Once again we come to the end of the year. It seems like only twelve months since the last one. Much has happened in 2009 mostly good but a few low points. There have been breavements of family and friends but the imminent arrival of a new Grandchild shows the cycle of life continues. The last year has shown me the vital importance of making a will and letting someone know where it is. It’s too late when you’ve gone.
In the dog world there have also been ups and downs. More horrific attacks usually by ‘status dogs’ that have, in some cases, ended in death. The specific breed is usually blamed but it’s not the poor dogs fault it’s what we, the human race, top of the food chain, have done to the dog. How we’ve bred it, how we keep and treat it and why we choose a particular dog. Any breed of dog is capable of aggression indeed, probably the most fearsome dog I’ve dealt with pound for pound, or should that be ounce for ounce? Was a chihuahua. Had it been Labrador size or larger it would have been lethal. Did we mend it? Of course. You’ll notice I say ‘we’ because I can do nothing on my own. If the owners don’t play their part then we’ll never make progress. Happily most of my clients do what is required and with the ongoing support that they receive they reach a positive outcome.
When choosing a new dog, decide what you want it for. There are a multitude of breeds in a variety of sizes out there, not to mention the mixed breeds. What is your lifestyle, do you live in a house or flat, town or country? Do you have children or are you intending to in the near future? Are you active or is a lap dog for you? What size of dog will fit into your home without making it too cramped? Answer these questions before you even think about what breed you will buy. Once you’ve picked a breed you think would be suitable, research it thoroughly and then find a good breeder. Don’t make the decision on your own unless you live alone. You’ll no doubt want other family members to do their share of walking, feeding and grooming. If so they are entitled to some input before you buy.
Be aware also of the public’s perception of various breeds, all Labradors are friendly, all Jack Russells are snappy and perhaps the most commonly held belief at present, all Pitbulls, Staffies and other ‘Bull’ breeds are baby killers. This is of course grossly unfair but is an attitude not helped by many of the owners of such breeds. All stereotypes have some basis in fact and it is a sad truth that a certain type of person will always want a ‘status dog’.
Like clothes and music, dogs go out of fashion. When I was younger, the dog of choice for those wanting a manhood extension was the German Shepherd or ‘Alsatian’ as they were known then. This caused all the decent owners of the breed to be tarred with the same brush. Other dog owners would cross the road to avoid them, smaller dogs would be picked up and cuddled when a GSD left their home in the next County. Little dogs would snarl and bare their teeth at the mellow GSD and the small dogs owners would not apologise or do something about their dogs behaviour, but instead would say “He was attacked by an Alsatian!” So that’s alright then. The GSD owner was then expected to feel guilty because someone elses dog was out of control. The GSD went out of fashion and in came the Doberman followed by the Rottweiller then the Pitbull. Of course when the Pitbull was made illegal, overnight there were a lot of large Staffies on harnesses. At the end of a chain big enough to moor an ocean liner you would often see a shaven headed youth with ‘Vacant’ tatooed across his forehead. Another blow to the responsible owner of the breed.
So get the breed you want as long as you’ve researched it thoroughly. Get a Staffie if you want, I know some delightful members of the breed. But, if you do choose a Staffie, be prepared to be stereotyped as a drug dealer or gang member. You must also be aware that a dog on dog confrontation in the park will be perceived very differently by both other dog owners and the courts when the dog involved is a bull breed as opposed to say a Lab or spaniel. I’m not trying to put you off, just make sure that the dog you get is the one that will fit in with you and your family. He or she is going to be with you for a long time so it makes sense to get it right.