TRAINING YOUR DOG TO AVOID LAWSUITS
There is no doubt that times have changed (sometimes to the point of ridiculousness).
Ours has become a totally litigious society; legal actions have become so routine that unless grandiose or novel, they hardly invoke more than a superficial nod. The phrase “helping your fellow man” now seems to mean “help him lighten his wallet”.
In Little Rock, Arkansas, a man sued a dog owner in court and was awarded $14,500.00 for a small dog bite. Basically, his case was, “Your chained up beagle bit me after I climbed over your fence and shot pellets at him.”
Remember, dog owners (of any breed) can normally be held liable for their dog, if their dog causes an injury. This is true, regardless if the injury is a bite or damage to property. The degree of liability, along with what constitutes as proof, varies from state to state.
It doesn’t matter if your little precious is the tiniest of toy terriers or the most massive of mastiffs —even if it was clearly a case of self-defense (like the beagle above).
Man’s best friend has the potential to give you the opportunity to get up close and personal with your state’s litigation process, and this tragic involvement could result in the loss of thousands of dollars — or conceivably worse, the loss of your pet itself.
So how does a person protect oneself from this barrage of legal exposure?
By training, of course. If there is a dog (or dogs) in your life, there is no excuse for you not having taught him/her the basic rudiments of living in a polite society.
In a perfect world, every dog would know the BIG FIVE obedience commands (come, sit, stay, down, and heel). And if your little Fluffy does not know those five shame on you, get out there and teach them, you will find that there is more then enough information on this site, for you to do the job yourself. But if you need help, there is information here to help you find the right kind of help.
Notwithstanding those five, teaching your precious the following 5 rules are not open for discussion.
He/she should never be allowed to:
3) Make threats (growl)
4) Act aggressively or
5) Leap or jump at anyone
Realizing that there are no guarantees (in the law or in life), a dog that knows those basic social behaviors is a huge step toward saving you from the nightmare of seeing the inside of a courtroom.
And really (leaving the legal aspect aside for a moment), would you really be happy living with a dog that acted like an untrained, undomesticated wild animal?
By now you must be thinking, this is all well and good, but how do I get my little devil to respond with proper manners?
No, and I mean it!
Let’s start with the most valuable tool you have in your dog training tool belt — your voice.
You are going to use your voice to display leadership and confidence, by speaking just one word, the most basic of all commands. “NO” is a great command — direct, specific and clear-cut, without a lot of room for interpretation.
This command “no” is not a request to please stop chasing the cat, or please stop barking at the door. “NO”, when said with the authority of a fair, balanced and just pack leader, means STOP whatever you are doing right now, it’s not up for deliberation or discussion.
Practicing this command could possibly be a life-saving exercise. If you are only going to train one thing, PLEASE make it this one. This one word, for the most part, has the magic to stop most of the bad behaviors exhibited by the greatest number of untrained dogs.
These two letters, “NO”, should stop any behavior, once responding to the command becomes a learned behavior. You should literally be practicing this command until the response is quick and automatic.
On the same lines as “NO” is the command:
This is a handy and extremely valuable command.
Imagine your little buddy is out and about on his daily walk, and you see buddy is getting ready to pounce on some gross, disgusting and unidentifiable item. Having taught him the command “leave it” will be your godsend.
In addition to leaving stationary items alone. I have also used it quite often when one of my dogs decides that squirrels have no rights in “their” back yard. I have seen my dogs take off like a shot after those little devils. A loud “leave it” command is where this is used to stop them in their tracks, and have them spin around and return to me for tons of glorious praise and treats/rewards like they hit the grand-slam jackpot in Vegas.
Training “leave it” is no big elaborate technique.
First, without him seeing you, lay out some bait with something he likes (not overly tempting, we will get to those heavyweight distraction items later). Then, as he approaches the taboo item, let him get close enough to the forbidden that he pulls the lead tight. Then in your best authoritative voice simply say, “Leave it,” , don’t look at him, don’t call him, don’t make little kissy noises at him, just stand there and wait. Eventually your little darling will return to you and when that happens, it’s a party, with lots of love and fun and treats, especially treats.
Once he is showing little or no resistance to your saying leave it with the small stuff, it is time to up the criteria and start presenting heavier and heavier distractions until you feel like you could make a fairly large bet on his behavior, with any distraction.
I am sure the more astute of you will connect the dots to this final picture, which is as follows:
In the doggy mind there should be this truth; no matter how big or tempting the distraction, by avoiding it when asked, an even better reward awaits on my return to my trainer.
Another litigation inhibitor is the “down” command. The natural reflex of any dog when seeing a friendly face is to jump up and greet them (just his way of saying hello). While this is cute with my seven pound toy poodle, the cuteness factor gets thrown out the window in a hurry if my 100lb German Shepherd jumps up on you and knocks you down just to say hello. (Remember, friends also sue.)
I’m not going try to explain the steps necessary to train the “down” command in this article — you will find all the information you will ever need to train this, and more, on this site under “training” (use the search tool on the top of the homepage). If you don’t want to go through all the training steps to teach a formal down. There are some shortcuts like squirt guns or special harnesses.
Understand that if you actually do the work and formally train him, you will be creating bond that only training can and does create. So, PLEASE do it for the sake of your relationship with the best buddy you will ever know. If there is one truth it is; You will never regret the time you spent training.
Of course, the most beneficial time to instill a great foundation of social graces is when they are puppies, but that is not to say that even with adult dogs you should be schooling them in the following lesson
Make sure you introduce Buddy to all the guests who visit on a regular or semi-regular basis. (treats given by the guests, is always a welcoming gesture to any dog)
If you are wanting a protection dog, don’t worry that this exposure will diminish their protectiveness. A trained protection dog is not an animal that distrusts everybody it sees; a trained protection dog is an animal that understands and can discern the difference between friend and foe. **
Implementing these few recommendations will without exception provide an atmosphere of calm and security for both your dog and those with whom he interacts. The benefits of those attributes in terms of the potential for decreased/avoidance of possible litigations should speak for itself.
**A untrained protection dog is often accurately compared to a loaded and cocked revolver. A real and present danger to everyone.