Aggressive Dogs

Parent Q&A

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  • Attack dogs in neighborhood

    (4 replies)

    Are people in Berkeley allowed to have dogs specifically trained to attack people? Someone recently moved into the neighborhood with several very menacing dogs. They are fenced and there are warning signs saying that they will attack. I walked by the sidewalk the other day and a Doberman flew at the fence barking at me which scared the daylights out of me. I no longer walk by with my kids because I’m scared the dogs would kill us if the gate were left open.

    Are people allowed to have these attack dogs? Are there any requirements for how they are kept? (Interested in preventative rules not post-bite documentation.) I grew up with dogs and like them quite a bit, but I also value feeling safe in my neighborhood and walking on city sidewalks.

    There's no regulation about having those signs.  You, me, and anyone could buy them at a number of pet stores or online. 

    Sounds like the dogs are just jerks and have a ton of barrier aggression. 

    As to if there are any dog restrictions in Berkeley?  No.  But anyone with dogs with real bite or protection training doesn't let them act like jerks at a fence line.

    For example, my dogs, including two working breeds, are only allowed in our backyard with has a 6-foot wood privacy fence and the gate it double bolted.  The folks down the street have three mixes that have never left the backyard and pitch a fit behind a chain-link fence 24/7.

    If you have concerns, you should call the BPD non-emergency line at 981-5900 and they can route your call to Animal Services.

    Sorry you have to deal with this. Some dogs can be very scary behind a fence.   I have heard that people who deliver mail and some people and meter readers sometimes carry a "Dazer II".  It is an ultrasonic dog repellent.  Humans cannot hear it but dogs are usually surprised by the "sound" and will stop barking.   We got a Dazer because our dog has a high prey drive and was barking thru the fence.  The Dazer is distracting enough for her to look at us for re-direction.  

    I'm not sure about the answer as to whether people are allowed to have "attack dogs" (my guess is no), but if you are concerned I would suggest you call Berkeley Animal Care Services and ask to speak to an animal control officer about this. They are awesome and will definitely have some answers/advice. I'd also talk with the neighbors about it perhaps?

    I'm pretty sure I know the house and dogs you are referring to and I share your concerns.  I also had a scary experience last week walking by that house and, all of a sudden, the large dogs (no owners in sight) came racing up to the fence, barking loudly.  If someone were to put their fingers through the fence, which would be easy to do, I am concerned they might get bitten.  I now cross the street to avoid that house if the dogs are there.

  • My Dog Bit a Neighbor

    (5 replies)

    Hi, I want to know if there is anyone out there who had a dog that bit the neighbor and their dog (or similar). I need guidance, both financially and politically. I feel terrible about what has happened and want to do the right thing, but our homeowners insurance won't cover this. Do I hire an attorney? We surrendered our dog to the city (she was a rescue we got from the city pound 3 weeks ago. there was no indication she was aggressive at all. but we were wrong) and are taking all the right steps - we think. But I can tell from my few conversations w the neighbor that there is going to be big problems ahead and I'm nervous. Any advice/suggestions would be helpful. Thanks. 

    First off -my heart goes out to you! What a terrible situation to be in! And it causes heartache and conflicts in so many ways - not to speak of needing to surrender the dog to the city. I can only imagine how hard that must have been.

    Alas, I don't have much to offer in terms of advice - I would call the city pound to see what they recommend (they did a temperament test, right?). And I commend you for taking responsibility and trying to do the right thing with your neighbor. Keeping fingers crossed that it will all work out for you! 

    What an awful story. As a dog owner, I just wanted to thank you for doing the right thing. Good luck to you.

    I'd probably stop talking to the neighbor about it. Offer to pay their out of pocket medical expenses and leave it at that. I don't think that they would win in a lawsuit unless you had reason to believe that the dog would bite. And it seems like you have the shelter to get your back on that one.

    You're not Marjorie Knoller, don't let your neighbor bully you into thinking that you are.

    If the neighbor or his dog were significantly injured, you should consult a lawyer (mainly to find out if there is liability on the city's part for adopting out this dog). If the injuries were minor, you should just offer to pay all vet bills/medical costs. I don't think you should worry too much that your neighbor will be able to sue you for money beyond actual costs. (This is just common sense; what can s/he sue you for? But if you are really worried about it, it might be worth spending a few hundred dollars to consult with an attorney....) Regardless, you should express to your neighbor that you feel terrible and that you will do whatever you can to make sure they are "made whole".

    I have not been in your shoes, but I work with dogs and have been bitten on several occasions. Even though it is a risk of my job that I accept fully, I have still felt animosity toward those particular pet-owners! It is VERY scary to be attacked by a dog. Your neighbor may seem unreasonable to you right now, but try to remember that they are a victim here (assuming there isn't another side to this story, like the other dog was also aggressive...) Their emotional state may be a continuation of the "fight or flight" that kicked in during the episode itself, and it's being directed at you now. Do your best to let them know you want to make it right... and then do your best to make it right. 

    I am so sorry for your situation and can tell that you feel horrible about it. But before you beat yourself up even more, consider this: YOU weren't wrong about the dog not being aggressive. The city was. From my personal experience I believe that many agencies are making big money adopting out dogs that have been traumatized and are not fit to be thrown into a typical household but rather need careful reintegration that is beyond the scope of the average person. While the dog may have felt safe with your family, the neighbor may have felt threatening to the dog so that's why you didn't see any warning signs. I adopted a dog from the City of Oakland that I had for several months that acted skittish sometimes but then out of nowhere brutally attacked a dog walking by when minutes before he had been sitting at my feet at a neighborhood outdoor cafe. I adopted a dog years later from Milo that jumped up and snapped at my nephew's face who was walking by as he was sleeping. I turned in a stray dog to Marin SPCA that I had been hoping to keep until I saw it was aggressive to other dogs and then saw it posted as available for adoption a few days later. So be aware of their liability. Your dog's aggression did not begin when you adopted it 3 weeks ago.  Also consider that any dog is capable of biting just like bees sting and skunks spray. It's all a form of self protection. Consider what the neighbor's actions were that may have looked innocent enough but made the dog feel cornered/threatened. When I was young I stupidly hugged a dog that I did not know that well and it bit me in the ear as it tried to pull away. Hope this info helps. It seems that you've already done the key thing which was to surrender the dog. If the injuries are minimal, it should blow over once they heal.  Maybe paying their medical bills is all that is needed to resolve it? It may be painful in the short run but better than getting into a big lawsuit situation.

    Don't delay with making apologies and working towards resolution.  As someone on the flip side, my grandmother was bit by 2 neighbor dogs at the same time and the bites were pretty horrific.  Initially the neighbors pretended nothing happened and kept their dogs in the house and their curtains closed. It wasn't until we sent them a legal letter that they finally took action and covered the cost of the doctor visits etc and maybe some extra for pain and suffering, which my grandmother donated to charity.  The letter could have been avoided had they apologized upfront and acknowledged they were in the wrong.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews


My dog knocked into someone - liability?

Oct 2011

I'm looking for some guidance on finding a lawyer to talk to (preferably cheaply or for free) about an incident that might have involved my dog. On Crissy Fields beach a woman was knocked down by one of several dogs who were running together, my dog was among them. She seemed to have hurt her knee, we went over immediately to make sure she was ok, see if we could help. None of the other owners did so. Her father asked me for my name and address, and (feeling uneasy about it, but feeling it was the right thing to do) I gave it to him. Now I'm terrified that I'm going to be held responsible for her medical costs, even though the dog (whichever one it was) didn't attack her, or even jump up at her, they just knocked into her. Anyway, I'd like to know one way or another if I'm responsible. Any ideas on who I should talk to? worried dog owner

you did the right thing to give the father your name and address. You actually have no choice, either, as you are legally responsible for the actions of your dog. You MUST give your name and address if it is your dog. There's really no advice anyone can give you since you are on the defense side, not the plaintiff side, so there's nothing you can do but respond if they contact you. THEN you ask for advice. As a dog owner, if there were other dogs involved, I don't think you have anything to worry about. The very worst scenario is they COULD ask you to pay for her medical bills, but I think that is a far stretch at this point. If I were you, I would write down all the details you can remember NOW, any friends/family who were with you, time of day, etc, just to note the details as we forget these things as time goes on. Paralegal pet owner

Worried about an aggressive dog attack

April 2011

I recently heard more and more about aggressive dogs on a loose attacking innocent dogs and their walkers. The latest news caused the victim dog to be euthanized which really scared me.

I am a new dog owner and have recently adopted a dog about four months ago. I will try my best to avoid any aggressive dogs, but sometimes they can come out charging really fast. Any advice on how to deal with the situation if that happens to me while walking my dog? There is a citronella spray, and I am not sure if that is a good idea. Pepper spray might not be legal?

I really appreciate any advice/ recommendations.

I'm actually interested in the responses you get from this question as this issue has recently become my newest pet peeve. I have a very well behaved, very submissive almost two year old Bernese Mountain Dog that gets attacked regularly by aggressive dogs. There are a TON of people with bad dogs in the area and I have particular trouble up in Tilden and Redwood parks, but not so much at Point Isabel. I find it very offensive and troubling that I have to constantly accommodate other peoples' bad dogs that they don't or didn't take the time to train appropriately as I spent a lot of time to train my dog. I too have considered pepper spray but am also afraid of possible consequences. One thing I will say that helped a little, but not much, was getting our dog neutered. It cut the attacks down by say 25%. I don't want to, but if my dog gets attacked badly enough I plan on reporting the aggressive dog to the authorities and suing the owner if necessary. Annoyed with bad dog owners.

last week, my dog & i were attacked at alameda dog park by a 175-200lb english mastiff named ''violet''(not pitbull); unbelievably terrifying. we're mostly okay but i got bit and have a tweaked knee, very lucky. woman/owner left without leaving contact information. really sucks.

1) alameda police department advised me that pepper spray IS LEGAL as long as it is the over-the-counter variety (not the law enforcement type). so i am now carrying it with me at all times while out with my dog. officer did state that i could be held legally responsible for misuse of the spray.

all i can say is, if i suffer another attack like that, i will take my medicine later about the spray. simply said, i thought we both were going to the ER or worse.

2) it's important to get back on the horse. my first day back to the dog park i had a horrible fear reaction to a huge pitbull (a big 'ol lovebug). dog's are keen at sensing fear and can feed on that, so i have gone back every day to work on eliminating those feelings for my own long term safety.

3) don't ignor red flags. violet had roughed up a smaller dog previous to our attack. next time i will leave or at least stay far away from dogs that exhibit ANY unreasonable/unchecked aggression.

4) i avoid dog parks on weekends. seems to bring out more amateur weekend warriers who don't have a handle on their dogs. plus if you get to know the regulars, they have your back.

5) if attacked or witness an attack, use phone to call 911 and photograph owner. try to get license plate if owner leaves. bites need to go on dog's record, so animal control can work with owner to get proper training minimally, and to determine rabies status. (i was too shook up to do this, and thought she would return after putting her dog in the car... stupid me)

6) make sure your own dog has impeccable recall training. that way he/she will come to you fast in case you need to leave a bad situation. sam and k-dog

A baseball bat or golf club works for me. If your not the athletic type most bicycle shops sell Halt which contains the active ingredient of chili peppers. The spray is in a stream so it can be aimed. Most mailcarriers have it as standard issue.

signed, strike three you're out

It is no wonder that dog bites are the number one source of injuries in the East Bay Regional Parks. It is no wonder that it is very hard to keep goats, sheep, and young cattle safe from dogs anywhere near town. There are electronic devices that supposedly will stop a dog attack through a high frequency sound. You might look into that. I would have that AND pepper spray in case the sound did not work. dog free

Neighbor's Dog Charging my Toddler

April 2004

I don't know if I am making a big deal out of nothing, or if my neighbor's dog is too aggressive and potentially dangerous to my kids. I know absolutely nothing about dogs. Our neighbor has a dog/mutt that is part husky and part I-don't-know- what...... He is long haired, black and about 3' high....probably 75ish he is not a small dog. He is about 4 years old so is no longer a puppy.

A year ago the dog nipped at my toddler's face with no nothing....just a sudden lurching towards my son's face. We were all standing very close to the dog and the dog had a chew bone in it's mouth. I guess my kid was too close to the dog. (I know, I know---Believe me-I've learned my lesson!) Since my toddler's lip was bleeding, my docter insisted that I take him in to Children's hospital. They concluded that it was minor and required no further action. They wanted, however, to report the dog bite but we decided to avoid doing so since 1-the harm was minor, 2-I felt partially responsible since we were on their side of the front yard obviously too close to a dog with a bone in its mouth, 3- we didn't want to unnecessarily damage neighborly relations, and 4-this was the first time anything happened and we didn't believe the dog was dangerous. I communicated all of this to my neighbors (who have 2 older kids) and requested they no longer allow the dog off leash in the front yard, where we often play. (Does the dog now think he has domination over my toddler because of the nip/biting attempt?) They seemed grateful we didn't report the dog and indicated that they'd keep him on leash. Months later, the dog was running around off leash again.

(Yes-it is against Richmond City ordinances to let a dog off leash and it is also against my homeowner's association's CC I guess this didn't mean anything to them).

Months after the biting/nipping incident, the dog - yes off leash -(again in the front yard) began barking and charged me while I was in my house closing the front window. Again the neighbor witnessed it. After I complained again, they agreed to keep the dog on leash, although they made it clear to me that they weren't happy with the arrangement.

Today I was in the back yard with my toddler and he was playing at the fence line. This same dog came barking and charging over to my toddler who back away from the fence....think god his hand wasn't playing though the fence. The owner witnessed this and called the dog away from the fence. I said nothing except to get my toddler away from the fence line. Should I be worried about this act of aggression or is this simply dog behaviour that needs to be tolerated?

This incident makes me feel like I cannot allow my children to play in the backyard without my vigilent presence. isn't that ridiculous? I am getting fed up and don't know if my intolerance is due to ignorance of dog behaviour or if this dog is too aggressive and should be dealt with more proactively (If so-what would that be?) I would like feedback before I approach my neighbors again.

Should I plant something thorny all along the long fence line? Get a rotweiler? I don't want to make a big deal out of nothing, but at the same time, I don't want to feel aggressed upon by some stupid dog when I am in my own backyard. If I didn't have kids, I'd probably be less motivated to follow up on this. Any comments or suggestions are truely appreciated! anon for now

The dog is aggressive and should be reported immediately. You have been more than patient with the owners (certainly more than I would be!) but the fact that that this dog has charged you, bitten your child, charged the fence at your child, etc. is pretty scary.

Here's a true story: My mom lives next to a family who has a history of owning aggressive, big dogs. They have always kept their dogs on leash when out of their yard. Last month their bull mastiff, who has never had a history of aggression, attacked his owner. He was on a choke leash, which probably was the only thing that saved the owner's life. The man is well over 6 feet and around 200 pounds, but the dog knocked him down and went for his throat. The owner's arm (which was protecting his throat) was bitten through to the bone, his thigh had a chunk taken out of it, and he will need surgery to repair the damage done to his hand. He attacked completely out of the blue.

The reason this is so scary to me is that there is a park and a school nearby, so kids are walking around all the time. We visit all the time with our own children, who are 3 and 5, and often met the dog on his walk. This dog was on a leash when he attacked, and he surprised the owner so that he fell. Who's to say whether he would have attacked a child? Luckily my mother's neighbor is okay. I'm sad to say that he had to put the dog down, which does make me sad because it seems like a waste of a life. For general safety however it was the right thing to do. It looks to me like you have had plenty of warnings and second chances with this dog. For the safety of your family I would report the dog immediately. Laurel

Well, some of this dog's behavior could be categorized as ''typical.'' Certainly most dogs will be territorial and guard their territory by charging and barking. However, this dog sounds as if he is doing more than just that--and nipping your child until he bleeds, however minor, is NOT okay. Your neighbors are what I, as a dog owner, would consider to be irresponsible dog owners. Their dog has not been properly socialized. The dog should have been ''introduced'' to your family, made to sit and be greeted and petted by every one, and every single act of agression toward you should be met with a firm ''NO'' (and more socialization behavior) until the dog gets the message that he is not to act aggressively toward you. I have two dogs and make sure that my dogs meet all the neighbors in my building (5 apartments). I am with them at all times when they are in the back yard. They have been well socialized, so they are good about being friendly to people that walk up. The youngest will still bark and charge the window when she's inside the apartment and some one walks by outside, but otherwise, she's very well behaved. You should definitely be concerned, these dog owners don't seem know enough about dogs, either and are not teaching theirs well. dog lover

As a dog owner, let me assure you from my experience you are dealing with an aggressive dog. It sounds like you have been more than accomodating with the neighbor and it's time to put your foot down and INSIST that the dog be on leash at all times. Otherwise, report the incident right away to local animal authority. Please do not risk your child (or yourself) being injured again or more seriously. I had to have a ''chat'' with my neighbor just the other day--for the second time in as many days, her dog snapped at my 2 year old when she went up to the fence that borders our properties. I marched over there after it happened and we reacquainted the dog and my daughter again so this hopefully won't happen again. I know that her dog is her ''baby'', but my daughter's wellbeing is more important and would not hesitate to report the dog to animal welfare if it EVER happens again. (I would also not hesitate to take more drastic measures if animal control is unresponsive.) love dogs, but love my kid more

Dog ownership in cities -- it's a can of worms. People have very strong feelings on both sides of the issue. There are many careful and thoughtful dog owners out there -- but there are also a number of thoughtless people who do not keep their dogs under control. When I go running at the Albany shoreline park, for instance, most of the dogs (all running off-leash) do not bother me. They stay near their owners or are under their owners' control. But at least five or six times dogs have pursued me, jumped up and scratched me with muddy claws, run in front of me so that I almost fell, etc., while their owners conversed (a couple of times on the phone!). As a result I am always nervous when I see the dogs, even when I know that most times there will be no problem. And I am not afraid of dogs under normal circumstances; I have owned a dog (on the farm) and like them as a general rule. I can just imagine how people must feel who are afraid of dogs. They would not be able to go running at the shore! Once a woman with a dog explained to me (quite seriously) that I should not let my child ride his bike on the paved shore path because ''it upsets the dogs and they might chase him.'' Priorities? I would go to the neighbors and tell them that you respect their desire and right to have a dog and that you want to be a good neighbor to them. But the situation is out of hand from your point of view and they have not listened to repeated requests to control their dog. As them for suggestions about what they might do to improve the situation -- i.e. plant a thorny bush on THEIR side of the fence, keep the dog indoors, etc., and tell them that they must follow through. If there is an ordinance that says that dogs in the front yard must be on leash, then you must demand that. I doubt that you can make the same kind of demands about the backyard, but you can make it clear that the dog must be under control and that you will call the police if the problem continues. people first, dogs second

It does seem as if your neighbor has an aggressive dog. Some of them are that aggressive, especially if they have not been trained not to be (which can be a lot of work, depending on the dog's personality). However, you shouldn't have to tolerate that kind of behavior, as it is dangerous to you and your family. Unfortunately, dealing with undesirable dog behavior can be a big problem. One can report behavior such as aggression or excessive barking many times without getting results, especially if the owner isn't particularly cooperative (I've seen this in my neighborhood). In all seriousness, I might install a fence and/or hedge, if you're not averse to something like this, and if you can't get the owner to -- as he should -- control the dog's behavior. Karen

That dog does not sound typical; it sounds like a danger to your child and you. I think you have been very kind to your neighbor and have tried to resolve things in a neighborly way, and they have taken advantage of you. I think you need to make that formal complaint. It may be too late to press charges about the earlier bite, but you should now call the authorities every time that dog is off-leash, explaining its history. In order to protect your child, you need to take action. Also, the dog may harm some other child, so you would be protecting them too. Remember that dog in San Francisco that killed a woman? If the neighbors had complained sooner she might still be alive. --loves dogs, but not aggressive ones

I have some experience with dogs, we used to have one and have read extensively on the topic. For what I read, this dog is agressive and should be reported. Your neighbors don't seem to care to correct the dog, yes they can do that, or to do something about it. Dogs are trained that no matter wbat human is nearby when they eat, they are not allowed to growl or in any way show territorialism. Now, territorialism is not bad if the person nearby has bad intentions, but not when they are friends, and particularly NOT with small children. Please do report this behavior, you alredy had an incident with this dog. Don't worry about neighborly relations at this point. They don't care, as proven by their behavior. If I were you, I would do it to protect my children and my freedom to play safely in my own yard. Good luck to you. Maria

I have two dogs and a 5 mo. old child. I know dogs and you are right to be concerned. You need to do whatever you have to to get your neighbors to keep their dog away from your child. Ideally, this dog needs to learn that you and your child are alpha (i.e. head of the pack). You would need your neighbors\xc2\x92 consistent support to make this happen. Clearly your neighbors do not get it and this puts you and your child at risk. You may want to consider calling the police or animal control if you see the dog loose again- you have been more than fair to your neighbors and now you need to do what's best for you and your kid. This is a really hard situation- hang in there. Concerned friend of kids and dogs

The dog you are describing is aggressive. That is normal dog behavior but not appropriate. I don't want to scare you but I would ask your neighbor to put the dog on a leash at all times in the front yard and if they do not comply then call animal control. This sounds harsh but this dog is not controlled by its owners and that is a dangerous situation. For the back yard I would put up whatever kind of shrubs you can to give you privacy/safety. You can't really ask the neighbor to leash him in his own back yard. Do not ever let your child play near the dog...even if you are there. I would avoid the dog at all costs. The thing that scares me the most is that the neighbor seems to not be aware or capable of controlling the dog. I have had dogs all of my life and if I had one like the one you describe (and I have in the past) I would keep him away from children and get a qualified trainer to help with aggression. Julie

Report the dog TODAY. I am a dog owner of a dog that is shy with strangers. Never has our dog done ANY of the things this dog has done. This sounds like an aggresive dog. I would go to your local animal control and tell them the whole story, start to finish. Having never reported to animal control I am not sure what they will do, but I would want them to, at a minimum, talk to the dog owner and evaluate the dog. Sounds bad to me, I'm sorry to say. Concerned dog owner

What is not okay (and shouldn't be typical) is your neighbor's attitude and behaviour, and it sounds to me like it is time to drop the idea of maintaining good relations with them- they have failed to do so themselves. There is absolutely no excuse for them letting the dog off leash in the front yard where it can cross the property line and threaten (and/or attack) you. However, according to Nolo Press section ( on dog law, the laws do not mandate any particular arrangements among condominium owners, you have to look to the CCRI's which you say do address that issue. In the back yard separated by a fence, they do have a right to keep a dog of any temperment, but ordinances cover barking problems. If you can make the fence solid enough that your child cannot put his hand through, that would be your best solution. A cheap way to do this is to attach rolled bamboo fencing (lumber stores carry it) to your side- quicker than waiting for a vine to grow.

My suggestion is to write a letter documenting the problem occurances, send it to your homeowners association, and copy it to your neighbor. It does not sound like they can be counted on to keep the dog on leash in the front, and the association may have something to say about the situation in the back also. My own preference in your situation (as a dog lover) would be to make the physical barrier in the back solid enough to assure your safety rather than the dog having to be chained in the back yard. Many people do not provide sufficient exercise for their dogs (contributes a lot to aggression), and it is very sad to see a dog live its life chained up. Your neighbors do not deserve your compassion, but the dog is not responsible for their lousy behaviour and he does. Cecelia

I would report the dog to the authorities--you're far too forgiving to your insensitive neighbors with a dangerous & aggressive dog. The only way we got our neighbor down the street to keep his dog behind the fence was to report when he was out. and another neighbor reported that her dog was bit through the fence. (Oakland) dog control went out and talked to the neighbor, making it clear that he could lose his dog if he didn't keep it under control. I think you've been more patient than I would have--I just kept thinking what that dog could do to my baby, and thought I'd never forgive myself if I let it happen. janet

As a dog owner and a mother of a toddler I have just a couple of things to say... My dog is well behaved and nearly 11, she is off leash in my presence in our yards front and back. After saying this I want to be very clear that no matter how ''good'' a dog may be it is essential to remember that they are animals with instincts to defend themselves, their territory and their people, One should never trust them completely around small children. Saying that, my Toddler has learned and learns every day to be gentle, not to approach a dog she doesn't know without holding my hand, not to go near a dog when they are eating or in your case with a bone in it its mouth. approach from the side and never put your face in a dogs face. My dog is a chow mix and has growled and snapped at kids who run up to her or try to pet/hit her. This is totally natural defensive behavior. I think it is really important to teach kids an appropriate way to act around dogs for everyones safety. Your neighbor's dog sounds a little aggressive but not dangerous. I imagine it could help matters to have a better introduction between dog and kids- no bones or toys present and with gentle voices and hands, the dog may then become used to your kids and stop the aggression. I also think it was good of you not to report the snap/bite. Hopefully your neighbors will work with you on this. Also, often dogs can be more aggressive when restrained with a leash. Just some thoughts- good luck dog and child lover

I've had a lot of dogs, but I don't consider myself an expert. So, the best thiung to do is to talk to an expert. Paul Klein trains dogs at Berkeley Humane, they can probably get you in touch with him. He is very experienced. IMHO, since this dog has been allowed to run around off leash, he is unclear as to exactly where his territory ends. Nor have his owners been responsible in training him to understand it. Be aware that small children can be interpreted as prey by dogs, especially large dogs. Dogs can be dangerous toward people who are not their owners, who they are loyal to and will protect, whether the threat is real or not. Your fear is not overreacting and you do need to get this situation under control. It is unfortunate that you have to deal with dog owners who are not responsible enough to get adequate training for their pet. Talk to Paul, he will give you good advice. Dogman

We had a similar problem with next door neighbors. Big dog off the leash, and 2 little kids. We called the police and they told us to call Animal Control. They will come out and take the dog away if the dog wanders into your yard. Stop being nice, and be aggressive about the safety of your kids. I would rather have my kids safe than have a good relationship with the neighbor but have my kids at risk. Obviously, your neighbors don't get it, and it's up to you to make sure that they do. Anon

we have three dogs and a child. your neighbor's dog is acting very possessive perhaps of his own territory and sees you and your baby as a threat. you've mentioned this to your neighbors already and they themselves have witnessed it. even though they may seem upset at having to tie their dogs up in the front yard when the dogs are playing, they should realize that they are THIS CLOSE to having their dogs taken away by animal control because the dog(s) is exhibiting aggression towards human beings and they as owners aren't always taking precautions against it. Dog-on-dog aggression is normal and fine in dogs, but dog-on-human aggression is NOT fine, if it cannot be corrected. This is dangerous behavior; and this is the kind of dogs that need to be put to sleep. I am not saying that your neighbor's dog is such a dog, but they should be taking more active steps in curbing/teaching their dogs not to be aggressive towards people in general and you in particular. if they can't correct the behavior, then they need to seriously make sure they can keep their dogs in control at all times, whether on their property or outside of their property. as to the dogs being aggressive by your fenceline - your neighbors have a right to do whatever they want on their side of the property and so do their dogs, even if the dogs are barking and lunging on their side of the fence towards you. HOWEVER, they are responsible for having a SECURE fence, because once those dogs get out of their area and into yours, then they are responsible for any damage that their dogs do. if you don't feel comfortable being in the backyard with the kids, i would tell the neigbors so and make them understand that the fence has got to be secure enough for their dogs. other than that, you can't really report them just because the dogs are acting territorial in their own backyard and property. (oh, and for sure make them realize the dogs have to be leashed/tied in the front yard as well). this goes without saying, be responsible parents and don't leave your children out of sight, esp. when they are in the front yard and the dogs are also in their front yard. good luck. anon

This dog is acting aggressively toward you and your child! I can say that because I am the former owner of a dominant, alpha dog, obedience-trained, agility-trained, smart-as-a-whip but meaner- than-hell neutered 80 lb. male dog that we we finally had to put down after 8 years of working with him because of recalcitrant aggressive behavior, especially toward children and small dogs. It took us so long because we really loved the dog who was sweet with us, but we ALWAYS had him on leash and never allowed him outside alone or near children off leash. As much as you don't want to confront your neighbor, you need to do it for your kid's safety. Your neighbor is acting very irresponsibly and I can't believe that his dog has never had another run-in with others in the neighborhood: dogs don't just act that way overnight. Are there other neighbors who have had bad encounters with the dog or could act as witnesses so that you are not the only ''bad guy?'' Too often, owners don't want to admit to the fact that their dogs a capable of doing serious harm, but it is time for a wakeup call. A dog that large can easily permanently injure an adult, not to mention how terribly he could injure a child. And that fact that the dog is coming onto your property to harrass you is just awful. I love dogs, but this could be very dangerous to your family. Call the animal control for your county, and explain the situation and find out what recourse you have now that you have asked the owner several times to obey the law in terms of the dog. Then, contact your neighborhood or homeowners association to find out what their position is. Don't wait, the owner is not doing what he should, and a dog attack can happen in the blink of an eye and you need to protect your child. There are too many signs that the dog is giving to think that his problem behavior is just going to go away. Once you have a plan, know your rights, have the backing of others and something in writing, go and talk to the neighbor with another adult or adults there to support you. Don't let the neighbor bully you like his dog! The law is on your side, especially with the heightened awareness of dog attacks in the Bay Area. Former owner of a sweet but aggressive dog

It doesn't matter whether the dog's behavior is typical or not: it is obviously and manifestly dangerous. I own two dogs but I firmly believe that your child's safety is vastly more important than some dog's ability to roam free and menace you. If you cannot physically isolate the dog from your child by improving or adding fencing, you may want to explore mediation or legal action. The book Neighbor Law by Nolo Press is a good place to start. It is probably available at your local library. David, Berkeley

The behavior of your neighbor's dog is not typical and should not be tolerated! Your child is definitely in danger with your current situation, and you need to act now to prevent a tragedy. The dog is agressive and potentially very dangerous to your toddler. You have several options, and I hope you will pursue them both. The first is to contact Contra Costa Animal Control (call info-they are in Martinez) and report that your neighbor has an agressive dog that is allowed to roam at large. This is against the law. I urge you to call and report it every time you see the dog loose. You should also make a complaint to your HOA since it is against their rules. I don't know how much they can help you, but it is worth a try. Any knowledgeable dog trainer will agree this dog is potentially very dangerous to your toddler, who would be defenseless against a dog attack. Please act today to safeguard your child's safety. You would never forgive yourself if a tragic incident were to occur. p.s. Maybe if you remind your neighbors what a huge (financial) liability their dog is they will keep it in, but I doubt it. -Concerned dog lover and toddler mom

Aggressive Neighborhood Dog

Feb 2001

Does anyone have any experience or advice about Alameda County's animal control office? There is an aggressive dog who lives in my neighborhood and I've contacted animal control on several occasions and haven't gotten anywhere with them. I am repeatedly told I'll be called back but it hasn't happened. When I have recontacted them about these incidents I'm told that someone has contacted the owner but every time I walk by this house this very large doberman continues to come running out into the street barking and growling at me. On the one occasion that I did get the owner to call him off, the dog ignored the owner and trotted farther down the street. Since I enjoy taking walks in my neighborhood with my daughter I find this whole situation scary and frustrating. We're currently staying inside until we can be assured that this dog won't confront us anymore. Any advice on what to do would be appreciated. Thank you!

Call animal control and tell them you are so scared you are thinking about shooting the dog. It worked for us. Maybe you don't want to tell them who you are, and hang up before they trace the call (just kidding!).

Do you live in Berkeley? If so, call the Berkeley Police to report an aggressive dog. I've found this is very effective. (Dog we dealt with was put on house arrest for 10 days and his owners are more careful now.) Kristine

You don't say where you live. Since you mention calling Alameda County Animal Control, I am guessing you live in an unincorporated area. If Animal Control is being unresponsive, I suggest you go up the hierarchy of county government. Alameda County is run by a Board of Supervisors, so you would call the supervisors office and find out who to contact (my Oakland phone book doesn't list a number for the supervisors' office, but there is a general county information number, 272-6399). Plan to make a real nuisance of yourself--write letters, and follow up with phone calls. Also--and this is very important--you must keep a written log of every incident, including date, time, names (or description of dog or person if you don't have names) and a brief factual description of what happened. It's surprising how easy it is to decide not to bother with this; but the information in a well-maintained log is crucial.

We are currently dealing with an aggressive-dog-irresponsible-owner situation in my neighborhood. The city has been very responsive, and Animal Control is doing what they can; but getting real change in this kind of situation is slow and calls for persistence. We are finally to the point where the neighbor's dogs are impounded until he does the necessary things to keep them confined and gets insurance. If you live in Berkeley, I can give you some specific information about getting the city to deal with aggressive dogs. Louise

Someone told me that a neighbor sent a letter to the Supervisor of the district, with the head of animal control's name c.c.'d as well as the head of the local sherriff's office, etc.... I think the idea was that the bureaucrats become afraid of liability and fianlly follow-up. Susan