Q: I take issue with your view of dogs who display aggression. As a second-time Akita owner, I have known members of this breed to be highly intelligent and often assertive when protecting their owners.
On one occasion, my 2-year-old male Akita snapped at my former mother-in-law after she startled him. Given the fact that my mother-in-law was no stranger to him, I was alarmed by this behavior, immediately consulted with our veterinarian and subsequently worked with an animal behaviorist.
After weeks of advanced obedience training (consisting mostly of socialization techniques), the dog mellowed into a sweet family member and remained so for the rest of his life.
I trust you don't share similar views on the child who, on occasion, "acts out."
A: Every time I share my "staunch and unyielding view" on aggressive dogs, I get letters from people who make excuses for their animals. Your reasoning is very common: The dog's breed is "naturally protective" and some degree of aggression toward people is normal for the breed.
What's essential for all dogs, regardless of breeding, is that we don't make excuses for aggression toward humans. You did the right thing by recognizing the problem and getting help immediately, which is exactly what I advise other people in your situation to do. In some cases, aggressive animals can indeed be rehabilitated.
I don't suggest, however, that all or even most dogs who are aggressive toward people can be cured. For those animals who cannot be made safe, I advocate euthanasia. No dog's life is worth putting a child through the hell of an attack and the reconstructive surgeries that often follow. And statistics show that in the most serious of attacks, a child is indeed the most common of victims.
Send questions to email@example.com