Bitten: bad dog or bad owner?

An Angus Reid poll found that 58 per cent of Canadians feel dog attacks are isolated incidents caused by bad owners

  • May. 3, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Who’s to blame for dog attacks? Is it a case of poor upbringing on the part of dog owners? Or are some breeds inherently aggressive and unpredictable?

An Angus Reid poll in March found that 58 per cent of Canadians feel dog attacks are “isolated incidents caused by bad owners, not by the breed of dog.”

The other 42 per cent felt particular breeds “are inherently more aggressive and dangerous.”

The survey also found that 67 per cent of Canadians “support requiring muzzles for dogs deemed dangerous,” but fewer than 39 per cent are in favour of banning what are considered aggressive breeds from communities.

In Ladysmith the issue of aggressive or ‘vicious’ dogs has been the source of controversy in the past.

Presently the town’s dog bylaw includes in its ‘restricted’ list: pit bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, English bull terriers, Staffordshire terriers; and “any dog of mixed breeding, over the age of four months which includes the aforementioned breeds.”

Restricted dogs are supposed to be kept within a ‘suitable containment area’ to the satisfaction of the town’s animal control officer, and are to be kept muzzled and on a six foot leash when outdoors.

Sue Hughes of Coastal Animal Services, the company contracted by the Town of Ladysmith to enforce its dog licensing and control bylaw, said some breeds of dog are more prone to sudden, seemingly unprovoked attacks than others.

It mostly comes down to ‘prey-drive.’

“We have been breeding dogs for thousands of years for certain characteristics,” she explained. “If you have a breed with a high prey-drive they’re more likely to go after another animal.”

There is also a correlation between the likelihood of a dog attacking either another animal or person, and the type of owner who is in charge of the dog. The odds get really bad when breeds with high prey-drive meet masters who don’t know or don’t care.

“With a high prey dog, if you put it in the hands of an unknowing or irresponsible owner, you are going to have problems with that dog,” Hughes said.

Two characteristics of dogs with high prey-drive are stealth and tenacity. Hunting requires stealth, so a dog with high prey drive won’t do things like bare its teeth and growl before attacking. And once it does latch on, it won’t let go, because hunting dogs have to fight to bring their prey down, and that means hanging on no matter what.

Reports of dog attacks often reveal those characteristics of high prey-drive breeds. “The most common thing we hear is it came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t get the dog to let go,” Hughes said.

Stats for call outs to deal with aggressive dogs bear out Hughes concerns: shepherds, 6; pit bulls, 4; huskies, 3; labradors, 2; collies, 1; mastiffs, 1; hound types, 1.

The Town of Ladysmith has about 811 dogs licensed for 2016; five of those licenses were for restricted breeds.

Dogs with high prey-drive, in the hands of experienced or responsible owners, can earn their place in society.


Restricted breeds will be taken off the list if the “dog and dog owner have successfully completed the tests required to qualify for the Canine Good Neighbour (CGN) or Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Certification,” says the dog licensing and control bylaw.



Just Posted

A conceptual rendering of the commercial plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road. (Town of Ladysmith/June 15 Council Agenda)
Rocky Creek commercial plaza passes public hearing

The proposed plaza at 1130 Rocky Creek Road would bring commercial activity to Ladysmith’s north end

Kate Cram and her team at Old Town Ice Cream are thrilled to be open for business. (Cole Schisler photo)
Old Town Ice Cream opens up right on time for summer

Located at 539 1st Avenue, Old Time Ice Cream is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Volunteers Alex Cook, Ron Dashwood, and Bill Drysdale have been hard at work restoring the old Ladysmith train station. (Cole Schisler photo)
Train station restoration on track for future community open house

Community is asked to give feedback on what they think the best use is for the station

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Bruce Springsteen performs at the 13th annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit concert in support of the Bob Woodruff Foundation in New York on Nov. 4, 2019. (Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Canadians who got AstraZeneca shot can now see ‘Springsteen on Broadway’

B.C. mayor David Screech who received his second AstraZeneca dose last week can now attend the show

New research suggests wolves can be steered away from the endangered caribou herds they prey on by making the man-made trails they use to hunt harder to move along. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Culling cutlines, not B.C. wolves, key to preserving caribou herds: researcher

The government has turned to killing hundreds of wolves in an effort to keep caribou around

Gary Abbott (left) and Louis De Jaeger were two of the organizers for the 2014 Spirit of the People Powwow in Chilliwack. Monday, June 21, 2021 is Indigenous Peoples Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 20 to 26

Indigenous Peoples Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, Onion Rings Day all coming up this week

Gwen Spencer Hethey with her uncle and mentor Major Frederick Richardson. (Courtesy of Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame)
‘She was a killer’: The B.C. woman who pioneered female sharpshooting

Gwen Spencer Hethey made military men ‘look like turkeys’ says her son

Central Okanagan Grade 12 grads are set to get $500 each after a more than $1 million donation from a Kelowna couple. (File photo)
B.C. couple donating $500 to every Grade 12 student in the Okanagan

Anonymous donors identified as Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson

Rita Coolidge played the main stage at Vancouver Island Musicfest in 2017. (Black Press file photo)
This year’s Vancouver Island MusicFest to virtually showcase beauty of Comox Valley

Returning July 9 through 11 with more than 25 hours of music performances

Most Read