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

 

When Pugs Were Pugs

 Don’t you see the danger, John, inherent in what you’re doing here? Genetic power is the most awesome force the planet’s ever seen, but you wield it like a kid that’s found his dad’s gun. – Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park
Photo: charlesdeluvio

Photo: charlesdeluvio

I love dog training, and I am fortunate enough to be constantly learning.  One of the greatest sources of growth for me has been my clients and readers.  You never let me down with your succinct and intelligent commentary.
Recently, a post on breeders vs. rescuing.  Karen Privitera’s response to the debate blew me away:
Forgive me; this is going to be long….I am conflicted.
Pugs have been a part of my family for three generations … they’ve been part of us for well over 85 years. For years, I knew of no other families with pugs; but we had magazines, books and pug organizations …and we had no debilitating medical problems with our dogs.

My earliest memories are of correcting people; it seemed like nobody knew what they were:
“he’s not a bulldog, he’s a pug”
“no, he didn’t run into a wall”
“that’s not very nice, he’s not ugly…I love him”

Fifty, forty years ago — I didn’t see pugs with their tongues hanging out constantly (birth defect); I wasn’t hearing or reading about nasal enlargement surgeries or the rest of it.

For the past 5 decades, none of our pugs have been purchased from a breeder; they have all been from shelters and legit rescue programs. One was adopted after being featured on Captain Penny’s Pooch Parade in the 1960s.

In 1981, a pug won Best of Show at Westminster. I recall telling my Vet that I hoped that “win” didn’t set off crazy popularity. I remember him looking at me oddly and asking “why?”.
I was shocked that he didn’t seem to be thinking —or concerned — about the long-term ramifications of a frenzy of bad breeding.
But that’s exactly what happened — and suddenly pugs were everywhere: in commercials, on greeting cards, etc.

…then “Men In Black” contributed to the irresponsible growth of the breed and so on & so on…

Ask long-time Dalmatian breeders what happened after the 101 Dalmatians movie came out.

Not a single pug of my grandparents’, my aunt or my immediate family ever required nasal surgery or had medical issues related to their respiratory system.
None of them were ever used for breeding.

Truth be told, I wish the day would come where only responsible, licensed, well-regulated breeders are permitted to sell animals.
I *wish* there weren’t so many animals dumped, abandoned, “born just for profit”; I will spend the rest of my life only having pets that come from those unfortunate situations.

I personally will not go to a reputable breeder, ever, for any future pets … not while so many other dogs are in shelters.
I wish I could.

In a different world, how I wish the breed hadn’t exploded — bringing all the physical problems now suffered by these sweet animals and perpetuated by greed & ignorance.

The breed is not inherently bad: irresponsible breeders are BAD.
Don’t buy from the Amish, EVER.
Don’t buy from people who “just wanted their dog to have one litter” and have no idea what the hell they’re doing.
Don’t purchase off of Craigslist; be responsible and do some damn research.

And while I’m on my soapbox: there’s no such thing as “teacup” or “miniature” or “micro” — they’re the result of runts being bred to runts. None of that is good.

Photo attached of my Grandpa — long before me. Sadly, these healthy pugs don’t look like what you see today.

Pic courtesy of Karen Privetera

Pic courtesy of Karen Privitera

Thank you, Karen, for stating exactly what needed to be said.

keep

Kerry Stack
Darwin Dogs
Dog Training in Cleveland, Ohio