Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 17, 2012

Breed Profiling

Posted at 09:32AM - Comments: (19)

I’ve liked individual dogs of pretty much every breed at some point or another. But there are times when I’ve also NOT liked dogs of some breed when it wasn’t even warranted. I guess you’d call it profiling or discrimination.

For the October issue of WDJ, I needed a dog to model a number of no-pull harnesses, so I could photograph them before sending them to WDJ Training Editor Pat Miller to review them. I purchased a size “medium” in all the harnesses so that Pat would stand the best chance of finding dogs to wear and try out the products. But for the photographs, I had additional requirements of the models: they also had to be a light color and short-haired, so the harnesses could be seen easily.

Unfortunately, none of my friends’ dogs were the right size, color, and had the right coat. So I went to my local shelter and looked for a candidate. The only dog in the adoption ward who immediately fit the bill was a muscle-bound bully breed, light grey, with a short coat. However, he also had a rather impassive expression that I couldn’t read. He neither growled, nor did he wag – and given his breed type, I was nervous about giving him a shot. Instead, I tried several other candidates, and each failed miserably. Either they were not the best color for what I needed or they wouldn’t stand still for photos. I wasted at least an hour passing that bully guy by, until out of desperation, I opened his kennel door.

Long story short, he was PERFECT. He was a strong puller on leash, and yet, he stood patiently while I adjusted harness after harness on him, and then stepped back to take photo after photo of him. I was immediately remorseful for having not tried him in the first place, all because I made assumptions about him because of his type. I just didn’t want to tangle with a dog who might be too strong, too wiggly, preoccupied with other dogs in nearby runs, or impatient with me and all the gear and possibly aggressive.

I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one who is guilty of stereotyping, even though I know better. I know a lot of owners of large dogs who are biased against small dogs, saying that small dogs are “always” the ones who start trouble when they pass on the street – and in my experience, Chihuahuas and terriers ARE often out of control and apt to behave aggressively on-leash.

On the other hand, I know owners of small dogs who pick their small dogs up when they pass dogs of certain larger breeds, worrying that the big dogs will make a predatory grab for their tiny brethren – and I’ve seen that happen, too. Veterinarians will note “BDLD” in a small dog’s medical chart when a “Big Dog” attacks a “Little Dog,” perhaps mistaking it for a prey animal.

As I confessed my “sin” of prejudice to one of the employees at the shelter, however, she said I wasn’t altogether incorrect to worry about the big dog’s stereotypic traits. “It’s a good thing you didn’t take him by the cat room!” she told me. “He goes berserk when he sees a cat; it takes everything you’ve got to hold him back.” 

Have you been guilty of breed prejudice? Ever made a highly incorrect assumption about a dog based on his breed or type – or have you mostly had your stereotyping confirmed?

Comments (18)

Still late but:

Especially for Gail-Anne K.

The surest way to make your own dogs "Dog Aggressive" is for YOU to be apparently aggressive towards other dogs. It is also fail-safe way of ensuring that other dogs' owners will not comply with your 'requests'.

Talk to the other dogs pleasantly while at the same time desperately HOPE that the other dogs' owners call their dogs away.

Then work on learning to relax yourself, and teach your dogs to remain 'under control' in public. BY all means carry your Knobkerrie, but use it to block other dogs, NOT to cripple them.


Well the same goes for little Yappies too -- just because a dog is much bigger than them, it does NOT mean that little Yappies should be allowed to be unacceptably aggressive with no provocation. But as everyone knows IF it comes to court it is ALWAYS the big dog that is blamed, so want your dogs to be safe you teach them to neither attack other dogs NOR to react. dangerously when mobbed by other dogs, even those intent of totally eating them, beginning at the ankles :-(

Posted by: Jenny H | May 1, 2013 12:52 AM    Report this comment

As the owner of a terrier, I've had to deal with the "all terriers are crazy" belief -- particularly since my dog and I were charged by an offleash rottweiler, raising some territorial dog aggression that it's taken about six months to unravel. About a week after the attack, my dog passed the AKC good citizenship test. I have done everything I can to train him and socialize him, and I wasn't the person who decided to let their known territorial rottweiler off leash AGAIN. But, because my dog is a terrier, I've been told that I'm in denial -- that clearly my dog was like this before and probably started the problem with the rottweiler. Even kindly intentioned people criticize, and I've lost count of the number of people who have asked me if I simply didn't socialize him as a puppy. One neighbor has expressed the opinion that I caused the problem by training my dog the "leave it" command with regard to other dogs (required for the AKC test) -- she claims I made him afraid of other dogs. The sad thing is that once I get him away from home, large dog owners will often comment on how well trained he is for a small dog. Fortunately, we are nearing the finish line -- he is managing to stay in a heel on our street for most dogs, and the rottie owner seems to have gone away for the summer so I have some breathing room before tackling the last big hurdle. But it drives me crazy that, with all the work I've done before and after the attack, the criticism is directed at me -- and not at the multiple large dog owners in the neighborhood who either don't leash their dogs at all or let the flexileads run out all the way so they are uncontrolled.

Posted by: Mary-Beth B | October 5, 2012 3:33 PM    Report this comment

SO...Today a 60 year old grandmother was killed by a Pit and last week it was a 3 month old baby sleeping! From 1979-1998 76 Americans were killed by Pits...32% of all humans killed by dog bites. From 2006-2008 52 Americans were killed by Pits..59% of all fatal dog bites!
These stats are American only..imagine worldwide! I have NEVER met a Pit owner that says he has a dog that will kill his 3 month old child and/or his grandmother. Pit owners ALL have the sweetest dog with a bad rap!
The statistics are REAL for whatever reason. Pits fight and Retrievers retrieve! Breed members have been artificially selected by man to perform certain jobs. It is as natural for a Pit to fight as it is a Lab to retrieve. Ask the Romans what they did with Pits..ask Mike Vic what he did with Pits. Why Pits when Chihuahuas are far less docile.
You cant blame Pit fatalities on press or socioeconomic factors.These dogs have a propensity to fight and have the means to kill. They arent the only ones but they are not kittens. There is a genetic component. Many that attack were raised in nice homes and not in the hood.
I suggest Pit lovers fill their neighborhoods, schools, and childcare facilities with Pits. Ill fill such environments with Golden Retrievers. Ok and before you use socioeconomics as an "out" lets put them in the same faclities in wealthy neighborhoods. Good luck!

Posted by: Realist | September 30, 2012 7:04 PM    Report this comment

SO...Today a 60 year old grandmother was killed by a Pit and last week it was a 3 month old baby sleeping! From 1979-1998 76 Americans were killed by Pits...32% of all humans killed by dog bites. From 2006-2008 52 Americans were killed by Pits..59% of all fatal dog bites!
These stats are American only..imagine worldwide! I have NEVER met a Pit owner that says he has a dog that will kill his 3 month old child and/or his grandmother. Pit owners ALL have the sweetest dog with a bad rap!
The statistics are REAL for whatever reason. Pits fight and Retrievers retrieve! Breed members have been artificially selected by man to perform certain jobs. It is as natural for a Pit to fight as it is a Lab to retrieve. Ask the Romans what they did with Pits..ask Mike Vic what he did with Pits. Why Pits when Chihuahuas are far less docile.
You cant blame Pit fatalities on press or socioeconomic factors.These dogs have a propensity to fight and have the means to kill. They arent the only ones but they are not kittens. There is a genetic component. Many that attack were raised in nice homes and not in the hood.
I suggest Pit lovers fill their neighborhoods, schools, and childcare facilities with Pits. Ill fill such environments with Golden Retrievers. Ok and before you use socioeconomics as an "out" lets put them in the same faclities in wealthy neighborhoods. Good luck!

Posted by: Realist | September 30, 2012 2:03 PM    Report this comment

Hey Gail,
can I give ya a little tip. Dogs are pack animals, they greet each other unlike sociopaths like youself. I hope somebody feeds you that stick one day.

Posted by: Robert M | September 18, 2012 9:21 PM    Report this comment

This is a great article, however, I have to admit that I'm a dog trainer and I will approach any dog, any where, any time. If the dog is with its owner on leash I always ask permission before I approach. My husband is constantly telling me how crazy I am to just pet any dog. Recently, my next door neighbor who had a grey pitbull who is 4 years old and fully intact. They used a shock collar to keep him contained in his yard. Well, the fence started to fail and he kept coming into my yard. My one dog a cocker spaniel/beagle mix would play with him through the fence, my other dog a cocker spaniel would want to rip him apart because the pit would act aggressively toward me. I put both dogs in the house, came out with a handful of treats and carefully fed him through the fence. Next day same thing. I went into my yard with the aggressive dog, treats in hand and started training him. My husband called the neighbor to come get his dog. As soon as the pit saw his owner, this poor dog coward down behind me and didn't want to go with the owner.. I offered to train this dog for free.. for 3 weeks my neighbors never bothered to take me up on FREE TRAINING. I just found out that the dog bit my neighbors niece and got rid of the dog.. Moral of my story, I don't stereotype dogs.. I cant wait to see the photos in the October edition!!!

Posted by: janinesk9crazy@gmail.com | September 18, 2012 4:39 PM    Report this comment

This is directed to
Gail Ann K whose post is one of the first
You better feel lucky not to live near me, you use that stick on my dogs and you will need a surgeon to have it removed from you!
Just because you have dogs that are unsocialized and plain mean doesn't mean you can trot around and punish dogs that most of the time just want to say HI because of dogs like yours we have people scared of certain breeds and calling for all kinds of laws to ban them, you ought to be ashamed and embarrassed to even have dogs that can't behave I do know they are that way because of your laziness to train them to be more social
Shame on you!!

Posted by: peter b | September 18, 2012 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, prejudice is justified to some extent--not because of the dogs' innate behavior, but because of how people who are drawn to acquire certain types of dogs shape their behavior. Some people think little dogs are cute possessions to carry around rather than dogs, and don't bother to train them. It is also a fact of life that some people encourage their bully breeds to be, or at least act, vicious to enhance the person's street cred. Many of the pits who end up in shelters do act out because that's what pleased the people who later dumped them.

Posted by: Deborah B | September 18, 2012 1:22 PM    Report this comment

I have two dogs, one a 10lb Rat Terrier mix and the other a 40lb Aussie Cattle Dog mix, both are dog reactive. They do fine with each other but do not like other dogs getting in their face. Any time I walk I carry a heavy duty walking stick. I do not allow other dogs to great my dogs, leashed or not, and tell approaching dog owners that my dogs are dog reactive. Most people ignore that statement, too stupid to understand maybe. Once the other dog gets close enough my walking stick goes right into his space at nose level, that usually backs them up and they go around us with no more trouble. If they don't they get a light tap on the nose and if that doesn't work they get a harder tap across the shoulders. I do not like hitting other dogs but I WILL PROTECT MY DOGS! Any time an owner says "OH, my dogs are fine with other dogs" I go on alert as that dog is probably aggressive. My dogs are always leashed and mind me but will get in front of me to protect me if needed. My walking stick saved my little dogs life when two unleashed, un-neutered, Golden Retrievers thought they were going to have my dog for lunch. The owner, who was standing there watching, thought it was funny until I brought my stick down across one dogs shoulders that took him to his knees. Needless to say that dogs only purpose at that time was to get out of reach of my stick. Problem solved. I never go to dog parks as I don't feel they are safe. Too many people use them because they're too lazy to walk their dogs. Dogs need to be walked, dogs need discipline, and they need owners that show them the right way to do things.

Posted by: Gail Ann K | September 18, 2012 11:53 AM    Report this comment

Hope Pat is taking a look at "Walk Your Dog with Love" Harnesses. Love them for dedicated pullers. Clients love them because of ease of fit.

Posted by: hpytls | September 18, 2012 11:48 AM    Report this comment

We now own 3 Bedlingtons. We used to take our previous terriers (rat terriers) to the local dog park, but found too many instances of folks taking large dogs there that need socializing and training and somehow magically assume other dogs will do it for them. One of my rescue dogs (half rat, half Border Collie) was viciously attacked by a boxer for no reason and THAT dog's owners blamed me??!! Also have had other bully breeds run out of their garages to greet us while we were calmly walking by on a sidewalk across the street. One even took a bite of my dog's hide who pushed in front of me for protection. Some loose dogs come right up to us and stare with intent. I now carry citrus spray with me at all times (even used in on a giant cat that came after my dogs-ha ha). So prejudice against these breeds can save your life or your dogs. You never know how well trained the other dog is, so just assume it isn't. Also Bedlingtons would not back down from a fight, so I am cautious to take them anywhere. We never go out after dark (coyotes can be heard and I can't see stuff in the distance). We only go to dog parks that are nearly empty and often just wait and watch before we let them off leash. Two of mine are therapy dogs and all love people, but they are terriers, despite their calm demeanor. It's sad so few people train their dogs, even after noticing issues after taking them home from the pound! Too bad, they don't come with free training sessions too...might keep them from multiple placements.

Posted by: LESLEY E | September 18, 2012 11:14 AM    Report this comment

My English Bull Terrier lived for 17 yrs. with our house rabbits completely loose in the house. I brought home a cocker spaniel from the dog pound and the two dogs and the rabbits all got along great. That cocker spaniel, by the way, was the sweetest dog who ever lived. Our present dog is a dachshund who barks wildly at squirrels but leaves the rabbits alone. I always think that any dog could be sweet or any dog could bite me!

Posted by: ang | September 18, 2012 11:04 AM    Report this comment

I have 2 mini poodles(5 and 7)who were attacked by loose big dogs 6-7 times during their lives: in a pet store, hiking in the woods, walking in the neighborhood, etc.The owners of the big dogs often try to comfort me saying that their dogs "didn't mean it, they just wanted to play". I cannot care less what kind of intention a dog had, I just don't want my dogs to be injured. The owners of big dogs simply won't get it. After the first 4 attacks I stopped doing a rehab work with my girls trying to teach them again (and again and again)not be afraid of the big dogs. It's not fair to them. They know better and so do I do now.

Posted by: OLGA B | September 18, 2012 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Well I sure hope someone adopts that bully boy and he wasn't killed. Most dogs only have a few days in animal shelters. Would have broken my heart leaving him behind.
Another option would have been to call on local rescue groups and see what dogs they had.

Posted by: PATIENCE M | September 18, 2012 10:26 AM    Report this comment

We share a home with 2 Chow Chows so we deal with other people's stereotypes all the time. I do find myself leary with certain breeds if their owners are not around-because of behavior I've encountered. I think of it as caution not prejudice.

Posted by: Patt B | September 18, 2012 10:10 AM    Report this comment

We share a home with 2 Chow Chows so we deal with other people's stereotypes all the time. I do find myself leary with certain breeds if their owners are not around-because of behavior I've encountered. I think of it as caution not prejudice.

Posted by: Patt B | September 18, 2012 10:10 AM    Report this comment

We share a home with 2 Chow Chows so we deal with other people's stereotypes all the time. I do find myself leary with certain breeds if their owners are not around-because of behavior I've encountered. I think of it as caution not prejudice.

Posted by: Patt B | September 18, 2012 10:10 AM    Report this comment

Hi Nancy,

I would take issue with the staff members statement "she said I wasn't altogether incorrect to worry about the big dog's stereotypic traits." As that is not accurate or educated information. I have written many articles about BSL / BDL here that cover many of the same stereotypes you mention. Russell Hartstein CPDT funpawcare

Posted by: Russell Hartstein CPDT | September 17, 2012 10:40 AM    Report this comment

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