IWeb_dog-training-essential am appalled and disappointed to hear of another toddler having been mauled to death in a dog attack in New South Wales. I have been involved in dog training for 25 years at various obedience clubs in and around Melbourne (now living in Wonthaggi), including running a puppy school. Every time a child or toddler has been attacked, I shiver down my spine. It comes down to the most basic of dog training.

There is one basic rule when owning a dog and that is to establish your pack leadership skills first with every human being in the household (including small children). What usually happens is that when the pack leader leaves the household for one reason or another, the dog picks an ideal opportunity to become the boss and this is what happens out in the wild. You must be extra careful when introducing a newborn child in to the family as the dog will seize the opportunity to climb another rung in the pecking order. Another reason a dog may attack is if he/she hasn’t been de-sexed. If you don’t breed or show your dog, the most sensible thing to do is have your dog de-sexed (usually around six months of age) before the dog tries to establish its dominance in the pack, including humans.

The dog is a pack animal and must be treated as such. It doesn’t act like us, it doesn’t see what we see and it is a must that you socialise your dog with other dogs and humans. Don’t expect everything to turn out perfectly when you bring your puppy home. Obedience training is a must, especially in its early training. Training your puppy or dog can be very rewarding. Everyone wants their dog to come to them when called and do what it’s told. Once you have established the pack leader mentality, your dog should not want to go anywhere except to be with you.

Two important stages of a dog’s life are: (a) when you first bring it home and (b) between one and two years of age. I call that the teenage years. This is the age where the dog can try to get on top of you and you will need to continue with the training so this does not happen. What astounds me the most when these attacks happen is that the dog is usually euthanized afterwards. I agree that after such a vicious attack, this must happen, but with the right training this could have been avoided. In most cases I don’t blame the dog as it is their instincts to behave as they have. When I see a bad dog I always see a bad person at the end of a lead (or off) that hasn’t done the right thing by the dog to begin with.

Eric van Zuyden (dog trainer), Wonthaggi.