"Bark 'n' Scratch"

Volume II - Issue 38:  November 5, 2004
Published by:
Christopher Aust, Master Trainer

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In Today's Issue ...

=>  Just Visiting? Please Subscribe Here.  ->
=>  Christopher's Drool
=>  Bite Prevention, Part II
=>  Quote of the Week
=>  Breed of the Week - Boston Terrier
=>  Mail Bag
=>  Recommended Stuff
=>  Dog at the Movies

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Christopher's Drool

Hi Gang!

Last week, I wrote about what I consider the key issue behind Breed Selective Legislation. (BSL) Dog bites. Lets face it, if dogs were not out there biting people, there would be no need for BSL. We as dog owners, guardians, parents, whatever you want to call it, are solely responsible for the actions of our dogs.

If you have a dog that is exhibiting vicious propensities, you are duty bound to rectify it. Talk to your vet and consult a behavioral expert who specializes in aggressive behavior. It is a lackadaisical approach to dog ownership responsibility that has led to the BSL issue we are facing. Enough said…for now.

Last week we focused on the types of aggression and what we as owners need to do with our own dogs to prevent them from becoming a biter. This week, we are going to focus on what we need to do if we come face to face with an unknown dog that is exhibiting aggression.

I strongly recommend you print out both articles and discuss them with your family and friends, particularly children. It could very well save you from a painful injury.

Just a quick reminder, I will be on the “Dog Dish” radio show out of Los Angeles tomorrow November 6, 2004 at 4:00 PM, PST. If you live in the Los Angeles area you can hear it on 590 AM or, if not in the LA area you can listen online at:


Keep those letters and suggestions coming. They are greatly appreciated.

Okay, that's it for now. I'm outta here!



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[Question repeated for Part II]


I want you to know I am really pissed about your position regarding BSL. (Breed Specific Legislation) Are you so daft or blind you don't see all the stories about Pit Bulls and Rotties attacking people almost everyday! Something has to be done and comments from “respected” professionals like you, are taken seriously by the general public.

You have a responsibility to get out the TRUTH! On this issue, you have seriously failed. I will unsubscribe to this newsletter because I have no desire to hear from someone with little and or no responsibility to the human populace while placing the dog as some sort of divine being.

Name Withheld

Bite Prevention, Part II

If a dog has ever bitten you, you know it not only hurts but is also a scary experience. Even I will admit my butt puckers a little bit when I see a dog show it's teeth or growl at me. Even though I am relatively confident I can avoid being bitten in most situations, it doesn't mean I don't sometimes wonder why I didn't pick a career in sales.

Last week, we discussed the different types of aggression and the reasons dogs' instincts will cause them to bite. In part two, I want to focus on what to do if faced with an unknown dog that looks as if it is going to bite. Additionally, I am going to address how the things we do can trigger a bite in a dog. It won't cover every situation but will give you the general knowledge to prevent becoming a victim of a dog bite.

Why Dogs Bite

According to the CDC, 60% of all dog bites happen to children under the age of six and come from a dog that was familiar with the child. The majority of the time, I personally, place the blame for these types of bites on the parents. This may seem harsh, but we have to look at that situation honestly and accept our own culpability.

Dogs don't bite someone they know for no particular reason. I have never seen a dog that just bites someone without giving some sort of indication of the impending bite. The exception to this is a reactionary bite that would occur if the child jumped on a sleeping dog or yanked its ears. I have often talked to people who tell me the family dog bit little Johnny out of the blue. Generally, my first question to them is, “Where the hell were you?”

Common Sense

I believe common sense, or the lack there of, is one of the main reasons people get bit by dogs they are not familiar with. We often look at dogs and automatically think of Lassie or our own personal furkid. The truth is, dogs' personalities are every bit as complex as that of humans. Just because your own dog enjoys having their ears/head briskly ruffled doesn't mean your sister/neighbor/friend or stranger's dog does.

Every dog you approach, that doesn't know you well, needs to be approached as though they are a biter. This doesn't mean they need to be approached with fear, just a little common sense. For instance, two of my dearest friends have very different personalities. One I could give a hearty football slap on the butt and he wouldn't think a thing about it. The other would probably look at me like I was insane and lecture me on the inappropriateness of the act. Just like people, every dog is different and needs to be treated as such.

Don't Trust the Owner

As many of you know, I own one of only two Chongqing dogs outside a small region of China. In the 700 years China has been recording dog bites, there have only been two bites recorded by this breed. Personally, I don't think there is any way Mei would bite someone unless they were hurting one of my kids. However, even with the absolutely lovely personality she has, I still am extremely cautious when someone new approaches her. I can't tell you how many times I've been told by dog owners their dogs don't bite, only to be nipped at later.

Body Language

More often than not, a dog will telegraph its intention to bite by way of their body language. Rather than go into all the positions a dog exhibits, I am only going to focus on the “danger signs” to look for and the actions to take when you see them.

The Tail

When dogs are fearful, they will tuck their tail between their rear legs. When you see this behavior, it is not the time to try to initiate physical contact with a dog. Allow the dog to relax and get comfortable with your presence before attempting contact with the dog.


Posture is probably the best indicator of a dog's intention. With this in mind, we need to take special care to observe an unfamiliar dogs posture when approaching, or being approached by a dog we don't know. Here is a general break down of the posture positions to look for.

Squared Off

This position indicates an aggressive dominant dog particularly if the dog appears to be “frozen” and making eye contact.

Tense and Low

A dog that has its front end low to the ground and appears to be tense (muscles tightened) is exhibiting aggressive fear.


Hackles are the hair located between the shoulder blades and at the rear of the dog. When these hairs are raised, aggression is likely. Eye contact from the dog is generally made. It is fear and/or dominance based in nature.


Vocalization is one of the areas I think we as humans can learn from dogs. Let's face it, dogs only vocalize when absolutely necessary in most cases. I can think of several people I wish would emulate this behavior.


Generally, a dog will only whine when they are hurt, or they have a need they desperately need fulfilled.


Yipping can generally be associated with a high prey drive. The last thing you want to do is run from a yipping dog.


There are a number of reasons a dog will growl. For instance, my dog growls whenever she hears a car drive up the road to the house. There is no immanent danger; she is simply letting me know someone is coming. Once they pull in, she immediately stops and goes to the door to say hello.

Growling can be done in two ways. With teeth and without. Personally, I don't worry too much about the without teeth growl. When the teeth are showing, I am far more cautious. Regardless of the type, you need to look at the other physical indicators to determine whether the growl is something to be concerned about.


Barking also has a couple of different meanings. Some dogs will bark because they are happy, as a warning or simply to alert their owner something is going on. The tone of the bark is what needs to be paid attention to.

I basically place barking into two different categories. Light and guttural. Light barking is what a dog does when you get home after being gone all day. It is basically a “Hi, good to see ya” type of thing. Guttural barking comes from low in the chest and is often combined with a growl. This is the, “I'm gonna fix you” growl and should make you stop in your tracks.

Over the last two weeks, we have looked at the reason dogs bite and the physical indicators that a dog is about to become aggressive. Next week, we are going to address the confrontation. This is when you know or believe you are about to be bit and the actions you can take to protect yourself and or minimize the injury that may result. Remember, when all else fails, use common sense and keep your cool.

This article may be republished using the following attribution box:
Copyright ©2004 Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies
Subscribe to the BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter: subscribe@Master-Dog-Training.com
VISIT NOW: http://www.Master-Dog-Training.com

Quote of the Week

The other day I saw two dogs walk over to a parking meter. One of them says to the other, "How do you like that? Pay toilets!"

~ Dave Starr ~


Boston Terriers
Boston Terriers

The Boston Terrier (BT), also known as the Boston, or Bossie, has always been a favorite of mine in the “small” dog category. I really don't have one specific reason. It could be their whimsical expressions or the powerful look their bodies exhibit. Of the ones I have known, none have had the “complexes” associated with other smaller dogs.

If the BT were to have a label, it would clearly say, “Made in the USA.” As the name implies, it originated in Boston, Massachusetts around 1865 when the employees of wealthy citizens began to cross breed the dogs of their owners. While it is an American breed, their creation comes from several European breeds.

Believe it or not, BT's were actually bred down from pit fighting dogs and terriers and originally weighed as much as 46 pounds. (21 kg.) One such dog, a cross between the now extinct English White Terrier and the English bulldog, was named Hooper's Judge who weighed around 30 pounds. (14 kg.) He was bred to a smaller female and one of their offspring to yet another smaller female. Their offspring were bred to a couple of French Bulldogs essentially establishing the foundation for the BT.

The breed was first shown in 1870 and by 1893 they had established enough of a presence to be recognized by the AKC.

These muscular and well-defined little dogs have a distinctive face with a short, wide muzzle, dark, large round eyes set far apart, and small, fine, erect ears. They have a broad, flat head without wrinkles and a short, square muzzle leading to an ample black nose. Its neck is slightly arched and its chest is broad. 

Despite their lineage, the BT today shows little aggressive tendency. However, some males can be a little edgy if they feel their territory is being invaded. All and all, they extremely smart, alert and kind. While they can be occasionally mischievous, they are generally very well mannered.

BT's do not need a strong hand when it comes to training and behavior modification. They can be a little sensitive to strong verbal commands and their intelligence and desire to learn/please generally makes harsh corrections unnecessary. They aren't a particularly noisy dog like many of their smaller brethren either.

This is a good family dog. They are said to be good with respectful children and people of all ages. In fact, if I were looking for a breed to be a therapy dog, they would be very near the top of the list. They enjoy playing, affection and being an intricate part of the family. They will do well with other non-canine family pets.

They range in size from 14-17 inches (38 – 42 cm.) and weigh between 12 and 24 pounds. (5 – 11 kg.) They have a life expectancy of fifteen years. They will do well both in an apartment (with proper exercise) and also in a rural setting.

When properly bred, the BT is a relatively hearty and healthy dog. Boston Terriers are prone to a few genetic problems that reputable breeders are trying to “breed out” such as Juvenal cataracts, deafness and luxating patellas.

Like many short-snouted dogs, one must take care not to over exert the breed in extremely cold or hot weather as it can create breathing difficulties and can overheat is overworked. Their large eyes can be susceptible to injuries but this would be the fault of the owner rather than a “genetic” defect.

Breeding of the BT should be left to a professional breeder with a strong knowledge of the breed. This is due to the narrow pelvis of the female and the large head of the puppies. As a result, most litters have to be delivered cesarean section.

The smooth, short-haired coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush with a firm bristle brush and bathe only when necessary. Wipe the face with a damp cloth every day and clean the prominent eyes carefully. Check both the ears and eyes for grass seeds. Ticks may also lurk in the ears. The nails should be clipped from time to time. Boston Terriers do not have an undercoat so shedding is minimal

Recently, I went to meet a friend, who breeds and shows BT's at a dog show. As I wandered the grounds looking for my friend, I had the opportunity to meet numerous BTs that were being shown. They absolutely cracked me up. Their obvious intelligence and sense of humor convinced me that if Robin Williams were to become a dog tomorrow, there is a good chance he would be a Boston Terrier.

Mail Bag

Someone forwarded me the newsletter you wrote about BSL and aggressive behavior.  It was a fantastic read.  I do rescue and tend to gravitate towards Pitbulls/Am Stafs.  After reading your newsletter, I can further understand certain types of aggression and certain things make far more sense now. 

Thank you.
Linda Bober


Your most recent newsletter is great.  (10/29/04) I especially like the admonition to everyone to keep their dogs from being aggressive.  I used to think that acting nervous when someone would approach me would give the dog a positive feedback about protection, but as I grew older, I realized that it had the opposite effect.  You put into words exactly what I had learned by the seat of my pants!! 

Augie Greenwell

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Joke of the Week

Dog at the Movies

A man running a little behind schedule arrives at a picture theater, goes in to watch the movie that has already started, and as his eyes adjust to the darkness, he is surprised to see a dog sitting beside its master in the row ahead, intently watching the movie.

It even seemed to be enjoying the movie: wagging its tail in the happy bits, drooping its ears at the sad bits, and hiding its eyes with its paws at the scary bits. After the movie, the man approaches the dog's owner, "Jeez mate, your dog really seemed to enjoy the movie. I'm amazed!"

"Yes, I'm amazed also," came the reply. "He hated the book."

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Thank You For Reading!  Have a Terrific Week!

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The Legal Mumbo-Jumbo

The BARK 'n' SCRATCH Newsletter is published by Christopher Aust Copyright © 2004 All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted without the express written consent of the publisher or contributors.

We accept no responsibility for your use of any contributed information contained herein. All of the information presented in BARK 'n' SCRATCH is published in good faith. Any comments stated in this newsletter are strictly the opinion of the writer or publisher.

We reserve the right to edit and make suitable for publication, if necessary, any articles published in this newsletter. We reserve the right to publish all reader comments, including the name of the writer.

Christopher Aust, Master Dog Trainer & Creator:
The Natural Cooperative Training System (NCTS) for Dogs
The Instinctual Development System (IDS) for Puppies

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