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Rottweiler: A misunderstood speciesEileen Kang, November 21, 2008
A huge rottweiler charges towards your dog. A million questions race through your mind. Is it going to rip my pet apart? Tear its throat out? Maul it like a rag doll? With bated breath, you await the helpless cries of the victim. Your baby yelps. But wait, the yelp rings of joy, not fear. The big, black hound’s not swiping, but pawing playfully. It’s not biting, just nipping gently. The rottie’s not on a death chase, it’s in a frolicsome jog.
The rottweiler a natural born killer? No, it’s not.
Not all of us share the same sentiments. A recent report in The Straits Times announced proposed rules for owners of rottweilers issued by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA). One has to fulfill several conditions: leashing and muzzling the dog in public; implanting a microchip in the animal; taking up an insurance policy of at least $100,000; putting up a banker’s guarantee of $2,000, which is forfeited if the dog strays, bites a person or is reported lost; and sending the dog for obedience training.
This Breed-Specific-Legislation (BSL) that the AVA seems so intent to pass, means one will incur insanely high costs to have one.
But really, are the dogs to blame? Are they as ferocious, menacing, and aggressive as they are made out to be? The statistics speak for themselves. According to The New Paper (TNP), there are 323 rottweilers in Singapore. 60 dog-biting cases take place every year. Out of the 60 cases, 3 of them involve this breed. That’s 5 per cent. And due to the negative reporting of this 5 per cent of rotten apples, the entire community is under public scrutiny, fighting off biased, vicious comments thrown their way.
The Strait Times article was headlined with “AVA to take the bite out of rottweilers”, portraying them as “potentially dangerous dogs” even before the reader gets past the byline.
However, according to TNP’s report, the rottweiler is made out by the American Kennel Club to be a “calm, confident and courageous dog that chooses friendships carefully”. It also harbors a strong “desire to protect home and family, and is an intelligent dog with a strong willingness to work”. We don’t see any of these qualities emphasized in certain reports.
Instead, rottweilers are often portrayed as being bred to kill. Strong words such as “mauled”, “tore” and “ripped” are used, and the viciousness of the bite is often played up. According to the 2002 Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting and Prevention Program, the top 4 dog biters are, in order of prevalence of occurrence: the German shepherd, cocker spaniel, rottweiler and golden retriever. Shocking? You probably didn’t see “cocker spaniel” and “golden retriever” coming, because they are often depicted as gentle, family dogs.
Why is there a disparity in the treatment of rottweilers? As TK Haw, 31, owner of two rottweilers puts it, “For every vicious attack you hear in the media… there are hundreds if not thousands more [of the dogs] that work every day beside responsible owners that engage their dogs mentally and physically.”
Bear is the older of the duo but is distinctively smaller in size. He is the disciplinarian whereas Bruno is the fun-lover
TK’s Rottweilers, Bear and Bruno train with the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) Search and Rescue Unit. Their scope of work includes locating victims trapped under rubble, in burning buildings as well as forested areas. They are also qualified Therapy dogs.
Being qualified Therapy dogs, Bear and Bruno often visit old folks’ homes and mental institutes to aid the patients there in their recovery. Therapy dogs have to possess characteristics such as being highly confident and calm. This is due to patients screaming and shouting, even rough-handling the dogs unexpectedly.
During the interview, this UrbanWire reporter was introduced to Bear and Bruno. Both rottweilers mingle easily with adults and children alike. They interact freely with other dogs too, at times taking on the protective brotherly role. So why the bad reputation of rottweilers when there are 2 exemplary specimens right here?
TK explains, “Rottweilers are big, strong intelligent dogs… As they are pretty big, many owners fail to even bring their dogs out for walks, much less allow them to interact with the outside world. Imagine putting your own child at home and protecting him until he is 18, then asking him to get out and fend for himself. He will be scared, skittish, and probably be in a very bad mood. This is exactly how the rottweiler, or any other dog that is penned up all day in the same area with little or no stimulus, would be…”
The fault it seems, lie with the owners. However, by punishing the owners through fines and compulsory policies, rottweilers, indirectly, will be affected too.
TK offers an alternative solution. “The problem is really about educating existing and new dog owners what exactly constitutes to having a dog. The responsibilities and the basic knowledge of dog keeping should be taught to them. The knowledge is readily available, but the main issue is really to just have dog lovers actually agree on a course syllabus.”
Will educating owners help eliminate, if not, reduce the discrimination towards rottweilers? UrbanWire certainly hopes so. The road might be a long and arduous one, but perhaps one day, they will shake off the stigma associated with them, and we will realize the immense potential this breed has to offer.