Canine society takes lead in dog training
The Swiss Canine Society has launched the first national certificate for dog owners, which is to be awarded after the basic training of canines.
The voluntary exam is being introduced a year after a six-year-old boy was mauled to death by pitbull terriers as he walked to school near Zurich.
At a news conference in Bern on Monday, the society said the aim was to ease the tensions that have mounted in Switzerland after a number of incidents in which dogs have attacked people.
It also wants to encourage as many owners as possible to take the test with their dogs, whatever the breed. This, it says, means that the test will include only the most important daily exercises.
One part of the test, for example, is control of the dog on the lead. The owner must show that the animal can walk with its owner on a slack leash without chasing passing vehicles or bicycles.
The dog must also not be distracted by other canines or people who are dressed ostentatiously.
A critical part in the test is that the dog must return to its owner on command in every situation.
The president of the canine society's basic training commission, Linda Hornisberger, said that more than half of Switzerland's estimated half a million dogs showed serious shortcomings when they were called.
A member of the society's central committee, Verena Ammann, added that many of the incidents involving dogs were a result of the owner's lack of knowledge.
"Therefore every owner should take the test and make an important contribution to keeping dogs without problems in our society," she said.
The exam is to be offered by about 370 of the society's sections as well as by private dog schools.
To qualify for the exam, the dog must be at least nine months old and as a rule the dog will take it after a training course.
However, those dog owners who believe their dogs can master the tests without a course can apply for an exam appointment over the internet.
The exam, which has been put together by canine behaviour experts, costs SFr90 ($71.1), although the 67,000 members of the canine society will pay SFr20 less.
Once the exam has been passed, the owner receives an attestation in credit card format with the name of the owner and the dog.
Should the owner change dog, another exam has to be taken.
swissinfo with agencies
The canine society says it hopes to be able to issue about 1,000 dog-owner cards a year.
It says many cantonal veterinarians and local authorities have approved the test.
The society adds that a number of cantons are prepared to offer a reduction in dog taxes or contribute to the exam fee if the owner has passed the test.
Dangerous dogs came under the spotlight after the death of a young boy bitten by pitbull terriers in December 2005 at Oberglatt in canton Zurich.
Parliament called on the government to strengthen federal legislation. The Zurich tabloid Blick, which launched a petition to ban pitbulls, collected more than 175,000 signatures.
Some cantons subsequently decided to tighten their own dog laws.
At the federal level, the law on the protection of animals made it compulsory from January 1 for all dogs to have a tattoo or microchip.
Swiss legislation on dogs is among the least restrictive in Europe. Certain breeds are totally banned in France and Germany.
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