Saturday, May 12, 2012


The recent stories published by The Star regarding a jogger that was apparently mauled to death by a "Pit Bull" has probably got the general public shaking with fear that they might be attacked by a dog at any time. This is a misconception that must be rectified immediately.

On Tuesday, May 8 2012, The Star published this article "Jogger Mauled to Death by Pit Bull in Subang Jaya". This was followed by this article on Wednesday, May 9 2012 ~ "Bull Terrier Kills Jogger" and on Thursday, May 10 2012 ~ "Police record statement from owner of killer dog"

I was shocked by these articles for a number of reasons. The first article was very misleading in that the dog that was supposedly a pit bull was in actual fact a Bull Terrier.The picture of the dog included in the article clearly shows this.

This can cause serious confusion among people who were not aware of dog breeds to automatically label the Bull Terrier as a Pit Bull, and therefore identifying the Bull Terrier as a killer dog, although neither the Bull Terrier or the Pit Bull or any other dog for that matter are dangerous if raised correctly.

The titles of the second and third article makes it seem as if Bull Terriers are in fact killer dogs, when in reality they really are very sweet natured dogs.

The following video by Dogs 101 give a fantastic overview of the Bull Terrier and clearly shows what a great breed this dog really is. The Bull Terrier is described as "3-year-old child in a dog suit".

The American Kennel Club describes the Bull Terrier as "playful and clownish", and goes on to say the following:

"Given his muscular build, the Bull Terrier can appear unapproachable, but he is an exceedingly friendly dog, with a sweet and fun-loving disposition"

And then the Director of the MPSJ council, Dr Roslan Mohamed Hussin was quoted as saying that MPSJ had started checking residential areas in the township for breeds that were said to be aggressive and dangerous. These breeds were apparently  the "Akita, Neapolitan Mastiff, American Bulldog, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanesa Tosa and American Pit Bull" and they "are predisposed to aggressive or dangerous behaviour”. ~ The Star, May 9, 2012

In a previous article on April 14 last year,  Dr Roslan said MPSJ also restricted dog owners from bringing their dogs for a walk in public places, shopping complexes, religious places, all government and private offices, government and private schools and on public transport.

With 2 super cuddly Staffordshire Bull Terrier puppies ~Cameron & Lucy
While the dogs listed above generally have a bad reputation for various reasons, further research into each of these dog breeds will generally show that it is not the breed that makes these dogs "vicious" and "dangerous" but the manner in which they were raised or trained. Note that aggressive dogs are usually taught to be aggressive by humans. Hence, should we really blame the dog for being aggressive?

Additionally, restricting dogs from public places would only further exacerbate the issue of dog attacks.

If dogs are not given the regular exercise and are not socialised with humans other than their family on a regular basis, this could cause them to be restless, suspicious and even fearful of other human beings.

Getting lots of love from Jess, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Suspicious and fearful dogs usually feel the need to protect themselves and the only way they know how is to bite.

Also, dogs that are not properly socialised could have the tendency to be very protective of their owners and families.

With Custard the Rottweiler

Local councils should instead work towards promoting responsible dog ownership and also providing dog parks and dog friendly areas to enable dog owners to exercise and socialise their dogs regularly, apart from providing adequate shelter, food and protection for their dogs.

With Rosie an American Bull Dog Cross
Very often dogs that attack are abused or neglected in their own homes. These dogs are either caged or chained for long periods of time and are not given adequate exercise or human interaction. These dogs are usually incredibly frustrated and can become highly territorial. As such, if they are inadvertently let loose, they can become quite dangerous.

With Goldie a Siberian Husky

Many Malaysians, however, feel that it is perfectly acceptable to chain or cage their dogs all day and all night with little or no human interaction. The most common reason given is that they do not want the dogs to mess up their house or their compound. These dogs are treated as mere objects to "guard" their homes and are not treated as a member of the family which is crucial in shaping a dog's behaviour as dogs are pack animals.

With Sydney, a German Shepherd Cross

Local councils should ensure that dog owners are properly educated on the welfare of their animals and that their dogs are properly provided for and cared for. Owners that abuse or neglect their dogs should be heavily penalised as they are in effect creating a dangerous animal. 

With Gracie, a German Shepherd Dog
Local councils should also spend time and effort in educating the general public (not just dog owners) about dogs and how to behave around dogs. 

The public, especially children, should be taught that they should not approach and touch dogs without  getting permission from the dog's owners, and NOT to taunt or provoke dogs as this could give rise to untoward incidents.
With Sydney, the Gernan Shepherd Cross
The public should also be taught what to do should they come across a potentially aggressive dog or if a dog attacks them.

Avoiding dog attacks
The following tips may help you avoid being attacked by a dog:
  • Don't stare dogs in the eyes - dogs often feel as though you're challenging them when you make direct eye contact with them, so this should be avoided to reduce the risk of attack.
  • STAND STILL - or maintain a constant slow pace while BACKING out of the dog's territory if you are withdrawing. Do not turn away from the dog.
  • Never try to outrun a dog as this will provoke the dog to chase you and this can end in an attack.
  • Start by slowly distancing yourself from the dog if it begins to approach you. Get something between yourself and it - for instance if you're on a bike, place the bike between you and the dog; if there is a tree post or bench, ensure they are between yourself and the dog. Once behind the object you can speak softly and gently to calm the dog.
  • Do not use part of your body - e.g. an arm - to distance yourself from the dog as the dog may snap at you, causing injury.
  • Keep a safe distance between yourself and dogs being walked on a lead, and always ask the owner's permission before approaching any dog.
  • Be aware of areas that dogs frequent and change your route to avoid dogs which are not on leads.
What to do if a dog attacks you
  • Call 999 (or ask somebody else to) as soon as it is possible to do so. 
  • Do not use part of your body - e.g. an arm - to distance yourself from the dog as the dog may snap at you, causing injury.
  • If you are attacked or knocked to the ground, take measures to protect your face, neck and head by curling up in a ball and putting your hands on the back of your neck. Try to be still and do not wave your arms around.
The following video is a useful video to teach children what to do when a strange dog approaches them: 

By educating the public on how to behave around dogs and by providing suitable dog parks and public areas for dogs to socialise, would in my opinion be a much better method of handling issues related to dog aggression and dog attacks. 

With Kyra, an English Bull Mastiff

Having volunteered at The Mayhew Animal Home in London for about 2 years between 2008 and 2010, I have come in contact with and worked with many dog breeds that are usually taught of as aggressive or dangerous.

Previously I had always assumed that breeds such as the Rottweiler and Bull Terrier etc were vicious, aggressive and highly unpredictable dogs. My misconception was based on the fact that I had never met a well behaved, sweet natured rottweiler or bull terrier in Malaysia before. 

During my time at The Mayhew, I learnt that dogs such as the Rottweiler,  Staffordshire Bull Terrier and even Pit Bull have earned the bad reputation of being killer dogs due to the "training" or lack of it from their owners.

These breeds are naturally protective of their territory and families, therefore it is vital that they are socialised at an early age, given enough training (positive reinforcement), and leadership by their owners to prevent untoward incidents.

With Kyra (English Bull Mastiff) and Buster (Rottweiler)
According to the Dog Bite Claims UK website, the top ten most aggressive breed:
  1. Dachshunds
  2. Chihuahua
  3. Jack Russell
  4. Australian Cattle Dog
  5. Cocker Spaniel
  6. Beagle
  7. Border Collie
  8. Pit Bull Terrier
  9. Great Dane
  10. English Springer Spaniel
The Dachshund, otherwise known as the Sausage dog, was originally bred to hunt badgers. They came out as the most aggressive breed with 1 in 5 reported to have bitten or tried to bite a stranger and 1 in 12 snapping at their owners.

The top ten least aggressive dogs:
  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. Rhodesian Ridgeback
  3. Poodle
  4. Greyhound
  5. Whippet
  6. Brittany Spaniel
  7. Siberian Husky
  8. Golden Retriever
  9. Havanese
  10. Portuguese water dog
These dogs also rated low for “watchdog” behaviour and “territorial defence” behaviour so they tend to make lovable family pets.

A young boy and his faithful Rottweiler at Mayhew's Sponsored Dog Day
Some dogs that have a bad image and are considered aggressive are the Boxer, Bulldogs, Pit Bull Terriers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, German Shepherds and Rottweilers. According to this study this is how they ranked:
  • Great Dane: 9. This breed is actually very patient, gentle and affectionate. Although its size can be an issue with small children, it gets on well with children.
  • Rottweilers: 15. This dog is very loyal and can be fiercely protective which may cause it to be aggressive. However, it is a hard working, powerful, devoted dog that gets on well with children if they are brought up with them.
  • Boxer: 16. These dogs are actually good with children. They make good watchdogs. As they have a protective nature; they may be aggressive if they feel their owner is being threatened.
  • German Shepherds (Alsatians): 17. An alert, loyal, courageous and intelligent breed. These dogs are good with children and they are very protective making them effective watchdogs.
  • Mastiffs: 21. These dogs are very dignified, loyal creatures with a pleasant nature, resembling gentle giants. Their size means they can be a problem with small children, but they get on well with children.
Other dogs that are known to be aggressive include:
  • Chow Chow: this is a “one person dog”. It forms a very strong bond with one person (usually the owner) and is ferocious around strangers who it considers a threat to its owner. It is a good guard dog, but it can bite without warning and they are tenacious fighters.
  • Papillon: These dogs are fiercely loyal of their owners and can be very possessive, they don’t like strangers either.
  • Old English Sheepdogs: Again these dogs are very protective of their owners. They are strong-willed and independent and they will nip either other animals or children.
  • Lhasa Apso: These dogs can be cranky and unpredictable; they are strong-willed and independent. They were originally bred as guard dogs.
  • Giant Schnauzers: They are very dominant and will challenge adults and strangers.
  • Pekingese: These dogs do not like strangers and can be very aggressive towards them
  • Miniature Pinschers: These are little dogs but they can be very aggressive to compensate for this.
However, every dog is different and won’t always fit its breed stereotype: just because its breed is generally considered to be gentle or sweet natured doesn’t guarantee that your dog will be the same.

With Barney, an Anatolian Shepherd Cross
Any dog can be aggressive and bite so you must make sure that you put aside the time to train it and socialize it properly so that it is more comfortable in unfamiliar circumstances and with strangers.

Before you get a dog it is worthwhile researching breeds to make sure that you choose one that is suitable for your lifestyle, i.e. it is good with children if you have any in the family, or not getting a fragile dog if you are a large family. 

So please next time you see a Bull Terrier in the street, don't automatically assume it's a "devil dog". I am also hoping that all the pictures I have shared in this post will also help in dispelling the myth that large dogs, bull breeds and other "dangerous" breeds are vicious killer dogs.

If, god forbid, there are any more stories on dogs attacking someone, have a think as to WHY it happened. It could be because these dogs have irresponsible owners who have not socialised, trained or shown correct leadership and affection to their dogs.

If handled correctly from the minute you bring them home, any dog will make a FANTASTIC pet, but in the wrong hands they may only do what they feel they must in order to protect themselves...

In the mean time, I can only hope that the DVS will conclude their investigations quickly and thoroughly, especially as they have already indicated that the bull terrier has shown no signs of aggression so far.

I am highly concerned about the poor bull terrier being kept in their pound in isolation from its family and familiar surroundings. I doubt that the dog will be given any exercise or affection. This will only serve to traumatise the dog and may result in the dog's behaviour degenerating. 

Additional Reading:


  1. What a well written article! Have you submitted it to the newspapers? I am so tired of the way they portray dogs in the media it's just stirring things up. I hope lots of people read this and realise that there are two sides to every story!

    1. Thanks Katie...

      I have submitted it to the newspapers but they didn't pick it up... but will keep writing as best as I can about animal welfare issues.

      If some people read my posts and think they make sense, then hopefully they will talk about the topic with their friends etc and that will then help bring more awareness to the public about these issues...

  2. From Nur Juanita:
    Great piece, Natasha. Keep up spreading Info on responsible animal ownership. Generally, such valuable information is often glossed over by the Press for various reasons. One is the length of your article. Too long, difficult for them, space constraints etc. What increases your chance of being published is to pick out the most important/ interesting point/s and give a link to your website for details. Also longer pieces can be targetted at the features section, with pictures you may have properly captioned.