(Wipes tears from eyes.)
I'd recommend the avoidance of unnecessary/excessive sentimentality, and the avoidance of making snap judgement about the fate of these particular dogs. It is possible (though maybe hard to accept, given one's possibly natural intuition to the contrary) that the officials making these judgements might have been given very good advice and thus might actually know what they are about.One does not know the reality of their situation - and particularly the mental state regarding these dogs.
When things tug at our heartstrings, rationality tends to bail out the window.
Furthermore, and sadly, most people - including many people who work with animals and who love them, (e.g., police dog-handlers) - seem to have little real understanding of the special psychology of dogs.From experience:
My main job as a lad at school was to take care of the animals at home - that included the horses, a dog kennels and a cattery. As well as immersing myself in science (biology, chemistry, physics) at school and as a hobby, I had several happy years taking care of and immersing myself in the study of these animals and their psychology - and dogs in particular I found to be very
interesting. Being intelligent creatures, for eons dogs have apparently shown themselves to be easily trained and able to bond with and become amazingly useful (symbiotic) friends of Man.
(By the way, I became a pretty competent horse bareback-rider and dog-handler as a result of my tasks.)
One thing about dogs though, is that they evolved and survived as - and will remain - pack animals
. In the natural state, they evolved to live in packs for survival. When they live with a human family, domesticated dogs seem most content to consider themselves as being part of the human pack, with their survival dependent on the survival of the pack (as in nature). When they are properly integrated, they will typically defend other (human) pack members to the death. Keeping a dog, but not allowing it full integration with the family as a pack, is common and both inhumane and cruel to the dog.
In a dog's human "packs", if the adult humans do not establish and assert
their position as pack dominants (prime bitch and Alpha male), then the relative pecking order becomes confused/scrambled in the dog's perception, and all sorts of unfortunate behaviours/events can ensue - e.g., including otherwise apparently stable family dogs killing one or more of (usually) the weaker human pack members (older people or children).
One dog that we gave away was a white male from a litter of pups crossed with a Welsh sheepdog (so they were quite smart mongrels). It was a lively little pup, probably the dominant one in that particular litter.
However, it was returned to us a couple of years later, by which time, having been fed a diet including a lot of raw meat, it had matured to a size considerably larger than any of its siblings. It had grown up with its owner-family, but had become disobedient and surly, and so they had it police-trained, whereupon it became obedient but remained surly, and the family didn't entirely trust it around the children. Rather than put it down, they asked us if we would like to take it back. We did. I maintain that the family - like many dog-owners - probably did not understand the need to (or how to) assist the dog to integrate with the family as a pack member
, and that this confused and damaged the dog's perception of its pack-role.
I immediately recognised that this dog - named "Suki", and which I was now obliged
to look after - was not "safe"
. Such dogs are rather like a loaded gun where one is never quite sure whether the safety is ON
.Usually relatively confident, even I was careful (frightened) around it. Surly, it treated me with disdain, and, at 11 years old, I understood that, in a fight, it would be bigger than me and could overpower me, and that it knew it
(male dogs respect physical dominance). I was very kind to it - dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection - but, nothing seemed to improve its surly demeanour. So we kept it on its own, apart from the other dogs - it was aggressive, dominant and unpredictable, and showed itself willing to kill some of the other males (I still bear some scars and a damaged finger-joint from separating the fighting animals). That in itself (isolation) I understood was a form of torture for the dog, but we did not wish to torture it.
My method was that I hoped to force a bond with it by ensuring that the only live creature that it had any real interaction with was me
- its kindly jailer. I fed it, exercised it, combed its fur, cleaned out its kennel, stroked it and told it that it was a "good dog Suki", and put it back into its kennel at night, but it remained indifferent towards me, obedient, but surly.
One night exercising, I told it to "Come here" so that I could walk it back to its kennel. It came to me, cocked its leg and disdainfully urinated on my leg (marking territory) - something it had never done before - and disdainfully moved away from me, ignoring my shouting at it to "Come here!". I was infuriated at being treated this way by the dog. Realising that it was a critical moment in our relationship, I had to quickly figure out how to "up" my dominance. Most dog-owners do this by physically beating or whipping
their dogs, but this is often both cruel and unnecessary, as dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection.
The only time I would have beaten our dogs would have been to inhibit
them from sheep-worrying behaviours, which in the UK is very serious as the law may order that the offending dog be put down.
But that night with Suki I happened to have in my hand a couple of bamboo spears (I was interested in spear and javelin-throwing and practiced whilst exercising the dogs, who found it fun). Being a well-practiced shot, I threw the spear so that it landed right in front of Suki as he walked away, whereupon I could almost see the cogs operating in his head: He stopped dead, turned and stared at me - "Big stick, thrown by dominant male, could have hurt me" - or something. Fear/respect.He obediently came to me.
I stroked his head and ears and told him he was a "Good dog Suki".
From that point on, Suki progressively transformed. He waited to follow my lead/permission in all things. He accepted me as the dominant male (I was living alone with my mother), though I was only 11 or so, and he gratefully received any and all fondling/stroking (remember, dogs usually respond best to kindness and affection) that I might bestow upon him - even coming to me asking
to be stroked and have his ears tickled. In short, he worshipped me. Mission accomplished!
I first became an uncle at age 10, with a beautiful niece (whom I adored) from my eldest sister - who then proceeded to have 2 more girls in quick succession. The 3 girls would come and stay with us, and I was very concerned to have Suki not
be a threat to them, so I ensured that he saw them as "my" pack pups, so they became important to him to protect. So I conditioned
him, and, at the same time, Suki's surly resistance had crumbled before my genuine loving affection for him (I love and respect most animals, but Suki was kinda "my child").
Those girls could crawl about Suki and stroke him, pull his fur, poke him, accidentally hurt him, and yet he would remain submissive and never once evinced growling anger or upset at being hurt, poked or prodded. He was safe.
Once I had established that he was safe, and after continued observation (not supervision) to make sure, I was eventually able to relax, knowing that the children were at least as safe with Suki as they would have been with me or any other family member. This was when I was about 15 or so.
Statistics of dogs-killing-family-members
demonstrate pretty conclusively that it will happen
(otherwise there would be no such statistics) and that police/military-trained dogs are no exception, but in fact more likely. They are typically the loaded guns.Only idiots - or possibly misinformed bureaucrats - would advocate leaving loaded guns lying around in a family's living-room.For example:
I read a depressing tale a few years back about a police dog-handler in the UK, whose two Alsatian police-dogs dogs had, inexplicably, savaged and killed his 5-year old daughter, and then ripped apart her body.
Afterwards, he said something like:
"I would have staked my life on those dogs being safe." (or words to that effect).
- but of course the idiot didn't stake his own life on it, he staked the life of his daughter.
For survival's sake, no-one - and especially children and old people in a family - needs that kind of Alpha male in the family.