Have you heard of Rufus the beagle?
|Rufus the beagle with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs. Photo courtesy of Orange County.|
The truth is clouded by differing stories, but the basics is this:
- Rufus was waiting for his owner to fix him a special dinner for his birthday.
- The owner's four-year-old son came near his mother and Rufus.
- Rufus bit the boy on the lip, badly enough that he had to be taken to the hospital.
- Later, Orange County Animal Services came to investigate, and the family surrendered Rufus.
- Orange County Animal Services came back and said because of state law, Rufus needs to be put down.
- The family freaked out. They turned to Facebook.
- Facebook freaked out. Now everyone is fighting to save Rufus.
What this post will do, hopefully, is to help you prevent this from happening to you, or at least know what to do when it happens.
Lori Norman is a beagle breeder in Bonita Springs, Florida. She is an AKC breeder of merit. And she says you should never make generalities about a breed.
"Beagles as a breed have a wide temperament," Norman said. "Between show beagles, field beagles and what I call 'pet shop beagles'."
We know that beagles can be very trusting and sweet dogs. That's why they are used so widely in lab testing. But there's nothing saying they can't also get testy.
Lulu would get testy with my niece when they were younger (they're three years apart). My niece would get her all wound up, then decide she was tired of playing, and couldn't understand why Lulu would start play biting. Or my niece would hug too hard and Lulu would tell her to get off in the only ways dogs know how.
"Beagles are great with kids, but kids by do nature everything wrong with dogs," Norman said.
And the problem is, Lori Norman said, dogs, particularly young dogs, don't respect young children because they are about the same in age. A dog will see a four-year-old as a sibling, not as someone they need to listen to.
Norman says many reputable breeders will not sell a puppy to a family with young children because of this very reason.
But what if you do have young children and you get a puppy, or a young dog? Training is needed, for the dog and the family members. Especially when it comes to food.
"A startled reaction while feeding is a natural response by any animal that has not had proper training and leadership," said David Fitzpatrick, aka "Dave the Dog Guy," a certified animal trainer in Texas.
Fitzpatrick says any animal can have food aggression issues.
"What causes food aggression is the lack of leadership. Leadership is a role a dog looks for in a family situation," Fitzpatrick said.
Now I know many of you will disagree with the idea of pack leaders, but I promise you this is not necessarily a dominance issue.
Lori Norman, the beagle breeder, tends to agree with Fitzpatrick.
"There's no one method that would work better than another," she said. "Beagles are very social animals. They are used to a pecking order. They are pack animals."
How do you stop that? Here's what David Fitzpatrick says:
"Using dry kibble, put his measured portion in his bowl, stand in the feeding area and hand-feed him from the bowl, making him sit for every handful of food. Repeat this two to three times, making him sit each time before you allow him to eat from the bowl."
Here's what Lori Norman says:
"You have to correct a dog's behavior right away. You take the food away, tell the dog no, and then put them in its time out area. Then a little while later, bring the food, then take the food away, and if the dog does nothing, say good boy and give it back. You aren't torturing the dog, and when you praise a dog, do it lavishly."
Also incredibly important, is to keep a dog active. One thing I've always believed, a tired dog is a happy dog.
"Due to the lack of physical/mental exercise, the dog may create alternative exercises for himself, such as compulsive barking at inanimate objects, and/or digging," David Fitzpatrick said. "It is important to keep this breed of dog mentally stimulated as well as physically active."