I’ve been mulling over some things recently, and I think I’m finally to the point where I can express my thoughts in a somewhat coherent manner.
The way I see it, there’s a lot of talk right now about breed bias and breed specific legislation. Anyone involved in rescue and shelter work knows about it and anyone who owns a bully breed, German shepherd, Rottweiler, or Doberman Pinscher probably has experienced some of the backlash. In an effort to combat the public’s perception of these breeds, a whole campaign has come up to highlight these breeds and their good points.
I’m going to focus on the German shepherd dog in this post, because that’s the breed I’m obviously the most familiar with.
I’ve seen a lot of people recently posting pictures of their adorable German shepherds and saying things like, “How could anyone think this is a vicious breed?” Or, “This is the most loyal, loving breed there is.” The pit bull people love to do it too. They actually have, in my opinion, the best memes.
But every time I see these posts I feel innately…wrong about them. At first, I thought it was maybe a jealousy thing, and it may be a bit of that. A bit of the – well, great, good for you, la dee da, your dog is so sweet, blah blah. But when I explored my feelings, I realized my irritation with these posts went a little deeper.
When we group dogs generically in any way, by their breed, we’re doing the same thing the BSL people are doing. Dogs are individuals. I can’t say it enough. Individuals, individuals, if you can’t judge a breed for its alleged bad qualities, you can’t judge it for its alleged good qualities either. Your German shepherd may not be mean, but you know what – if someone crosses the street when they see mine, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not offended, I’m grateful, because it’s less stressful for them and less management for me. I don’t want anyone to be afraid of my dogs because they’re German shepherds, but I do want them to be wary of them because they’re not nice. They’re individuals, fear reactive ones.
On the other side of the spectrum, you have the people who want to go on and on about how “tough” their dogs are. German shepherds are innate protectors, pit bulls don’t feel pain, Rotties are intimidating, Dobes are the silent guard dogs, etc. etc.
You wonder why people are afraid of your sweet dog? See the above. And the crazy thing is that some people are posting pictures like the ones above and then in the next breath wondering why people cross the street when they see their dog. It’s all breed bias though, it’s all based on no one honoring the individual dog and its individual personality. If someone broke into our house would Panzer and Shelby attack? Honestly, I don’t know, probably, but it wouldn’t be because they’re German shepherds and it wouldn’t even be because they’re trained to do so (they’re not), it would be because they have behavioral problems, which is not exactly something I’m out to honor. A lot of shepherds though, wouldn’t.
I think in order to combat breed bias, we shouldn’t make ANY blanket generic statements, we should just talk about our dogs, regardless of breed. I don’t give a shit what the AKC says my dogs should be, because I know what they are. I know that Shelby is a needy, clingy, neurotic, fearful mess who is damn good at herding sheep and snores when she sleeps. I know Panzer is a ball crazy, recovering resource guarder who while getting better, is still not to be trusted at length with strangers but who pushes his nose under your hand for pets and will lie in your lap for hours so long as you don’t mess with the back half of his body.
They’re all individuals. Some pit bulls don’t like other dogs, and some love them. Some German shepherds are cowards who run and hide at the sound of thunder, some jump out of planes. Some Rotties resource guard and some will let a Chihuahua remove a bone from their mouth. Some Dobes are aggressive toward people, some are not. Are you getting my point?
The more and more time I spend in animal welfare the more and more I realize that the only thing “breed” can really tell you is what the dog will sort of look like. I, for my part, am done stereotyping, negatively OR positively.
And the same goes for dogs in shelters/rescues – you can’t group them together either, because they’re not even a breed.