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Dogs and Pack Behavior

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Dogs and Pack Behavior

I’m Ed Smith, a Folsom dog bite lawyer. I would like to highlight the City of Folsom’s Animal Services Program, which offers low cost rabies vaccinations and other pet services to residents.

I am sure most of us have seen the ads for dog food where we are reminded that our canine companions have “the soul of a wolf.” It’s clever illustration, as the wolf pack is often perceived as an almost mythical collection of ancient animal behaviors which have survived for centuries (and still today) in harsh and often unforgiving environments. It’s sometimes hard to visualize that some of those genetic memories may live on in our loyal, four legged friends. In fact, we often refer to our dogs as “members of the family.”

This debate continues and is not likely to be resolved anytime soon. So, how does this help the average pet owner? Look, dogs are not wolves, “dogs are dogs.” Right?

Yes and no! Still, it is important to consider aspects of your dogs “pack” behavior, particularly if you’re considering:

  • Having 2 or more dogs in your household.
  • Introducing children to a house with one or more dogs
  • The dog owner’s liability when there are aggression issues.
  • What options, if any, are available if having two or more dogs and kids is what we want in our family.

How many dogs should I have in my home?

According to the Humane Society, forty percent of dog owners have two or more dogs and over one quarter of California Homeowners allow dogs in their house. Another large study found that dog bite victims often lived in homes with more than one dog.

Most parties seem to agree that dogs tend to do best (in terms of less aggressive behavior displays) when their “pack” is clearly defined. For them, it is the essential social and behavioral hierarchy. Healthy pack structures are predictable and, in most circumstances, “keep the peace.” Most experts agree that dogs will accept their position in the pack/family. Being the “low dog in the pack” is less important to a dog than uncertainty about the pack itself.

Introducing children to a household with dogs

Children are more likely to be bitten by dogs than adults and, more importantly, suffer serious injuries from those biting incidents. It turns out that because of their diminutive size and often times familiarity with the animal, children often suffer injuries to the face and neck when attacked by dogs. Bottom line, kids in homes with dogs are 5 times more likely to be bitten.

Despite this information, more families keep dogs in the home than ever. When you consider that parents with kids are likely to spend less time with an animal than before the child was introduced, there is a real potential for disruption of the family/pack hierarchy. This can lead to confusion for the animal and displays of aggressive behavior as an outlet. Dogs are acutely aware of their “pack” being changed or disrupted. The CDC recommends that children never be allowed to play with dogs unsupervised because they are the highest risk group for dog bites, a recommendation echoed by many experts.

It’s our dog, what’s the liability?

In California, dog owners are responsible for their dog’s behavior. California has a “strict liability” statute concerning dog attacks and biting. Homeowners insurance policies paid out over $600 million in dog bite and related injury claims in 2016. This statistic represents one-third of all homeowner’s insurance claims.  

50% of all dog bites are from familiar or neighbor’s dogs. Consult your insurance provider to determine the limits of your current homeowners or renter’s insurance.

Okay, but we still want dogs in the family!

Most Animal Service departments offer or make available information and classes relevant to this topic. Behavioral training, animal management tips, and spaying or neutering services are also widely available. Not all dog breeds are created equal when it comes to the potential for biting. Yes, any dog can bite, but some breeds have a greater history of attacks and biting, especially when there is more than one animal present in the household. The Humane Society, American Veterinary Association, and numerous organizations’ have compiled dog biting statistics for all breeds, as well as noting those which seem to adjust to and behave better when there are children present.

Read More Dog Bite Articles by Ed Smith

Folsom Dog Bite Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Folsom Dog Bite Lawyer with more than three decades of experience helping those injured by dog attacks. Suffering a dog bite injury can leave you both mentally and physically scarred. Victims often spend weeks or months in rehab to recover from physical injuries and may never fully recover from the psychological damage resulting from the incident. I am here to help you and your family.

If you or someone you love has been attacked by a dog, please call me right away. You can reach me by phone at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free and friendly advice. I am also available online at my Folsom Dog Bite Lawyer website.

Please take a look at what my past clients have said about working with me:

I am also a member of the Million Dollar Advocates forum. This forum is made up of the attorneys across the country who have shown their skill by settling cases and winning verdicts for at least one million dollars.

Browse my past verdicts and settlements here.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Akita Playing by Alden Chadwick. CC BY 2.0
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