Confessions from a Hypocritical Pet Lover
I recently read an article about how professionals can’t accurately identify a dog’s breed from just physical appearance. We’ve even had it happen on our own staff! What can happen when we judge a dog on looks alone? If they are cute and fluffy, no problem. But what if they aren’t?
Do Looks Matter?
What happens when a dog looks like this? That’s when it gets uncomfortable.
This is Buddy. He first showed up 4th of July weekend at my sister-in-law’s place outside of Dallas, Texas. We happened to be visiting on a family vacation. Buddy was emaciated, scared, and looked awful. Someone had dumped him in their rural area.
My immediate reaction was “Uh-oh, this isn’t going to be good.” This was based more on the breed he resembled than the fact he was a stray desperate for help. My judgment was not based on actual evidence of any behavior problem.
Enter the Hypocrite
In my work at the vet clinic, I gave perfect lip service to “Any breed can have good dogs and any breed can have bad dogs.” The whole time I was thinking “I would never own a Pit Bull.”
I grew up with Weimaraners, 5 in fact. They were crazy (understatement), but gentle. We never had an issue. Why? They were trained well, exercised daily, and as a young girl, I was never left alone with them. I was taught what to do and not do around dogs.
As an adult, I’ve dreamed of having a Weim of my own. When Buddy arrived, I did consider adopting him. My hesitation? He looked like a Pit Bull. But what if that scared, starving dog who wandered onto my in-law’s place looked like a Weimaraner? Would I have been so hesitant to adopt?
Then it hit me. With any animal I bring into our home, safety has to be the main priority. Whether it’s a Weimaraner, a Pit Bull, or a Poodle, that dog must be safe for our kids (and cats). And our kids will learn the rules for living with a dog.
Looking back, I see how ridiculous my beliefs were. I am ashamed I even thought them. Sure there is a lot of bad press about the Bully breeds. Sometimes they do bad things. But, so do a lot of other dog breeds. We just don’t hear about it.
Yes, I worried that Buddy would be aggressive. Yes, I worried about being bitten. But, when I thought more about it, shouldn’t I be cautious with any dog until I know more about him? I should have the same expectations for behavior and safety regardless of the breed.
The Hard Truth
Buddy is lucky. Under other circumstances, he would be one of the overwhelming number of Pit Bull-like dogs euthanized each year. They are often the breed most surrendered to shelters, they are there for the longest time, and euthanized at the highest rate. (Startling article from the ASPCA on this).
When we judge a dog based on breed alone this becomes a life or death scenario for far too many dogs. All breeds should be treated with care, concern, and caution. All breeds deserve a chance.
Do your homework–learn about the true characteristics for each breed. Meet the dog in person. Make your judgment based on facts, not prejudice. It could save a life if you do.
My in-laws fed him, gave him toys (many, many toys that I may or may not have helped with), and provided full veterinary care. I am thrilled to say they adopted him. Or vice versa!
I visited them again a few months later to spend time with Buddy. He is a wonderful dog and won my heart. I learned first hand he is not aggressive to people or other dogs. He doesn’t pull on a leash, guard his food or toys, and doesn’t have a strong prey drive to go after their cats. He isn’t perfect, but he is worthy of love.
To Learn More about Pit Bulls
- ASPCA Position Statement on Pit Bulls
- Want to Reduce Dog Bites? Don’t Focus on the Breed (from AVMA)
- AVSAB position statement on Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
- The History of the Pit Bull
This post was written by Kirsten Linney from Den Herder Veterinary Hospital. She has been with DHVH since 2004. She and her family are the proud humans of 2 cats and hopefully one day a dog that will be adopted based on temperament and not on looks alone.