Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Responsible dog ownership and why dog parks are so important

I was doing some reading yesterday, and came upon a really interesting article at Goodpooch.com - it was all about whether or not some breeds of dog are inherently aggressive - ie pitbulls, and also why it's SO important to sociallize your dog - no matter what the breed, and also the fact that statistics prove that most dog on dog attacks occur because of poor socialization skills - and they happen along the property lines of the dog's own property - and Good Pooch gives a good reason for it.

I thought I'd paste some of the article here because it's so timely for some of the stuff going on here in the HRM currently - and also because I like to talk about off leash dog parks and the fact that ALL breeds of dog should be able to use them - not just the non-bully type breeds. Of which the owner of this website also concurs with. After reading this article I don't know how anybody wouldn't also concur.

Here's a snippet of the article -

This is from "everything you wanted to know about pit bulls - http://goodpooch.com/MediaBriefs/GPpitbulls.htm

Are 'Pit Bulls' Naturally Aggressive Towards Other Dogs?

The short answer, "No."

"There is no scientific proof that genetics cause a breed of dog to be aggressive, vicious or dangerous." - testimony from Standing Committee on amendments to the Dog Owners Liability Act. 2005

"Variability in behaviour has a wider range within a breed than between breeds. Within the discipline of psychobiology and animal behaviour there is no data from empirically supported studies, published in refereed scientific literature, to support the idea that one breed of dog is `vicious.'

The adult behaviour of a domestic dog is determined overwhelmingly by its experiential history, environmental management and training." - Dr. Mary Lee Nitschke, Ph.D.

It is more common than not to hear 'pit bulls' referred to as "dog-aggressive". In fact, they aren't. Some may become fearful around other dogs due to a lack of proper socialization. But this happens with all breeds of dogs, not just 'pit bulls'. Unfortunately, this lack of socialization is frequently encouraged by those who fancy themselves 'pit bull' experts.

Citing the breed's history as a dog fighter, some people believe there is some kind of magic "dog fighting" gene or brain chemistry that is passed along from sire and dam to puppy. The truth is, there is no such thing. (Read the article from Dr. Gary Goeree, DVM, regarding the theory that 'pit bulls' have some kind of unique brain chemistry.)

So why are so many 'pit bulls' involved in attacks on other dogs? Well, the answer is, they aren't necessarily involved more often than any other breed. For instance, Rottweilers are probably involved in just as many attacks on other dogs, yet they were not bred for dog fighting. They were bred to herd cattle and work as guardians. If put to the test, most people would have to honestly answer that it is not 'pit bulls' involved in most of the dog biting incidents in their communities. Some, maybe. But just as many Labradors, Goldens, Dalmations, Jack Russells, Poodles, etc. also stand accused of biting other dogs.

Bites to other dogs are not unique to 'pit bulls', even though it is only 'pit bulls' who were originally bred for dog fighting.

To better understand the situation, we must look at statistical data about dogs who bite other dogs. In the real world, virtually every breed of dog has been attributed with bites to other dogs. Yet, only a handful of breeds, including 'pit bulls', were bred for fighting. If the reason a tiny percentage of 'pit bulls' bite other dogs is in their genes, why is only such a small percentage of them involved in biting incidents? (Wouldn't MOST of them be aggressive towards other dogs, if the breed is, in fact, genetically programmed to attack other dogs?) And why are breeds that were not bred for fighting involved in MORE dog-on-dog biting incidents than 'pit bulls'?

The answer is, aggression towards other dogs is a learned behaviour. As Cyndi Frendo of K9 Concepts aptly put it, "Aggression is a behaviour, not a temperament."

Believing the myth that 'pit bulls' are naturally aggressive towards other dogs, all-too-many people restrict their 'pit bulls' from normal, positive, social interactions with other dogs. Here's an example of how it all starts:

The proud owner of a little, 9-week-old 'pit bull' puppy was out walking her new family member when she came across another person walking her dog. The other dog owner understandably stopped to meet the tiny puppy. She asked if it was okay if her dog "met" the woman's puppy, and the woman agreed. The older dog got up and walked the few feet to sniff the puppy, at which point the puppy's owner pulled up on its leash so she was essentially hanging the poor little thing, with just its two hind legs on the ground.

The owner of the adult dog asked the woman to "Please let you puppy's leash go.", at which point the puppy's owner did nothing.

Seeing the poor puppy strangling at the end of the leash, the other dog owner thought it best to move on.

This is indicative of the anxious responses many dog owners exhibit when meeting other dogs. By pulling tight on leashes and collars, or worse (as in the case of the puppy's owner), these kinds of inexperienced dog owners are actually creating a negative association with meeting strange dogs. How would you feel if every time you met someone new, someone yanked a collar around your neck; harshly pulled you away; and ultimately never allowed you to interact with strangers? You wouldn't exactly be nice and relaxed around strangers, huh?

Same goes for dogs.

"It is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatsoever for supposing it is true." - Bertrand Russell

Some self-proclaimed 'pit bull experts' actually counsel owners to inadequately socialize their 'pit bulls' in a misguided attempt to "protect" them from dog fights. While we understand the concern about "adding fuel to the fire" of 'pit bull' haters, we find the idea of inadequately socializing 'pit bulls' to simply add to the problem, rather than solve anything.

Think back to the accounts you've heard or read of 'pit bulls' seriously attacking other dogs. How many of those cases involved dogs at off-leash parks? A few...maybe. But the overwhelming majority of the dog attacks we've researched (involving 'pit bulls' and other dog breeds) take place on or directly adjacent to the attacking dog's owner's property.

More often than not, a dog-on-dog attack occurs when someone walks his/her dog past another dog's yard, and that dog runs out and attacks the passing dog.

It is clear that these are NOT well-socialized dogs that are regularly in the presence of other dogs, especially unrestrained. It is also obvious that these are not responsibly-owned dogs, since truly responsible dog owners ensure their dogs are properly socialized and they don't leave them unsupervised outside the home. (A properly socialized dog simply doesn't feel threatened by any dog that is not actually threatening it...'pit bull' or no.)

Quite the contrary to being "inherently aggressive towards other dogs", dog park regulars are typically happy to see 'pit bulls' in dog parks because they are often extremely playful and well-mannered dogs. (Especially given that they must be the types of 'pit bull' owners knowledgeable enough to dismiss the all too common counsel to avoid dog parks.) 'Pit bulls' that frequent dog parks are some of the best dogs around!

While walking through an off-leash dog park in Toronto, the following conversation was overheard:

Man: "My dog (a GSD) was attacked by a Jack Russell Terrier the other day."
Woman 1: "Oh, I know. This one (pointing to the older of two Vizslas), has been attacked twice by small dogs. As a matter of fact, the only dogs I've had problems with are those small dogs."

Woman 2: "Gee...not 'pit bulls'?" (asked sarcastically)

woman 1 rolls her eyes)

Woman 1: "I know. All this talk about 'pit bulls' in the news and I've never had a problem with a single one. There are a few I run into at this park and they're great!"

Man: "Me neither. I've never had a problem with a 'pit bull' being aggressive towards my dog. The ones I've met at dog parks and in my neighbourhood have all been great! It's those small dogs that are likely to attack."

Woman 2: "Same here. I LOVE to see 'pit bulls' at dog parks because they always play so well with my dog! I've never had a problem."

People who "get" the concept of proper socialization understand how vital off-leash interaction is. Sure, it could happen at private dog clubs. It could be accomplished through a large, vibrant group of dog owners. But it is most easily and affordably accomplished via readily accessible public dog parks.

("When the studies are done, we'll find that cities with ample access to off-leash areas for proper socialization and training will be the cities with the lowest incidence of dog bites." Calgary, Alberta proves our theory to be correct.)

But...proper socialization does require owners who are knowledgeable and committed enough to provide for those positive socialization experiences with strangers on a regular basis.

Thousands of responsible 'pit bull' owners have not only properly socialized their companion dogs, but many of them are even certified Therapy Dogs, Search and Rescue Dogs, and Assistance Dogs.

'Pit bulls' in these roles will frequently come in contact with other dogs, and obviously must not be aggressive towards them in any way. This is more proof that aggression towards other dogs is a behaviour that can either be learned, un-learned, or never acquired in the first place.


  1. Anonymous3:06 PM

    On www.caveat.blogware.com the Chicago police say they don't use pit bulls because they are just to darn friendly and nice.RG.

  2. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Off-topic, but speaking of socializing in general I wish more people would also socialize their dogs with cats as well as people and other dogs.

  3. Anonymous5:08 PM

    They don`t actually say they DON`T use them.This is what they say:

    [quote] Loving and friendly, these traits keep most pit bulls from being good police dogs.

    "The main problem we're finding with pit bulls is that they're too darn nice. All they want to do is just sit at your feet or crawl in your lap. They're very nice dogs," said Deborah Thedos, Cook County K9 Unit.[/quote]


    But they are excellent for Narcotics and Explosives detection work.

    Personally I would not want to see them used in traditional Police work ie bite work.
    They`d be blamed for doing their job too well.They can`t win in that type of work.

  4. Anonymous6:25 PM

    Wouldn`t it be great if some of those so called Pit Bull "supporters" and "experts" wold read that article.
    Then they might be part of the solution rather than the problem.

    It`s sort of like "If you didn`t know how old you were how old would you be?"

    If you were given a dog and hadn`t heard about Pit Bulls and all this other nonsense about them,what would you have?
    My guess would be JUST a dog.

    Thanks for finding that.

  5. Anonymous7:55 PM

    I am reminded of the phrase so often attributed to hand-gun ownership in the US: "Guns don't kill people, people kill people"

    The same is true for pit bulls attacking other dogs and people.

    This particular dog is the canine of choice for slope-browed knuckle dragging louts who compensate for their lack of manhood by taking a perfectly acceptable breed and making it dangerous.

    Unfortunately for the same reasons I believe hand guns should be banned, so should pit bulls to keep them out of the hands of low-lifes who would use them for nefarious purposes.

  6. Buddy - did you even read the post I typed out for you?

    "Unfortunately for the same reasons I believe hand guns should be banned, so should pit bulls to keep them out of the hands of low-lifes who would use them for nefarious purposes"

    I'm going to use your same analogy - if people didn't have guns - I'd say that people would move back to knives - or their low slung knuckles - but PEOPLE would still kill each other! Get a little clue!

    When there are no pit bulls - there will still be those same idiots - and guess what? They are still going to have some kind of dog that makes them feel like bigger penised men.

    It's not the dogs - it's the humans. You really are not getting it, go back and read the post. Geez.

  7. Anonymous11:27 PM

    [quote]so should pit bulls to keep them out of the hands of low-lifes who would use them for nefarious purposes.[/quote]

    Geez problems solved.
    Kill all the 'pit bulls' and all these low-lifes will clean up their act,start going to Church,volunteering in their communities,cease dog fighting,selling drugs and intimidating people.

    I wonder if killing all 'pit bulls' can also end all wars,clean up the environment,end world hunger,reduce global warming,prevent parents from killing their children and solve our current financial crisis?

    Maybe these dogs really DO have magical powers after all!

    After we kill all the 'pit bulls',
    let`s start killing all parents to prevent child abuse.

    The lack of logical thought is mind boggling.

  8. Interesting post. I agree that any dog breed can bite and does. I also agree that pit bulls can be as wonderful in an off leash park as any other breed. Dogs are foremost individuals, than breeds, than dogs.

    Most pit bulls I meet-met (hundreds from all kinds of backgrounds) are soft-mouthed and friendly with people. Generally, inherently one of the soft-mouthed breeds and wonderful family dogs.

    But here is the thing - just as they are inherently great with people, they are inherently not all that wonderful with dogs they don't know. They are also inherently determined and tend to follow through with their intent - whatever it is. And inherently hyper sensitive and easily aroused by other dogs.
    To deny that, is to deny that a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd doesn't have an inherent aptitude for bringing order into chaos, and is not inherently hyper sensitive to motion - and reactive to it. Or a sight hound not by nature sensitive to motion in the distance and ready to give chase - or a scent hound not keen to have the nose to the ground to track whatever odor caught her interest.

    That does not mean that pit bulls should be banned, but I wish that nice people who take on that breed to "proof to the world" how nice they are, would be aware that they, like all breeds, have inherent propensity to act one way or another. It is nature AND nurture AND environment that ultimately determine behavior. Like I can't deny the nature part of my herding dogs and have to take extra steps to channel that in acceptable behaviors, one should also not deny the nature part of pit bulls and have to take extra care to .... YES .. SOCIALIZE PROPERLY AND CAREFULLY!

  9. Anonymous12:42 PM

    That is so telling that Sylvia says they are individuals,then breeds, then dogs. where as Ceasar torture til obey Milan says they are dogs, then breeds, then individuals. hmmmmmmmmm jm

  10. I like "torture til obey", Jim.

    Yes, in my opinion dogs are individuals first, just like people. We had pet bunnies in the past and they are individuals, too. Of course, each species had species specific behaviors that can be generalized and are the same with each individual.