Breed Standards: Creating Prejudices in Dog Training

Prejudice is a burden that confuses the past, threatens the future and renders the present inaccessible.     

Maya Angelou

bootsandbee.com

bootsandbee.com

We all have prejudices.  Those who claim they aren’t prejudice at all strike me as imbeciles, unwilling or incapable of introspection. Prejudice can take so many forms, the most obvious being in regards to race, gender or sexual orientation with humans, but there are so many different forms.

felon

I’m prejudice against the home made frosting you make.  I don’t even need to taste it to know my mom’s/grandma’s/great grandma’s cake frosting is the best (I’ve even included it at the bottom of this post so you can agree and change the error of your icing-ways).

I think I can honestly say that I’m not prejudiced against people based upon their ethnicity (having so many different ethnic groups making up my DNA, it would be pretty hard for me to be prejudiced based upon a person’s ethnicity or religion). But I’ll admit that I’m prejudice against certain people in other capacities. I realize that the skewed beliefs I hold against these people are stupid and lacking merit, and I’m working hard to eradicate them, but sometime you’ve been “educated” too thoroughly to stop the knee-jerk reaction and let go of those ignorant beliefs, regardless of how hard you try to rid yourself of dysfunctional thinking.  But I realize I’m not perfect, and that my job is to try to do better every day, and to make sure my children aren’t poisoned by ignorant thinking. So far, so good.

But as this is a blog devoted to dog training, dog life, and just the joy that is the canine world, I completely digress.

So let’s talk about something we all tend to ignore:  prejudice of breeds.  The obvious prejudice would be pitbulls.  We’ve created entire sets of laws devoted to the prejudice of one little block-headed dog.  It perplexes me.  I hear the same tired adages from the same group of ignorant people:  pitbulls are dangerous.

To which I reply, “No shit!”

Of course they are dangers: they’re predators!  Every single dog I’ve ever worked with is potentially dangerous!  If it has teeth and can move faster than I can, it’s dangerous!

 

Yes, even this little doll-faced munchkin can be dangerous.

 

We tend to focus so much on which breeds are dangerous that we lose focus on which dogs are dangerous.  We banter around the term “breed” like it’s a make, model and year of a car.

 

 

But a car is a machine.  A dog is not, and regardless of how carefully a dog is bred, there is still plenty of room for deviation within that breed.  But we are still fed the same bullshit that Golden Retrievers are the perfect family dogs, Chihuahuas are lap sharks, and Rotties require “special training/handlers”.

We all know that’s just a bunch of Benedryl Cramplesnutch

 

(side note: Buttercup Candysnack fans, click here.  You’re welcome.)

I’ve worked with quite a few aggressive “family dogs”, and lost count of the Rotties who should be therapy dogs. By judging a dog based exclusively upon the breed, you are missing the potential of the dog.  Work with the dog, not the breed.  Focus on Fido, not the fact that he’s a rare Blue Ridged Appalachian Banjo Dog.

 

Most times, when booking a session, I don’t even ask what breed of dog you have, because the operative word here is “dog”.  I want to meet Fifi, Ollie, Peaches and Brutus. And they are so much more than just a Chihuahua, Doodle, Spaniel and Shepherd.  They are individuals, not brands of merchandise.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, there are a few breeds of dogs that I am prejudiced against.  Remember, I’m only human, and I’m working every day towards being better.  No, I’m not going to tell you which three breeds of dog I’m prejudiced against because prejudice is stupid. I know I’m being stupid, I accept it, and I refuse to spread stupidity around like a crop duster full of ignorance.

 

And every single time I work with one of the three (rare) breeds that I’m prejudiced against, I’m reminded again how stupid and misguided my apprehensions were about the dog, and each time I have less and less prejudice against those three.  There used to be four breeds I was prejudiced against, but I finally learned better and accepted new information upon which to make my decisions.  Facts win (eventually).

So I have an idea: rather than referring to purebred dogs as “breeds”, let’ refer to them as “families”.  Because there are a bit of similarities between families and we can acknowledge that.  But we always treat the individuals within the family as, well…individuals. It’s fair to say that a Weasley family member will probably have red hair. But you’re willing to accept deviations without a second thought.

 

Nobody is surprised when they meet my daughter, who at 12 is already 5’6″, because I’m 6″ tall, and my mother was 5’8″. Family tradition of tall women.

 

But with family, we allow for deviation from the norm.  My son is actually a little smaller than normal.  And besides, “normal” is just a setting on a washing machine.

That’s not to say that there aren’t certain concerns within a family that may need to be addressed.  Epilepsy seems to travel in my family, as well as asthma.  And we have a high number of ADHD and some autism swimming laps around the family gene pool. But I’m not automatically going to assume that any child born into my family will have ADHD. It’s a case-by-case basis. Similarly, learn about the medical conditions your dog may be prone to, but don’t automatically assume that your Mastiff will have cherry eye, or that your GSD will have bad hips.

A lot of people are commenting about what breed of dog they’d like to get, and with very little deviation, they are picking out dogs based upon their experience with one single dog.

“My best friend ‘adopted’ a Gaggledoodle from a local breeder, and I just love that dog, so I’m going to go to a ‘breeder’ and get a Gaggledoodle, too!”

Problems:

1) Your friend did not ‘adopt’ a dog from a breeder.  Best case is they bought a dog from a backyard breeder.  Worse (and most likely), they are supporting puppy mill industry.

2) You can’t recreate the same exact puppy as your friend’s dog just because they’re the same breed!  They are individuals, not lines of code that can be rewritten to create a carbon copy of an original.

Judging a dog by their breed first, you’re falling into the trap of prejudice.  Judge the dog by who they are.  Let your dog tell you whether or not they like to play fetch. If they are scared of other dogs, or if they actually prefer to be lazy rather than hyper. I’ve come to accept that my training sessions are so much more productive when I’m not battling against preconceived ideas of how a Pug should act, but focusing on Bailey, the individual dog in front of me.

Learn about your dog and you’ll be well on your way to building a healthy partnership with Fido, Fifi, and Peaches.  Communicate and train with the dog you have, not the breed you bought.  Plenty of Labs hate water.  I’ve met some seriously lazy Border Collies.  And most pit bulls are more interested in belly rubs and treats than murdering anyone.

trash panda

Now, as promised, here is the recipe for the best tasting custard frosting you will ever have, courtesy of my grandma.  My mom wrote out a cookbook of family recipes for me when I was 5 years old, starting in 1982, and this was in it.  Thanks, Mom!

image0
1 cup milk
3 heaping Tbsp flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
Whisk together milk & flour in a saucepan over low-medium heat to create custard base. Careful, as it will burn.  Once thickened (almost to the point of runny mashed potatoes), remove from heat and allow to cool completely.
Beat together powdered sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add the milk/flour mixture until well incorporated.  Add vanilla.
Skip the cake and eat this shit straight from the bowl while binge watching The Witcher.  Toss a coin. No regrets.


Keep calm and pilot on

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

Shocking – Why I Hate Shock Collars

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

Brittany Graham Photography

Brittany Graham Photography

Sun Tzu, the master of strategy and war, was born in ancient China, roughly 544 BC. He has been the messiah of many a general and businessman, as his tactics and philosophies are still in use today.  He was described as a very genial and merciful man…off the field.  On the battlefield, however, he had only one objective: win.

Sun Tzu.  The most badass general ever to wear a skirt.

Sun Tzu. The most badass general ever to wear a skirt while contemplating the world’s largest blunt.

There is a story about him that goes something like this:

Sun Tzu was tested by the  King Helü of Wu, and ordered him to train a harem of 200 concubines, turning them into soldiers. Sun Tzu put them in two groups, naming the king’s favorites as the company commanders. Sun Tzu then commanded the concubines to face right – but they just giggled.  In response, Sun Tzu said that a general, (himself) was responsible for ensuring that soldiers understood the commands given to them. Then, he reiterated the command, and again the concubines giggled. Sun Tzu then ordered the execution of the king’s two favored concubines, to the king’s protests. He explained that if the general’s soldiers understood their commands but did not obey, it was the fault of the officers. Sun Tzu also said that, once a general was appointed, it was his duty to carry out his mission, even if the king protested. After both concubines were killed, new officers were chosen to replace them. Afterwards, both companies, now well aware of the costs of further frivolity, performed their maneuvers flawlessly.(1)

Apparently the ends justified the means.  Or maybe not.

There is no argument that shock collars work.  Of course it works.  You are causing an animal intense pain to keep them from a behavior.  Whether or not it works has never been the question.  Whether or not we should use such extreme measures has been the real question.

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock.

Just an average day with your typical Shock Jock style trainer.

I found this video below on Your Good Dog’s Facebook page.

Owner Shannon Duffy’s comment perfectly sums up exactly how I feel about it as well.

Although I do not agree with the method I do understand why some of my friends use shock collars to help dogs exist in situations where failure would most likely cost their lives.

What is 100% unacceptable is using these collars for basic obedience training. Please watch this video. Every time this PUPPY (they start at 4 months) shakes his head he is being delivered a shock. Watch when he lies down and rubs his face trying to either ease the pain from the shocks of remove the collar. This is unacceptable for training a dog to do what amounts to circus tricks.

To my friends (there are quite a few) that are now using this method to train I beg of you to see that this is inhumane. If you do not feel that it is then put a collar around your neck and you take the same level shock every time that you shock the dog. And not just the one time “I held it in my hand and it’s not so bad” shock but every time, same level. I guarantee you learn better training methods.

What do you think?

I had a very difficult time getting through the video, and I hope you did, too.  Here at Darwin Dogs, we firmly believe in balance.  Not every question your dog asks can be answered with a treat.  However, I feel that only a very, very small number of questions can be answered with pain, but I still can’t think of a legitimate one.   If pain is your first response, to a puppy’s questions, then perhaps you need to rethink your tactics.  If you’re looking for devotion through pain, well…wrong movie.

Fifty Shades of Jabba-style

Fifty Shades of Jabba

So I urge you, if someone suggests using an instrument of pain, such as a shock collar or a prong collar on your dog, tell them you already know how that ends.  Shockingly.

 

Keep calm and pilot on

 

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio

 

  1.  Bradford 2000, pp. 134–135.