A canine behavioural expert has warned of an “impending avalanche” of dog bites and issues in Ireland.
Nanci Creedon, of Creedon's college in Cork, said the sheer amount of dog owners in addition to a lack of understanding of dog behaviour and how dogs learn will lead to an increase in dog bites and other issues.
She said dog owners are being fed misinformation on how to train dogs and address behavioural issues. Exhibiting unwanted behaviours was the most common reason for surrendering dogs in 2022, according to Dogs Trust.
The charity said these unwanted behaviours are caused by various factors, however, they noted that punishment-based training methods such as shouting and smacking are not only detrimental but might also make the behaviour worse.
Dogs Trust is urging all owners when they take on a new dog, regardless of their experience, to attend positive reinforcement dog training classes.
Aidan Collins, a behaviourist and CEO of Collins Canines in Cork, said there is a lot of “rubbish” online in terms of training techniques which do more harm than good.
“Old school bully tactics may work if it’s just one person working with the dog but nobody else can work with that dog thereafter," he said.
Mr Collins said it’s common for owners to reinforce undesired behaviours unbeknownst to themselves.
“Unless you’re told about it, you’ll never know. You could go online and be absolutely bombarded with information and you’ll be at a loss,” he said before adding that it’s never too late to address behavioural issues.
Ms Creedon is planning on offering a free webinar in the next few weeks through Creedon's College which will be targeted towards parents.
“While I’m trying to see what the Irish government can do to minimise dog bites, there’s stuff that I can do, too. “The scariest and the most likely victims of dog attacks are going to be small children,” she said.
She said the webinar will help increase the ability to predict when a bite is going to happen and what measures can be taken to minimise a bite risk.
“In reality, it’s for absolutely everyone because while I’ll focus on bite risks to children, any potential bite to a child is most probably a situation that will lead to a bite of an adult so it’s all about predicting bites,” she said.
Ms Creedon last week addressed an Oireachtas Agriculture Committee on dangerous dogs in which she called for a mandatory theory test for potential dog owners to make sure they are educated about how they should look after their animals.