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Old 11.10.2011, 00:47
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Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

I'm hoping for some advice for a big dog-related problem which I need to come to terms with. maybe if a dog behaviour expert can give me some reassuring information, I will manage to cope and give it less thought.

our neighbour (living in the same house) has two fighting dogs (staffordshire bull terriers, I think). this breed has been prohibited in CH after a mortal attack on a boy. after this incident certain "dangerous" breeds had to pass a test.
one of the dogs in question passed it and seems "normal" although very nervous, but friendly enough. the other one has not passed the test and the owner admits to incidents (I don't wish to go into the details) and - what really scares me - to the possibility of it attacking a small child which it could see as "prey".

now there is no way I can change this situation, obviously. but having kids I am very scared that they might for some reason encounter these dogs when they are coming or going and not know how to react.

here some more background information
- my kids are not afraid of dogs, they have grown up with a dog in the family and can relate very well to animals. they are conscious, though, that these are not your average golden retrievers and that they are not supposed to "search" contact with them as they would normally, being very dog loving young persons.
- the dogs are treated - as far as I can judge - well. they have sufficient living space outside and humane conditions, get enough play and exercise and the owner seems to have them under control. the dogs leave the house only in the company of the owner (but one has already broken free at least once)
- we have a very good relationship with the owner, who is informed of my fears. this person cooperates to the point of suggesting I see a psychologist I'm not angry about this, I know it was well meant (and maybe not so wrong after all...)

when I ask friends and family I get all the spectrum of reactions from: "what are you waiting for, move out!" to "don't be hysterical".

since moving out is not yet an option but at the same time I am constantly in a state of worry, I would be extremely thankful for some informed advice on how to handle this situation and particularly a - hopefully never to happen - encounter alone with the dogs (without the owner).
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Old 11.10.2011, 00:59
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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what really scares me - to the possibility of it attacking a small child which it could see as "prey".
I share your concerns, believe it or not but my 91 year old mother sleeps with a Pit Bull in her bed..

NO JOKE..!!
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Old 11.10.2011, 01:01
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

well I think it is more your fear for the dogs breed than anything. They are not fighting dogs as you claim. A fighting dog is raised by its owner to be that way. my little chihuahua snaps at people also when he first meets them, that doesnt make him a fighting dog.

Id just inform your children and maybe meet a few times with the owner to have you and the kids meet with the dogs in a controlled environment. That way both you and the dogs get to know eachother. this will reduce the risk dramatically imho.

the last thing you want to do is have his dogs taken away which may hurt him more than the dogs would hurt anyone. These breeds can many times be 100 x more mellow than a lab .

and just for your viewing pleasure :


if you watch the other vids of him it is pretty funny
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Old 11.10.2011, 01:04
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

How could anyone be scared of a staffy?

They're soft as shite.
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Old 11.10.2011, 02:40
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

It's good that you are looking to find a solution - approaching this rationally is the best way forward.

Just a correction: Staffies are not banned in Switzerland. There are no federal level BSL laws - dog control is the competency of the canton.

Second, the Oberglatt incident did not involve staffies. The dogs in question were pitbulls. Completely different breed. (And they were owned by an known criminal, kept starving in abusive conditions, believed to have been groomed for an illegal fighting ring. This is not an excuse for what happened, of course not, there can be no excuses for such a tragedy - but rather an explanation as to why one cannot extrapolate from that incident to other dogs of the same breed, and certainly not to dogs in general.)

Now, in canton ZH, Staffies are on the banned list, (largely put there as a knee-jerk response to media hysteria. Staffies are generally known as the 'Nanny Dog' because the breed is so good with children, but I digress...)

You can read a summary of the ZH laws here:

http://www.tierimrecht.org/de/tiersc...ht/zuerich.php

However, the ban only came into force in 2010. At the time the ban came into force, all owners of dogs of the listed breeds that were legally registered as resident in the canton were required to apply for a special permit where the owners were thoroughly scrutinized, and the dogs were put through a rigorous Wesenstest. Owners and dogs who passed the test were allowed to keep their dogs. Owners who failed had their dogs taken away, or the dogs were killed. Since 2010, no listed breeds may be brought into the canton.

So are you sure the dog is a Staffie? Other breeds that are not restricted look rather similar to Staffies. ZH has the strictest BSL in the country - I find it hard to believe that your neighbor has a listed dog without a permit. Could you have misunderstood something? Perhaps the owner has applied for the permit, taken the test but was referred for further training, to be retested later?

Be careful of making an accusation as to the dog's status. Such accusations require proof, not hearsay.

Bear in mind - as long as a dog is legal in the canton, under control, and has not caused you damage there is no grounds for complaint. Fears, perceptions, or 'what if's are also not grounds for complaint.


Now to your fears:

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but having kids I am very scared that they might for some reason encounter these dogs when they are coming or going and not know how to react.
Every parent should teach his/her child the proper way to act around a dog - that's basic common sense, a 'life skill' every child needs. To start that conversation, see the BVet brochure, 'Tapsi, Komm!' - this is written for children. Also, 'Ich habe Angst für Hunde' is another good one.

http://www.bvet.admin.ch/tsp/02222/0...x.html?lang=de

If you'd like a few similar brochures in English, here's one from the AKC:
http://www.akc.org/pdfs/PBSAF2.pdf

And from Battersea Dog and Cat's home:
http://www.battersea.org.uk/help_adv.../for_children/

Also, some dog training groups run 'Kind und Hund' seminars to teach children how to behave around dogs - you might ask at your Gemeinde if there is something similar available.

Teaching your children to be calm, sensible, and careful around all dogs, no matter what the breed, is something every parent should do.

---

I sympathize with you, understand how difficult it is when one is afraid - but do please understand that being afraid of a dog based solely on the breed is not rational. I blame the media for creating this hysteria, for repeating a false construct over and over and over again. Too many people in Switzerland have fallen victim to media hype and witch hunting.

There is a saying 'deed, not breed', meaning that a dog should be judged by it's (owner's) actions, not by an accident of genetics. Breed is absolutely no indicator of 'dangerousness' - this is a groundless meme that won't die. As mentioned before, Staffies are generally soft, sweet, cuddle-lumps - the 'nanny dog', recommended for families with children.

Did you know that the so-called 'fighting breeds' are themselves bred to be excellent with people? Dog/dog aggression rarely equates to dog/people aggression - again another myth.

Did you know that in the US pitbulls are used as service dogs and search and rescue dogs - because they are instinctively good with people?

It's all about how an animal is treated and trained. A chi can be fierce as all heck, while most mastiffs are gentle as lambs. A staffie is no more intrinsically dangerous than a golden retriever. Remember: deed, not breed.

---

You mentioned your neighbor's comment about 'psychological help' - glad to hear that you were not offended by it, good on ya for that - but if you are truly afraid of these kinds of dogs, for your own sake, have you considered working with a program to deal with those fears? For instance, our trainer has worked with people who are afraid of dogs, inviting them to our classes so that they see dogs in a safe, controlled environment, they see dogs who are working under control. There are also official 'therapy dogs' who do the same, for more serious phobias. Do you think something along these lines might help? Just a suggestion - ignore if it doesn't apply.

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- the dogs are treated - as far as I can judge - well. they have sufficient living space outside and humane conditions, get enough play and exercise and the owner seems to have them under control. the dogs leave the house only in the company of the owner (but one has already broken free at least once)
Does the neighbor have a private garden, or do you share common space? If a garden, is it securely fenced? Could there be improvements made to the fencing to make it more secure?

It sounds like the owner is trying to be responsible, but has had a lapse. But when the dog 'broke free' did the dog cause any damage? Was the dog in the common area when it 'broke free'? Do you have a specific incident that warrants a complaint? Or are you nervous because of your perceptions of the breed?

If you have a specific complaint, you should first speak to the owner, try to together come to a reasonable agreement. Talk about what steps the owner can take to ensure that no further 'lapses' occur. It sounds like you have done so, and the owner perceives that your concerns are unfounded. Not knowing you, the owner, or the dogs, I cannot say - but you two should first try to come to an agreement.

For instance, ask your neighbor when the dogs usually go out walking - and try not to be out at that time, so as to avoid the dogs.

Also, ask the owner what types of training he is doing with the dogs - maybe you could go speak to the trainer at his Hundeschule for advice or mediation?

I have worked with, lived with, rehabilitaed dogs with behavioral problems - there are very few dogs who cannot be turned around. It doesn't happen overnight, and the owner must hyper-aware of his responsibilities - but it is done all the time. Assuming there are grounds for behavior improvement, if the owner is not currently in training with the dogs, ask him if he would be willing to start taking courses.

If the owner is already in training, or willing to pursue training, that should go a long way to allaying your fears.

Sit down calmly, speak about facts rather than 'what if's, try to find a middle ground with your neighbor. Put yourself in his shoes for a moment, ask him to stand in yours - seek a solution together. As long as you live together you need to find a way to get along.

----

Finally - if all else fails, you have two choices:

1. If you cannot overcome your fears, you need to move out.

2. If the dog has caused (verifiable) damage to you, if your neighbor shows himself to be a (verifiably) irresponsible owner, if he really (verifiably) has a listed dog without a permit - then as a last resort you could speak to the animal control officer in your Gemeinde. But do be aware of the consequences. There will likely be a court case, the neighbor will be told that you have made the accusation - and a possible outcome is that the neighbor's dog could be seized and order killed. So be very sure of your facts before you take that step - you must have substantiated proof, you cannot make a complaint based on irrational fear and perception.

If you make a false accusation your neighbor may opt for legal recourse against you - but more importantly, setting in motion a process that condemns an innocent creature to death on vague suspicions or hysterical fears is absolutely unconscionable. Please do not do this out of spite, or based on vague 'what if's. And given that there is a chance that your fear of the breed may color your perceptions, please have a neutral third party assess the situation before you go to the authorities.

I'll say it again: Deed, not breed.

I hope it doesn't come to that, I hope that you and your neighbor can come to an understanding, that you can overcome your fears. Starting an open, honest, non-emotional discussion is the first step.

Wishing you (all of you) all the best.

Last edited by meloncollie; 11.10.2011 at 03:55.
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:06
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

thank you SO much meloncollie, let me tell how I appreciate your taking so much time to give me a really qualified answer. I will check the links about kids and dogs.
I'm sure your words will be of help to many other people - since living here I have realized how many share this kind of fears without really daring to admit it.

your answers help me put the issue into context.
the last thing I want is to cause any trouble to the owner who is really a nice and generous person. I trust the owner, that's basically the reason why I'm confident that we will find a good way of cohabiting. the fact that we have already addressed the problem openly with one another helped me a lot. we have, indeed, intentionally arranged with the owner to meet the dogs and even let the friendlier one "smell" our home (believe me, it wasn't easy for me, whereas the rest of the family was perfectly OK and even stroked it )

if it came to any concrete accusation, of course I would have to move out. I don't enjoy crusades of any kind just for the sake of stating my principles.

all information I gave I have received personally from the owner, who is very open about this and trusts us. I appreciate this and do not wish to go into details regarding any other fact which might be legally relevant because I don't wish to break this trust. of course the owner loves the dogs and I don't wish either the owner nor the dogs any ill.

I understand the "deed not breed" principle. on the other hand, we don't need to discuss the difference between the damage that an angry chihuaha vs and angry pitbull terrier can do - do we?

I haven't done any research on my own as I think it would only make me more afraid due to my general ignorance of dogs. I realize it's much better to have an expert's rational opinion who actually knows how these dogs behave in different circumstances. I wish I could handle dogs, but at my age, it's too late... fear always prevails.

one last question: can a dog "sense" your fear and attack you because of this, for some kind of "natural" rule?
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:38
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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I understand the "deed not breed" principle. on the other hand, we don't need to discuss the difference between the damage that an angry chihuaha vs and angry pitbull terrier can do - do we?
Actually, now that you bring it up, we do. The damage that any "angry" untrained/mistreated dog can do is the same--it can kill. Size doesn't matter there.

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I haven't done any research on my own as I think it would only make me more afraid due to my general ignorance of dogs. I realize it's much better to have an expert's rational opinion who actually knows how these dogs behave in different circumstances. I wish I could handle dogs, but at my age, it's too late... fear always prevails.
Honestly, I think you should do your own research. Educate yourself. You will find that while dogs are "animals", nurture rules over nature 98% of the time (as with humans as well, no?). So if they are loved, trained and treated properly, they will be the best friend you could ever have. Dogs are smart and amazing creatures that teach compassion and love...not fear and hatred.

Everything meloncollie said is spot on. Having a fear of dogs is something you must change within yourself. And yes, it is a choice.
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:48
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

rather than "educating" myself in a theoretical way I would indeed be willing to do a course with a dog trainer (?) to improve my attitude and learn how to deal with dogs without being afraid.

has anyone heard of similar courses?
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:51
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

Hi Venice,

As an owner of a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, I am quite doubtful that the two dogs you are talking about are Staffy's. I am yet to meet a "nervous" or unpredictable Staffy here in CH and indeed, in all my years I am yet to meet one that constitutes even a remote danger. The vast majority of Staffy's here in CH are extremely well trained and have been brought up with other dogs (in order to stop any dog-aggressive behavior). Are you sure those are Staffy's? I am harping a little on this, as I really don't like it when people mention them when they are not involved. They are often just mentioned off the cuff, as they share some physical traits. I am a member of the SBTC (Staffordshire Bull Terrier Club) in Switzerland and therefore have met quite a few of the owners here in CH.

A couple of questions:

Is the owner a member of the SBTC?

Regarding the wesenstest, did the one dog pass the test fully? (i.e. As I have done the test, I know the report which you receive afterwards, is he required to be leashed and muzzled or only leashed?) This will tell you if the dog was found to be aggressive or not.

The other dog did not pass the test? Or did he not do the test? Did he fail it? And do you know what the incidents were? (i.e. involving dogs or people?)

Reason I am asking is that all dogs are required to pass the test and if not have to go for training thereafter and then redo the test.

As some additional information, the test is pretty exhaustive and even video recorded.
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:52
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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one last question: can a dog "sense" your fear and attack you because of this, for some kind of "natural" rule?
Not quite the correct question, dogs can sense if you feel that you are lower than them in their pack pecking order but only a severely unbalanced dog would try to attack you for this.

You need to demonstrateto the dog that you are actually above them in the pecking order and there is one very simple way to do this. Ignore them. Whenever you meet a new dog for the first time do not make eye contact or stroke them, just turn your back on them and if they try to get your attention keep turning away (and never wave your arms in the air if they try to smell or lick your hands, this is a doggy language invite for them to jump up at you to play).

We have 2 Rottweilers and instruct first time visitors to do this with them, it rarely takes more than 5-10 seconds for the dogs to then know where they stand. And this has also been the case with toddlers too.
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:55
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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rather than "educating" myself in a theoretical way I would indeed be willing to do a course with a dog trainer (?) to improve my attitude and learn how to deal with dogs without being afraid.

has anyone heard of similar courses?
Having just read some more comments. I see you live in Zurich. If you would like, I would be more than willing to meet up and introduce you to our dog. He is very well balanced and will, I am sure, help you get more comfortable with dogs. In addition, there is a Staffy friends day coming up pretty soon. There will be a lot of dogs there and you will be overloaded with some extremely friendly and loving dogs! Let me know if you are interested.
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Old 11.10.2011, 09:59
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

thank you roostermike. it really helps to have comments by someone who has concrete info, not just advice on what I ought to be feeling...
you're right, I need to confirm the exact breed and get back to you.
these are small and have a big "grin"
the owner's info is: one passed the text, the other didn't. I let you make your own deductions.
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Old 11.10.2011, 10:09
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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thank you roostermike. it really helps to have comments by someone who has concrete info, not just advice on what I ought to be feeling...
you're right, I need to confirm the exact breed and get back to you.
these are small and have a big "grin"
the owner's info is: one passed the text, the other didn't. I let you make your own deductions.
Well now I am jumping to conclusions But from what you describe, they sound like Staffy's... Although I would have to meet the dogs in order to be sure and to judge their temperament. As I said, I am yet to meet a Staffy that even remotely is threatening. I think you definitely need to meet some other dogs in order to lose your aprrehension and become confident around dogs.

A friend of ours brought his girlfriend around for dinner a while ago (little did we know she was absolutely petrified of dogs), by the end of the evening those two (her and our dog) were on the couch and inseparable.
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Old 11.10.2011, 10:10
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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Not quite the correct question, dogs can sense if you feel that you are lower than them in their pack pecking order but only a severely unbalanced dog would try to attack you for this.

You need to demonstrateto the dog that you are actually above them in the pecking order and there is one very simple way to do this. Ignore them. Whenever you meet a new dog for the first time do not make eye contact or stroke them, just turn your back on them and if they try to get your attention keep turning away (and never wave your arms in the air if they try to smell or lick your hands, this is a doggy language invite for them to jump up at you to play).

We have 2 Rottweilers and instruct first time visitors to do this with them, it rarely takes more than 5-10 seconds for the dogs to then know where they stand. And this has also been the case with toddlers too.
thanks a lot Grumpy, this is the kind of info I need! it makes sense. of course I want to be higher on the pecking order as a human being. I just need to pass from theory to practice.

so I actually might get back to you regarding your friendly offer of meeting your dogs, Roostermike. my kids would greatly enjoy

thanks again to all, even for the funny video and the 91-year-old-sleeping-with-pitbull story which I'll share with the kids.
I feel better already!
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Old 11.10.2011, 10:20
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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A friend of ours brought his girlfriend around for dinner a while ago (little did we know she was absolutely petrified of dogs), by the end of the evening those two (her and our dog) were on the couch and inseparable.
funny thing is - inexplicably, when I was small, I was never afraid of dogs. one summer when I was 12 I actually dogsitted an enormous schäferhund and grew a real affection for it!

I think it came later in life and has nothing to do with dogs themselves but with some more profound fear of irrational behaviour (mind you, for that humans are better known than dogs...). maybe of my own irrational side ?

anyway, I know that the dogs' behaviour mirror the owner's - that's why I'm willing to give my two grinning neighbours a chance, as scared as I am...
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Old 11.10.2011, 10:29
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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I understand the "deed not breed" principle. on the other hand, we don't need to discuss the difference between the damage that an angry chihuaha vs and angry pitbull terrier can do - do we?

you know there is at least 1 case of a chihuaha killing a baby in the USA?
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Old 11.10.2011, 11:00
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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I share your concerns, believe it or not but my 91 year old mother sleeps with a Pit Bull in her bed..
Is this the same 91 year old mother who recently made the road trip to Glasgow?

I beginning to rather like her style.
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Old 11.10.2011, 11:11
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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Actually, now that you bring it up, we do. The damage that any "angry" untrained/mistreated dog can do is the same--it can kill. Size doesn't matter there....
You mean that an angry untrained mistreated chihuahua is as dangerous as an angry untrained mistreated rottweiller? While both might have the capacity and will to kill, the latter surely is far more likely to be able to achieve their desire. Bit like a truck is more likely to kill you if it hits you than a smart car.
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Old 11.10.2011, 11:31
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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As I said, I am yet to meet a Staffy that even remotely is threatening.
I have to say, I've met your dog and he is in fact always threatening...to jump in your lap and smother you with kisses!

Alexander misses "Little Tyson"
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Old 11.10.2011, 11:40
JLF JLF is offline
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Re: Problem with neighbour's dangerous dogs

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You mean that an angry untrained mistreated chihuahua is as dangerous as an angry untrained mistreated rottweiller? While both might have the capacity and will to kill, the latter surely is far more likely to be able to achieve their desire. Bit like a truck is more likely to kill you if it hits you than a smart car.
Actually it isn't the same at all. You are trying to compare an inanimate object to a living, breathing creature. Certain dogs, terriers for example, were originally bread as ratters and other vermin-killers and they will "lock onto" a critical artery of an animal and won't release until it stops moving. They are small dogs but much more fierce than any large dog bread for other purposes.

The saying: "it isn't the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog" isn't around for nothing...

Last edited by JLF; 11.10.2011 at 11:55. Reason: "I stand corrected" below. Physically the jaw can't lock but my point is still valid. Didn't want to "derail" further...
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