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.
What do you think? Do you ever find yourself making assumptions based on breed?
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