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American Staffordshire Terrier dog on a summer day

By: Jace MacDonald

      Throughout the years, breeds of dogs have fallen victim to Breed-Discriminatory Legislation (BDL). This is when laws are made and regulated to ban certain dog breeds, all in an effort to decrease dog attacks on humans and other animals. In the past, the most common breeds of dogs to fall victim to this were Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs. In today’s age, the dog most discriminated against is the “Pit Bull”. Now before we go any further, I want to clarify some things. There is NO such breed as a “Pit Bull”, it is an umbrella term that is used to describe something that looks like or is mixed with, an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier (Am Staff), or a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. With that out of the way, let’s continue. I use the word “victim” because that is what they are. We, as the humans, are responsible for creating these breeds through selective breeding. We focused in on what traits we wanted to see and created these dogs. We are the ones that do not have a governing body or agency to set rules, and guidelines, and oversee breeding in dogs. Thus, creating an open and unchecked market for Joe Shmo backyard breeder to raise 1,000+ puppies a year through a puppy mill and sell them off to the public, instilling them into our lives and communities. When things like this happen, and dogs are not carefully bred, many issues can and will arise from it.

     There are many things that fuel and motivate irresponsible breeding, but we will save that for another time. In short, if puppies are not carefully bred, not just for how they look, but for their utility and genetic disposition as well, then we are setting them up for failure in their life to come. There is a great breeding program called “Puppy Culture”, developed by Jane Killion, that demonstrates and explains how to raise a puppy in those first weeks of their lives. This method has been proven to make puppies easier to train, take to new circumstances well, and be more sociable with both dogs and people. If raised through this program, it does not matter what breed of dog it is, it will come out having a better chance at life and the ability to make a good companion.

     What I am trying to get at, is that breed of dog does not matter. Most dog breeds are not even bred for their original purposes anymore. Most of the breeds do not exhibit the same traits and characteristics that their ancestors were genetically hard-wired with. A perfect example of this is the German Shepherd Dog. It was bred to be strong, and intelligent. To be fearless and always protect its flock, to fight off predators and be loyal to its owners. Because of the popularity and demand for this dog in today’s age, I see German Shepherds who are afraid of their own shadow, have separation anxiety, or are under socialized and fearful of people and other dogs. These popular breeds are being over bred and not properly raised by their breeders and their owners once adopted or purchased. The lack of knowledge or ignorance surrounding how dogs think and act is astounding! We as humans are under educated on what exactly our dog is and what needs to be done to properly raise and live with one. I see all the time people referring to their dogs as “their babies” and talking to them like they understand every word that they are saying. They will treat them like a human child and spoil them with everything and anything they could ever want. People anthropomorphize their dogs way too much! Anthropomorphize means to attribute human characteristics or behavior to an animal, or object. We forget that our dogs are an animal, that they need to be treated as animals, and the sooner we can get back to raising, teaching, and training our dogs like dogs, the better off we will all be.

     To fix breed discrimination and make things safer for the public, we need to change who we are, and what we do as humans with the dogs. Not ban certain breeds, or kill off “dangerous” breeds of dogs, hoping that will solve the problem. No, the problem will only be solved once we as the humans gain a better understand of what our dogs are today and how to better prepare and train them for tomorrow.

     I am a professional dog trainer and owner of a “Pit Bull” named Nova. My now wife, Hanna, adopted Nova three years ago from a shelter in Ohio. She was “aggressive”, she had bitten three people and did not get along at all with any dogs. In fact, when my wife went to see her in the shelter, they made sure to take all the other dogs out of the yard first before letting her and Nova in. Hanna didn’t realize why at the time, but it was probably because she would have gotten into a fight and made her unadoptable. Hanna and I did not meet until three weeks after she adopted Nova and lucky for them that we did! Now, did Nova do all these things because she was a “Pit Bull”? No, she did these things because she was born and raised at a puppy mill and then lived in a hoarding situation. From birth she had to fight for everything she needed to survive, she had to compete with the other dogs and animals for food. Probably getting into fights with them over it. The owner was an old man who kicked her and abused her. Remember those three bites I mentioned earlier, all of those were to old men, and even more specifically their feet! From the get-go Nova was setup to fail, not because of her breed, but because of her upbringing and environment.

     Fast forward three years, after daily training, counterconditioning, desensitization, and patience, she is the most lovable and friendliest pittie you’d ever see. She can engage in off-leash play with other dogs, sit next to my grandfathers and in their laps while they pet her, and be taken to public areas where she maintains a high level of obedience and composure. It sure as hell was no easy journey, and it all could have been avoided if things were just done properly from the start! So all in all, it is not the breed that should determine how these dogs are publicly viewed, but instead, the people behind their breeding and upbringing. As a society we need to crack down on irresponsible breeding and be more educated and knowledgeable as to not purchase or adopt those kinds of dogs. Yes, it is sad, that there are so many dogs in shelters and so many dogs with issues, but it all boils down to the continual purchase and funding of these irresponsible breeders. Then on top of that, these breeders selling to any and all humans, who perhaps shouldn’t even be allowed to own a dog, like Nova’s former owner. Next time you come across an “aggressive breed”, don’t immediately assume that it is a dangerous dog. Make sure you always approach dogs with caution, no matter the breed, size, or cuteness. Help spread this information and further educate the public by sharing this post. If we can inform the public, we can hopefully provide better lives for these dogs.

Featured below is a video of Nova doing one of her “tricks” which is gently taking a carrot from a persons mouth.

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