My dog is very sweet and gentle. I can trust him around all people and dogs. I didn’t train him to be this way. It’s just the way he is.
But too often, my dog’s actions are attributed to what he looks like – a black Labrador.
This is the case when he chases after a ball or when he dives head first into the lake or when he lets a child kiss him on the nose.
His actions are associated with “Lab” because “Lab” is the type of dog people see when they look at Ace.
“Labs are nice dogs,” people say while petting him.
Or, “That’s what Labs do. I love Labs.”
Or even, “Black Labs are the best.” (As though blacks are somehow better than chocolates.)
But my dog is only 50 percent Lab, according to his mixed-breed DNA test.
The rest of his heritage is a mix of so many breeds, the test couldn’t distinguish them. It suggested traces of German shepherd and dachshund, among others.
For me, this is why we need to be careful about the generalizations we make about dogs based on their appearances. What we think we see is not always accurate. And even if we (rarely) get the breed right, we still shouldn’t assume a dog will act a certain way.
Yes, my Lab mix just happens to be completely obsessed with a tennis ball, but plenty of Labs won’t fetch a thing.
For the most part, I guess you could say my dog is setting a good example for Labs, but people are also allowing him to reinforce the unfair and even dangerous stereotypes such as “Labs are great with kids” or “Labs are great family dogs, they’ll do anything to please.”
We should be careful about these assumptions because some Labs are terrible around kids. Some Labs are quite aggressive; they’re not so “eager to please” and are not the best “family pets.”
I was bitten in the thigh and chest by a Lab-type dog named Buddy when I worked at a boarding kennel. This was very scary for me, and the experience would likely cause some people to (understandably) hate all dogs that look like that dog.
My point is, each purebred dog is an individual, just like all dogs are individuals. And most dogs are mixed breeds anyway, like my dog.
Do we need Pit Bull Awareness Month?
Every year, I’m a little hesitate to write about Pit Bull Awareness Month. I remain torn on it today.
Obviously, I understand the need for awareness, but I also worry about what happens when we separate a group of dogs and label them differently or include them in ridiculous statistics.
For example, one of the memes floating around on Facebook tells me I’m 60 times more likely to be killed by a falling coconut than a pitbull.
Um … OK. Yikes!
Doesn’t that make pitbulls sound scary to someone who may not understand dogs? You wouldn’t say something so ridiculous about a beagle, would you? Or a black Lab mix?
So, what I’m trying to say is this:
1. Don’t judge any dog by his appearance. Judge him by his actual behavior.
2. Don’t make breed assumptions. Most of us are terrible at identifying breeds, and most dogs are mixed breeds anyway.
3. Look at each dog as an individual and see her for just that, a dog.
I have judged dogs before too, and I know it’s wrong
I hate to admit it, but when I see a small, white dog, I just assume that dog is going to freak out and lunge at me.
Last week, when my husband suggested we should get a Belgian Mallinois puppy some day, I said, “Those dogs are crazy.”
And when I see golden retrievers on walks, I don’t bother to give them extra space because I assume they’ll be friendly.
I’m sure I don’t need to explain why these assumptions are wrong and just plain stupid.
Not only am I being unfair to the dogs that fit those descriptions, but I’m being unfair to dogs as a whole.
So, for “Dog Awareness Month,” I’ll be trying to be a little less judgmental of dogs and their owners overall.
Sunday 17th of May 2020
I have a Staffy who loves people but is very leash reactive which can be scary. I have trained her to sit and ‘look at me’ which has completely eliminated the lunging and barking. However I understand how people can be leery of her due to their reputation. Yet I know another Staffy who loves other dogs. It’s all in the temperament and early socialization. My Perdita is a rescue from Mexico and appears to have been a breeder dog rather than a pet. We love her, understand her limitations, so ensure she and others we meet are safe.
Fetching! - Daily Dog TagDaily Dog Tag
Thursday 16th of April 2015
[…] Why We Need Dog Awareness, Not Pit Bull Awareness […]
Wednesday 22nd of October 2014
I couldn't believe it when I met a Lab that didn't like to swim. When my Lab Maya first saw water, she jumped right in as though it was a long lost friend. However, Maya is un-Lab-like when it comes to retrieving. Regarding aggressive dogs, I sometimes find it ironic about how dog aggressive my Aussie/Border Collie mix Pierson is as compared to supposedly aggressive breeds, and yet his breed mix is not on any BSL list. Herding dogs can be very protective. I say can be, but not all, obviously. Another ironic situation is that my Maya was attacked and injured by a little Jack Russell. A Jack Russell is not on any BSL list. I'm not saying they should be. I'm just saying it is about the individual dog, not the breed. Perhaps awareness should be about teaching people dog behaviors in general and teaching owners how to be proactive about handling potential dog behaviors.
Friday 24th of October 2014
Yes, this is going to sound judgmental, and it is, but it seems like a lot of herding breeds have a tendency to react to people who pass on rollerblades, bikes, etc.
Friday 17th of October 2014
I have to admit I'm guilty of judging dogs by breed/appearance as well. Years of working as a vet tech biased me towards certain breeds, such as terriers and GSD's. I have to remind myself that when I worked with them it wasn't in the dog's favorite environment and realize that a hyper or reactive dog is probably fine at home! Thanks for this post!
Monday 18th of May 2020
I actually think in general it's sensible to have an idea in your head of the character traits of all breeds when you are dealing with them- despite what people say about it being how you bring them up so much of how dogs are generally does seem to be based on breed traits. If breed traits weren't accurate then breed standards surely wouldn't exist?!
My friend's fiance works with dogs and dislikes Border Collies and Jack Russell terriers as they are the only dogs that have ever bitten him. I have a collie and 2 JRTs and don't blame him for feeling like that. It's just natural surely?
What I don't like though is people criticising dog breeds like the Pitbull and staffie without actually knowing any. I walk a staffie and get really upset when people cross the street and give him dirty looks as he's really sweet.
I think knowledge about the different dog breeds and their traits is important but a different thing to inaccurate stereotypes. Some stereotypes exist for a reason though!
Wednesday 15th of October 2014
YES!!! your are so right! Even the tiny ones bite!
Linda http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com/?s=The+Adventures+of+Fuzzy+and+Boomer&submit=Search http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com