Working Safety First

Safety First

Despite the Dangerous Dogs Act in 1991 aggressive dogs are on the increase. There are now more banned breeds of dogs in the UK than before the legislation camesafety first leter head into force. It is an ineffective piece of legislation that has allowed irresponsible dog ownership manifest itself in such a way that results in more aggressive dogs on the streets of Britain.

Irresponsible dog ownership begins with indiscriminate breeding. Only around a third of dogs born in Britain are done so under some form of control. That is by registered breeders who are monitored and comply to codes of practice. These breeders know what they are doing; they know that the development of young puppies plays an important role in how they will socially interact in later life.

Nearly six million dogs in this country have been breed by owners that are opportunist; having a litter of pups with no consideration or concern over the long term impact those puppies will have in our communities. These owners are often in it for little more than financial rewards. These puppies are not socialised fully and result in them not knowing how to behave properly in the family unit.

Puppies need to learn social skills but most importantly bite inhibition, they do this from developing their skills through varies stages, commencing at a few weeks old and completing around eighteen months old. Puppies that do not begin to learn bite inhibition at three to four weeks old will inevitable result in dangerous actions later in life.

To add to this, legislation does not allow us to take proactive action against dog owners and dogs that are dangerous before an incident occurs. This leads to both incompetent ownership being allowed to increase and a dog’s confidence in misdemeanours to go unchecked. We refer to this as conditional behaviour, the dogs bad behaviour is reinforced, often inadvertently by inexperienced owners.

When incidents then occur, there is often little than be done, no offence has been committed. In its extremes, such as in the Jade Anderson case.

There is a clear distinction between dogs bred for companion dogs and dogs breed for status. Companion dogs are breed under controls by recognised breeders and these represent no danger to society.

Status dogs on the other hand are bred to bring status to the owners, initially status as a breeder, financial rewards bringing greater status. Then status to the owner, in owning a dog that matches their ego.

Increasingly we are encountering these status dogs, previously as a derivative from a “Bull” breed of dog but we are now seeing greater creativity from irresponsible breeders with other dogs that have a fighting nature in their ancestor, such as the Akita.

Managing uncertainty
For those of us working with dogs we need to understand that this creates uncertainty within the domestic dog. Previously we could depend upon his stability,dog attacks interaction and love but irresponsible ownership is leading to the demise of dog as man’s best friend.

It is unlikely that the small incremental change in legislation will prevent this and it will be humans that have conditioned the dog, bringing about its demise.

We are at a new threshold of uncertainty with dogs, members of the public need to be educated in the difference between companion and status dogs, how each has different requirements to be interacted with.

Those working with dogs need more than a basic understanding, new practices are required.

Whenever you are at work you want your employer to make your workplace as safe as possible by promoting the prevention of harm and this includes harm from dogs that you may encounter. Dogs are a hazard that can cause bodily harm is not greeted and handled properly. However in addition to this, those that do not usually work with dogs but encounter them in their daily routine, working with people and visiting homes can suffer from stress: Knowing that they may encounter a dog that they will not be able to control.

It is usual to control hazards by eliminating isolating or minimising the risk.

Eliminating is getting rid of the risk altogether, this cannot be achieved, isolating a dog in front of you is equally challenging. So it is all about minimising the risk and reducing the uncertainty.

This requires teaching employees how to handle themselves in situations, how to use equipment correctly and safely. Monitoring exposure and putting in place appropriate warning signs.

From January 2015 all of our training programs have been transferred to Merseyside Dogs Home, please visit Merseyside Dogs Home.


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