Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dangerous Dogs

Imagine, if you will, a scene of terrible carnage, no pun intended, where an automobile has careened, again no pun intended, down a hill, and has crashed into an innocent human being. Okay, first let’s report the make and model of the car. Then let’s go back into the past and see if any cars just like this one, or similar to it, or hell, kinda like it, has ever been left without its parking brake on, and has rolled down a hill and hit someone.

Then let’s ban the car.

That what Breed Specific Legislation is designed to do.

But if you were a rational human being, and tis hoped that you are, the very first thing you would do is find the owner of the car. Excuse me, sir, but why did you allow your car to be unattended and roll down a hill? Isn’t that the real question here? Isn’t this where all of the questions should be directed?

Dogs are not blanks slates. Some breeds have different traits than others. Some dogs are large and some are small. Some dogs are powerful and others not so much. Some dogs have a genetic propensity to herd while others make good retrievers. As far as I can tell, and I have been paying attention for a very long time, there has never been a breed of dog that has been bred to fight other dogs, bite people, or to hang onto their prey until one or the other is dead.

My dog Sam is part Greyhound and he is part Black Lab. He was also the victim of systematic and terrible abuse as a puppy. Beaten, abused, and nearly starved to death, Sam was left to die in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, that’s where I live. I’ve spent the last twelve and a half years with Sam. There has been damage to that dog I have not been able to undo, but Sam is stable and loving. What we humans do to dogs can be undone but there is a level of abuse that is very hard to heal.

I’ve been bitten by nearly every dog I have ever owned. Play has gotten too rough, training has gone wrong, Sam got twitchy when I introduced a new puppy to the pack, Bert bit me when the vet was drawing blood, but I am here to tell you one thing that is certain; if a large dog means to hurt you then you are going to get hurt. Most bites are meant to back you off the dog. They may not feel very pleasant but somewhere down the line you missed some body language that told you that the dog was stressed out and because you missed this signs you got tagged. Body language, your body language and the dog’s body language mean a lot more than most people know. I’ve never been surprised by a dog bite. Mostly, I had it coming. Mostly, I missed cues from the dog that all was not well.

Owning a large dog means you’ve taken steps into deeper water. Making a mistake with a toy poodle doesn’t have the consequences of making a mistake with a GSD. Letting your obnoxious purse puppy snap and snarl at strangers may seem cute but that same behavior in a Weimaraner is a bit different, isn’t it?

Teach your children well.

It isn’t entirely in the training but by training your dog you train yourself, too. You understand more and more who you are and who your dog is. Your dog begins to know you better as well. The two of you must communicate effectively and you have to get that dog to rely and trust training rather than going over to instinct when he’s stressed.

Set the parking brake, please.

It takes some effort to get a dog heading in the right direction and it takes some time. The same can be said for keeping a car running smoothly or a relationship with a human working. You cannot shut a dog off in a crate or a pen, or worse, chained to a tree, and expect that animal to react well to social situations. When you isolate a dog you are training that dog NOT to be social. You will get out of that dog what you’ve put into that dog and you will not like it.

The larger the dog the larger the responsibility of the owner.

I keep company with large dogs because that is the type of dog I like. I understand there no small mistakes with large teeth. I understand I have to train my dogs and this extends past teaching them not to pee on the floor and sitting when I ask them to do so. It means they have to understand that aggression is bad, always. Well, unless someone breaks in, but I assume they know the difference. Likely, if someone breaks in, they’ll look for treats.

I love Big Mutts and I cannot lie.

If you don’t have time for a dog, and by time I mean hours in a day and years of your life, then get a stuffed toy. If you aren’t willing to train the dog or take the dog to someone who can train the dog, then don’t get a dog. If you live in a small apartment and work sixteen hours a day please don’t get a large dog. If you haven’t a clue as to how to raise a dog then learn before you get one. On the job training can be terrible on the both of you.  Owning a large dog doesn’t make you look like a bad ass unless you do it right. Then you ARE a bad ass, but for reasons you might not yet comprehend. Getting a very large animal in the right place in the right time with the right mind is akin to raising a child that can bite.

You have to live with a dog. You have to live its life with the dog. The dog has to share your life as well. You don’t own a dog you own the dog’s entire existence. Training, training, and more training means you and your dog will be better people for it and the world will be a better place.

Take Care,



  1. Um, you make it sound like work... at least a demanding hobby. If you do that, you'll have more trouble trying to convince people to rescue all those dogs that need a home.

    Maybe say it'll take some time, but that time will be lots of fun and it's a great way to pick up chicks/studs. ;o)

    1. I make writing sound like work, too. That weeds out those who can't handle the idea of having just one person read their blog! ;-)