Uh oh!! I am treading on sacred waters here! A few months ago, I wrote an article about Fake Service Dogs, and in it I mentioned that a guide dog had been attacked by a pit bull in a grocery store and now had to be retired because she became defensively reactive to other dogs. It went viral on Facebook with over 10,000 shares. It wasn’t how many shares it got, but how many chastised me for having mentioned it was a pit bull that attacked the German Shepherd. My response was, “I am honest and that is what happened.”
I am not going write here about what a horrible breed the pit bulls are, but the recent story about three pit bulls horrifically, and tragically killing a 9-year old girl in Detroit is encouraging me to say something from a dog trainer/instructor’s point of view.
As most of you know, I love my German Shepherds. The shepherds conger up all kinds of images from police dogs, biters, detection dogs, military dogs, service dogs, and so on. Many people are extremely afraid of them without ever having any experience with them. Owning a German Shepherd is a responsibility maybe more so than owning a Golden Retriever or Labrador. Owning any dogs is a responsibility, but owning a bred for protection or fighting breed is something any owner must be much more aware of.
Pit bulls and bully breeds were bred for very serious work and are capable of doing incredible damage as we just saw in Detroit. Almost every owner will claim their pitties or mixes are so sweet and loving, and they are, until something pushes the dogs into prey drive. All dogs have prey drive, but some breeds have more than others. When we own dogs like this, like I do, we must take extra steps to be a strong, fair and consistent leader with them, and they MUST have training so the owner has control. If you own a Maserati, you MUST learn how to drive it. The Maserati is not a Subaru. You can’t take a Maserati up a 4WD road and expect to survive! We must take extra precautions to manage and train pitties in ways that they are not put into the position that they could hurt someone. This is why I say they take extra responsibility. If you are going to own a breed like this, you must OWN THIS BREED and not fool yourself into believing that your dog is just like Lassie.
The hard thing about pitties and pitty mixes is that they can be incredibly sweet and loving; however, if they have enough prey drive, they may not give notice before they become aggressive. When the light switch goes, it goes. Many times the owner does not expect it to ever happen. Being responsible is owning up to knowing what the pitties are capable of and always remembering that, and taking precautions.
I am not singling out the pit bull because it is a pit bull, but I am pointing out that with this breed there is way too much owner denial about what pit bulls are capable of. I am fully aware of what my German Shepherds are capable of and I work hard to socialize them PROPERLY, train them and select dogs from known bloodlines that have proper and unaggressive temperaments. Protection behavior is not aggression, but that is another discussion.
Owning a bully breed is not an evil thing. They are wonderful dogs and so easy to train. But, not realizing the responsibility and treating them like Lassie is irresponsible.
Just like German Shepherds, Pit Bulls, Bully breeds and mixes are a huge responsibility and commitment to keep the dog and others safe!
This piece was first published in the The Weekly Sun, where Fran writes a weekly column. Issues are available online on Issuu .