Protect Your Dog from Trespassers- By: M Shane
Unfortunately, in this day and age, instead of trespassers having to beware of the dog, you as a homeowner have to beware of trespassers. It is often an unfair situation; sometimes the courts will uphold a lawsuit brought about by a negligent parent whose child was bitten as a result of being allowed to wander onto your property. However, as one website puts it, the intent of dog bite laws is “to civilly empower the victim of a dog bite.”
Each state in the U.S. has a different take on the dog bite situation, but in most areas, owners are held to be culpable in a dog bite situation. The “one free bite” rule oft-cited by dog owners actually has little legal sway. Originally from English common law, this custom allows a liability-free bite from a dog not previously considered to be vicious. However, unless the dog bite law in the homeowner’s area specifically makes reference to the “first bite”, a home owner can still be legally liable for damages. Many areas consider the very fact of dog ownership to be an indication that a homeowner knew of the risks of owning a dog.
Another issue is homeowners insurance. Most homeowners insurance covers dog bites. However, to avoid paying out premiums, many insurance companies will not ensure dogs of certain breeds – even if the dog has never bitten, is controlled and has obedience/socialization degrees – and most will not renew a homeowners insurance policy if a dog has bitten. It can be extremely difficult to find insurance for a dog that has bitten, if the dog survives and the home owner is not bankrupted by the legal proceedings.
While many areas vary in their attitudes towards dog bites, there are a few universal things you can do to prevent your dog from biting someone on your premises. These steps are likely to prevent a bite entirely, but in the case of your dog biting a trespasser, they may serve as proof that you took all possible steps to prevent your dog from biting.
Fencing should be 5 feet or higher, preferably with an insert that prevents the dog from jumping out. The fence is ideally buried 6 inches to a foot below ground to prevent digging. Solid wood or other materials are best, as they completely prevent access to your dog by casual passersby and prevent your dog from accessing said passersby. “Invisible fences” are worse than useless; they may discourage your dog from leaving your yard (although this is debatable), but will not prevent other dogs, people and wildlife from accessing your dog.
A “Beware of Dog” sign does not, contrary to popular belief, make you liable in most districts; in fact, it can make you less liable for your dog’s actions. If you object to the implications of “Beware of Dog”, you can opt for a different message, such as “Dogs in Yard”, “Dogs on Property”. Whether the novelty signs bearing the silhouette of a breed and the words “[Breed] Xing” constitute sufficient warning is debatable, although the case could be made for the ones that say “This House Guarded By [Breed] Inc.” Check with your local jurisdiction for more information on what kind of sign is best.
Choice of Breed/Type
While this article does not intend to add to the fire of breed-focused hysteria, it does bear considering that there are many breeds of dog that tend to be more aggressive than others. This does not make them vicious killers, but it does mean that anyone considering a member of these breeds should make sure that they are prepared physically and mentally to direct the dog’s abundant strength, energy and aggression into positive channels. These breeds are not for everybody and consultation with the national breed club, responsible breeders and reputable rescues should be undertaken before obtaining one of them.
Training and Socialization
Many dog bites result from the lack of proper training and socialization. Ideally every dog will have been in behavior classes from the time it was immunized, but this is sadly not the case. Invest in puppy training classes, beginners obedience and advanced obedience classes for your dog. This will also help socialize them. Encourage people to pet your dog and feed it treats. Expose it to children when fully supervised. Every positive encounter with people is something that makes it less likely that your dog will bite. Introduce your dog to your neighbors, mail and paper delivery people and friends.
Spaying and Neutering
Many dog bite studies have returned the fact that the type of dog most likely to bite is an unneutered male. Dogs that are sexually intact are more likely to be aggressive and territorial. If you spay/neuter your dog at the vet-recommended age, they will also be less likely to engage in sex-related behaviors like mounting, marking in the house (another plus for homeowners!) and getting stressed at the presence of intact dogs in the neighborhood.
100% Time Management
When all is said and done, your dog is still a domesticated wild animal, with its own inclinations and perceptions. We don’t know what goes on in that furry head, so when it comes to guests, delivery people and visitors play it safe and keep your dog under full control. This is especially important with children, as many people don’t realize that while their dog may be good with *their* children, it is not necessarily going to be good with *other* children. When you don’t have the time to supervise your dog, place it in a secure crate or pen or run.
Do your best to prevent a bite before it happens. Even if your dog is the one who was imposed upon by an uninvited person, you may have a long and bitter fight to prove that you have done everything in your power to prevent an attack. It’s better to spend time and money on precautions than on addressing the aftermath of a dog bite and the higher home owners insurance premiums that are sure to follow.
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