I have heard far too frequently recently about how good dogs come from good breeders or how one breed of dog is more of a “family” dog than another. It enrages me to know that this way of thinking is still prevalent in our pet owning community, especially in regards to pitbulls. As a result of cruel underground dog fighting in the 1980s, pitbulls became the face of crime and violence. There was a huge wave during this time of people getting rid of their pitbulls and they entered shelters and were euthanized at alarming rates Some of this stigma still exists after years of debunking myths surrounding how breed effects disposition, with some dog parks and apartment complexes specifically not allowing pitbulls. These dogs are piling up in shelters and it’s time that we realized that they, like any other breed, have the ability to be a lovable addition to the family.
In a recent study with pet owners, it was found that aggression in dogs usually only comes from one specific situation such as meeting strangers, growling or barking at family members or when meeting other dogs on walks. This shows that aggression is not in the breed or personality of the dog, but is a learned behavior to certain situations. Aggression is less likely to be influenced by breed and more likely to be influenced by attendance to obedience class, age or sex of the dog and whether the animal was spayed or neutered. What this study has shown is that aggression in dogs is a result of the owner and their training. Any dog can show aggression with lack of training or the right stressors in their environment, pitbulls happen to be a very strong and powerful dog, so more of their bites result in injury. This is why there are more reported incidents of pitbull attacks than, say, a Chihuahua, since a bite from a smaller dog would cause less harm.
Another dangerous way of thinking of dog breeds is that pedigree or purebred dogs are superior to “mutts.” Purebred dogs are often extremely unhealthy, being specially bred to look a certain way can create other medical issues for a dog. Bulldogs, for example, are loved for their scrunched face and rolling wrinkles, however breeders exaggerating these features have led to heavy or difficulty breathing as well as increased chance of infection. These genetic disorders, coming from the dangerous inbreeding of these animals, actually makes them less healthy than mutts or shelter dogs. As goes for humans, when two individuals who are very genetically different have a baby they will have a stronger immune system, therefore being less susceptible to disease, as well as being less likely to get recessive genetic disorders.
Not only are pedigree dogs more prone to illness and disease, but purchasing them supports puppy mills or commercial dog breeders that are usually overcrowded and unsanitary. Most of these dogs spend their entire lives caged outside or crammed inside, never getting a chance to breathe fresh air. Shelter animals often get a reputation of having behavioral issues, but most often these animals ended up there because their owners could no longer care for them. Having volunteered at animal shelters, I know that some of the sweetest, most docile cats and dogs come from shelters. Employees work hard to care for, socialize and train these animals before they are adopted into their forever home. There are veterinary clinics on site to help treat the animals, so they are often in better health and living conditions than dogs or cats from private breeders or puppy mills.
Judging a dog by its breed does so much harm to animals and to public safety. Breed specific laws, such as the restrictions against pitbulls, creates stereotypes and gives the illusion of a safer environment or neighborhoods for families and other pet owners. Laws and restrictions that actually do result in pet safety focus on people’s responsibility for their dog’s behavior. Judging by breed and pedigree has resulted in the majority of owners buying from private breeders, leaving shelter dogs to be euthanized. It’s time we realized that dogs, like humans, are individuals with differing personalities. There is no way to tell what a dog will be like solely on its genetics, breed or gender just as this is no indicator in humans. So please, don’t judge a dog by its breed and save a furry, lovable life by choosing to rescue.
Samantha Pierce is a contributor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.