Dog Aggression Classes and Dog Bite Prevention Week

My friend's black lab Chaos walking with us on the trail.
My friend’s black lab Chaos walking with us on the trail.

Some people are surprised that cats and dogs live happily together when most of us grew up learning they were enemies. We were also taught they were “man’s best friend” and we were to act like their pack leader, keep them in submission and they’ll always obey us.

Assumptions like those have led to a lot of tragedies. We tend to ignore the warnings dogs give us when they feel threatened or frightened because we feel they trust us and they’ll obey us no matter what, often resulting in an aggressive attack to a human or another dog that seems to come with no warning at all.

Most often the victims are children. Every year more than 4.5 million Americans, more than half of them children, are bitten by dogs. “The majority of emergency room treatments for dog bites involve children,” says Dr. Kwane Stewart, chief veterinary officer at American Humane Association. “Studies have also shown that the greatest percentage of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children and unsupervised newborns.”

People and other dogs are not the only victims of dog bites. A couple of weeks ago the Homeless Cat Management Team received a message that a mother cat living outdoors had been killed by a dog, leaving a littler of four neonatal kittens. The kittens are now in a foster home through Pittsburgh CAT, but it’s a reminder that we need to be careful about the boundaries our animals set up for their own safety and understand one animal’s instinctive reaction to another.

For that reason Dog Bite Prevention Week is sponsored each year by the National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition. This year it’s May 17-23. My friend, customer and owner of a compassionate service I use, Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation, has had a few experiences with aggressive dogs, and also handled the after care for a few dogs who were mauled by other dogs. She began sponsoring Dog Aggression and Canine Body Language classes in 2012, a has two classes scheduled for June. Below is the press release I’ve written for her about these classes. If you’re local, plan on attending—she sponsors these classes as a public service and they are free to the public, though an RSVP is required.

. . . . . . .

Dog Aggression Education Classes Sponsored by Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation

Penny Layne explains how to fend off a dog bite in her class.
Penny Layne explains how to fend off a dog bite in her class.

As part of her tenth year in business Deb Chebatoris of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation is continuing her outreach to pet families by sponsoring two free dog aggression/canine body language classes in June and a pet first aid class at the end of May.

In 2012 Deb Chebatoris, owner of Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation in Bridgeville, was walking her two schnauzers in their own neighborhood when they were suddenly and unexpectedly attacked by a larger, aggressive dog. Both dogs sustained injuries requiring treatment.

“I was very ill-prepared for what happened,” she said. “And I don’t want to see a dog or cat or any pet come to me as the result of an aggressive dog.” While Deb was unhurt she understood that this could have been a tragedy and sponsored very popular canine body language classes in 2013 and 2014, free to the public, so that people would know what to do when approached or attacked by an aggressive dog.

Sadly Deb recently worked with a family whose dog was attacked and mauled by an aggressive dog in an outdoor setting and has scheduled two classes in June.

This year families asked if the classes also covered what to do if your own dog is acting aggressive so Deb responded.  “I’m excited to announce that the dog aggression classes that I am offering in June have been expanded to cover both handling aggression from a strange dog and handling aggression in your own dog,” she said.

While there will be some overlap of information, each class will be aimed at addressing a different issue.

Handling Other Dogs: Dog Aggression and Dog Bite Prevention instructs how to help prevent dog bites and how to handle an aggressive dog that is not your dog.

Classes are two hours long and are taught by Penny Layne of Aunt Penny’s Pet Sitting and Dog Training. They will cover:

  • types of aggression
  • signs of aggression
  • predicting aggression through body language
  • how to prepare for a walk
  • what to do if attacked

The class will also offer some suggestions on how to work with aggressive dogs, but most of the class will focus on recognizing aggression.

Handling Your Dog: Shy, Fearful or Aggressive, Understanding Your Dog’s Trigger instructs how to handle your own dog’s aggression.

  • common triggers that cause dogs to be aggressive
  • how to help your dog control the impulse to bark
  • ways to build confidence in your dog
  • handling and desensitization techniques

The presentation will also discuss best practices when walking your dog.

Saturday, June 13
Handling Other Dogs: Dog Aggression and Dog Bite Prevention
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Bridgeville Public Library

Wednesday, June 24
Handling Your Dog: Shy, Fearful or Aggressive, Understanding Your Dog’s Trigger
7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Bethel Park Library

Classes are free to the public but space is limited and reservations are required. Please call Deb at 412-220-7800 to reserve a space.

Deb works with Penny Layne, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Aunt Penny’s Pet Sitting, Dog Walking & Dog Training Services to design these informative introductory classes which have had over 50 people at a time attending.

Penny’s approach to training dogs has as much—or more—to do with training humans. “It’s all about learning canine body language, or ‘learning to speak “dog” ’, as I call it,” she says. “It’s ‘Human Education for Fur Parents’ because you can’t influence a dog unless you know what the dog is thinking, just like with kids.”

In a case like Deb’s that seemed to “come out of the blue” there would have been warning signals that, with a bit of training, either the aggressive dog’s owner or Deb herself would have known to look for and possibly known what to do to avoid actual physical contact, which is the goal of the introductory classes.

“For instance, with training, a person would notice a particular head turn, or rapid eye blinking in one or both of the dogs,” Penny explained. “If dogs growl, we tell them to stop and we’ve taken away their best and safest means of communication because the bite response is next.”

Unfortunately physical and emotional injuries usually occur and too often dogs considered aggressive are euthanized. Deb’s goal is to avoid these types of euthanasias and receiving the victims of aggressive behavior by giving people tools to reduce or avoid aggression.

Deb’s goal in providing training for people is concurrent with that of Penny’s: “To educate as many people as possible and save dogs’ lives.” To that end, Deb had organized Pet First Aid classes last year as a community service. The Dog Aggression classes are an extension of that educational effort.

Pet First Aid Class

Since June 2011 Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation has sponsored pet first aid classes in the Pittsburgh area. Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation offers these sessions free of charge in an attempt to offer families the skills they can use to help save the life of their dear pet. Deb partnered with Karen Sable, a certified pet CPR and first aid instructor and owner of Pet Emergency Training LLC, to help families learn what to do in the case of a pet life threatening situation.

A 90-minute class on Saturday, May 30 at the Bridgeville Public Library is designed as an introduction for pet owners. Attendees learn about some of the more common situations that might be encountered such as choking, a demonstration of CPR for cats and different breeds of dogs, heat stroke/heat stress/safety precautions about hot weather, plus disaster preparedness including what you need to have on hand in case of a disaster.

This class is held from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. Because space is limited participants must register to attend by calling Deb at 412/220-7800. Please check the Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation website for details as other classes are scheduled.

For new classes and updates, please visit To learn more about Penny Layne and her services, please visit

Also, if you have a group or facility and would like to host a class in Dog Aggression or Pet First Aid, please contact Deb.

Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation.
Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation.

About Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation

Chartiers Custom Pet Cremation provides compassionate and dignified aftercare for domestic pets. Only one person touches your pet, and all cremations are done at Deb’s facility in Bridgeville. The goal and mission is simple: To provide you with a comforting place during a difficult time. Visit for more information or call Deb at 412-220-7800.

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