PUBLISHED: 4:59 PM on Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Training best to deal with aggressive canine behavior

Photo by Rosie Milligan
  Becky Hinman'Frank a trainer at Gastineau Humane Society with dog Denali.
Canines are a large part of the Juneau community and are welcomed across town and on streets and neighborhoods. Most of the time they are friendly, obedient and safe. However, sometimes they can be dangerous and a risk to people around them.

In a city full compassion and love for their animals it also is important to understand the danger and how to address it. Dog owners know how to take care of their pet's basic immediate needs, but many do not have the training skills to deal with their aggressive behaviors.

The best way to deal with this problem is to properly train animals before they develop threatening habits. If somebody knows of a dog that has shown aggression towards a human in any way it is important to report it. If a dog is already 'deemed dangerous' it is vital to follow the ordinances set by Animal Control.

The best way for the community to help with this awareness issue is to report any dangerous or potentially dangerous animal behaviors to Animal Control.

"Dogs have a history of aggressive behavior, but people don't do anything," said Chava Lee, executive director for Animal Control. "People must report all bites, friend or not of the animal."

Lee said that it is extremely dangerous not to report an animal because it will bite again and the next time it could be serious.

"There needs to be an investigation after every report to determine if the dog is dangerous or not," Lee said.

During an investigation many factors are assessed. There are laws there to protect the dogs too. Lee said they have to look at the situation and determine if the dog was provoked, defending its territory or owner or being abused. If one of these factors were involved in the assault it is considered an accident not a dangerous animal.

Once a dog is deemed dangerous there are certain ordinances that the owner has to follow. The dog's running days are finished and at all times it has to be in on-premises confinement in a area that meets the code's specifications. The dog must be muzzled and on a four-foot leash when outside of confinement. There must be a sign posted at the home alerting the public and the owner must have liability insurance covering any harm done by the animal. The dog must also be spayed or neutered and if these requirements are not meet the court may charge fines or order the destruction of the dangerous dog.

Animal control is responsible for dictating these rules, but if owners refuse to follow them there is little they can do and the case will go to court. Citizens are advised to contact Animal Control when a problem arises.

This winter a canine bit a girl who got in the way while trying to save her younger brother from a fatal attack. Sylina Jackson, a 10-year-old animal lover, was put in the hospital with nine punctures and three gashes.

The Jackson family did not want to make trouble for the neighborhood dog, but they did want something done to ensure that it did not happen again. This issue has changed their family and April Jackson, mother of the household, would like to see everyone take responsibility of their animals.

"Love your animal enough to train it," Jackson said.

Jackson would like to see more enforcement when the ordinances are not followed.

"It's been half a year and nothing has changed," she said after observing her neighbor, who repeatedly fails to comply with the city ordinances.

Until somebody takes it to court, the Jacksons will have to stay inside, constantly looking outside at the dog that threatened their lives. While waiting they advocate dog training, never accepting aggressive behaviors.

Local dog trainers offer effective advice for un-maintainable animals. Becky Hinman'Frank, a veterinary technician and dog trainer for Gastineau Humane Society, encourages owners to start early while the dog is young. Training before the dog has made its bad habits concrete nature will give the hope that the animal can be under control someday.

"Get help right away. Once a dog does something they will continue doing it. First of all you need to get help to get it under control," Hinman'Frank said.

Hinman'Frank advises socializing the animal with all ages, sizes and ethnicities to get it familiar with all types. She also reminds owners to keep dogs away from aggression triggers.

"If the dog is prone to barking viciously at people when they pass by, don't put them in a situation where people pass by, like behind a fence," she said.

Hinman'Frank states that this is never an easy fix. It is constant work and is never completely cured, but it can become controllable. For further assistance she recommends people go to a certified animal behaviorist. She may be contacted at Gastineau Humane Society and does training and consultations.

For more information or to report an animal, call Animal Control at 789-0260.