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Dog owners urged to properly train pets

Sunday, March 13, 2016
In wake of baby Maleek’s death
Three-year-old Gerard Ramanan, from Sangre Grande, playing with the family’s six-year-old pet Rottweiler, Bruce. PHOTO: GLENN RAMANAN

Experts and Rottweiler owners are calling for dog owners to invest time and resources to have their dogs properly trained and socialised especially if there is an addition to the family such as a baby. 

To a dog, a baby moves and sounds like prey and might trigger its predatory instincts.

Making the recommendation are Roger Barkley, president of the Federation for Canine Registration of T&T (FCRTT); Dr Azizul Rahaman, veterinary surgeon of Jones Animal Clinic and Hospital in La Seiva, Maraval; and Marlon Ramanan, a member of the Facebook group Rottweilers T&T. 

This was in response to the tragedy of six-month-old baby, Maleek Khan, who was mauled to death by the family’s pet dog, Simba, a Rottweiler cross, on Tuesday.

Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on Wednesday, Barkley said, “Rottweilers in particular like most of the bigger breeds of working dogs like German Shepherds, Doberman and Belgian Malinois were bred for a purpose like guard duty, protection or police service. These dogs ought to be trained and socialised properly even from a pup. 

“Working dogs have certain drives naturally built into them genetically and are pack animals. 

“Within a pack dogs will find their rank in the hierarchy led by an alpha male. It's no different when the dog is in a family situation and if there's no structure to manage its drive there can be problems.

“The dog naturally believes a small child is an animal to be hunted or killed in an unguarded moment or circumstance to provoke that behaviour.” 

He said even toy breeds such as poodles and pompeks can be very aggressive in claiming their owners and their space as theirs. 

Barkley said the death of baby Maleek was a very unfortunate situation. However, the dog should not be isolated or blamed because its owners would have known of its tendencies. 

He said no one took the time to socialise the dog with the baby properly or sought professional assistance on how to train it.

Barkley, a German Shepherd breeder, said there were many competent dog trainers in T&T and in the FCRTT.

He said members trained dogs for various situations such as personal protection and these animals could be around people without a lead or muzzle because the dogs were trained in appropriate behaviour. 

Barkley said dogs were not inherently bad or dangerous; however, the Rottweiler breed was not for everyone.

He said all dogs can be dangerous not just pitbulls.

Barkley recommended that all dogs be registered, monitored, tracked by local authorities, have qualified breeders, and that there be kennel condition checks, regulations and taxes, which would all contribute to reducing tragic incidents such as baby Maleek’s from reoccurring.

He sounded a warning because some people were importing man-stopping mastiff-like dogs as status symbols such as the Black Russian Terrier weighing as much as 150 lbs, Turkish Kangal weighing 150 lbs and the Caucasian Mountain Dog that can weigh 250 lbs.

Barkley said society was not ready for such dogs. The Turkish Kangal is trained purely for attacking and fighting. 

Ramanan: Rottweiler's bite more powerful than pitbull's

Marlon Ramanan, from Sangre Grande, has a photograph of his three-year-old nephew, Gerard, playing with his six-year-old Rottweiler, Bruce, posted on the Facebook group site Rottweilers T&T, of which he is a member. 

He said the family can leave Gerard unattended with his pet because they had the confidence he was trained properly.

Ramanan said it was unfortunate that the baby lost his life to a dog of the breed; however, having a “big breed” dog was a huge responsibility. 

He said when a child or baby comes into the environment, the attention shifts to the baby from the dog.

Ramanan said one of the key things his family never failed to do for their dog was to show the dog love and attention and not ignore him even though his nephew was present.

He said by doing that the dog's temperament remained stable, happy and playful. 

Ramanan said a Rottweiler needs an assertive owner in the family to recognise as the alpha male and the breed itself is a good family dog.

He said many people didn't know that while a pitbull may be deemed more dangerous than a Rottweiler because the pitbull's jaw locks, the Rottweiler's bite is actually more powerful than a pitbull's. 

Ramanan said a 2005 National Geographic video measured the pounds of bite pressure for the pitbull at 235 pounds while the Rottweiler registered 328 pounds. 

He said he read countless articles, watched countless videos and DVDs before getting his dog.

Ramanan said he learned that while a dog can be trained at any point in his life, between eight weeks and eight months old was when he was most receptive to training.

He said Bruce was loving to his family, alert and a very good guard dog. However, people had the perception that Rottweilers were unpredictable, and consequently he took precautions.

He said they were responsible owners. When someone visited their home, Bruce would be tied, and also when they were driving or leaving home.

Ramanan said the Rottweiler was a good breed and needed to be trained properly. 

​Rahaman: I still don’t trust Rottweilers

Speaking to the Sunday Guardian on Thursday, Dr Azizul Rahaman, veterinary surgeon of Jones Animal Clinic and Hospital in La Seiva, Maraval, said the Rottweiler was a more dangerous dog than some pitbulls.

He said with his 40 years veterinary experience, the Rottweiler was one dog he still didn't trust.

Rahaman said when he is examining a Rottweiler he always made sure the dog had a muzzle on because it could make an unexpected grab.

He said with a German Shepherd, one could immediately tell his mood because his ears would be pulled back and teeth bared indicating he would bite, while with a Rottweiler it was difficult to read his mood.

Rahaman said he empathised with the family in Charlieville, though it was unclear whether the owners of the Rottweiler cross had him from a puppy or as a mature dog.

He said if they acquired the dog as an adult, he could not really be trusted as opposed to if they raised him from a puppy. 

Rahaman said the dog could not be blamed, since it was a learned response given the circumstances.

He said he personally would not trust or leave any kind of large dog with a child, and a guardian must be around because you could never tell what could happen. 

Rahaman said you don't know what could cause a dog to attack, for example, a child might pull his tail and the dog reacts.

He revealed that most dog bites are from the owners’ own dogs.

Rahaman said a dog's behaviour depends on his training. A dog's living conditions also played a part in his temperament, that is, his socialization, interaction, whether he played with his owner, was taken on walks, or if he was chained or kept in his kennel for most of his life. See pages A21, A23