Friday, December 19, 2008

Just My Opinion


It's another snow day and I have plenty of time on my hands. My camera is on it's way but isn't here yet so my post today will be a subject that is something I want to write about. You could label it a rant and there will be very little funny in it. But remember it's just my opinion......

My mom and I were talking the other day about the weather and how hard it is on homeless people. They had a few heartbreaking photos in the local paper that would just wrench your heart. With this cold weather they have also been talking about your pets and how to care for them in the cold weather. Anyway we got around to the subject of when did people cross the line of caring more for animals than they do people. Now if you are a regular reader of my blog you know that I love my animals and take the best of care of them but to me they are still animals and when push comes to shove people are more important. I enjoy my animals, I give them the best of care possible and I cry a good cry when they die but I do put it into perspective and will not put them before the people in my life. They are animals and we do them a great disservice when we try to humanize them.
With this in mind I will tell you about a recent encounter on another blog. This blog is written by a veterinarian (not Vet on the Edge) and one of her recent posts was about the movie by Disney starring a Chihuahua. She talked about how she hoped that the movie would not encourage people to get Chihuahuas when they weren't the breed for them due to the fact that they have health problems and behavior problems because people treat them like babies. Not unlike other breeds that have seen the rush to get them when they get a lot of publicity in movies or when a certain breed wins Westminster. My comments started out benignly enough. Saying that I had the most wonderful little Chihuahua that was like a black Lab in a 6 pound body, that my vet loved. Well people started to get nasty about Chihuahuas, and never being one to back down from a good argument, I just stated that why get up in arms over a dog that even if it is raised wrong and babied is no real danger to the general public. Who cares if people want to baby and hold their little dog. Then I made the mistake and said the "P" word. I said, with my usual sarcasm and tongue in cheek, That why get all up in arms over a dog that can't do much harm, I save my breed biases for Pit Bulls that can and do, in my area, harm people and livestock almost every day. Well you'd have thought I said, "Your mother wears army boots." People came unglued about my breed bias toward pit bulls. I heard the usual argument about blame the owner not the dog. I was told how wrong I was that most pit bulls were perfectly nice dogs. I didn't know what I was talking about. I was even accused of "drinking the kool-aid"-there is that stupid saying again. It implies that I'm not smart enough to think for myself.
Believe me I've thought a lot about this. Let me explain. Our area is a fairly rural area that meanders along Puget Sound with many bays and inlets. With all this water, we have multi-million dollar homes and then we have travel trailers in the woods with most of the population somewhere in between. We have a fairly large portion that the pit bull seems to be the dog of choice. Now these people have them for all the wrong reasons and generally don't socialize them or take them to obedience classes. They are usually not confined to the owners yard and if they are they seem to get out at all the worse times. We have had many attacks in the last few years. For example, A disabled woman was sleeping in her bed when two pit bulls entered her doggy door and attacked her. Her service dog tried to help but was helpless so hid under the bed. The neighboring Jack Russell that was there visiting tried his best to protect her and was killed for his effort. The woman made it out the door and into her car where she called the police. When they entered her house there was blood and body parts of the little dog everywhere. She was badly injured and spent many days in the hospital. Her neighbors got together and cleaned her house and fixed all the damage. Now you tell me if that woman cared one bit if it was the owner or the dogs' fault. And if she would rather it had been an unsocialized Chihuahua that entered her doggy door that morning.
Example 2- A grandma dropped her grand kids off at the bus stop and was heading home. Just as she entered her yard she was attacked by 2 pit bulls. They grabbed on and drug her around her yard. They bit her ears off. She was able to get her arm around the porch rail and held on for dear life. Upon hearing her screams a neighbor ran to help but was unsuccessful in getting the dogs to release her which they did only after the police came and shot them. I'm positive that she cared not one wit who's fault it was.
I have many more local incidents in my memory banks that include Hubby coming home from his usual bike ride bloodied and bruised from being knocked off his bike by an attacking pit bull. Luckily he is dog savvy and was able to get away before too much harm was done. But what if it was a child? Hubby didn't care who's fault it was. He hated the dog...and the owner.
I was told that most people couldn't pick out a pit bull in a line-up. Well I have trained and showed dogs all my life. I have taught obedience classes where people paid me a lot of money to help them train their dog. I have taught 4H dog training for many years. Many of my good friends are very accomplished dog trainers. I can pick out a pit bull or pit bull mix in any line-up.
Don't get me wrong I know there are many nice Pits out there. I have had several in my classes. But these people come to class and socialize their dogs.
I hate the argument...blame the owner not the dog...and that is after the dog has done all the damage. And it seems that large breed dog owners are the most defensive. I was even told by a dog trainer that, I, as a dog trainer should know that any dog can be retrained to not be aggressive...well I don't know that. Temperament has a lot to do with heredity and poor breeding. I know many examples of puppies that were raised right and socialized properly that had trouble with aggression, and these being raised by experienced dog trainers. No wonder the general public has problems. My friend that has English Springer Spaniels has no problem admitting that there are aggression problems in her breed. I have no problem with breed biases toward my Shelties. You don't know how many people say that Shelties are yappy and hyper. I agree they can be, some are, some aren't. Border collie people have no problem admitting that bad breeding and what the BC was bred to do can cause problems for the general public.
I was even told that just as many Chihuahuas bite people but they don't get reported because they are not as news worthy. Well excuse me....of course not because small dogs can do very little damage.
The last comment geared toward me was a lengthy explanation about properly socializing dogs that had no place in the real world. You see my friends, I, as a dog trainer try to deal in the real world, where most people don't properly socialize their dogs, where yes maybe some do get the wrong dog for them. Where most people would rather worry about a dog that could kill their child than one that could give them a few puncture wounds.
So you see I have over the years thought a lot about this. People have asked me from time to time what I think about Pit Bulls and I state that yes there are some very nice ones but with all the breeds out there why chose a dog that has the potential of harming someone, that can cause you problems with your insurance and your neighbors. And if you have a well mannered Pit Bull then more power to you. You shouldn't be so defensive or stick your head in the sand about the problems with the breed you chose.
Once again my whole point was...Why worry about small dogs that don't do much harm...save your worry for something that can and apparently does. And no matter how much you love your dog, people are more important. Just keepin' it real.

Just my opinion.


Next on "Just My Opinion"- Dog Breeders verses Puppy Mills, it might surprise you.

15 comments:

Clare said...

I have no problems with your opinions, Wendy. Very well said. The trouble with public forums is that people get on their high-horse with only one view of the situation.

I hope you posted a link there back to this blog...!! =;)

goatgirl said...

No way Clare. I'm tired of being lambasted for daring to state the obvious...to me anyway.

Holly said...

"people have them for all the wrong reasons and generally don't socialize them or take them to obedience classes."

As you state later in your post, some are bred deliberately to increase aggression. Also, as you stated, much of the basic temperament is inherited.

Are there good Pittys? Absolutely. But if you have a bad one, or a fearful one, or an aggressive one....you have a lotta dog at the end of the day. They are bred to be large, powerful dogs. A small aggressive dog can be handled much easier than a large one, size DOES matter.

That said, I also firmly believe that region plays a huge part in how the Pittys of that area are seen and what kind of dogs are there. Around here, an aggressive dog would be shot and most farmers will do that deed immediately upon one incident. That culls out those with shaky or aggressive tendencies. That is not so around larger cities where aggression and the ability to handle a large aggressive dog are viewed as status.

I take this information from Sue Sternberg, who has worked both urban and city areas as a dog catcher, temperament tester and is really knowledgeable.

"I was even told by a dog trainer that, I, as a dog trainer should know that any dog can be retrained to not be aggressive"

ummm, no. If you have a genetic tendency toward fearful and/or aggression you aren't going to train that away.

I'm a very experienced trainer, but I've got one little dog here who is fearful and dog aggressive. If I can't *fix* that, then it's temperament.....and I know for a fact it is genetic in this case as I know both parents and although the mother is a nice dog, the father is a fear biter (didn't know that at the time), and her brother was euthed for aggression. There is no fixing this problem. In another household she would probably be dead by now.

So basically I agree with you, but my feeling is that this is not a Pitty issue, but rather a large breed in general issue. I know lots of aggressive Labs too...and lemme tell you, they can do some damage too!

Mindy said...

You are a brave...brave...girl. I live in a city where you can't own one...and I like it!

; )

goatgirl said...

I agree Holly that it is a large dog issue and not just a pit issue. But in our area pits are prefered. I know this because with my interest in dogs I always ask children at school when they get a new puppy what kind they got. 8 times out of 10 they say a pit bull. And to be honest I have never heard of a Lab mauling someone. Yes they may be aggressive and yes they may bite but they aren't the ones causing much problems around here. One of the most aggressive dogs I've seen lately was an English Springer Spaniel. She wanted to bite me but I doubt she could have taken me down and drug me around the yard.
I will admit that I bred a Sheltie once that was so unstable it was heartbreaking. The mother whom I own is one of the sweetest most stable dogs around and I sent her to a reputable breeder to be bred to a beautiful dog, her knowing that temperment and health was my main concern over show potential. The breeding produced one puppy that I socialized and trained. But he was so flakey, fearful, and people aggressive I was flabbergasted. Later I was talking to the breeder and she told me she sold the father to a man in Korea for $10,000. He was beautiful but was so aggressive. I was so mad that she ever bred the dog and then lied to me. Now my puppy had never been around his father and was raised by the most gracious mother and socialized and trained beyond what anyone else would have done and still turned out just like his father. I did place that pup with a woman who was well aware of his problems. Now a Sheltie is much easier to manage when aggressive than a larger dog and manage him she does. He now does agility and is a frisbee dog so has a good life but he will always be strange.
And I think the quote was "any trainer worth their salt should know that aggression can be trained out of a dog" something like that.
I value your opinion Holly.

goatgirl said...

Brave...I like that Mindy. Thanks.

Holly said...

"And to be honest I have never heard of a Lab mauling someone. Yes they may be aggressive and yes they may bite but they aren't the ones causing much problems around here."

I think around here I am more familiar with the aggression in Labs and LabX's because we have a plethora of them. Pittys...not so much.

So it could, again, be a regional difference there. Which does not mean your experiences do not count, they certainly do and I do not doubt they happened just as you describe.

I think the aggression issue is going to become worse and not better also. Even here in our small town I no longer take my dogs on walks. Too many times I've had people let dogs out, get off chains, or just be roaming around to take a chance on my dogs or myself being injured.

I also don't know what the answer to the aggression issue is. Some think blanket spay neuter is the only way to go, but those people who are responsible owners are now spaying the nice tempered dogs and those who are not responsible are not...which totally defeats the purpose.

I know that if I lived somewhere that this was an issue for me, and I had to be out/about, I wouldn't be depending on pepper spray for protection. I'd probably be part of the clorox in the gene pool and take my chances in court.

It makes me sad to have these kind of things happen, it directly and negatively impacts all dog owners. You can hardly blame anyone for being worried and afraid of dogs, thus wishing to ban this breed or that.

BTW, that was horrific about the woman who was sleeping when the two dogs got into her house. I can't even begin to imagine the PTSD that would leave for me.

goatgirl said...

"Some think blanket spay neuter is the only way to go, but those people who are responsible owners are now spaying the nice tempered dogs and those who are not responsible are not...which totally defeats the purpose."
Exactly Holly.
And...."BTW, that was horrific about the woman who was sleeping when the two dogs got into her house. I can't even begin to imagine the PTSD that would leave for me."
This happened a few streets over from me so I am well aware of the facts and not just the media blowing it out of proportion. The little Jack Russell, Romeo, that was killed was the dog of two boys that go to my school. They were heartbroken. The good part of this is a Jack Russell breeder saw the story and gave the boys a darling older pup that she had been hanging on to. She said she didn't know why she had been hanging on to him but now she does. Now I see the older boy meet the younger boy at the bus stop with his dog on a leash, wiggling from head to toe, greeting all the kids that get off the bus.
And Hubby has yet to ride his bike again on the loop he loved to ride on.
And as I get up this morning I see on my computer that a grandpa in Cal. was killed by his son's pit bulls...that knew him. Hmmmm makes a person think.

Amy Jo said...

I live in Chicago. Pit Bull's are out of control. there have been about 10 dog fighting rings broken up in the past 6 months alone. all brutal and horrific. It is the owner's fault and it is the dogs fault. I sincerely believe the majority of dog owners are not qualified to have dogs. they dont want to spend the time or energy or money on training, exercise, feeding, care. if you have a neglected poodle or a lab with no exercise you might get a neurotic dog but a pit is bred for aggression and poor ownership only exacerbates it. I used to live in Los Angeles. My JR was attacked by a pit bull at the dog park. The owner was telling me "he's friendly, he's friendly" right before the dog latched on to my JR's flank, leaping into my arms with these jaws attached. i started screaming and kicking and the owner had to bash his dog on the head with a brick to get him to release my dog. that was vet ER and big bill. owner just took off. if i had a gun i would have shot that dog. I am of the same opinion as PETA, i'd rather they all be outlawed and dead rather then live such abusive and horrific lives. Also in LA, i had a friend with a lovely golden, she was bathing the dog in her front yard in a kiddie pool and a pit came over the 6' foot fence down the street and attacked them both. both had extensive surgical repair and rehab. the owner of the pit tried to hide it and pretend she didnt own a dog. i think people who "love" pits are flawed.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Wow. wow. I hate blaming the animal but I have become a firm believer in the combination of nature vs. nurture in how animals (and dare I say it - people, too) turn out. Neither can be ignored. And no matter the environment and the treatment, sometimes there are basic inherent, fundamental characteristics and behaviors that can never be trained out. Such a scary and sad situation. I've felt for a long time that pitbulls get a bum rap, but the crime sheet against them has grown too long now and simply can't be ignored any longer.

goatgirl said...

Amy Jo, I read a reply the other day to someone that was talking about educating the public about pit bulls. The reply said basically that incidents like what you described, and the man being killed yesterday, are educating the public on pit bulls. And if they can think of a better way then go for it. I agree.
And after reading your experiences all I can say is....I rest my case.

goatgirl said...

Yep farmgirl I too don't like to blame the dog but that is very little comfort to someone that has been affected by the dog's behavior. I certainly didn't start out not liking pit bulls. Nor have I ever been very fearful of them. I had a delightful Pit Bull in my class one time named Freddy that was certainly a merry fellow. He was way too much dog for his owners though and they babied him which goes back to the whole point I was trying to make which was if you baby and not socialize a small dog you could have a nuisance, if you baby and not socialize a large dog with jaws of steel you have a hazard. And I hope Freddy has kept his merry disposition.
And that's how I feel, I never wanted to blame the dog but as you said it can no longer be ignored.

goatgirl said...

And yes you can say...people too, farmgirl.

Farmgirl_dk: said...

Well, not to change the subject or anything, but I guess I won't be making that surprise (SURPRISE!) visit to you today after all.
They just specifically mentioned on our local news that today is NOT a good day to drive from Portland to Gig Harbor.
Sorry, I know you would have loved a surprise like that. Lord knows I love unexpected guests. ha ha:-)

goatgirl said...

Darn, and I'm home too. With fresh cinnamon rolls. Worrying about my boy getting home tonight. He flys in at 7pm. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
Funny they would mention Gig Harbor. Did they say Biblical?
And yes, please, lets change the subject.