Dogs With Bad Reputations
You are out on a walk and as you round the corner, you see a large dog who is running loose. The dog appears to be a pit bull. Your mind flashes to a recent news story in which a pit bull injured a person. Now what? Stay calm and evaluate the situation. The best action for you to take is to calmly and somewhat slowly turn around and walk off at a steady pace in the direction that you came from. Chances are the dog will ignore you.
The pit bull is probably the number one dog in the nation with a bad reputation. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the pit bull is not a specific breed of dog. Instead, pit bull is an umbrella term for a type of dog with characteristics which include very muscular bodies, large broad heads, short hair, and weigh thirty to sixty pounds. AKC recognizes several breeds that may considered to be “bully” breeds. Those include the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bulldog. Plus, there are numerous mixed breed dogs who have bully characteristics. Most of those dogs and are great family dogs. However, some humans decided they should be used in dog fighting. Besides the tremendous harm done to the individual dogs involved in the illegal activity, they caused harm to the all-bully type dogs because they made people fear the dogs.
The Rottweiler is dog breed that frequently gets a bad reputation. They are large dogs who were bred to guard homesteads, protect livestock, and perform general farm work. Rottweilers are easy to train, are good workers, and they need a job. Their appearance probably has a lot to do with why many people have a negative view of them. After all, Rottweilers are large, stocky dogs who generally weigh in at eighty plus pounds, and they have big heads. Some people equate big heads with big teeth. Rotties are mostly black with reddish legs and eyebrow markings. People tend to interpret their intense facial expression as fierce and scary. I have known two Rottweilers well. Both dogs were friendly, playful, had sweet personalities, and were great family dogs. One dog was a therapy dog. Her favorite place to visit was an elementary school where the children read stories to her. She loved the kids and they loved her. The other Rottweiler is still a rambunctious youngster, but she has the potential to become a therapy dog too.
Doberman Pinchers are another dog breed who are often viewed negatively. They are guardians and an active breed. Just like the Rottweiler, their size and coloring impact how people view them. Dobermans are mostly black with reddish markings and they weigh between sixty and ninety pounds. It is well known among shelters and rescue groups that black dogs are harder to rehome because people see black dogs as more intimidating looking than their lighter colored cousins. The first time that I met a Doberman, I walked out of the house and found the dog off leash in my driveway. I spoke quietly and kindly to him so he calmly walked over to me wagging his nub of a tail. After that, whenever I took my dog walking, he came with us. Years later, I met another Doberman named Walker. He became a therapy dog who visited kids at an elementary school and patients at a hospital. Walker’s sister is not a therapy dog but she is sweet and friendly too.
Based on personal history, I have found Dachshunds to be more dangerous than the dogs with bad reputations. Yes, I realize that pit bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans are much larger animals and potentially could do more damage. But the Dachshunds that I have known had a bite first and consider other options later personalities. I knew a lady who had a Dachshund who would try to bite anyone who entered the house except immediate family members. The lady thought that was acceptable animal behavior. I did not agree so I never went to her house. Are you recognizing a theme here? There are mostly good dogs among all breeds and, yes, there are a few bad dogs in every breed of dog. It mostly depends on proper socialization, kind treatment and the training that each dog receives. That means that people are a tremendous influence on a dog’s behavior. The majority of pit bull type dogs, Rottweilers, and Dobermans are friendly, loving, and loyal family dogs. However, when the dogs are used for dog fighting, or mistreated or trained to be vicious to protect illegal drugs or other questionable activities by horrible people, those few bad dogs give their whole breed a bad name.
There are ways to help reduce the scary look of your intimidating looking dog. Train them to calmly greet people only when you tell them it is alright to do so. You might teach them a phrase such as “go say hello” that tells your dog that they have permission to approach someone. In addition, you could dress them is something such as a colorful collar, bandana, or bow tie. It could make them look less threatening. Avoid chain collars, heavy leather collars, or collars with metal studs which could contribute to people’s fear of the breeds. Always walk your dog on a leash and maintain control of them. Never let them run free and do not let them approach other people unless the person indicates that the dog is welcome to approach. It is not fair that some breeds of dogs are judged so poorly by the public because of the bad behavior of a few individuals of their breeds. The great majority of dogs of all breeds are good family pets and positive representatives of their breeds. But there will always be individual dogs whose behavior will cause concern or fear in people. In the majority of cases, the behavior of people caused the bad behavior of the dogs. Treating your dogs with love and kindness, teaching them basic manners, and maintain control of them in public will demonstrate that your dog is not a problem dog. This, in turn, may improve the reputations of bully dogs, one dog at a time.