Pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers, German Shepherds … the “bad dog” list goes on and on. They are dangerous fighters, killers, and thieves in the night. They shouldn’t be allowed in public places. They should use the dog bowls marked specifically for them. They are a menace to our otherwise menace-free society.
I don’t buy it. That’s not to say that I don’t understand where people are coming from—the breeds mentioned above tend to make the news more often than not, and it is rarely anything flattering. But haven’t we, as a society, seen enough of sensationalized media to start taking things with a grain of salted perspective?
Mine is a family of dog people. My wife grew up with dogs. I grew up with dogs. And now our children are growing up with dogs. We have had many of the “bad dogs” and many of the “good” breeds as well. We are fans of equal opportunity. That said, I have had cats that would cut you just for looking at them, but the dogs? Teddy bears. Every single one. The meanest dog that I have ever known was a fluffy, angry Poodle, and her name was Sweetums.
When my son was attacked by a neighbor’s dog (pictured below), it was a Labrador (one of two on the street, both of which attacked other dogs, kids, and even killed a full-grown deer). Labs get great press, but these two dogs didn’t believe it.
If I have learned anything from musical theater, it is that you’ve got to be taught to hate and kill (South Pacific). The idea that certain breeds of dogs are born bad? Ridiculous.
And if I have learned anything from Disney movies, it is that you don’t have to be bad just because you were drawn that way (Who Framed Roger Rabbit). The fact is (and by fact I mean my own personal theory) that many breeds have a tougher look by no fault of their own, and as such people of ill-intent are more likely to raise said breeds to match the book to their cover. People that train dogs to do bad stuff prefer dogs that look intimidating. It’s like self-fulfilling.
To be fair, I was a believer. I grew up with a healthy fear of “bad dogs” because I was told that it was the right thing to do. I have a scar below my eye from a babysitter’s German Shepherd. The sheriff that lived down my childhood street had a Doberman Pinscher that scared the heck out of me and anyone else that walked within 20 feet of the fence. I used to be a mail carrier. I know from dog fear.
Then we met the individual dogs behind the labels, and you know what? They didn’t live up to the hype. Granted, all of the dogs that we have had are mixed-breeds, but that usually means they are equal parts of two evil creatures. Perhaps two wrongs do make a right, because they have been the sweetest group of family-friendly pets that I have ever known.
We currently have a pit bull mix (a rescue picked by my now 8-year-old on his 4th birthday) named Love, and she was raised that way. Love is all she knows. We also have a Husky/Shepherd mix (also a rescue), who is as loyal as the day is long. They sleep with my children (and the cats). They are under the impression that they are lap dogs. I’m pretty sure that my wife encourages them.
Now, for liability reasons I’m going to stop short of suggesting that you follow my lead and introduce the fears of your own childhood to your pet-loving kids. You’ve got to do what’s best for you and yours. I just want people to know that good dogs come in all shapes and sizes — even if the “dog-friendly” apartments won’t allow them.
If you really want to be scared of a household pet, consider the hamster. They bite.