It’s all in how you raise them

Hi everyone! Mayzie’s mom here. Mayzie and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday and I hope you don’t mind if I take over the blog for the day. (I promise I cleared it with Mayzie first.)

There’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s a phrase. One that I hear used over and over again in regard to pit bull-type dogs. Usually by well-meaning people who want to show that they’re not prejudiced against “pit bulls” or that they understand that not all “pit bulls” are mean.

It’s all in how you raise them.

To be honest, this phrase is starting to wear on me a bit. While I  believe that dog bites are almost always due to human failure, this phrase seems to somehow imply that if a “pit bull” (or any dog for that matter) is raised by a bad owner, it will be a bad dog. And conversely, if it’s raised by a good owner, it will be a good dog.

What it fails to take into account is that dogs, like people, are individuals. And like people, some dogs are just born with faulty wiring; and even the best owner may not be able to manage that dog safely. On the other hand, some dogs are born with such a solid temperament that no matter what you do to them, they will not become violent.

To say that “it’s all in how you raise them,” doesn’t explain a dog like sweet Shelby. One who was so obviously abused and yet continues to show an enormous capacity to love and trust people.

It doesn’t explain Mayzie, who grew up as a “resident dog.” Resident dogs are different from family dogs in that they never get to be part of the family. They’re often tethered in a yard, as Mayzie was, and they aren’t properly socialized or taught what is acceptable behavior. A large percentage of biters are resident dogs, for obvious reasons.  Yet Mayzie loves people and interacts beautifully with them (even when they make unreasonable and seemingly crazy requests).

It doesn’t explain Hector, a former Vick champion fighting dog. Even though he’s covered in scars, he shows no dog aggression and is now a registered therapy dog.

And it doesn’t explain Sarge.

For the first 14 years of his life, Sarge lived with an animal abuser. Let me repeat that – he suffered FOURTEEN years of abuse. He then spent 6 months in a shelter while his abuser was prosecuted. Happily for Sarge, he was adopted by two wonderful people and now lives the good life in Philadelphia. He is also a certified therapy dog and was named the “2010 Humane Educator of the Year” by Philadelphia’s mayor. This amazing dog will turn 16 years old on September 28th. (Be sure to visit Sarge’s blog and read about his story. The blog is very short – only 2 pages long – and you can’t leave a comment. But I promise, it’ll be well worth your time.)

The thing is, there are countless dogs like the ones I’ve mentioned here who, despite their circumstances or backgrounds, are shining examples of why it’s so important to judge dogs as individuals – not on how they look or on their breed. And they are the reason why Breed Specific Legislation is just plain wrong.

There are only a few days left to make a postcard for the “Campaign to End BSL in Denver.” If you haven’t already, please send one in. It’s easy and free. It doesn’t matter if you have a dog or a cat or no pets at all. It doesn’t matter if you live near Denver or across the ocean. What matters is that we all take a stand for what is right. Dogs like Shelby and Mayzie and Hector and Sarge don’t have a voice. But together we can give them one.

Thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my heart (and Mayzie’s)  – thank you!


Filed under BSL

22 responses to “It’s all in how you raise them

  1. Very well said Mayzies Mom and I wll now bimble off to read about Sarge. Have to be honest never heard the term resident dog before so will be reading your link for that too.
    Big Hugs to Mayzie
    Mollys Momma

  2. mumster is urging me to let you know that she agrees with you wholeheartedly……and she is so happy that you’ve highlighted what she was thinking. she was accused of being a ‘not too good mumster’ as my sister Coco is snappy ( but i’m very good, ha)

    thanks and lots of chikisses

  3. We will go to that web site right now. Thanks for letting us know Mayzie momma!

  4. What a wonderful post. You really captured how amazingly resilient our dogs are. And thanks again for the campaign mention. We’re almost there, and I sincerely appreciate your help with this last push!! Belly rubs to Mayzie!

  5. Very well said indeed! 🙂

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  6. You’ve done it again, Mayzie, you’ve made sense!

    We’ve given you an award – stop by to pick it up!

  7. Wow, that is one good article. I have never heard of the term resident dog either. That was all so interesting. I am wondering if the dog parents of these dogs have something to do with their temperment and personality. Anyway, you sure did bring up some great facts. I know I bred horses and many of them were just like their Mommas.
    We will go make a post card.
    Have a great Labor day.

  8. You’ve hit on something that I’ve wished I could express in the past, but couldn’t quite form my thoughts around at the time. I think it’s very important to take each dog as an individual in all circumstances, good and bad, and to really know your dog and what you’re asking of them in any situation.

    My husband has been discouraged lately because he fears that he’ll never be able to take Morgan to visit as a therapy dog. She’s great with obedience class work, and wonderful with children, but not always trusting of various adults. The jury is out about whether that will be in her future. While the Greyhounds have always excelled in that area, Morgan may not. It’s just one of those things you have to learn to live with!

  9. AC

    I also get weary of hearing blanket statements about dog raising/training. Kona is perhaps the flip-side example to the wonderful pups in your post. Despite adopting her as a wee pup, her capacity to live in the human world is still limited. I once had a man, taking the “it’s how you raise them” assumption, say that I must be kicking my dog after Kona skirted away when he approached her.

  10. Cupcake

    What a great post. You are a very wise woman!

    Love, Cupcake

  11. I agree with you Mayzie. Too bad Sarge was treated so bad but he is dong much better now and what a difference he has made for himself, cool!!


  12. Great post! Couldn’t agree with you more! 🙂

  13. I agree. I think bad owners tend to make bad dogs but there are many dogs who make it through that and there are dogs who are born bad.


  14. Well pawed Mayzie’s Mom!

    It should be required reading –

    Khyra’s Mom

  15. Very well said, Ms. Amber! You certainly have a knack for so clearly expressing what many of us feel to be true about BSL! Thank you!!


  16. You are soooooo right!
    I’ve sent my postcard!
    Kisses and hugs

  17. Very, very well pawed.:)

    Teddy Bear

  18. You are so right. My immediate predecessor here was not a bad dog, but there was nothing that could be done to get him to trust anyone but Alpha Mom, even though he was quite fond of the rest of the family. He could not be taken out to mix freely with the general public and wasn’t great – at all – at the vet or groomer. He lived to be 15. He was paranoid, but healthy. On the other paw there are many more doggies like Shelby, I think – always willing to trust if given just half a chance no matter what’s gone before. And breed is just not the indicator that some people think it is.

    Lotsa licks, Lola

    Pee S – We mailed out the collar and leash that Mayzie ordered. I am humiliated by the fact that we didn’t enclose a card or note or anything personal, especially as Mayzie is a Most Impawtent BFF. Things just got ahead of them as always and it was a matter of getting to the Post Office before they closed up for Labor Day weekend.

  19. Heartbeats

    Another thing is that people need to realize that the individuality of your dog determines what your dog likes to do. My Heartbeats each have very different ideas of what “fun” is. Don’t put your dog in a situation to give it a bad rep!

  20. Great post, I have learned to much the past year about pitties and the ones who suffer but can be rehab’d. Thank you for helping to educate me on the issue. Mayzie is a wonderful girl to has a furfriend on here!

  21. What a great post! Your mom is sure smart, Mayzie!

    Love ya lots
    Maggie and Mitch

  22. We certainly agree with this post! My brother Dillon was abused when he was a pup, and he has scars and some physical problems as a result, but he has always been the sweetest guy and the most patient brother a girl could ever have! It took him a long time to warm up to Dad, though. We doggies have our own pawsonalities just like peoples do. Thanks for reminding everyone!

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