LIVING IN HARMONY WITH ROTTWEILERS
Man and dog can co-exist for mutual benefit
Story by CHOMPOO TRAKULLERTSATHIEN, Photos by SUCHADA HONGSA
The recent death of a two-year-old girl who was mauled by two Rottweilers bought by her Dutch father must be an absolutely shocking nightmare for the victim's family. An appalling experience like this one can generate recurring nightmares for other families, too, if the owners of Rottweilers fail to learn something from the loss of life that has occurred.
The stories of Rottweilers killing or hurting people, most of whom were or are vulnerable children, appear on local and world news programmes from time to time, and, inevitably, the dogs get all the blame from the members of the grief-stricken families involved although they may not be entirely at fault. There is usually a gross lack of understanding of a Rottweiler's temperament and natural instincts. Following the news of an attack by a Rottweiler, many dog owners who have children in the house think that their children's lives are in great jeopardy if they continue to keep their pet in their home. As a result, they merely end the perceived problem by dumping the innocent animal on the city's streets or a temple's grounds, and so the number of Rottweilers being abandoned after reports of such incidents rises. One local temple in Bangkok now accommodates many Rottweilers that were discarded by panicky, ignorant owners.
Meanwhile, there are others who believe that a Rottweiler is a "killing machine" or a "vicious devil" that should be destroyed or eliminated immediately if it acts up. Subsequently, many poor creatures are put down.
Some people think that a Rottweiler is a champion at killing people just like a pit bull terrier, due to its notoriety for attacking people.
However, Udomsak Lojaroenrat, president of the Working Dog Association of Thailand, has a different stance. Having been closely involved with working dogs, Rottweilers included, for several decades, he knows the truth about this breed, and he wants to drive home the message that Rottweilers are not killers.
"Don't blame a dog for its aggression, because we are the ones who made it that way. Don't blame it for being highly efficient, because we, too, made it that way. Don't blame it, because we are the ones who brought it into our homes. Don't blame anybody but ourselves for our heedlessness, negligence, and lack of knowledge and understanding of the breed. If you are going to adopt any breed, it is a must that you have to have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of its nature," cautioned Udomsak.
According to Udomsak, in ancient times, Rottweilers were bred and groomed to be fighters. They were trained to bite horses' ankles and destroy enemies during battles.
"Rottweilers have a robust, powerful and compact structure with a broad skull and strong jaws, so they afford their owners formidable protection. Their jaws are so powerful that they can break a horse's bone," he noted.
Later, the breed was developed to be a working dog. It can perform its duties more efficiently, and with a higher degree of perfection, compared to other breeds. Its ability to attack, bite and overcome its opponent is superlative. Besides, due to its robust, powerful and intimidating structure, it can throw itself against its enemy with great force and easily topple the victim - whether a child or an able-bodied grown-up. Nowadays, Rottweilers are popular both as guard dogs and family pets as they carry out their duties loyally and vigilantly.
"Rottweilers are good-natured to their human families. These fearless guard dogs are willing to protect home and family. The pure breed is not aggressive, but friendly and mentally stable. It is controllable, polite and calm, and yet always alert," he said.
According to Udomsak, people who want to keep a Rottweiler as a guard dog must be fully aware that this breed needs special and effective control, meaning that Rottweiler-keepers must know how to properly handle the dog when the need arises.
"The owner of a Rottweiler must be an expert when it comes to the handling of the dog. He or she must learn all the training and command skills required to keep their dog submissive and obedient in peaceful and chaotic moments. With an investment of time and devotion, plus regular training, a Rottweiler can become a loyal companion," he emphasized.
On top of that, to maintain harmony in a human and canine community, rules of the pack must be established in the house, so that the dog can know who the real leader of the pack is. These rules are particularly essential in a household that has children.
According to Udomsak, many people tend to think that Rottweilers dislike children as most of the victims seem to be children. There are some reasons for this belief.
"To a Rottweiler, a child is like a fun game or a toy with perfect qualities. The cries of a child caught in a tug-of-war with it can heighten the dog's feelings of joy. A child's slow movements and height, which is at the level of the dog's eye, turn the child into the perfect prey, just as young animals in a wild herd easily become the victims of predators. So, rules of the pack are vital if one wants to keep a Rottweiler in a household that has a child," he said.
He added that if a dog knows that the owner is the powerful leader of the pack, it will leave its owner's personal belongings intact. This is the basic rule governing all herds in the realm of nature. Therefore, an attempt to separate a dog from a child with no rules of the pack in place can lead to an unfavourable or horrible outcome.
"It was once reported that a dog went into a house and bit a newborn baby to death after its owner had left the house, because the parents had tried to keep their baby away from the dog. If the dog had been made fully aware of the rules of the pack for that household, it would not have crossed the line. Knowing that the baby belonged to its leader, it would have left baby alone," he said.
To train a dog to become familiar with a child, the dog's owner must be patient and follow the training procedures step by step, and always keep the dog and the child under his or her watchful eyes and proper guidance until the rules of the pack have been firmly established.
Udomsak suggested that it is necessary to allow the dog to see the child occasionally. However, carrying the baby to look at the dog in its sleeping quarters or cage is prohibited. Also, teasing the caged dog while taking the child to look at it is menacing to the dog as it might cause the dog to have the wrong impression, and the dog is likely to retaliate when it has a chance to do so. In such a case, the child would most likely be the dog's prime target for retaliation.
"The best way to allow the dog to get to know its little boss is to bring it to see the child instead. In addition, the dog must be taken to see the child when he or she cries loudly, so that it will become familiar with that cry and derive no happiness on hearing the cries. Most importantly, all these steps must be performed while the dog is on a leash," explained Udomsak.
In addition, to familiarise the dog with the child's body scent, it is advisable to put the child's personal stuff like pillows, dolls or clothes inside the dog's cage or kennel so it can recognise the young member of the family.
"There are countless children who live in harmony with Rottweilers under the watchful eyes and proper care of owners who fully understand the breed and who act responsibly as a result of their knowledge," said the dog expert.
Many dog owners believe that a Rottweiler locked up in the cage will become more aggressive than another that is allowed to roam freely in the house. This notion is partly right. Normally, a dog can learn to live in a cage free of stress and tension only if the cage is to its liking. A dog naturally prefers to sleep in a dark, cool and quiet corner that fits its body and has enough space for it to toss and turn comfortably.
"A dog feels safe and secure in a cage with ample room and a healthy environment, and its reaction to living caged up will be positive. It is usually happy to stay in a cage that serves as its cosy home. But if the dog's owner tries to force it to live in a cage against its will, or detain it for a long time despite its signs of resistance, the dog will become revolted by the idea of being caged up. It will develop stress and tension."