Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE tragic death of a Bulawayo man following an attack by his two Boerboels has put a spotlight on a craze by pet lovers to buy mostly dangerous and aggressive dog breeds albeit with little regard to their characteristics.
Mr John Gavhera of Selbourne Park in Bulawayo was last Thursday mauled by his two Boerboels after they reportedly mistook him for an intruder.
His neighbours watched helplessly as the vicious dogs savaged him when he returned unexpectedly from work at midday to collect a toolbox he had forgotten.
Barely two months ago, a 7-year-old ECD learner from Madzimoyo Farm in Hurungwe District in Karoi, Mashonaland West, died after he was mauled by a suspected rabid family dog, leaving his face unrecognisable.
The deceased minor was attacked by the vicious dog at the family homestead. Two years ago, a Bulawayo woman, Ms Cherish Muchegwa of West Somerton suburb, made headlines after her landlady’s five dogs mauled her.
Ms Muchegwa had just entered the gate to her lodgings when the dogs ran to her before attacking her, tearing off flesh from her arms and legs. Through the assistance of Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Raj Modi, Ms Muchengwa was flown to India for a surgical operation where she spent three months at Kiran Hospital.
While dogs are meant to protect people, dog trainers and experts warned that some of the breeds can be aggressive to people including their owners. Some of the breeds considered to be aggressive and dangerous include Boerboels, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers among others.
The Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) animal welfare officer, Mrs Berry Oosthuizen said pet lovers should not keep aggressive dogs without first understanding their behaviour and temperament.
“Dogs that usually attack people are Boerboels largely because most dog keepers don’t understand this type of breed. These dogs are not a breed that is supposed to be locked in small cages or kept in small properties because this is what makes them aggressive,” she said.
“They get frustrated and this is why they end up biting people. No dogs are born aggressive, but are only made aggressive by people who don’t properly understand them. Educating the public on how to keep dogs properly is what is needed.”
Mrs Oosthuizen said isolating dogs from humans is another factor that contributes to aggressiveness among dogs.
“All dogs need to be socialised with their families, but sadly a lot of these dogs are locked up in cages and not allowed to see anybody and when they do, that is when they get aggressive,” she said.
Mrs Oosthuizen said the dogs that attacked their owner in Selborne Park didn’t realise who the man was.
“They thought he was an intruder after he had jumped over the wall. Naturally, a dog would attack anyone not accessing the property through the gate. He should have spoken to the dogs or at least called them by their names before jumping into the yard. This was more of a human error rather than animal error,” she said.
Bulawayo dog trainer, Mr Graig Rossen said socialisation is important for dog keepers.
“Your dogs have to be regularly socialised and sadly most people keep dogs for the wrong reasons.
“Dogs, just like other animals, have instincts hence you need to socialise with them from the early stages of life,” he said.
“It is also important to learn about dog breeds because different breeds have different individual characteristics and traits. Dogs that are of mixed breed will often show mixed characteristics too.”
The officer in charge of the ZRP Bulawayo Canine Section, Inspector Mzimkhulu Ncube said they opt for the Labrador Retriever and German Shepherds for their noble character, loyalty, curiosity, high intellect and obedience as opposed to Boerboels and Pit Bulls. German Shepherds are used for patrols while Labrador Retrievers are categorised under detector dogs (DD) used to sniff drugs and explosives among other things.
They are specifically trained to assist police and other law-enforcement personnel in their duties. The duties include searching for drugs and explosives, locating missing people, finding crime scene evidence, dispersing rioters and attacking people targeted by the police.
“We actually prefer dogs that we train so that we achieve what we want, which is why we have Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds in the police service. Boerboels and Pit Bulls forget easily, which is why we don’t keep them,” Insp Ncube said.
“In most cases, these are the same dogs which attack people in homes because they are jealous. These dogs once they form a bond with their owner, they become aggressive and attack anyone who gets closer to him or her.”
Insp Ncube said Boerboels are more dangerous and hostile, particularly to children.
“Boerboels don’t want their owners to be close to anyone and in most cases, they attack children as they consider them to be rivals. Pit Bulls originated from the United States of America and the United Kingdom where they were used in dog fighting competitions and people used to enjoy seeing them fighting,” he said.
“However, because of their viciousness such breeds are no longer preferred in those countries, but surprisingly they have become a hit in Zimbabwe. These dogs are very dangerous because they are jealous and once a boerboel recognises that you are the only one who gives it food, it means no one else is supposed to feed it because it would have created a bond with you.”
Commenting on the Selbourne Park incident, Insp Ncube said there is a possibility the two boerboels could have killed their owner due to lack of the bond between the animals and owner.
“The dogs could have mistaken their owner for an enemy and attacked him, especially after he had jumped over the precast wall. Usually that is the behaviour of boerboels and pitbulls,” he said.
“You can train a boerboel, but the nature of a boerboel is that you can’t remove that element of jealousy in it and the person who would have trained it is the only one who can handle it. They are different from the German Shepherds which you can actually introduce to the rest of family members and they are also able to tell that this person is part of us unlike the boerboels and pitbulls.”
Insp Ncube singled out boerboels, pitbulls and Rottweilers as breeds not ideal for homes.
“Rottweilers have a natural instinct to protect their families and can be ferocious in their defence. It’s essential to channel their power and protectiveness by providing early socialisation, firm, fair, consistent training and leadership and a regular job to perform,” he said.
“When this doesn’t happen, Rottweilers can become dangerous bullies rather than the companionable guardians they’re meant to be.”
A Bulawayo dog trainer, who declined to be maned said: “Rottweilers walk a fine line between protectiveness and aggressiveness. If they aren’t carefully bred for a calm, intelligent temperament and properly socialised and trained, they can become overly protective.”
“So, helping our dogs learn how to conduct themselves is one of the most important things we can do. This means they need to be able to cope with other people, other dogs and a whole host of situations. If not, dogs can become fearful or start to display other problem behaviours.”
Article Source: The Chronicle