Showing posts with label Behaviour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Behaviour. Show all posts

Monday, 23 January 2012


First, Did you Know…

A Pit Bull is not a breed of dog, instead it is a term used to generally describe individual breeds of dogs that all have similar characteristics, the most common of which are...

One - American Pit Bull Terrier;

Two American Staffordshire Terrier; and

Three - Staffordshire Bull Terrier, short form name - ‘Staffy’.

If you would like to further test your ability to identify a Pit Bull you can click here

There are many other breeds that fall into the 'Bully Breed' class - for example the Bulldog, Bull Mastiff, Boxer, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, Olde English Bulldog and more!

The Pit Bull breeds were originally developed during the 19th century by crossing Bull Dogs and Terriers. Breeding focused on attaining characteristics to attain a good ‘fighting’ dog (if indeed that can be good at all - to me it is shameful that any human would want to use dogs to fight each other or another animal for human entertainment and monetary gain). To this purpose breeding was tailored to develop traits that were desirable in a fighting dog. Traits such as…

- High tolerance for pain (this just makes me very sad);

- High prey drive (like many dogs such as hounds);

- Strength and agility (like many dogs such as the German Shepherd and Boxer).

Despite the fact that many people today - upon hearing the word ‘Pit Bull’ immediately think of aggression towards humans - this was one trait that the three breeds did not have…and that this till holds true for Pit Bulls of today. Back in the 19th century Pit Bulls were family ‘pets’ and pre-fight / during the fight they required a lot of handling by their humans - so reactive-aggressive behaviour to humans was not bred into the Pit Bull. And as to Bully Breeds being more aggressive than other breeds of 2002, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta Georgia carried out a study that proved there are no specific dog breeds that are inherently viscous.

Some people believe also believe that  Bully Breeds have superior jaw strength enabling them to lock down on a victim like no other dog can. In 2005, National Geographic conducted a study to measure the bite force of various breeds of dogs. The bite force of the Bully Breeds proved to be less than that of other breeds such as the German Shepherd and the Rottweiler...and both of these breeds are no less likely to be great companions than the bully and other breeds!

The term 'Pit Bull' originated in England. During the Medieval period of the 1200's, bull baiting arrived in England - bull dogs were used to bait the bulls. Both bull and bear bating were a popular form of 'entertainment' considered as a sport and opportunity for gambling. In the 1800's Bull Dogs were breed with Terriers to create a faster more agile dog for bull baiting events. In 1835, both bear and bull baiting were prohibited when an act was passed in Parliament to stop the brutal sport. Unfortunately, today there are many places in the world were dog fighting still occurs legally and illegally. Pit Bull's are used both as bate and fighting dogs - having no choice but to participate they are cruelly treated, live a short life of pain and suffering all for the entertainment of humans. I am often struck by the thought that humans have advanced very little over the ages.

Today, Pit Bulls are probably the most feared and legislated-against (restricted and banned) dog in the world. Yet, in locations were they are not so treated, Pit Bulls are well known and loved family pets who not only get along with children but with other animals. They also excel at Agility, Fly Ball, Soccer and other such activities. Many Pit Bulls also work as Registered Therapy Dogs and other occupations such as Search and Rescue. 

So how did the Pit Bull get such a bad rap? 

Well, years ago it was the Rottweiler, the Doberman, the German Shepherd, the Boxer and the list goes on. All it takes is one incident and the media’s quest to sell their copy fuels the fire. The media knows humanity’s lust for blood and sensationalism and the media will get as much mileage out of a story as it can. The end result - the populace shifts their fear from one breed to another. And the more stories that can be found the bigger the stigma grows. 

It really is that simple. 

The sad thing is that most people do not even know what a Pit Bull really looks like and most reported ‘Pit Bull’ attacks - at least eight out of ten are not actually Pit Bulls! 

Think about this statistic…in 2006, an estimated 72 million dogs lived in households in the U.S. (U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition) How many of these dogs are purebred, pedigreed, and registered, less than you might think - the very liberal estimate is maybe 25%. So 75% of the dogs in North America are not purebred. Further supporting the fact that most dogs attacks reported as being perpetrated by Pit Bulls simply are not. 

Overall fatal incidents from dog attacks in general are extremely rare. About 75 million dogs reside in the US today. About 32 fatal dog attacks occur each year. To better understand how out-of-kilter most people’s concept of dog attacks are take a look at purely human attack fatalities. The human population of the US is about 300 million (4x the dog population). Humans in the US murdered 16,000 humans (500x the number of dog-related deaths). 

So one the whole, not only are dogs much less dangerous to humans than humans are, but the number of actual Pit Bull related attacks are extremely low. Here is a great bit of information to put things in a little more perspective…

In 2002 the American Temperament Testing Society statistics showed that American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers (both ‘Pit Bull breeds’) and Rotweillers passed the good temperament test +80% of the time. A very high passing grade! Other common family dogs did not fare as well. For example Golden Retreivers and Bichon Frise received a 77% rating, Chihuahuas and Lhasa Apsos received 71% (you can view the test results at the American Temperament Test Society .

Recently the American Temperament Testing Society carried out another round of tests - pit bull terriers received a very high passing rate of 90.6%. The average pass rate for the other 121 breeds tested was 77%. The tests involve putting each dog through a series of unexpected situations - including involvement with strangers. Pit bulls have been proven - once again NOT to be inherently aggressive. Aggression in an individual dog, any breed - is a result of acquired behavior - forced on the dog by a human.

So, How About Taking a Look at Just How Sweet Pit Bulls Really Are…

Well, you can start with this Yes, Pit Bulls Suddenly Snap;

And then take a look at this Gentleman Duke - A bait Dog’s Salvation;

And lastly this Pit Bull Bigotry - Public Perception and Legislation.

For those of you who are not sure what a bait dog is - Pit Bulls are still used to day in legal (in some US States) and illegal (in other US States and Canada) dog fights. To train the dogs to attack another dog ‘bait’ dogs are used. Dogs that are submissive, sweet natured dogs are used as bait dogs. They end up severely injured, live a short life of torture and pain and then are killed - some are lucky enough to be rescued. Duke is one such dog. 

So, the next time some one says something bad about a Pit Bull, I am hoping you will stand-up and say - ‘hey wait a minute, you are wrong and here is why’. 

I will be following this article up with one on Breed Specific Legislation - which sees a lot of Pit Bulls condemned to death in Canada and the USA.
One Last Thing - You Can Help Pit Bulls In Ontario 

If you agree Pit Bulls are not the evil demons that the media and others have made them out to be, and would like to see them treated as they should be in Ontario - as loved and respected canine members of society -  you can help make sure that the ban on Pit Bulls is repealed by signing this petition. You may not be aware but (shame) Ontario is one of those places that instituted Breed Specific Legislation against Pit Bulls. 

Breed-specific legislation restricts people from having dogs based on dog breed. This requires breed identification of each and every dog. As noted above, this gets into murky water as there are far more cross breed dogs in North America than there are pure breed registered dogs. Most mixed breed dogs are a genetic conglomerate resulting from more than one generation of mixed breed dog interbreeding. In addition, a dog that doesn’t meet any single breed standard may be categorized as a type of dog rather than a specific breed, i.e. a Shepherd, a Terrier, a Pit Bull. This means that the primary means of identification for a mixed-breed dog is a visual glance followed by a guess - very subjective. Pretty much the same way the media identifies a ‘Pit Bull’ as the guilty dog in an attack. 

Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant, who pushed for this ban on Pit Bulls in Ontario, proposed this manner of identification:

“I’ve said before and I will say again, if it walks like a pit bull, if it barks and bites like a pit bull, wags its tail like a pit bull, it’s a pit bull.” (Ontario Hansard 38-1, November 4, 2004.

And so it stands. Make no mistake BSL is racism, to make things worse it is racism born of ignorance and it is lethal. Many Pit Bulls and dogs who people think may be Pit Bulls are put to death because of this legislation. Euthanized, gassed to death, heart sticked and so on.

So here is how you can help…

Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, tabled a bill in Queen's Park to repeal the breed-specific legislation passed by the McGuinty government in 2005, commonly known as the “pit bull ban”. Subsequently Randy created a website and a petition to help support the bill to repeal the ban, just click here .

Thanks for reading this, every little bit we do to help change the perception of Pit Bulls can save a sweet misunderstood dog’s life! We can change the future and make it a better place for dogs.

Stop BSL
KC Dog Blog
American Temperament Society

Wednesday, 4 January 2012


The most common types of aggressive-reactive behaviour in dogs result from the dog being...

A - Insecure, nervous, tense, fear based reactivity;

B - Bullying, dominating reactivity.

When these psychological conditions noted above are not addressed and resolved a dog may become:
  • Fearful reactive-aggressive, or;
  • Defensive reactive-aggressive, or;
  • Offensive reactive-aggressive.
Some typical signs of these behaviors are:

  • Fearful reactive-aggressive - backing away, trembling, low growl, whale eyes.
  • Defensive reactive-aggressive - barking, bared teeth, growling,  fearful body posture (lowered head, tucked tail, ears back, whale eye) and may back away.
  • Offensive reactive-aggressive - barking, bared teeth, growling,  offensive body posture (direct eye contact, erect ears, high tail) while moving or charging forward.

This behaviour may be directed at animate objects such as dogs or other non-human animals, at humans and at inanimate objects as well.

As an example most aggression in dogs occurs due to lack of leadership in the dog’s life - in the absence of proper direction a dog may become anxious, insecure and fearful. If dogs were pre-wired to be aggressive rather than social there would be very few dogs left standing. A dog in its natural state is a social being, a pack animal with the potential inherent to get along with others.  There are very few dogs born with 'bad wiring’. When a dog goes bad it is almost always a human who is responsible for the bad behaviour.

When puppies are young they learn their social skills from the adult dogs in their dog family. Now, as long as the adult dogs’ natural social state has not been negatively disrupted by human influence the adult dogs will teach their young how to get along without being aggressive. If you are thinking - yeah but what about the 'Alpha' - dominate need to read this.

Things go wrong when we humans...

A - Separate the dog from its early socialization process by removing the puppy from its parents and then;

B - We fail to take up the leadership role to coach and mentor the dog in the acquisition and maintenance of social skills - providing rules and boundaries.

In this day and age of technology and our fast paced-life we have lost an awareness of all of the ways in which we communicate. We have lost patience. We attempt to direct our dogs - we assume we know what we are doing - but most often people do not. 

A dog learns aggressive-reactive behaviour because a human enables the behaviour in a dog. Either by failing to provide leadership or by actively abusing the dog. Usually when a human enables the aggression it has happened by accident - completely unintentionally.

Here are some typical ways that dogs develop aggressive reactive behaviour…

A - Dogs that lack proper coaching and mentoring can become insecure, anxious and fearful. When a dog is insecure it will either be overly submissive or overly defensive. We see these same behaviours in people as well. If you are insecure, anxious or fearful you are either going to recede into the background or overcompensate by being a bully - it is the same for dogs. If your dog is nervous around humans or other dogs and you are nervous too - you tell your dog it is right to be worried. You enable the behaviour. If your dog has been attacked in the past by another dog and you are unable to let the past go, you enable your dog’s nervousness and aggression towards the other dog.

B - Dogs who receive the wrong type of affection at the wrong time can become aggressive-reactive. When you reward a dog for being in an excited state the dog learns that being excited is good. When a little dog is insecure and starts to react (snarl, growl, snap, bark) at a bigger dog - if you pick the little dog up, you have just rewarded the little dog for reactive behaviour. Your dog learns that reactive aggressive behaviour is ok.

C - Dogs who are allowed to take-over their humans, their homes, their toys, the furniture etc. without any rules that they can understand - these dogs can become aggressive. The rule - they own and the human fears to intercede. The human has inadvertently taught the dog to be a bully.

D - A dog has been abused by humans - this can make the dog insecure and fearful - the dog will seek to protect itself. To stop this behaviour you must help the dog gain confidence, you must show the dog that there are other ways to navigate through life - just as you would do for a person. You can read my Boxer Robbie’s story if you want to understand more about this cause and affect.

So, aggression is normally induced by humanity. No dog wants to be bad. All dogs want to have the opportunity to receive fair instruction, coaching and mentoring to help them be social happy members of society - the same thing that a child wants. Children don’t want to be bad - but when they lack the proper guidance, just like a dog they have little choice.

When we do not take the opportunity to correct the dog in a respectful, firm way without anger, fear or other emotions we create psychological damage in the dog. We miss an opportunity to change future outcomes - we make one more mistake in the dogs’ life - we set the dog up for future failure…just as we would be doing with a human.
The great thing about dogs is that they are easier to psychologically rehabilitate than humans are. Why, because dogs do not hold grudges. Because dogs live in the moment it is easier to change a dog's 'bad habits' than it is a human's. Humans carry grudges, dogs do not. Dogs are very forgiving and will, given the opportunity treat each day, each experience as a new beginning. It is only with difficulty that we are able to convince, permit and allow ourselves to do the same.

Patience, will, determination, persistence, respect and a little understanding of dog and human psychology are key. Coach and mentor the dog, train its human.

A dog is willing to give so much to their human - but what is the human willing to give to the dog?  

To enable the best in your dog you must think beyond yourself, your momentary needs your emotions. I believe you must broaden your understanding of affection, leadership and partnership. You must understand how dogs communicate and how you can unintentionally communicate the wrong thing. You must understand how dogs assign respect. You must understand what leadership really is and is not. And you should understand that there are many ways to share affection with your dog. Only when your have truly understood these concepts will you be in a position to enable the best in your dog.

If you learn to look at every element of your relationship in a more dynamic and holistic fashion you can learn to combine what you want with what your dog requires.

To have a happy, well balanced canine companion the human needs to make sure that they fullfill the needs of their dog. This is where it so often all goes wrong. Many of us, with the best of intentions, do not realize (that just because we love our dog and ensure we provide it with lots of affection the best of food, treats, a comfy place to sleep, etc.) that we have not met our dog's needs in a way that will best benefit them. 

Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behaviour Modification Services:
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service


"In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely try to train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming partly a dog." -- Edward Hoagland 

If we are willing to open our minds to see, we can learn much from dogs about ourselves. They can help us be more aware of our own behaviour and give us a second chance to grow into better, wiser and happier individuals.

Dogs do not require training unless they are to learn a skill such as search and rescue. 

To learn good behaviour dogs simply need to be communicated to in a fair, aware and respectful manner. I can walk into a home where a dog always jumps on guests, yet without saying a word to the dog I can provide it with direction instantly - the dog will not jump on me, the dog will be respectful. It is not a trick - I did not use my voice to communicate I used body language and my state of mind. I communicated to the dog in a language that he/she  understands.

A dog will usually tell you if your need to improve yourself as a dog will often reflect the state of their human.

If your dog is anxious and nervous the only way you can help your dog to overcome that state - is to learn  to truly understand your dog and yourself.  Most people will automatically look to see why the dog is misbehaving - I teach my clients to understand how they create and trigger unwanted behaviour in their dogs.

The best way to help a dog is to heIp the dog's human...I teach my clients how to become better communicators and better observers. I teach them to be  aware of all of the ways that we communicate - our thoughts, our body language, our tone of voice - our state-of-being...and then I teach them all of the ways that dogs communicate. Dog's do not read dictionaries - if you want your dog to understand a concept you must be capable of clearly exemplifying that concept...this is a fundamental and critical element of good leadership. To enable the best in your dog you must learn true leadership skills. In so doing  you improve your ability to communicate with not only your dog but with everyone in your life - your children, your spouse, your friends and co-workers.

Dogs can teach us about love and generosity, about living in the moment and seeing the small but valuable things that surround us everyday.

Dogs can also teach us to be less arrogant about our place in this world. 

If you allow yourself to see how truly intelligent and sensitive dogs really are you must also ask yourself what else have I missed seeing in the past? 

A whole new world opens up, where you can see the great value of non-human animals. The bonds they form with each other, their friendships and emotions are no less than that of a human. Dogs smile, they can be joyous, and sad, they grieve, they anticipate things that they enjoy and things that they do not like, they have dreams and nightmares. Dogs can teach us to recognize the intelligence and great value of other animals too. Did you know that cows have best friends? That elephants and whales are deeply bonded to their family members? Just two examples - there are so many. From this we can learn a deeper respect. And from this we can also learn to value the environment.

This is just a small part of what our dogs express and show us. Should we be smart enough to listen to what our dogs are trying to teach us our world expands and becomes a richer place. 

Additional Assistance

If you require additional support and guidance I would be pleased to assist you via my In-Person or On-Line Services…

Dog Obedience Training and Behaviour Modification Services:
  • Unbiased Diet, Nutrition, Product Advice is available via this service
  • Diet, Nutrition Wellness Plans are available via this service