Denial is powerful: People with everything to lose go ahead and lose it because of denial. Others spend the better part of their lives held hostage in bad situations by the strength of their denial. And owners of aggressive dogs are among the most seriously afflicted.

My husband is in denial that his dog is dangerous. The dog has attacked seven dogs, two of which were seriously injured. He has growled, lunged and nipped at several people. He escapes from the yard and barks at the children at the school across the street. This weekend, he nipped and growled at my friend's 17-month-old daughter. I have an infant and am very worried.

His dog grew up in a very rural area with a pack of somewhat wild dogs. Since we have lived in town, his aggression has grown worse. I'm scared and have to convince my husband to get rid of the dog for safety as well as liability reasons. Just trying to figure out how to break through his denial.

They have three choices:

1. Get rid of the dog.

2. Get rid of the husband.

3. Get rid of the infant.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs bite approximately 4.7 million people a year in this country. The majority of dog-bite victims are children, as are about 80 percent of the 15 to 20 dog-bite fatalities each year.

The key to breaking through denial is realizing what you have to lose: your house, your homeowners insurance, your spouse, your kids and, if things get really out of control, possibly your freedom for five to seven years.

What are this man's options? He asked me, "Do I have to put my dog down?"

No, he could also lock him up and keep him away from all people and animals for the rest of his life. But what kind of life is that?

This is why early training is so important, even for dogs growing up in rural areas. As was the case with this family, what happens when "somewhat wild" dogs are packed up and moved to suburbia? Or the inner city? What happens when they suddenly find themselves residing in a school zone? What happens when you decide to add a baby to the household?

"But I love my dog" is always the answer.

No one loves dogs more than I do. But what happens when the dog you love mauls an infant? Knowing everything you do about that dog, you'll know you could've done something. You'll know you could've prevented it. Not for the love of every adorable, slobbering, playful pooch in the world is that something I could live with.


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.