Bite Busters : How to Deal With Dog Attacks


Bad dogs? Bad trainers, some say 

Group urges owners to teach pet respect, not violence

By Patrick Flaherty, Globe Correspondent, 11/22/98 

The stories are all too common across the country: dogs attacking
people and seriously injuring them, sometimes fatally. 

An 8-year-old North Carolina boy was killed in September when three large dogs attacked him as he visited a neighbor. In Pittsburgh, an 8-year-old girl received 300 stitches when a Labrador attacked her outside her front door this summer. 

Many attacks could be avoided if dogs were properly trained, which means not using violent or dominant methods of training, according to People Protecting the Future of Man's Best Friend Inc. 

The California-based nonprofit group sponsored a conference in Brookline yesterday to discuss with dog owners, trainers, and veterinarians a better way to train dogs - by treating them with mutual respect so that the dogs will respond to their owners' commands without the use of force or yelling. 

``We're not about saving dogs from the shelter, we're about preventing them from getting in the shelter,'' said Rhonda Camfield, president of the group. 

The year-old organization teaches that dogs trained using fear and            intimidation can become dangerous. 

Instead of aggressively training the canines, group members say that owners should use respect and natural training principles to raise a friendly dog, which will reduce the number of dogs that have to be destroyed because of violent behavior. 

The US Department of Health and Human Services said 4.7 million people were reported bitten by dogs in 1994, almost 3.5 million of whom were children. 

Just as children who witness violence often act out aggressively, dogs that
are forcefully trained or reprimanded by their owners often lash out at
humans because it is how they have learned to act, according to the group. 

Group members disagree with the often-used ``alpha'' method of training, in which dominant forceful actions are used. The main idea of the alpha roll is to grab the dog by the scruff of the neck and turn it onto its back while staring into its eyes until it turns away. Camfield says this method only teaches the dog violence. 

In the past 35 years, about 3,000 dogs have been reprogrammed using a
method of nonviolent retraining, the group says. The dogs, which had been
hyperactive, destructive, and would bite people, became friendly after

``If dog owners knew the proper way to prevent these things from
happening, all these dogs wouldn't be euthanized or banned as is the case in some cities,'' Camfield said. 

For more information on PPFMBF, contact the group at
1-800-367-5990 PIN 22 or visit its Web site at 

This story ran on page B02 of the Boston Globe on 11/22/98. 
                  © Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company. 

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