DEAR DIDI: I was out bicycling when a lady walking her dog began screaming behind me. I glanced down in time to notice a wiener dog at my feet. It
DEAR ANONYMOUS- Small breeds are absolutely held to the same standards ethically and legally!! California is zero bite tolerance state. The problem is that people don’t report the bites because they don’t want to make trouble. Medical bills, time off from work or major bodily damage was not incurred. “So, what’s the big deal?”, seems to be the thought process of many small breed dog owners. Some knowledgeable experts estimate that up to 80% of all dog bites in America are actually inflicted by small breed dogs. Any dog that bites must be taken extremely seriously no matter the level of damage he or she is capable of inflicting! It isn’t cute. It isn’t funny. Any owner that thinks the biting, no matter how occasionally, can’t be helped because of the type of breed their dog is, needs to get a clue! Get professional help from a qualified trainer or behaviorist immediately.
75% of claims to homeowner’s insurance these days is from dog related issues. The average payout is $30,000 according to some statisticians. Had you seen the dog a few seconds sooner and swerved to avoid the bite you could have fallen and broken something. Worse yet, you might have swerved into an oncoming car and been seriously injured or killed. The owner of the dog could be held financially liable for damages to all involved. I am not an attorney, but these are typically scenarios I see as a behaviorist because owners fail to take steps to prevent issues ahead of time. The they seek my services to fix things after the fact. Owners often think, “my dog wouldn’t do that”, “that would never happen”, “you are exaggerating”, etc.
Small breed dogs are attractive to people because they are so adorable and the size leads people to think that they are controllable. Small dogs are absolutely capable of being well trained and well behaved. Some of small breeds are actually bred to be working dogs and desperately need direction, rules, boundaries and consequences. Any dog without those things can turn into a tyrant, bully, or spoiled brat. Small breeds are not teddy bears, dolls, toys, or cats. They are dogs. They help our lives, make us feel better when we are down, make us laugh, and can be an absolute joy to have in the family. But, a pet dog that bites anyone, for any reason, is a serious problem and a liability that should be immediately addressed. Responding to a biting dog with physical punishment will only make the dog (any dog) worse. Please seek qualified professional help if you have a small dog that chases people, bites family members to any degree, escapes out front doors uncontrollably, barks incessantly, growls at family members, etc. These are not safe or acceptable behaviors from any dog, including the small breeds! -email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org