), spaying or neutering, care received by the owner and victim behavior.

Dogs, especially unfamiliar ones, who are chained, should not be approached. Studies have shown chaining a dog may lead to aggression, Ms Bolda said.

"Children should never approach a dog or other animal without the owner's consent," she said. Teach your children to ask first if it's okay to pet the animal; never allow a child to run up to the animal. Some dogs, especially those not exposed to young children, may see a child approaching as either a threat or potential prey.

Never approach a dog baring teeth, barking aggressively or growling and in an aggressive stance. Do not throw objects at an animal -- this may increase the level of agitation, said Capt. Erin Brown, Ellsworth veterinarian.

Dog owners must also socialize their dogs as part of the animal's training.

"Socialization includes bringing the animal into a variety of situations to expose them to various stimuli," Ms. Bolda said. This can be accomplished through training classes, going to the park with your dog, taking the animal out for regular walks or giving supervised 'play-time' for the dog to interact with other dogs.

Exercise is another important factor in responsible dog ownership. Many dog breeds have varying needs for exercise. The Humane Society encourages families to look at their lifestyle even before rescuing or purchasing a dog; for example, are you very active? Do you want to go for long-runs or hikes? Do you want an animal to sit calmly at your feet while you watch television? An in-depth examination of your lifestyle will help you pick out the breed best for you.

Cost must also be considered when getting a dog or any other family pet. Expenses for medical care, food, supplies among other costs must be factored in. In the local area, a basic training class for a puppy runs approximately $100, Captain Brown said.

For on-base residents, all pets must be registered with the base veterinarian, up to date on vaccinations, spayed or neutered and micro-chipped. Personnel moving to Ellsworth must register their animals within 72 hours of moving into base housing in order to comply with base regulations. Base housing also has a limit of two animals per household.

For more information about how to register an animal on base, contact the Ellsworth Veterinary Clinic at (605) 385-1589. The clinic is open Monday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., Thursday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Tuesdays are scheduled as surgery days and limited services are available. Times are subject to change; clients should call ahead to schedule an appointment.