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Experts’ verdict on what caused two Rottweilers to maul baby to death

Remain slammed over Rottweiler attacks

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Dog experts have disclosed what prompted three Rottweilers to snap and maul a five-year-old baby girl to death in a stark warning to owners of the violent breeds. Little Mia Jade Riley was killed in a brutal dog attack at a family gathering in Moruya, on the south coast of New South Wales. The newborn was fast asleep in a bassinet at the end of a table surrounded by up to eight people when the pair of Rottweilers came at the three-week-old and mauled her to death in a tragic accident.

Friends who witnessed the scene said the attack came out of the blue. Now leading dog experts warn that a sound or a smell may have been the catalyst for the animals to get overstimulated.

“Sleep startle” may have been the cause of the attack, K9 Trainer Liarne Henry told

Sleep startle, also known as sleep aggression, happens when a dog is woken up suddenly or unexpectedly. Many dogs will easily shake it off when woken suddenly. But some dogs may growl, snap, lunge, and bite when woken unexpectedly, according to the pet publication The Wildest.

The trainer, who has also owned Rottweilers, believes that the phenomenon may cause aggression in affected dogs before they realise what has happened.

Ms Henry explained: “We forget that dogs possess up to 300 million olfactory receptors. So they smell millions of times better than us, so that could have been a trigger.

“Or even the sound. Just because we can’t hear something it doesn’t mean that dogs can’t because dogs have a huge frequency range up to 60,000 hertz.”

Another trainer, Mark Hickey, speculated that one dog may have become overly excited, stimulating the other.

He elaborated: “When you get one dog that gets really excited, the other dog can feed into that and then, obviously, you don’t just have one dog that’s bitten a child or a person, you’ve got two, so the damage is just going to be way worse.

“It’s just another timely reminder that children should never be left alone. Things can happen so quickly within a couple of seconds.”

Dog Behaviour Specialist Nathan Williams came to the same conclusion, saying the dogs may have been overstimulated by “squeaky toys” and “tug of war”. He added it is unusual for Rottweilers to kill.

He said: “In Sydney right now there’d be thousands of Rottweilers, but we hear of one story which is the exception to the rule.

“So unfortunately, in situations like this, dogs are typically overstimulated and played with, especially with things like squeaky toys and tug of war.

“It’s not in a dog’s nature to kill – no dog has that nature – and especially Rottweilers if anything. But if we stimulate them, teach them to chew and bite on things they shouldn’t be, then that causes these potential side effects.”

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Months before the attack, neighbours reported the dogs to the council and claimed to be so afraid of the Rottweilers that they had stopped walking by the property.

Following the incident, Eurobodalla Shire Council seized the Rottweilers. They are thought to have been euthanised.

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