Your neighbor’s dog has a tendency to be noisy when people come near, but today it got out and snapped at the boy across the street. Did it think there was a threat? Or is the dog a danger?
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers has an evaluation tool for determining what action the owner of an aggressive dog should take next.
1. Little or no teeth-to-skin contact
Almost all incidents with dogs – over 99 percent – are simply signs of a lack of control, fear or rambunctious behavior. Maybe the owners play with the dog too roughly, and it thinks that growling and snapping are all in good fun. Maybe the kid across the street really scared it. Maybe it really does not know any better. Regardless, your neighbor needs to take the incident as a warning and enroll the dog in training. Experts say the prognosis for a well-behaved, respectful dog is excellent.
2. Shallow puncture wounds
Suppose the dog actually gets its teeth into the child’s skin and leaves one to four shallow tooth marks. Now, the outlook changes significantly. Even though these holes are no deeper than half the length of the dog’s canine teeth, they indicate that the dog was serious. Trainers know that rehabilitating the dog is going to take a lot of time and work, and the dog may bite during training. If your neighbor is not ready to commit to this completely, the dog will probably bite again.
3. Deeper puncture wounds
When a dog bears down enough to pass the halfway mark on one or more of its canine teeth, it has crossed a serious line. The bitten child may have some serious bruises because the dog held on. There could be some serious lacerations, too, if there was a struggle to get away from the dog while it had its teeth buried in the skin. You need to call local law enforcement and animal control right away so they can document the fact that there is an extremely dangerous dog in your neighborhood.
Experts expect a dog that bites like this to bite again. In fact, they recommend that if your neighbor does keep the dog, he or she should confine it to the house or a chain-link run at all times. If anyone goes in the house, the dog should be locked in a room. Under no circumstances should a child ever be allowed near the dog. The only time the dog should be out and about is when it goes to the vet, and then the owner should keep it muzzled.
4. Multiple attacks with serious or fatal injuries
Because owner compliance is rare for those who keep a dog after a severe attack, a second attack is almost certain. Your neighbor probably should have had the dog put down after the first serious bite because the life of confinement that is the only safe option is such a poor one for the dog. After a second attack, most experts will absolutely recommend euthanizing the dog.