Guard dogs protect owners but pose risks

Marques Phillips

Aggressive dogs can be deterrents to potential criminals and make their owners feel safe. 

Authorities and dog lovers, however, debate how proper it is to train a dog that way. 

“A dog will take to the training you give it,” Utica Police Deputy Chief Pasquale Benzo said. “If you want to use a dog for self–defense, you’ve got to be very careful. A dog could be vicious or even deadly.” 

Benzo cautioned that an owner could be charged for the actions of his or her dog. In fact, his officers have had to kill guard dogs from time to time when they pose threats to the safety of an officer. 

Kathy Contino-Turner, executive director of the Stevens-Swan Humane Society in Utica, questions whether it’s necessary to make a dog aggressive in order for it to be a deterrent for crime. 

“Do you need an animal to attack?” she asked. “Don’t forget this is abuse we’re talking about. Do you need to mistreat a dog? Dogs are pack animals. They’ll be loyal no matter what.” 

As a dog trainer, Patty Ferreira of Middleville said positive reinforcement is the only way she recommends family dogs be trained. 

“That kind of thing is best left to law enforcement,” she said. “They have a specialty. Dogs are loyal and terriers are aggressive. My opinion is you don’t want to enhance those qualities.” 

Benzo said even police dogs aren’t usually called upon to attack. They’re normally used to sniff out drugs. 

State police Capt. Frank Coots has also had to deal with vicious dogs, but said he doesn’t believe he’s in a position to say how someone should structure a dog’s disposition. 

“I hate to tell people what to do,” he said. “There are some people who are security-conscious and are looking for their dog to provide some level of security.”