Labs top dog bite list - Omaha.com
Pit bulls have gotten a bad rap in recent years.
They make the news when overly aggressive dogs bite people. But they were not the only dogs biting in the first six months of 2011. Locally, one breed tallied more bites.
Nebraska Humane Society statistics released this week showed 23 bites involving pit bulls in Omaha. They recorded 35 bites by Labradors, and German Shepherds were just behind pit bulls, with 19 reported bites.
But pit bulls and similar breeds, under a city ordinance, have to wear muzzles on walks unless they're younger than six months. The dogs must be collared, leashed and harnessed. Owners also have to have $100,000 in liability insurance.
Mary Larson of Omaha, like many, once was afraid of pit bull breeds.
“I used to cross the street when someone was walking a pit bull,” Mary said.
Then she met Dinah.
Dinah, an older Staffordshire terrier — a breed closely related to pit bulls — was a stray that came into the shelter in early 2010. She was estimated at about six years old, her disposition inherently calm and sweet.
But no one at the shelter would give her a chance. Larson, a shelter volunteer, said no one considered adopting her.
“She was getting depressed,” Mary said. “She wasn't eating.”
Mary's husband, Doug, said his wife came home in tears because no one wanted Dinah. After three months at the shelter, Doug, skeptical at first, caved, and they brought her home to join their family of two dogs and at least three cats.
Now they consider themselves converts.
“We foster kittens,” Mary said. “When we brought Dinah home, she started licking them. She's very maternal.”
Doug said sometimes the kittens would try to nurse on Dinah, something that didn't bother her.
When the Larsons adopted Dinah, she came with a muzzle. There was one way to avoid using it — with the Humane Society-administered Canine Good Citizen test.
During their first week together, the Larsons trained Dinah. She had no problems passing the test at the end of the week. They donated their muzzle back to the shelter, and now Dinah wears the required “Breed Ambassadors” vest when out in public, signifying that she's safe.
The Canine Good Citizen test isn't easy for every dog, said Pam Wiese of the Humane Society.
Part of the test requires that dogs not jump up to greet people. They have to react appropriately when left alone with strangers or strange dogs. They have to be able to navigate a crowd. They have to react without aggression when sudden, loud noises are made. Those that pass become “Breed Ambassadors.”
“But, honestly, pit bulls might have a better chance at passing the test than other breeds,” Wiese said.
Wiese said one of the hardest parts of the test for dogs is not jumping to greet people. Higher-energy breeds like golden retrievers and Labradors often are the ones that can't resist doing that, she said.
Especially young dogs.
The test is a step above a basic obedience class. Many dogs fail the first time, and test-prep classes are offered at the Humane Society and elsewhere. Even those that pass have to retest every year.
Raised by the right owners, Mary said, all pit bulls can be socialized and be wonderful pets.
Three weeks ago, Dinah went to her first birthday party for another pit bull pal. There were 15 dogs, all crowded in the same room. Most were pit bulls, and not all were ambassadors.
Mary said it's important not to over-generalize an entire breed.
“At different points in history, people have been afraid of different dogs — chows, German shepherds, rottweilers, dobermans,” Mary said. “But in the right hands, these dogs are just as sweet as any other dog.”
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