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Understanding Public Bully Breed Fear

Bully breed dogs have gotten a bad rap. Bully breeds are dogs such as pit bulls, Boxers, Rottweilers, etc., the kinds of dogs that the media loves to portray as killers. There are plenty of stories out there, detailing how people have been maimed or killed by these types of dogs, therefore, many people are fearful of them. Some people are fearful of any large dog, but a bully breed dog really frightens them.

The media loves to stir up drama, I am pretty sure we are all aware of that. There was a case several years ago, of a woman getting viciously attacked by a dog in a major city. The media showed up at the hospital to get the story, but when they found out the attacking dog was a Springer Spaniel, not a pit bull, they all left without bothering to write the story!

Other breeds of dogs have been the target of media bias over the years–German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers–but now the pit bull seems to be the dog of choice.

Please do not think for a minute that I am thinking that it is ridiculous for people to fear these breeds of dogs. I love dogs, but some of them are very powerful, and not all of them have had proper training. Some misguided people have even trained their dogs to be vicious, so I know there is a problem with some dogs being a threat.

I would much rather see people being too cautious than not cautious enough. So if someone fears my dogs, that is okay with me! I would much rather them assume the dog(s) is vicious than to have them run up and grab the dog affectionately.

I have had incidents where people are fearful of my dogs. Recently, I was parked in front of the rural post office near my home. My vehicle’s windows were open, and all three of my dogs were sitting inside. The postal clerk told me the next day that a woman had come inside after I had left, complaining that she was scared to death because I had parked a vehicle outside full of pit bulls and the windows were open!

I pretty much laughed when I was told this, as the thought of my dogs spilling out of my SUV to attack and kill a passerby is utterly ridiculous. But then I realized, that woman did not know me or my dogs, she has no idea they are all trained and socialized and were certainly not going to be a threat to her or anyone else. (Plus, they are trained not to to bark, and certainly not to leave the vehicle, open windows or not.)

I met my friend Kim last spring when she started volunteering at the kennel where I once worked. She had one of the dogs on a leash, about to put him through his paces when suddenly I drove up. Kim had never seen me before, and all she saw was a woman drive up, turn off the car and open the door.

“Someone’s here!” she announced to the kennel owner.

When Kim glanced back at my car, I was standing outside of it as my three dogs came out. All she saw was a whole gang of pit bulls spilling out! She did not know me and had never seen my dogs, so she was completely nervous. She quietly but quickly ducked back inside the fenced kennel yard area and put the dog back into his kennel.

“You have not even worked that dog yet!” the kennel owner said.

All Kim could squeak out was, “PIT BULLS!”

The kennel owner looked up, chuckled and said, “Oh that’s just Cynthia. She and her dogs are always here.”

We laugh about this now, but Kim was truly concerned. I told her it was better to be careful than not. I chuckled about it, but I certainly was not offended. When you have a strong, possibly dangerous breed of dog, you are going to get a much different reaction than if you have a tiny Yorkie, or even a big collie like Lassie. So do not get offended when people are afraid of your dog. Like I said, it is better than if they acted too familiar with him and got snapped at, as any dog will defend himself if someone is too familiar too soon.

A friend of mine lives in Austin, TX and told me about an incident that happened at an off-leash dog park a few years ago, when her little boy was only about two years old. A very large pit bull came bounding up to him and stood there, looking at him in a way that made my friend nervous.

She picked up her child as she told the owner, a young man, that she did not like how his dog was eyeing her son. The man immediately became defensive.

“You are just saying that because he is a pit bull! He won’t hurt anything!”

Now, I know my friend, and she loves all dogs, bully breeds or not. Her very first (and most important!) job was to protect her child, and if she offends a dog owner while doing that, well, too bad! If that dog had somehow decided to hurt that child, it would have happened in a split second!

My dogs are highly trained and socialized, and I am almost positive they would not hurt anyone, but nothing is 100% sure. If you are the owner of one of the bully breeds, or any large dog for that matter, do not get offended when people become fearful! It is not a put down of your dog, they may have a fear of dogs–any dog–or they may even have had an incident in their past, so they may have a very good reason for that fear.

Instead of getting offended, understand that your dog may look like a threat, and be proud that he is not the danger that he may appear to be. We all need to be a little more understanding of each other, and taking offense never does anyone any good.

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