Saturday, October 6, 2012

Breed Discrimination: It's All in the Raising

Well...I have many things I should be doing today in order to be a productive human naturally I decided to blog. Yep! That sounds about right! Actually....what spurred this blogful moment was a post on fb I saw that said "PETITION: Get "i hate pitbulls" facebook page removed! It really got me to thinking. I was the person who really didn't like Pitbulls not that long ago. My prejudice came from heresay and a healthy respect for any dog larger than my own little less than 25 pounders.  Doberman's, Chow Chow's and German Shepherds topped the list. In more recent years Rotweillers and Pitbulls also joined the list. According to many...these breeds are just inherently mean, brutally attacking at will and leaving a path of death and destruction in their wake....and yet millions of families with children still seem to have these dog breeds....and survive just fine. Hmmmmm

After doing some research...along with some personal experience...this is what I have come to find. All of the above breeds are big dogs. Their sheer size can be intimidating and their build is strong. They tend to grow large quickly and often what would be considered harmless puppy play in a small dog...takes on a sinister act in a larger breed. Dogs such as Chow's, Rot's and Pits are solid dogs. They are lean and muscular and in play could hurt someone of small stature, but not out of aggression. That is why if you are going to own a large breed dog you must take responsibility for that decision. Train that dog and teach him/her not to jump on people and to listen to commands. Dogs are easily taught if you put the work into them but just like an undisciplined child...if not directed...they will direct themselves and that can prove destructive or even dangerous to them and those around them. The blame for those acts then does not fall on the dog....but on the owner. 

Some of these breeds like German Shepherd's for instance also can become territorial or one person/family dogs. In these cases the dogs are fiercely loyal to a certain property, person or family and can see outsiders as a threat. Again...proper training is the answer. Make sure your dog listens to commands and obeys them. 

What about dogs that are trained specifically for protection in mind? In this day and age...I don't blame anyone for taking whatever security measures they feel will keep them safe. That being is up to owners to warn the public that they have a dog(s) who are trained for protection. Then....if Joe Public sees a BE WARE OF DOG sign and still decides to take his chances....the fault then becomes his. A good owner of a guard dog will take necessary precautions to keep their dogs safe as well as visiting guests whom the dogs might view as a threat. With proper precautions both dogs and humans should remain safe. 

As for picking on breeds as dangerous....I say breed has little to do with a dogs aggression. Size and weight can be a factor...if there is a fight in who might win, but I have seen 3 lb. Chihuahua's that are more aggressive than a 100 lb pit. While there are reports of Pits, Rots, Chows, etc. going after and killing people....I have also heard of a Pomeranian killing a newborn while it slept, poodles going after kids and mixed breeds of no particular breed affiliation taking a bite out someone they perceived to be an enemy. 

Dogs of any breed can be aggressive, mean and even deadly if the circumstances are right. An injured dog can be very dangerous. A hungry dog can go after someone as well as a dog who senses aggression from a human or feels that he himself is in danger. There are also those dogs who are abused or taught aggression from their owners. This is why Pitbulls have such a bad reputation. Because of their size, build and weight....someone decided they made perfect pawns in dog fighting. They are starved, beaten and given positive reinforcement for bad behavior so that they will be at their meanest, fightingest best. It was a "sport" where hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands across the country. These dogs were ready to attack and kill anything that got in their way because that is all they ever knew from puppy on up.....and because of this they gained the reputation for being killers. Literally thousands of Pitbull puppies were bred for the soul purpose of being killers. These dogs didn't stand a chance. 

Media gives these large breed dogs ten strikes right off the weening. Every time one of these dogs attacks, maims or kills someone it is front page news. But for every dog like this....there are ten who are good family dogs, protective of those they love and are playful and fun loving. On the other hand for those breeds we consider "safe" there are one in ten of those dogs who will attack, main and kill. Most of how a dog acts and reacts is based on how it is raised.....again....not unlike our kids. 

The final turn around for me happened quite recently. While my head told me all the facts about dogs and what does and doesn't make them heart still held fear, especially having David in the house. My older son decided he needed a dog and asked me to go with him to find one. I told him we would go to the Humane Society....but my one stipulation was "NO PITBULLS!" After looking for almost an hour....he kept coming back to this one 3 month guessed it....PITBULL. We chose several dogs to sit in a room with and see how they behaved. One...a black lab went in the room with us...laid down and refused to interact with us at all. The second....a cute little mixed breed Sheltie looking guy never stopped moving. He jumped in Davids lap, jumped over his head, jumped in Z's lap, jumped from Z to me and then literally tried to climb the wall. His nails dug into all of us and left David with a face scratch and decidedly displeased attitude. After that with my older son giving me his version of "puppy dog eyes" I finally said bring in the Pit. I hate to say it but within seconds he won my heart. He was 3 months old and about 25 lbs. He cautiously made his way around to each of us licking us and saying his doggie "Hello's!" When he came to David he sat in front of him and then gently made his way into his lap. Instead of tossing him in the floor which is what we all expected he would do....David began to pet him saying..."Oooooo" Davids version of "I like him!" At that moment we were all won over. We named him Vic!

Since bringing him home....he seems to have acclimated well. My son worked with him right off the bat and he says he has had only a couple of accidents in the house. He goes to the door whenever he has to go out. He gets along well when he visits with my dogs and he mastered commands of sit, stay and in the house overnight. He is an amazing dog and he loves with all of his puppy heart. He loves to be held and and to snuggle and he shares his affection with everyone around. You would be hard pressed to look into his expressive little eyes and see any sign of aggression or a killer....but then again....he is being raised with love and he is giving as good as he gets. 

Now don't get me wrong...I know there are those that have been hurt and even killed by dogs. I also know there are cases where the dog was solely to blame as the victim was totally innocent, but I would bet if those cases were thoroughly checked more than half of them there would be extenuating circumstances as to why that dog became aggressive. 

There will always be a rogue dog or two....just like humans, who are mean for no reason and set out to hurt and kill, but they are not the norm and certainly that is not a reason for breed discrimination. I urge you before you judge an entire breed by the few...educate yourself. Learn and teach your kids safe behavior around all breeds of strange dogs and most of all...don't judge a breed by it's size, weight or media hype. Otherwise you might just be missing out on the greatest addition to your family ever.


Anonymous said...

I never talked to anyone with a pit bull before. Interesting information.

Anonymous said...

I agree that a lot of it is in how the dog is raised. I also believe that certain dogs do lean towards the aggressive in nature than others do. German Shepherds that you mention are chosen for their ability to be aggressive in police work. I think like you said that training is the key. An untrained dog can definitely be a bad dog if left to his own devices. Great blog.