Thursday, July 31, 2014

You and a dog named "boo"

The local newspaper recently had something about keeping pets for self-defense purposes. Since the story itself wasn’t on the front page I didn’t bother to read it, but it got me to thinking about subject. I often notice that some people, especially women—and I mean the tall, superstars-in-their-own-minds office types—go out walking or jogging with these large, “intimidating” dogs, and I wonder why they need such dogs. Well, of course the answer is that they view their lives as more significant than other people’s, so they need “protection.” 

However, unless a dog is actually trained properly, it can either be more of a menace to its owner, even legally. Some dogs are natural “biters,” but most are more bark than bite (and a few don’t do either). Most people who intend their dogs for personal protection probably should be satisfied that they simply serve as a “deterrent,” since a dedicated thief and assaulter can disable a dog with little trouble. While a barking dog might hinder a burglar trying to go unnoticed or annoy passersby, a dog that is a “biter” can be more trouble than they are worth, since they are more likely to injure (or even kill) an innocent bystander than a potential assailant. Unfortunately for victims of “unintended” dog attacks, most state laws bar a person from engaging in self-defense that injures or kills a dog unless the dog has already bit into him or her, by which time the dog has already caused serious injury.

Dogs that actually serve the part—and I’m not talking about police dogs that are trained to attack first and “ask questions” later—must have lengthy and periodic training to know the difference. The reality is that dogs for personal protection is a concept more surface than substance; even a Labrador retriever that both barks and bites usually does so simply because it wants to play “rough.” But who wants a dog for that reason anyways? I suspect that a lot of self-obsessed people simply want dogs because (unlike self-important cats) they give “unconditional” affection that requires the owner to offer nothing more than room and board.

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