Megan’s Musings: #Brainsnotbreed
Outdated breed specific legislation (BSL) exists throughout Canada. People were outraged when BSL was passed in Montreal in September. In early October it was suspended, however, there is still a risk of the law being passed. Although a law like this targets bully breeds, it is dangerous for all dogs. BSL creates fear of our canine family members, promotes hate and discrimination and ignores expert opinion and facts. Every time we have a knee-jerk reaction and make decisions based in fear, it causes severe and negative consequences for our future. At dogma, education is the core of our business and it is our mission to improve canine reputations. Through training and socialization we aim to enhance our relationships with our dogs while helping to create well-mannered canine citizens. BSL goes against all of this. In October, we launched our awareness campaign #brainsnotbreed as a way to share why supporting BSL puts all dogs at risk and what we can do to prevent it from progressing any further. In this post, I share some insight for dog owners, especially owners of bully breeds, on some behaviours that compound the problem. Let’s work together to be the solution.
Our obsession with pitbulls I get it. We are proud of our dogs and want to ensure we have a model pitbull. I have two of them at home so understand why we want to promote their breed and are so damn proud to have well-behaved and well-socialized ones. However, so many pitbull-lovers become obsessive and refer constantly to the breed. We become fanatical with them in a way that brings a different type of attention to them. We create such a big deal about them that we put them into another category from dogs. They are a dog just like any other and we must get better at treating them that way. It is still a good idea to promote everything that showcases them as lovable, loyal and well-trained dogs, but we should do this the same way we would any other dog.
Let me give you a few examples of how I have witnessed people do this. We had a puppy class one night with around twenty puppies coming into the room. One of the apprenticeship students commended the pitbull puppy owners for attending the class. This was not said to one other student in the room. Every single puppy in there is at risk of developing behaviour concerns that can be a danger to other animals or people. Why would we single out and give praise to only the pitbull owners? I understand that we want to encourage responsible pet ownership, especially with bully breeds, but we must begin treating all dogs equally. When we are out with either of our pitbulls, Duke and Mya, we are constantly stopped by people. We can barely walk through crowds without people wanting to stop and talk about how much they love pitbulls, how great pitbulls are and talk about their positive experiences with pitbulls. Again, I understand this is a kind gesture and people are happy to promote pitbulls. However, this has never happened with my other dogs and we must treat all dogs the same and stop putting pitbulls into a separate category that garners so much attention. All dog owners should be commended for making the right choices and training their dogs, and all dogs should receive appropriate attention. Let’s stop making such a big deal when they are pitbulls.
Showcasing them as threatening dogs At a time when people are fearful of bully breeds, we must do a better job at making them look friendly and safe. Do a quick google image search on pitbulls and notice how many are ferocious looking and note how many those are part of pitbull fan pages. Compare this with how the media portrays bully breeds through pictures and you see some concerning similarities Take a look through pitbull Facebook groups and you will see a large number of scary looking dogs. We must stop putting them in huge chains, spiked collars and breeding them to look like muscle-bound, dangerous creatures. And please, for the sake of our dogs, let’s stop cropping their ears. One of the main reasons ears were cropped originally was so that there was less to grab during dog fighting. They need their ears for effective communication and there is no reason to crop. It is cruel and unnecessary and there is a reason many cities are banning and vets refuse to do this outdated procedure.
I understand many of us love the look of the breed and the spiked collars and leather gear is not meant to scare people from our dogs. We love the strength and tough look of the dogs and this equipment enhances this. However, times are volatile for the breed and we must be more responsible in how we represent them and portray them to the general public. This is a large part of our #brainsnotbreed campaign. We want people sharing pictures of their happy dogs demonstrating how they are ideal urbanK9s; well-mannered and confident canine citizens that are welcome anywhere. Showcase the traits that make people smile and feel safe. It is a time to promote the positive side and be sensitive to what may be inadvertently showing them as a dangerous dog to be feared.
Using heavy-handed methods Being an organization that has built itself on promoting the proper training and handling of dogs, this is an issue that goes far beyond bully breeds. However, aversive training methods have been proven to put dogs at risk for serious behaviour concerns to develop as well as the potential to see an increased risk of aggression. It is irresponsible to train any dog through physical punishment and methods based in fear or intimidation. It is not only unfair to the dog, it puts people and other animals at risk. Unfortunately, bully breeds are frequently subjected to heavy-handed methods as we view them as tough dogs that need to be dominated and handled differently than other dogs. This is based on opinion and not on proven facts. Not only does it put the dogs and others at risk, but it also demonstrates that we have reason to fear these animals and they must be handled with force. They do not need to be handled roughly. I am always shocked at the number of people who come up and handle Duke heavily and roughly interact with him. It is as though they feel he needs to be handled in a harder manner as I have never had anyone interact the same way with any of my other dogs.
Please take the time to learn about canine body language and communication and how to train them by teaching them what to do vs taking only corrective action. Utilize methods that are not only more effective for training, but ensure the dog’s emotional well-being remains stable and positive. Start your dogs off at a young age and participate in active socialization. Continue to take them out into the human world as they develop and show them our busy, urban environment is safe and positive for them. Take care to teach them through reward-based methods to create an ideal urbanK9; one that shows people how wonderful our bully breeds truly are.
Please join our #brainsnotbreed campaign! We have magnets and stickers available at both locations. Share them and show us on Instagram by tagging us and using #brainsnotbreed to show where you have placed them. Follow our spokesdog, Duke, on Facebook and Instagram. Also, show that you do not support BSL and showcase all the ways your dog is an ideal urbanK9 (all breeds welcome)! Let’s join together to educate not hate, enforce not force and act not react. #dogmaknowsbetter. Join us in ending BSL (#endBSL).