10 Commandments Of Pit Bull Ownership

10 Commandments Of Pit Bull Ownership

Pit bulls are the greatest dogs out there (not that I’m biased!).  However, there are some commandments that must be followed to responsibly own them and keep them safe.

Thou shalt not flaunt BSL and breed bans

Many politicians and communities automatically assume that the only people who would want pit bull are criminals and thugs.  So let’s help ameliorate that false theory by obeying the laws.  This starts by not moving with your pit bull into a city or HOA-run neighborhood that bans pit bulls.  Is this discrimination fair?  No, of course not.  But flaunting the laws to try to “prove” you have a good pit bull just backfires by showing that pit bull owners are indeed law-breakers.  Do the research necessary to find safe and appropriate housing where you and your pit bull can live in peace.  If you move into an area that requires muzzling or extra insurance, do it.  Fight the good fight by educating people whilst obeying the law.  Is making a point by flaunting BSL or breed bans worth endangering your dog’s life?

Thou shalt keep your pit bull on leash

Leash laws are abundant throughout most of the country, and there is a reason for this.  Dogs, being animals, often do stupid things such as run after cars or chase deer or go bounding up to other dogs and their owners.  No matter how well trained your pit bull is, I always advise keeping your dog on leash unless you are in a safely enclosed area.  Especially with a pit bull, should your dog go cheerfully chasing after wildlife or another dog, you run the risk of your dog being labeled vicious, a nuisance, dangerous, getting shot by somebody, and/or making a news headline.  Again, is it fair?  No, but it is what it is.  Don’t risk your dog’s safety.  Put them on a 100′ longline (that you are holding onto) if you cannot find an enclosed area for them to play and run.

Thou shalt not use shoddy/weak/ill-fitting equipment

Most pet stores carry super cute collars.  However, most of those super cute collars have flimsy little plastic buckles.  Unless you are NEVER planning on hooking a leash onto the collar, or having to grab that collar in an emergency, don’t buy a flimsy collar.  It is imperative that our dogs be vested out in solid, safe equipment.  Make sure all hardware is metal.  I recommend avoiding even metal snap collars.  Instead, get a nice wide metal buckle collar, or a nice martingale.  Just because you want sturdy doesn’t mean you can’t have pretty, too!  There are plenty of options for solid yet fun and attractive collars.

Wide, metal buckle collar and well-fitting harness.

This applies to harnesses, too.  I’m a huge proponent of harnesses, even for dogs who walk nicely on leash.  You just never know when your dog (dogs being impulsive creatures!) will decide to lunge after a squirrel.  I like to avoid any pressure on Inara’s trachea, so she is always walked on a harness.  There are many shoddy harnesses out there that are made poorly and/or do not fit dogs well.  You want a harness that is, of course, solidly made and will hold your dog safely.  You want one that will not hinder shoulder mobility, as many front-clip harnesses do (there are exceptions!).  Since most of our pit bulls are pretty thin-skinned and thin-furred under their armpits and bellies, it is important that the harness not chafe them.

Thou shalt invest in force-free training for your pit bull

Yay for dog school!

Pit bulls are incredibly intelligent dogs that love bonding to their people and learning new tricks.  Often, if they are not given things to do, they will entertain themselves, which never ends well!  Training classes are an excellent way to ensure you have a well-behaved dog that is appropriate to take in public and do fun things with, as well as an awesome way to bond with your dog.  Make sure you find a place that uses only force-free training methods.  If your dog has behavioral issues already, using punishment can temporarily suppress the behavior, but it may backfire in the long run when the behavior rears its ugly head again, worse than before.  Teach your dog with fun and treats – we want our dogs to WANT to work with us, not be afraid NOT to work with us.

Thou shalt not take your pit bull to doggy daycares or dog parks

Many pit bulls are great with other dogs.  However, daycares and dog parks are filled with unruly, rude dogs.  Why expose your dog to that?  And though many pit bulls won’t start a fight, many will happily join in should a scuffle ensue.  And guess whose dog gets blamed then?  The pit bull is always the easy scapegoat, whether they were responsible or not.  And on the other hand, many of us have dogs that are very well-behaved on leash but would happily start a rumble just for the sake of fun.  Which dog do you have?  Are you willing to bet your dog’s life (or another dog’s life?) that your dog won’t start/finish something?  Another thing to keep in mind is that often our dogs are really great with other dogs when they are younger, but as they begin going through sexual or social maturity, their tolerance may drop.  I remember clearly the day Inara “turned on.”  I’m lucky she didn’t kill another dog.  It’s not worth the risk.  It’s JUST. NOT. WORTH. IT.  Find a doggy friend and do playdates one-on-one in a safely enclosed area.

Thou shalt feed a good diet

Due to rampant overbreeding that is more concerned with color and head size than with health and temperament, many pit bulls these days have horrible skin issues.  Many of these can be alleviated by feeding a high-quality, single protein kibble.  I advocate for a raw diet, though I realize that is not for everybody.  Another benefit of feeding a high quality diet is that you end up feeding less of it because there are no fillers.  And do you know what feeding less food means?  Less poop!  You may also want to consider adding supplements such as fish oil, probiotics if your dog is gassy (though often a diet change can fix this), and other things to aid in joint and skin health.  Talk to your vet or local natural pet store owner about options.

Along with diet, I’m going to add in here how crucial it is to keep your pit bull at a healthy weight.  Your dog should have a nice tucked up belly, and when you look down from above them, you should see a clearly defined waist.  They should have good muscle tone.  Many people claim their fat dogs are “all muscle.”  MUSCLE DOESN’T JIGGLE, my friends.  With as prone to joint/CCL issues as our dogs are, it behooves us to keep them fit and trim and muscular.  These dogs are natural athletes – help them be so safely!

Thou shalt not leave your pit bull unsupervised with children or other animals

As stated above, many pit bulls are great with other dogs.  Many, such as Inara, happily live with cats and/or other critters.  And the vast majority are fantastic with people and children.  However, it is recommended that you never leave your pit bull unsupervised with other animals, even those they happily live with.  I can tell you many a story of pit bulls who happily grew up and lived with other dogs or cats for years, until one day there was a vicious fight and people came home to massive bloodshed.  Or came home to a dead cat.  Dogs are impulsive creatures and sometimes they do stupid things, such as decide that THIS PARTICULAR PIECE OF FUZZ needs to be guarded from their housemates.  All it takes is one time to come home to a seriously injured or killed pet.  One time.

Happy family, but Inara is still always crated when I leave.

Regarding children, most of our dogs love kids.  However, many of our dogs (I’m looking at you, Inara!) don’t know their own strength, are rude, and will accidentally knock children over in their exuberance to greet them and play with them.  Also, very much like dogs, children are impulsive and often do stupid things.  They need to be monitored to ensure they are not doing things that could make your dog uncomfortable or frightened.  We cannot expect our dogs to be saints.  They are living creatures that feel fear and pain and will defend themselves.

Thou shalt always set your dog up to succeed

So often when we get a dog, we envision all the fun things we will do with them – doggy sports, festivals, outdoor eateries, parties, etc.  All the fun things!  But dogs are individuals, and just as some people are not social butterflies, neither are some dogs.  Learn about canine body language so you can see the subtle signs that your dog is uncomfortable.  Then, LISTEN TO THOSE SIGNS.  Dogs (in general) display many signals before they progress to actual biting.  The problem is that people either ignore or don’t understand those signals.  If your dog is not 100% thrilled meeting new people and being in loud places, don’t take them to a noisy festival.  If your dog is hesitant about people coming in the house, put them in a closed room with a tasty treat when guests come over.  If your dog isn’t fond of other dogs, engaging in sports that require many dogs out and moving at once isn’t fair to your dog.  None of these make your dog a bad dog.  Work with your dog, and do some training to help them learn to be more comfortable, but ALWAYS respect their needs and boundaries.

Thou shalt not deny the history of the APBT

Many people want to claim that pit bulls were only used for farm work and never bred for combat with other dogs.  But they earned their name, American PIT Bull Terrier, by pit fights with other dogs.  They were bred for tenacity and a never quit attitude.  Though pit fighting is obviously a horrid “sport,” it helped create the amazing dogs we love today.  Their compact, muscular bodies.  Their willingness to try anything.  Their tolerance of most handling.  It also means that many of them still carry those genetics that make them want to tangle with other dogs.  Just because dog aggression isn’t being actively bred FOR these days (in most cases), it’s also not actively being bred AGAINST.

Also, just a note:  Pit bulls were never called the nanny dog.  I’m not sure where this myth originated, but it doesn’t help us be good advocates for our dogs when we make up things like this.  Our dogs are awesome as is – why do we need to make up stupid, false titles for them?

Thou shalt treat your pit bull as a beloved member of the family

This one doesn’t really need an explanation, does it?  These dogs love us – let’s treat them the same way, shall we?

Boarding A Raw-Fed Dog

Boarding A Raw-Fed Dog

Finding a reputable boarding facility you trust with your dog is difficult even in the most “normal” of situations.  We all love our dogs and want them treated with the same care and respect we give them.  But if you are a raw feeder, you may find extra difficulties in finding an appropriate place to board.

Things To Ask About

Are they able and willing? Many boarding facilities have not been approached about boarding a raw-fed dog before, so you may need to do some education.  You will want to verify they have enough freezer/refrigerator space for your dog’s meals.  Many do not have full-size refrigerators and that can immediately knock 100_4553them out of the running, especially if it will be for more than an overnight.  Some people are just very squeamish about raw meat or the idea of raw-feeding so they may just flat-out refuse.

What are their vaccination requirements?  Many raw-feeders practice a reduced vaccination schedule, while many boarding facilities require increased vaccinations such as proof of a bordatella vacc within the past six months.  You will need to be upfront and honest about whatever vaccinations you do or do not have administered to your dog and see if they are willing to work with you.  Some facilities will accept proof of titer levels for the main vaccinations, but you may not be able to get around the bordatella requirements.  You need to determine if you are willing to give that for the sake of boarding, or continue looking.

Will they supervise meals?  Even experienced raw-fed dogs should be supervised while eating.  All it takes is a second for a dog to inhale too much food and start choking.  I’m sure most of us have been there and had that momentary panic!  Usually dogs can hork it back up of their own volition (and then promptly re-eat it, because dogs are gross!), but I know I’ve had to assist once with Inara when she choked.  You want to make sure that the kennel is willing to hang out for a few minutes and monitor your dog’s meals.  Many kennels don’t have time to do this, so it’s important to ask and emphasize the importance of it.

Are they willing to dole out supplements?  I know that Inara’s meals take longer to prepare due to all the supplements I give her.  If you give your dog a lot of supplements, especially some that require mixing or careful measuring of powders, you need to find out if the kennel is willing to do supplement prep for your dog’s meals.

Reasonable Accommodations

As you are requesting a lot of extra work above and beyond what boarding facilities generally offer, it is reasonable to offer to make things as easy as possible for the kennel.  Here are some ideas that you can and should offer to do:

  • Pre-portioned meals: Instead of expecting the kennel to divvy up and weigh out your dog’s meal portions, have them all separated and pre-bagged.  This enables the kennel to simply thaw the bag, open it, and dump it out.
  • Have some pre-thawed:  If you are going to be gone for any length of time, you will be providing most of the meals already frozen.  However, make sure you have at least one or two thawed and ready to go so the kennel doesn’t need to make an effort to get them thawed in time for a meal.
  • Have supplements bagged individually: Along with pre-portioned meals, have supplements pre-portioned so they can just dump and go.  Alternately, if your dog can skip supplements while you’re gone, that may be easiest.  Especially if they require special mixing with hot water and stirring/preparation.
  • Provide less complex meals: Instead of sending time-intensive meals that your dog would labor over for quite some time (thoroughly enjoying him/herself though!), send meals that your dog can eat more quickly.  Minimal bone or softer, easily consumed bones.  Since you are requesting that the kennel supervise meals, help them out by ensuring they are not out of commission with your dog for an hour.

No Luck?

If you are unable to find a facility that will accommodate your requests, that you are comfortable using, AND that you can afford (boarding is expensive!), you might want to consider bringing in a house sitter.  These are a great option, and what I do now for Inara and the cats.  Get referrals from friends and make sure you are 100% comfortable with them having free access to your house.

What issues have you run into when finding a boarding facility, and how did you resolve them?  Tell us!

Be Your Dog’s Advocate

Be Your Dog’s Advocate

Facebook’s “On This Day” feature can sometimes be good for a laugh when you look back and see how much you might have changed in the past few years, both in appearance and personality.  However, sometimes it can bring back some very unpleasant memories.  Over Christmas, I was getting some of those unpleasant memories rehashed.

Two years ago, end-of-December 2013, Inara became incredibly ill.  It started slowly, with some vomiting, slight lethargy, and reluctance to eat.  Before this time, Inara had refused a meal once in her life.  Once.  And she’d had a partial impaction.  She doesn’t miss meals.  So I ended up taking Inara to the e-vet one night after she’d refused a meal and vomited several times.  Because she’s had a partial impaction before, I immediately asked about x-rays.  The e-vet said bloodwork would be a better use of my money (even though I clearly said up front that money was no issue).   The e-vet didn’t feel anything during palpations, and the bloodwork was only slightly “off,” so he figured it was just an upset tummy and we got sent home with a lot of meds and recommendations to feed Pepcid with meals for a while.

For several days, she seemed improved a little.  She began eating some and vomiting less, and her energy slightly increased.  But then she started going downhill again.  I was in a tough spot at this point because I was in between vets.  So I went to a vet that has a great reputation and accepts walk-in clients.  I requested a specific vet who works there but didn’t get her.  So the vet walks into the room and because it was a new person, Inara got perkier and wigglier.  Not anywhere near her normal “OMG there’s a new person who is going to touch me so I’m going to snap in half by wriggling so hard” self, but energetic enough that most people would think she was fine.  So not only did I have to explain Inara’s symptoms, but also try to convince this vet that this was not full energy by Inara standards.  I again suggested x-rays and/or bloodwork and was blown off.  We left with more antibiotics.

Gaunt, mid-issue.
Gaunt face, mid-issue.

Once again, Inara was fine for several days and then she started drinking excessively.  She is a dog that will happily stay in bed for 24 hours if I don’t drag her out to go pee, but now she was waking me up 1-2 times a night to race her outside to pee.  Worried about a UTI from all her antibiotics, we went back to the walk-in vet.  Once again, I requested a specific vet but we got the same vet from last time.  Inara is generally between 50-52 lbs, but at this point she had lost 4 lbs in 10 days.  Almost 10% of her body weight in 10 days.  Once again, no x-rays or bloodwork, even though I requested them.  Just more antibiotics in case she had a UTI, even though her urine specimen showed no issues.

Just a few days later we were back at the walk-in vet.  Inara’s vomiting had returned and she was obviously in pain, hunched, lethargic, and not eating at all.  Her face had sunk in.  I was a wreck.  I was watching my dog die and couldn’t get answers.  This time at the vet, I got the owner.  He took one glance at Inara, listened to my (crying) story and pleas for help, and said, “I’m not going to waste any time looking at her.  She needs to see a specialist.”  We got an appointment with the internal medicine specialist the following day.

At this point, Inara was down 6 pounds in 2 1/2 weeks.  More than 10% of her body weight was gone.  As a dog that carries minimal extra body fat, she was gaunt.  The internal medicine specialist had zero bedside manner, but he listened, took notes, looked at Inara’s prior vet records, and truly seemed to believe this was serious.  He said he wanted to do a x-rays or an ultrasound and then do any necessary surgery.  I had to leave Inara there, with this specialist I’d butted heads with, honestly not knowing if I would see Inara alive again.  It was truly serious.  Thank god my best friend had gone with me because I was a sobbing mess walking out that door, walking away from my dog.

I waited by my phone, answering calls of people checking on me but holding my breath to see the specialist’s number pop up.  And then it did.  The specialist said he’d seen something on the x-rays in Inara’s abdomen, and he wasn’t sure what it was.  He wanted to try getting it out via endoscopy instead of opening her up.  He said he would call after the endoscopy, or after the surgery if the endoscope couldn’t get it out.  There are no words to describe that wait – was Inara in surgery?  Had he gotten the item?  Was she going to make it?  I burst into tears when the phone rang, not knowing if I was going to get good news or bad news.

IMG_1989IMG_1988It was good.  The specialist had managed to get a large piece of sharp metal out of Inara’s stomach via endoscope, no surgery necessary.  I could pick her up in a couple hours.

From our best guesses, Inara had ingested a piece of lead shot from her venison.  Though all of her venison is bow-killed, this deer must have been shot before and survived.  So she had a large piece of lead bouncing around her belly for about three weeks.

1497713_679546675399251_1070701466_n (1)
The specialist’s clinic posted this on their FB page – Inara during her endoscopy, being very well cared for.
Bruised little leg, post-IV.

After that was removed, Inara had an amazingly quick recovery.  Within a couple days she was back to being bouncy and playful and happy to eat.  Her bloodwork follow-ups showed she did have some lead poisoning going on, so that was monitored and never caused her any further issues.

So what’s the point of me telling this story?  Simply this – be an advocate for your dog.  It kills me to know that Inara’s issues could have been resolved that first night when I took her to the e-vet if I had just pushed harder for x-rays.  But it’s normal for us to quiet down and not push when the professionals are telling us something isn’t necessary.  So many people complain about the price of veterinary care that often vets do everything they can to keep from running tests that might be “unnecessary.”  Even though at every vet appointment I emphasized I didn’t care about cost, I just wanted answers, I was still told, “no, that’s not necessary yet.  Let’s wait and see.”  Only it WAS necessary.  Inara nearly died.  My dog nearly DIED because I didn’t push hard enough when I was blown off.

Obviously it is important that you find a vet you trust and establish a good working relationship before something arises.  But you also need to do your own homework and listen to your gut.  Nobody knows your dog like you do.  You are the only one who knows all those little quirks, or different degrees of excitement or tiredness that might indicate an issue.  Don’t be afraid to push and demand specific tests.  What is more important, the e-vet thinking you’re a nice person, or your dog’s life?

Sick Inara vs. Healthy Inara
Sick Inara vs. Healthy Inara

Dear “normal dog” owners…

Dear “normal dog” owners…

An event last night prompted this.  Not a huge, catastrophic event.  Just something small and annoying that is happening more frequently.  Inara and I were out for a walk with some friends and their dogs.  We were getting ready for our final lap around the park when a woman with two German Shepherds unhooked their leashes and started throwing a ball for them.  Hardly a crisis, the dogs seemed very well-mannered and focused on their ball.  The problem was that this was in an on-leash only park.  Inara started barking because, though she’s come so very far, two large sprinting dogs is still too much for her.  So we had to cut our walk short.  As I dragged Inara back to my car, I called across the park to remind the woman that leashes are required.  I found out later from my walking buddies that after I left, she told them that apparently her dogs weren’t the issue – mine was the one acting aggressive.  Hence, this letter:

Dear “normal dog” owners,

As somebody who doesn’t own a reactive dog, I understand that you don’t get why your well-behaved dogs can’t be allowed to run free.  I mean, they’re not hurting anybody, right?  I’m not going to lie, I’m sometimes jealous of people like you who can let their dogs run and play off leash.  The problem isn’t that your dogs are running off leash.  The problem is that they are running off leash in an area designated as on-leash only.

For those of us with reactive dogs, these leash-required areas are sometimes the only place we can safely walk our dogs.  Neighborhoods can be scary because of off-leash dogs in yards.  Dog parks are obviously out of the question.  So a lovely park, in my neighborhood, that requires leashes on dogs?  Perfect!

But when you bring your off leash dogs into what is supposed to be my dog’s safe haven, even though they are well-behaved, it can push her past her threshold and set her training back.  We’ve worked very hard, and the fact that she can happily and calmly walk within a group of (leashed) dogs is still mind-blowingly awesome to me.  So it’s incredibly frustrating when I have to cut my walk with friends short because you are thoughtlessly letting your dogs run free and it’s getting my dog worked up beyond fixing, to the point that she looks like the bad guy in the situation.

I’m simply asking that you have some consideration for those of us who cannot utilize the many dog parks and open areas where dogs are SUPPOSED to run off leash.  Please let us keep our on-leash areas safe for our reactive, leash-required dogs.  Someday, if you have a reactive dog, you’ll understand.


The owner of a “special needs” dog


Just A Good Day

This is not going to be a deep and meaningful blog posting today.  Sorry (or you’re welcome, whichever!).  I just had a really good day today and wanted to share.

Started with brunch with a friend.  She came over and I cooked (scary, trust me).  I didn’t burn the house down, but more importantly, Inara was pretty damned good.  I had my friend armed with treats before she even came through the door, and having those tossed on the floor really helped Inara keep her feet on the floor where they belong.  She settled pretty quickly, which was great.

After my friend left, me, Inara & Mal just lounged around a little bit, relaxing.  The weather was gorgeous – sunny and mid-60’s.  Doors and windows were open.  Beautiful.  So all three of us just snuggled on the couch:

Lounging together on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Lounging together on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Later in the afternoon, Inara and I met up with a friend and her dog for a walk.  We tried doing some BAT with Inara and her dog, but Inara was so blase about her that we couldn’t really do anything.  Which is exactly the point!  So we said, “forget it!” and just did our walk.  We walked for two hours.  Inara was a dream.  I think she was enjoying the fresh warm air as much as I was.

Ignoring our walking buddy!
Ignoring our walking buddy!

So we walked for about two hours, at which point I was whupped.  Too much fresh air!  So we came home and I crashed on the couch after pulling Inara’s bed into the patch of sunshine on the floor for her.  But Malcolm beat her to the punch and made himself comfy before she could.

Mal getting comfy on Inara's bed.
Mal getting comfy on Inara’s bed.

Poor Inara just stood there for a couple minutes, looking dejectedly between her bed and me.  And then she very gently stepped onto the bed and Malcolm looked up, gave her a little “mrrrow” and put his head back down.  At which point I grabbed my phone to get video:

I loved this.  She was so gentle, and there isn’t a doubt in my mind that if Mal had stayed there, she would have just curled up around him.  At which point I would have died of joy overload.  Anyway, after that little flash of “awwww!”, I had ANOTHER one – Mal got back onto the bed and curled up beside Inara!

Holy cripes.  Too much cuteness.  Oxytocin overload!
Holy cripes. Too much cuteness. Oxytocin overload!

Yep, I swooned a little.  They stayed like that for over an hour.  It was really fantastic.  Mal’s been with us for about 3 months now and he’s really starting to come out of his shell, and Inara just really seems to enjoy him.

So yeah, just an all-around good day.  I hope you all had good, relaxing Sundays as well.

Advocacy As I See It

Advocacy As I See It

I want to talk (write) today about what being a pit bull advocate means to me.  It wasn’t in my plans to write about this today (it’s Easter and I have things to do) but I was accused of being a bad advocate/supporting BSL and it really bothered me.  Somebody I know, and his friends that I don’t know, gleefully wrote some very cruel things about me because I had the temerity to disagree with them.  Normally I can brush off people, but this blatant malice really bothered me.  I was up way too late, and up way too early, just thinking about it.  I almost lashed out in return.  I wanted to tell them exactly what I thought.  But I didn’t, as I’m trying to be more peaceful in my life, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t have changed anything.  So instead I’m going to write a blog about what I think our jobs as pit bull advocates are.

Before I begin, I have a disclaimer.  Shouldn’t be necessary, but apparently it is – I think pit bulls are the best dogs are out there.  For me. I love them.  Period. 

I guess perhaps I should start by defining what dogs I’m talking about.  I’m talking about any dog that looks like it could be a pit bull or pit bull mix.  That’s right, I don’t care if it’s not been DNA tested and found to be 100% APBT or AmStaff.  Nothing divides pit bull people more than the definition of a pit bull.  It’s insane.  Do Lab people argue about whether dogs called Lab mixes really have Lab in them?  Do GSD people get angry when people call a dog a GSD mix?  Not that I’ve heard.  It’s reserved for pit bull people to argue about.

Our number one job is to realistic about these dogs.  Period.  Blowing smoke up people’s behinds to make them sound like magical little bunny-hugging unicorns in a compact, muscular body doesn’t do anybody any good.  Especially the dog.  Pit bulls are strong, athletic dogs that need something to do.  If you don’t provide the stimulation for them, they’ll figure it out on their own and it probably won’t be something you approve of!  Pit bulls weren’t known as “the nanny dog.”  Were pit bulls historically known for being great family dogs?  Absolutely, but they weren’t referred to as the nanny dog.  People need to stop saying that.  These dogs are phenomenal – it’s not necessary to lie about them to make them sound better.  It also may give some people the idea that it is safe leaving children alone with them.  NO dog should be left alone with children, period.

Nothing gets pit bull people more riled up than the talk of dog-dog issues within the breed.  AS WITH EVERYTHING, there are exceptions to the rule.  But pit bulls were bred for how many years to fight other dogs?  Granted, 99% of them are NOT bred for that anymore.  However, just because it isn’t being bred for, doesn’t mean it’s being actively bred against.  So you know, why not err on the side of caution and assume that your pit bull may not love all other dogs?  I firmly believe that pit bulls don’t belong in doggy daycares or dog parks.  No, your dog may never start anything, and that’s awesome!  But your dog may not back down if another dog tries to start something.  And you know what – your dog will be the one ending up in the news.  And it will make it harder for responsible pit bull owners to live in peace with their dogs.

Pit bulls are terriers/bulldogs and thus, they are more likely than the Poodle down the street to aggress at another dog and not back down.  This doesn’t make them bad!  It makes them terriers/bulldogs!

“But Liz, my dogs love each other and snuggle together and have never even looked sideways at each other.”  Rock on!  That is fantastic and I hope it stays that way forever.  I’d still separate them when you’re gone though.  Can’t tell you how many people I know/stories I’ve heard of people whose pit bulls loved each other for years, until the day they didn’t and e-vets were required and crate/rotate had to become a way of life forever after.

Dog aggression doesn’t mean that your dog will hate every dog on sight.  Most pit bulls are selective – they are okay with some dogs, heck, maybe even lots of dogs!  But some other dogs just torque them and get their panties in a bunch.  Sometimes we don’t know which dogs are going to do that, which is why it behooves us to act as if ANY dog could get our dog riled, AKA, err on the side of caution.

Are there pit bulls that love every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are there pit bulls that hate every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are the majority somewhere in between?  Yep.  So why risk it?  Why set your dog up for failure?  I’m a big fan of better safe than sorry.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Knowledge is power.  Knowing is half the battle.  All those good things.

Fair warning that here comes the other part of my pit bull advocacy that really angers people: Pit bulls aren’t the right dog for everybody. There, I said it.  Let the stoning begin.  But you know what?  Labs aren’t right for everybody.  GSD’s aren’t right for everybody.  Border Collies aren’t right for everybody.  Malinois?  Holy cripes you couldn’t PAY me to have one!  (Had to throw that one in for my Mal-owning friends!)  I can’t think of one breed of dog that IS right for everybody.  So why do some pit bull people feel that they need to convince every Joe Schmoe down the street that they need a pit bull?

Pit bulls require an owner that is going to be willing to invest some time and money.  They need training.  They need owners who won’t set them up to fail.  They don’t need owners who want a dog that they don’t have to interact with.  They aren’t for people who think dogs come fully trained out of the womb.  They aren’t for people who aren’t ready to educate themselves about possible breed tendencies, or who think “oh, I can love them into being good.”  No, you can TRAIN them into being good, but love isn’t everything when it comes to dogs.

This doesn’t mean that you need to keep your dog cloistered in your house behind closed blinds, never to see the light of day.  This means you don’t take your pit bull to dog parks.  You don’t take your pit bull to doggy daycares.  You keep your pit bull on leash when out in public.  You attend training classes with your pit bull.  You make sure your pit bull is an ambassador, out in public meeting people.  You don’t let your pit bull interact with strange dogs – instead, you set up playdates with one or two other dogs at a time that you know your dog is okay with.  And you SUPERVISE those play dates.  You separate your dogs when you’re out.

“But Liz, doesn’t this apply to all dogs?”  It absolutely should.  We should never set our dogs up to fail, especially if a failure on your behalf impacts other owners of that breed.  But I feel that as pit bull owners, we have a higher responsibility to keep our dogs safe from themselves and others.  

Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.
Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.

Changing of the Vet

Inara has been going to the same vet for her entire life, since January of 2006.  We’d always been happy with her.  She wasn’t warm and fuzzy, but she and her staff were competent, inexpensive and had good hours.  They also seemed to truly enjoy Inara.  So I was devastated when in the past several weeks many of my friends had awful experiences there.  Truly awful, to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to take Inara back there.  So I was stuck with the horrible Changing of the Vet.

Finding vets SUCKS.  Everybody has their favorite, and very few people can agree on one.  You need to figure out what’s most important to  you – cheap prices, good hours, bedside manner, etc.  For me, I really wanted a vet that wouldn’t give me a hard time about doing minimal vaccinations and feeding raw.  Inexpensive would have been great as I’d been spoiled at my old vet ($12 office vet?  Oh yeah.), but I knew I was going to have to suck it up on that end.  Hours were kind of important.  As long as I could get something near the end of the day, after 3 or so, I could easily get out of work to get home.  So what was important for me was somebody who was a bit more natural and didn’t push drugs/shots/meds.

Well, I lucked out.  A few of my friends use Dr. B., who does home visits.  I was afraid I’d never be able to afford such a luxury, but she’s remarkably affordable (at least if you have only one or two animals!).  And she was wonderful.  She came with freeze-dried liver in her pockets and an assistant.  She was here for probably an hour.  She talked to me about Inara’s history, and then we spoke at length about best practices for vaccinations, food, HW/flea meds, etc.  She gave Inara a thorough checkup, at one point exclaiming how slow Inara’s heart was beating considering how worked up she was (two visitors just for HER!  She was pretty wired, LOL).  I panicked and asked if that was bad (me, panic?  Nooooo) and she laughed and said it was wonderful because it shows she’s an athlete and in good shape.  Rock on.  She gave me a couple other suggestions if I want to get Inara off her Prozac and on to something more natural.  She said her teeth are lovely, slight bit of tartar but excellent overall.  They drew blood for her heartworm test (negative!) and tested it right in my living room.  Kind of cool.

So yeah, I’m a convert.  I was fortunate and got a great vet on my first try.  Not everybody gets so lucky.  If you need to change vets, don’t be afraid to schedule an appointment without your dog, so you can “interview” your potential vet.  You’re entrusting your beloved dog’s life to this person, so it doesn’t make you crazy to want to make sure they’re the best they can be.  And hopefully your transition will go as smoothly as mine did.

Inara and Mal enjoying each other's company.  Love them.
Inara and Mal enjoying each other’s company. Love them.

TDInc, Here We Come!

Way back in the day, Inara was a registered therapy dog with Bright & Beautiful Therapy Dogs.  She was okay at it, however, she always struggled to keep her exuberance to a minimum at nursing homes.  And I never felt like we’d honestly earned the therapy dog “title” as the test was a farce.  The training center we took it at passed every dog, even the one that growled at a boy as he came through the doorway.  So I never felt we’d actually earned our TD or CGC titles.  Partly because of that, but mostly because it was just not working for Inara’s personality, we quit doing therapy work and didn’t renew our membership with Bright & Beautiful.

Fast forward several years.  Inara has become much better behaved and I now understand that there are more options than nursing homes for therapy work.  So my friend, Laurie, who is a CPDT-KA and CBCC-KA and owner of Side By Side Dog Training, offered a workshop to help evaluate dogs for therapy work and teach us the options that are out there.  I was a bit hesitant as I still sometimes doubt Inara’s and my skills, but signed up anyway.

So I took the day off work yesterday and drove an hour to the public library that was hosting the workshop.  The closer I got, the more jittery I got.  To the point where I almost called Laurie and cancelled when I was about a block away.  It was bad.  And ridiculous, to be frank.  But I can’t help it.  I always have horrible flashbacks of Inara turning into Cujo like she used to do.  And we were going to be in a library, where it should be quiet.  What if she barked?!?

But I put on my big girl panties, parked and made my way inside.  There was already one dog in the (small) room so Inara announced her presence loudly, mortifying me as I dragged her to her corner.  Laurie, being the wonderful trainer that she is, cheerfully told me that Inara’s bark had changed and that it was less serious now.  More of a “oh my gosh we’re dogs!” excited bark than her “I’m going to eat you if I reach you” bark.  That one little comment made a huge difference for me (sign of a good trainer – knows the perfect thing to say to get her students to relax).

After that, Inara was a dream.  She snoozed in her crate during the down times, and worked beautifully with me during the work times.  I was able to bring her out of her corner and work her within a few feet of another dog.  There were six dogs in a relatively small room, so it was kind of close quarters, but we made it work.  I was bursting with pride in Inara knowing how far she’d come.  Hell, how far WE’D come.

So near the end of the workshop, we all wandered through the library with our dogs as part of the observation process.  Of course, almost as soon as Inara and I made it into the main library part, a teenage girl made a huge scene, nearly falling over chairs, as she pretended to be terrified of Inara.  *sigh*  Whatever.  I have no doubt that she’s nervous about dogs, but the scene was unnecessarily dramatic.

Other than that though, it was great!  Inara got some good lovin’s by a couple little kids (who very politely asked if they could pet her before doing so!  Click/treat to the kids and their parents!) and she was very well-behaved.  She had a minor snark at one of the dogs whose owner allowed it to get right up in her face, but it was an appropriate correction from her and she immediately recovered.

After that we went to a nursing home.  The residents loved the dogs!  They enjoyed telling us about their own dogs, and one woman spent about two minutes telling me about how she brushes her dog’s teeth every night when he comes to visit.  She then proudly pointed out his toothbrush and toothpaste.  I asked if she wanted to brush Inara’s teeth for me and she said she was willing to give it a try.  *grin*

One woman just fell in love with Inara and wanted her in her lap.  I didn’t let her though for fear that Inara’s nails would be rough or she’d pull out her oxygen mask.  So she stayed on the floor and got some MAJOR loves, body wagging with joy.  It was really great to see.  🙂

Inara had a couple little barking episodes since a new dog had joined the group, but as Laurie pointed out to me when she saw me getting stressed over her behavior, “dogs bark.”  They do, indeed.  She again recovered and resumed working well, so it wasn’t a crisis.

So we are very close to passing all of our observations – fingers crossed!  Thank you so much to Laurie for having the confidence and faith in us that I sometimes lack.  😉

Wandering the library, looking for patrons who needed some pit bull love!
Wandering the library, looking for patrons who needed some pit bull love!
Inara with the woman who wanted her in her lap. Look at that huge lovely full body wag!


The up and coming TDInc dogs!  We are on the end so I can keep Inara's head guided away from the other dog staring at her, LOL.
The up and coming TDInc dogs! We are on the end so I can keep Inara’s head guided away from the other dog staring at her, LOL.