All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Irresponsible Owners Cause Dangerous Situation

Dear Marie:
Recently, my neighbor's son, his wife, and his daughters moved back to his parents' home. They brought two
dogs and two cats with them. I have been able to keep their cats out of my garden and lawn using a repellent. But I am having a serious problem with one of their dogs.

The problem dog is an adult Boxer mix. She is totally out of control. When she gets out of the yard, she runs all over the neighborhood like a maniac, ignoring her owners, and she only goes home only when she wants to. Twice, she has tried to charge at me, with the hair up on her spine and baring her teeth. Luckily, both times I was watering with the hose so I was able to spray her in the face and get into my house.

Every morning, I sweep my patio and walk next to my fence which is closest to their house. Their dog jumps on the fence and tries to bite me, blowing saliva on my face while barking and growling. I am sure her owners hear her, but they ignore this bad behavior. Knowing them, I am sure they will not spend any money on her to have her trained. I am considering carrying mace and perhaps buying an ultrasonic dog chaser. This device is supposed to chase aggressive dogs away. I am wondering what you suggest and what you feel I should do?
Rita, Placentia

Dear Rita:
Many people have lived near dogs that behave in this manner. It is always important to remember that none of these problems are the fault of the dog you have described. Her behavior is the result of little or no socialization and complete irresponsibility on the part of her people. Her aggression is compounded by their lack of attention to her behavior issues. Think of this poor pet, rather than yourself, as a victim. From this perspective, you will be able to deal with the matter much more effectively.

The first action you must take is to speak with the dog's owners (and the parents who own the house because they may face financial liability should this dog bite anyone.). Be open, honest, and neighborly while expressing  your concerns.  Nothing will get accomplished if you bring a confrontational attitude.

Ask to meet their dog but make sure that she is restrained by a leash and held by someone in the household who is capable of controlling her. Speak to the dog in a friendly but firm voice.  She needs to know that you are a friend of the family, but also someone to be respected. If, AND ONLY IF, you feel that the dog has accepted your presence and the owners confirm that this is the case, give the dog a treat and a few pats. (Don't do this UNLESS you are comfortable doing this!)

After your initial introduction, make a point of visiting the dog each day with its owners present and making sure their dog is under control. Continue to bring her treats so that she associates you with something good.  It will also generate good will between you and the owners.

Money might be the reason this family is not taking their dog to obedience class.  If they had to move in with parents at this point in their lives, it seems that this might be the reason. Offer to pay for, and/or take the dog to obedience classes yourself. Most community parks and recreation services offer low cost basic training.that cost much less than mace (which has legal issues that you should educate yourself about), ultrasonic devices, and other chemical repellents. Furthermore, dog obedience classes will take care of the actual problem rather than just dealing with symptoms.

Frequently, neighbors are reluctant to work with each other in this manner. I am hoping that relations between your two households are still cordial so that you can implement this plan. If not, you must consider your safety. Whenever the dog is running loose in the neighborhood, there is a general risk both for the dog and for the area residents. Consequently, a call to your local animal control authority is in order.

If the owners of the straying Boxer are faced with a possible court appearance and/or impoundment of their pet, chances are good that they will take measures to correct the problem. Still, it is doubtful that this solution will benefit the dog other than keeping it off the street.

No matter what you decide to do, you must take action immediately. The situation you have described is potentially unsafe for you, the dog, or another neighbor. Good luck.

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