Vicious dog attacks are on the rise�. but according to one Adelaide dog whisperer, the dog isn't always at fault.
Dr Deb Kelly at the Dog and Cat Management Board says most traumatic incidents could be avoided if owners followed some basic rules.
"They can display aggressive behaviours but it's often just coming from fear�. often they will say that the dog bit with absolutely no warning but the dog has been warning them for years and years and they haven't recognised it," says Deb.
Deb says a dog's body language tells you exactly what they're thinking� giving the owner, the friend, the neighbour and the child on the street, every opportunity to be prepared for trouble.
"�if you start with the basic rules of how you want your dog to behave and be consistent, dogs want to please. They're pack animals and they love to do what we want them to do we just have to get the message straight. Dogs do talk to us all the time but they talk with body language and their body language is absolutely consistent but we don't recognise what they're talking about," says Deb.
So what are some of the doggy do's and dont's?
Research the breed that best suits your home environment.
"It's really important to decide why you want this dog, what you want it to be. Choose the right sort of dog, bring it up in an appropriate manner and have it as part of the family. They're an extremely valuable part of the family if you do it right and they're a huge liability if you get it wrong," continues Deb.
"Set boundaries and be consistent from an early age."
"At puppy preschool they learn to behave with other pups and people learn with other dogs and owners� and let it experience umbrellas opening and cars backfiring and thunderstorms and cats and all the rest of the things that it shares its life with then those things are not so scary when they grow up."
When it comes to play fighting "�act like a puppy yourself."
"If a pup bites too hard the other pup will yelp and walk away and the games over but I see people with cuts all over their arms when they've got a puppy and they just let the pup go on harder and harder and they're bleeding, but in doing that they're teaching the pup that you can't hurt me no matter now hard you bite so please go for it. As soon as you get a welt, as soon as it even hurts a little bit, you should yelp and walk away."
"If a child wants to approach a dog, get them to ask for permission."
And when it comes to introducing two dogs to each other� "start with a leash and then proceed with caution."
"Make a fuss of the good things, not just telling off the bad."
When it comes to doggy dont's� rule number one never ever leave a child alone with a dog.
"It must be supervised at all times and if you can't supervise them, separate them."
And if the canine is picked up or provoked and retaliates, "teach your child not to act like a wounded rabbit."
"The best thing to do, we teach the kids in the Delta Dog Safe program to be a tree. Stand still and be really, really boring and the dog will go away and if the dog tried to knock you over be a snail cos snails are very boring and of course snails will protect their faces and hands so they're curled up in little balls."
And finally� "if a dog has got it's back up and stares at you, no matter what don't stare back� a direct stare is a threat so if it's a strange dog don't stare at it directly."
"If you're approaching a dog on the street which I would advise against, stand sideways, make yourself the least threatening."
Marion Council's Bob Wilson and Tea Tree Gully's Kris McGill are council dog catchers... they come face to face with all types of animals daily.
"People think you're a bit crazy but that's ok we get dogs that you can't get near the conventional way �so we take the approach to try and make friends, be non threatening to the dog, we use food rewards a lot, roast chicken is a great equaliser," says Kris.
Last year Kris' team had to rescue nearly 800 strays, mostly without using force, rather positive reinforcement.
"There's actually a drop in numbers. We've been gradually declining so it's good. We're getting the message out, people are putting I.D. on their dogs, doing the right thing but accidents happen you know and unfortunately dogs can be a bit of a disposable commodity as well," continues Kris.
While Bob recently went beyond the call of duty tending to a bitch and her litter left abandoned by the owner for weeks and weeks.
As for Dr Deb Kelly, she says she dreads hearing about dogs being put down, "�what breaks my heart more though, having been a vet in practise and having a person bring in a dog to be put down and saying they'll take the collar and lead home for the next dog and you can just see it being an endless cycle. If they actually stopped and learnt a bit about dogs before they actually bought one maybe they'd have a much better experience with them."
Dog and Cat Management Board website is: www.dogsncats.asn.au
Phone: 8124 4962
OR (08) 8124 4975
For more information on the Delta Dog Safe program, go to: www.deltadogsafesa.org.au