Radio Interview with Blair Anderson about Dog Attacks
Radio Live with
August 8 th 2007 at 4pm
Listen to the Interview here
11 minutes in length
Transcript of Doglinks' Blair Anderson response to the Christchurch dog attack (August 2007)
Bill Ralston: Prime Minister Helen Clark says dangerous dogs gives her the creeps and she's personally in favour of tough dog laws. Well, there has been calls of tougher dog control laws after 2 year old (name of girl) was savaged by a dog in a park on Sunday requiring 290 stitches and a metal plate inserted in her broken jaw. Helen Clark says that she's repulse by the attack as we all are.
And the interesting thing is, like those horrific stories of child abuse that surface now and again and an increasing regular basis. So the stories burst about dog ravaging a child and a dangerous breed of dog usually do and there are calls for tighter dog controls and indeed government often, and politicians often get together and enact those laws.
Yet the attacks continue. We'll find out about that in just a moment.
Bill Ralston:: Now let's talk to Blair Anderson, dog trainer and webmaster of dub dub dub dot doglinks dot co dot nz (www.doglinks.co.nz ). G'day Blair. (editor's note: Blair is trainer for Naked Dog Training)
[phone disconnected. While waiting, Bill talks about his dogs and how he needs to ask his neighbours if he can has two dogs as this is a reaction to the dog attacks. More money into the coffers of the Auckland City Council because he has two dogs, and needs a special permit. They aren't a dangerous dog.]
Blair Anderson: Hello Bill
Bill Ralston:: What did you make of the most recent dog attacks on a child attracts a lot of hysteria, doesn't it?
Blair Anderson: It certainly has been wall to wall on Talk Back (radio) as I've heard it. I share the concerns of many people. Who wants to see the kind of tragedies that are occurring here? And that, .we've done nothing that has reduced it significantly, in that if there's been a few, if we've reduced it by a few, when there's a hell of a lot, we haven't fixed it at all!
Bill Ralston:: The knee jerk thing with Helen. tougher dog control.. we have tougher dog control laws.. and they don't work.
Blair Anderson:.and to the extent we have adopted microchipping. It hasn't accomplished any intended purposes at all. So what do we do? And that's where it begs the questions, How did we get here? And to understand that from a dog behaviouralist perspective and somebody from a people who know my name, I also commentate on other social issues. There's a problem we've got. Unless we talk about this holistically, we are not going to fix that problem.
Bill Ralston: Ok, hang there. Helen Clark says for example, you're talking about legislating holistically.. She wants tougher dog controls, and she says that it gives her the creeps with dangerous Is there such a thing as a dangerous dog, a breed of dangerous dog? Is any breed ban-nable?
Blair Anderson: well, specific legislative that bans the breed of a dog is a very poor model and....
Bill Ralston: Why is that?
Blair Anderson: It's difficult to define what constitutes a dog. It's like asking somebody Are you 100% Maori?"" So a dog that exhibits even the quality of a Bullmastiff may in fact not be in fact a Bullmastiff. And to the extent that one can argue it looks like one, therefore it is. it is inconsistent with what we do know about these dogs.
I have a friend who has the most awesome Mastiff, it's the friendliness animal, absolutely delight to own, There has been other dogs that have been in my experience that are small, and have the 'small dog syndrome' that will attack anything.
Now the difficulty here is what do we do about it, and how do we understand the problem. And here's my contribution to the debate: the more we put dogs behind high fences and we keep them on short leads, the less socialized our dogs are becoming and we are reaping the very very things that we sought to avoid.
Bill Ralston: Why are high fences and short leads bad?
Blair Anderson: Particularly for young dogs, where they don't get the opportunity to socialize with other dogs during that early puppy faze which is THEE most important socialization faze. There is no question about that. There are steps any individual can take if they have a young puppy that will ensure that their dogs are well socialized and that is to ensure that they go and go to places where there are other dogs, and other dogs involved
Bill Ralston: I've noticed that the youngest of our dog that is a year old reacts badly, starts barking, not badly, at another dog if it meets it on the street and on a lead, but if it's in a park in an off-lead situation, it will be a happy little critter and will roll around and want to play.
Blair Anderson: and.. what you are finding is a typical of most people are finding when. Once a dog is on the lead, its behaviour changes substantially. It's not just a piece of string. It affects the way it interacts with you and with other people. Many times we find that dogs become more aggressive in these situations and that is consistent with, how can I put it, with the behavior you'd expect if you create a society where you keep dogs behind high fences and on short leads. It's an outcome of what we are doing.
It also creates of course and reinforces in people's mind that dogs are to be feared. And of course, The worst things you can do with any breed specific kind of prejudice like that is you are creating a dog that no longer gets the opportunity to socialize with people because people are inherently fearful of the dog.
Bill Ralston: Now this is really true because in Auckland you never see a dog wandering because they are picked up and gone. well, in central Auckland , I don't know what they do in South Auckland or anywhere else. But I was in Hawkes Bay over the weekend with my wife and I went for a walk in the rural part of a little village in Hawke's Bay and there were dogs everywhere, and I must admit that I kept crossing the road, even if it was a Fox Terrier I'd cross the road because you don't see dogs walking around in the major urban areas anymore.
Blair Anderson: And again to the extent that the required conversation must be? What do we have as a problem here? We did have a problem with the hypothetical 'village dog'.
Now certainly breed specific legislation is dangerous piece of . I mean, you can't legislate this stuff. It's an impractical solution even if you tried to.
Bill Ralston: But you can't say take down the high fences and you can't take dogs off the leads universally because that just recreated the problem, or at least.
Blair Anderson: Well, let's look at the clues that we've got going here, that have been identified. In Murapara, you had a situation where the guy admitted that he kept a dog as it was his protection. It was a way for him of dealing with people arriving unannounced, so the dog at least let him know so that. it was a built-in burglar alarm with teeth..
So, in a sense, we've created a scenario where a lot of people.. I mean, I've had policeman suggest that we should get a guard dog, right? And the meaner the guard dog is, in this scenario, the better it works. You get more value for money from a mean dog.
So, we've created, again, a scenario where we are actually designing dogs to create fear and using dogs in ways which are prejudicial, in the sense, I mean that police dogs are designed to .. there significant component of their control mechanism is based around or predicated on fear. Yet we've got other dogs that provide an enormeous amount of services in our community and you can genuinely regard the value of a dog in a household, just in terms of the health aspects that it brings to the well-being of a family. is, you know. try taking that dog away from that family.
Bill Ralston: I buy the theory here Blair, but I don't know how you put it in practice without having (.) for awhile
Blair Anderson: Well, here again is my broader reading on the subject Bill is that, metaphor is again what we are doing to our children and of course the tragedies that have occurred in recent times with violence towards children. The more that we put people and isolate these people from the community. we need to bring them out from the cold, so to speak. The way in which we are criminalizing people in our community is actually very very harmful to long term security of everybody. And we have to have the required conversations that centres around this
Bill Ralston:So for people we may criminalize people that may have dogs, they'll criminalize their dogs.
Blair Anderson:...well, to the extent that if they aren't participating in our society fully then it's difficult for them to own a dog and raise it credibly. And we have to understand that this is only a symptom of a bigger problem that we've got.. To the extend that we could fix this, I don't think that it's beyond us and I encourage people to consider what it means to . I guess I'm regaling against the 'get tough'mentality that goes down with this.
Bill Ralston:Well, the 'get tough'mentality Blair doesn't seem to have worked so far so perhaps we should be looking into your suggestions
Blair Anderson: well, it hasn't been effective anywhere even to the extreme of mandatory sentencing which is effectively what people are baying for. When we talk about the consequence of crime we get and of course, like I said, it comes back to the simple indicators like "How do we manage people who have difficult dogs"?
Bill Ralston: Well, that's a question that going to keep rolling for awhile Blair. Blair, thank you for talking with us this afternoon. And Blair's point is that it is socialization of dogs that are paramount that is perceived that dangerous is less likely to be patted and therefore the become dangerous and like he said short lead and high fences are bad for dogs.. does breed paranoia. I like his village dog concept.
“When an eighty-five pound mammal licks your tears away, then tries to sit on your lap, it’s hard to feel sad.”Kristan Higgins (author, In Your Dreams)