While the number of reported canine attacks on people and other dogs has risen in Finland, the Finnish Kennel Club (FKC) opposes outright bans on particular breeds.
Norway, Denmark and other countries have forbidden the ownership of some breeds traditionally used as fighting dogs, such as American pit bull terriers and American Staffordshire terriers (known as Amstaffs). The UK has outlawed pit bull terriers as well as some Japanese, Argentinean and Brazilian breeds.
Such bans are nearly impossible to enforce, argues FKC chair Harri Lehkonen. Instead, he suggests, owning certain breeds could be subject to permit.
“Many countries require some kind of licence to own certain types of dogs. In Spain, for instance, people with criminal records are barred from having certain breeds. And owners of these dogs are also required to have liability insurance,” Lehkonen explained on Yle TV1’s breakfast show on Wednesday.
“Dogs are seen as children"
Lehkonen says that the increasing number of reported attacks is partly due to the simple fact that there are more dogs than ever in the country, about 700,000.
A dog’s behaviour is influenced by its training, personality, genes and the situation. The responsibility always lies with people, though, says Lehkonen.
Every dog owner must ensure basic obedience and be able to control their pet in any situation, he adds.
Attacks can also be explained by human neglect, says Liisa Tikka, who trains ‘problem dogs’ and their owners.
“Owners don’t understand their own ability to control the dog, or they put the dog into the wrong hands,” she said on the Aamu-tv chat show.
Another problem is that dogs are treated like children, says Katriina Tiira, an animal behaviour researcher at the University of Helsinki.
“It’s difficult to remember that they have big teeth and a powerful bite force,” Tiira told Yle.
Sometimes, no warning sign
She emphasised that a dog’s behaviour can vary greatly in different situations, depending for instance on what other dogs are around. Some breeds tend to be sociable with people, but aggressive toward other dogs, while some have the reverse tendency – even suddenly turning on their owners at times.
As a result of breeding, some dogs have a low attack threshold, Tiira notes.
"Then they may not necessarily show all the signals that are usually related to aggression and which give others an opportunity to retreat,” she adds.