Aggressive Dog / Dangerous Dog

We are pretty sure you have all heard the terms of aggressive dog and dangerous dog being coupled together to mean the same thing. Do you see a difference between these two terms? In this blog we would like to talk about aggressive dogs / dangerous dogs, share a few definitions, statements and include our own personal story.

Being territorial or predatory, displaying possessiveness and being fearful are some things that are used to describe the behavior of an aggressive dog. These behaviors can be displayed because of some type of negative experience that occurred, a lack of socialization or those traits could be inherited through genetics.

An aggressive dog will usually give some type of warning sign or signs that it may bite. Some of these warnings include charging, barking and growling, nipping and snapping or showing teeth. There are other things you may see that are more subtle such as pinned ears, tucked tail or rigid stance. When these signals are displayed, it is meant to tell you to back off. Usually, if you do just that, the likelihood of a bite is minimal. These types of encounters are usually provoked.

An aggressive dog needs obedience training and control work. Most people need to hire a professional dog trainer for help. You need to follow the instructions of your trainer to a T. This could make the difference between your dog being considered aggressive and being considered dangerous.

This is the ASPCA description of an aggressive dog.

The term "aggression" refers to a wide variety of behaviors that occur for a multitude of reasons in various circumstances. Virtually all wild animals are aggressive when guarding their territories, defending their offspring and protecting themselves. Species that live in groups, including people and dogs, also use aggression and the threat of aggression to keep the peace and to negotiate social interactions.

To say that a dog is "aggressive" can mean a whole host of things. Aggression encompasses a range of behaviors that usually begins with warnings and can culminate in an attack. Dogs may abort their efforts at any point during an aggressive encounter.

The same behaviors in an aggressive dog can be displayed in a dangerous dog also. And the same reasons a dog may be aggressive can be carried over to explain why a dog is dangerous. In most cases however, the dangerous dog will not display any signs at all that it is going to bite. The probability that this type of dog will not just bite, but go into a full-fledged attack is high. They can bite or attack without any provocation what so ever. Also, backing off with this type of dog will probably not stop the bite or attack. These types of encounters are usually unprovoked.

You can still hire a professional trainer if you have a dog deemed dangerous. Every case can be a little different as well as the training methods used. You still need to follow the instructions of your trainer to a T. However, the liability risk with this type of dog is much higher than that of an aggressive dog.

The following statute defines the dangerous dog in the state of Florida.

Citation- Florida Statutes- Sec. 767.01 & seq.

Definition-"Dangerous dog" means any dog that according to the records of the appropriate authority:

(a)   Has aggressively bitten, attacked, or endangered or has inflicted severe injury on a human being on public or private property;

(b) Has more than once severely injured or killed a domestic animal while off the owner's property;

(c) Has been used primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or is a dog trained for dog fighting; or

(d) Has, when unprovoked, chased or approached a person upon the streets, sidewalks, or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, provided that such actions are attested to in a sworn statement by one or more persons and dutifully investigated by the appropriate authority.

In our own personal story, we once had a person call on us to come to their home to do a private evaluation. This evaluation was to be done on a dog that was found on the side of the road and the family had decided to rescue it.

Upon our arrival, we simply asked the people to hand over the leash to one of us. As they handed over the leash, we took off walking with the dog. Other than some raised bristles and slight growl, nothing happened. Though the dog did show some aggressive tendencies, it was far from being dangerous.

We explained all the right and wrong things to do with this type of dog. Things like crating the dog when company came over for protection of themselves, their company, and the dog itself. We explained why it was important not to leave the dog unattended since the true history of the dog was not known. We also explained the types of things that can happen with an aggressive dog, like the possibility of a bite if our instructions were not followed. We then started working with the family and their new K9 companion in basic obedience and control work.

One day, a lot further down the road when we were already finished working with the family and their K9 companion; we received a phone call from the owner of the dog. The owner explained how they tied the dog to a tree in the front yard and went into the house to do a few things. And while leaving the dog unattended, tied to a tree in the front yard, a neighbor walked over and the dog bit that neighbor. The former client also explained to us how this situation was our fault.

We would like to repeat a statement previously made in this blog:

An aggressive dog needs obedience training and control work. Most people need to hire a professional dog trainer for help. You need to follow the instructions of your trainer to a T. This could make the difference between your dog being considered aggressive and being considered dangerous.

In closing, we would like to include the background position statement by the ASPCA regarding dangerous dog laws.

The ASPCA recognizes that there are dogs who by virtue either of training or lack of training and socialization—especially in combination with a genetic predisposition to be wary of strangers, aggressive toward other dogs and/or predatory toward other animals—may pose serious threats if inadequately supervised and controlled by their guardians. In order for dogs to live harmoniously with people and with other companion animals, it is critical to hold guardians responsible for the proper supervision of their dogs and for any actions on their part that either create or encourage aggressive behavior. At the same time, laws that target "dangerous dogs" must be mindful of the rights of pet guardians and afford them due process. These laws should target only those dogs who truly pose a serious risk to other animals or to people. They should also take into account the fact that there are situations in which aggressive behavior is justified, such as when a dog is protecting himself or herself, her guardian, her offspring or her home from harm or when the dog has reason to fear a person or animal who has harmed her in the past.

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