What could have triggered dog attack on baby? 

A police officer from the Canine Unit and his dog man security at a function in Kampala. A Police dog trainer says aggressiveness of dogs towards familiar people can be caused by inconsistent and improper training. PHOTO/FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Rabies virus infection is a trigger of aggressiveness in dogs or their violent attacks on owners.

Ugandans, especially the middle-income category, are increasingly owning exotic breed dogs as the first line of defense mainly at night amid rising burglary and other crimes in towns and cities.

However, a March 18 incident in which police said a domesticated dog unexpectedly broke loose from its kennel in broad daylight and killed a child of the owner, a medical doctor, has raised questions as to whether the risk is worth the safety benefits.

The dog in question was a Rottweiler breed, according to investigators, who said it was killed after it struck the baby boy and also bit the caretaker house-help whom police took into custody to assist with investigations following the incident. 

A Rottweiler dog breed has black and brown patches and can weigh up to 100kgs. They are big, muscular and strong, making them suitable for home security, according to police and other dog trainers.

A Rottweiler dog. Photo/Courtesy

Dog breeders and trainers told Monitor on March 19 that although some dog breeds are known to be more aggressive than others, any dog can become violent depending on its training and subsisting welfare.

“What I can say about the incident [in Wakiso where a dog allegedly killed a child] is that we make grave mistakes in the way we keep dogs,” said Ms Nada Andersen, the chairman of Canine Association Uganda. 

“First of all, dogs have to have living conditions that will make them comfortable and feel secure, feel loved and cared for,” she said. 

She added: “Then in training, people make huge mistakes, handing their own dogs to different trainers who take the dogs away and use God-knows-what methods of training. Usually, it is choking, beating, scaring the dogs, making them aggressive.”

Police said the dog reportedly killed the baby boy of Dr Andrew Obuku, the brother of former Uganda Medical Association president, Dr Okwaro Obuku, on Monday in Canaan Estate, Mawugulu Cell, Katabi Town Council in Wakiso District 

Police said the incident happened when the boy’s parents had left him in the custody of their newly recruited housemaid.

Interrogators said the hour-help told them that the victim was on the house porch while she worked away, only to rush when she saw the dog approach to pounce on the baby. 

The house-help told police she grabbed the child, but the dog repeatedly dug its fangs into the child’s body, leaving him for dead.

“The maid tried to struggle with the dog, but it overpowered her and it bit the boy’s head badly. It also [bit] the maid [in the] thigh. The maid made a continuous alarm and when the dog killed the boy, it went back to its kennel,” police said in Tuesday’s statement. 

Police said its officers who went to the scene found that “the dog badly bit the boy’s head”, which suggested to them it may have been infected following testimony by neighbours that the dog had been hostile and previously attempted to bite them. 
“The dog’s house was not well-fixed, which gave it a chance to sneak out. The doctor’s house is ever locked at the gate, which made it hard for the neighbours to rescue the situation,” the law enforcement agency noted.

Dr Martin Mugume, the commandant of the Police Canine Unit, said as someone who has trained dogs for more than 18 years, the aggressiveness of dogs towards familiar people can be caused by inconsistent and improper training that is usually done by amateur and or non-professional trainers. 

He said stressful environments such as poor housing and generally poor care of the dogs can lead to stress.

“Mishandling of the dog like throwing objects at it, improper and inappropriate discipline is usually in dogs that have not been properly socialised from when they are puppies, dogs that are neglected or [suffer from] underlying medical conditions, which attack people,” Dr Mugume said. 

He cited rabies virus infection as one trigger of aggressiveness in dogs or their violent attacks on owners.

Mr Jessy Muwakanya, a dog breeder and trainer from Roar Dog Breeders and Trainers in Seguku off Entebbe Road, said some breeds of dogs are “naturally unruly and aggressive and wild even if you try to tame it” and may attack the owner and other people unprovoked.

“This can include Kangal [Shepherd Dog], the Tibetan Mastiff [and] there are different breeds. In the United States, they banned Rottweilers and Pitbull terriers because they are unruly,” he said.

Dr Mugume, on the other hand, advised that people intending to keep dogs must select purpose-specific breeds. 

“Don’t select a breed that is genetically known to be aggressive. Rather, select breeds known to be friendly such as Labrador retrievers and Albanian [Shepherd dogs],” he said.

“Always contact a technical person to help you choose a dog while keeping dogs for the first time or if you are not familiar with dogs. It is better to take in a home a dog when it’s young, like 12 weeks to six months when you can easily socialise and shape the behaviour of the dog,” said Dr Mugume.

He added: “Create a calm and secure environment that is less stressful such as a cool place, less noisy, proper housing with proper ventilation, feeding and general care.”