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Dangerous Dogs

Dangerous DogsTraining and education can be the difference between a friendly family pet and a "loaded gun" says a Tufts animal behavior expert.

No. Grafton, Mass. [04.05.01] Last week, a grand jury in California jailed two dog owners after their dogs attacked and killed a neighbor. The incident has received wide spread media attention and has sparked a debate about the safety of so-called "dangerous dogs."

While Tufts' Dr. Nick Dodman -- one of the nation's leading animal behavior experts -- says vicious attacks by dogs are relatively uncommon, he told National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" that certain dogs pose a high risk of violent behavior.

"There are a few breeds who keep coming around and around in the bite and mortality figures," Dodman told the radio program's national audience on Tuesday. "It's like a scene from 'Casablanca.' Round up the usual suspects and it is pit bulls and Rottweilers and shepherds and malamutes and Chows and Dobermans and so on."

Breeders have been able to reduce the aggression in certain dog breeds, but Dodman says the pet owners must play an active role in training and responsibly handling their dogs.

"I think it should be education, education, and education," said Dodman, who directs the animal behavior clinic at Tufts' School of Veterinary Medicine. "[We need] education of owners so that they know what they're getting into when they buy a dog that has potentially aggressive tendencies."

While many pet owners are responsible, Dodman said a few people are making dangerous choices -- sometimes even training dogs for violence -- that put the general population at risk.

"When you've got a dog that's [very large in size] and with an unlimited bite because you didn't train it -- perhaps you even went the other way to train the dog to bite -- you've got a loaded gun on your hands, a time bomb," he said.

And some dog owners don't learn from their mistakes, Dodman told "Talk of the Nation."

"I think we need to be cognizant of the fact that a lot of the dogs that get into trouble are owned by repeat offenders," Dodman said. "They're people who are in the state of denial. They make excuses for their dog's behavior."

He added, "People who are repeat offenders should do time."

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