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Discussion Starter #1
Lately I have been getting into a lot of arguments with my mother because my husband and I choose to own an American Bully she feels is a pit bull. She pulls the "even nice pit bulls turn on their owners"
I am trained to handle dogs and understand them because of my work as a vet tech.

It is well known with pit bull advocates and reasonable people that nearly all of the pit bull attacks were from poor upbringing. Instantly people reason that well MY dog turned on me and he had a GOOD upbringing. It now travels beyond just the breed. for this is a statement made by most of the news stories reporting these dog attacks. " the dog was a good dog" in most of the cases of dogs turning on family. or good dogs becoming aggressive.

So why do "good" dogs turn aggressive?

It seems to be more then just one reason but many contributing factors.
So if this topic interests you please read on! and I would appreciate your opinions.

1) Dogs originally when bred were bred to perform a specific function. Every breed of dog was designed with this in mind. These "jobs" made the dogs lives focused. They did their job and they ate and they slept. This was their function. Some people now may consider this "cruel". dogs are not people. They need a job to do, and need to know their place. The world has changed. Most of these dog breeds bred for a specific reason are now trying to adapt to a "companion" lifestyle.

2) SO MANY dogs. and other pets. I believe this is a contributing factor. With so many dogs around the world, it puts many of them into the hands of bad dog owners or inexperienced dog owners. It also puts a lot of the dogs with territorial instincts into stressful situations. A dog in a home is fully aware of the other dogs in the neighborhood. Their senses are adapted to know these things. Dogs get loose many times. Sometimes they charge out of their yards sometimes its because something intrudes on their territory. Chances are most people have other dog owners nearby.

3) Bad breeding. Behavior traits can be passed down with breeding. We know this because herding dogs herd, rescue dogs rescue, and guard dogs guard. If you can pass on those behavior traits you can certainly pass on aggressive traits. But you would be blown away to learn the statistics of SERIOUS genetic disorders in purebred dogs. Google your dog breed. and see the list of common health problems. I will use 2 breeds of dogs as examples. Cavalier King Charles spaniels. It is estimated that 30-70% of these dogs will develop called syringomyelia, a condition in which fluid-filled cavities occur within the spinal cord near the brain. In some cases this causes the brain to swell beyond the capacity of the skull.
Smooth and rough coated collies are believed to have as high as a 95% chance to develop a condition known as Collie eye anomaly (CEA) which effects the function of the eyes because of the breeding of narrow skulls.
Dogs are becoming unhealthy in a lot of ways because of specific breeding, what sort of consequences will this produce?

4) BAD TRAINING. define bad training to yourself. Training has a lot to do with a dogs behavior. This we know. but what IS bad training? in reality its not always the obvious offenses. Someone may allow a shih tzu or a pug to sleep in the bed with them and sit next to them on the couch. I would not consider this bad training, to each their own. But keep this in mind. Sometimes a dog sleeping in a bed or taking over the couch can be a dominant act. not directly but they feel they are equal to you in a dog pack. A lot of our small companion dogs can actually become very snippy and dominant. This may be comical because really a growling chihuahua rarely strikes fear into anyone. however many people treat their larger dogs in the same way. which most of the time causes no problems. I am guilty of this myself. However what if you do have a dog that you can not control? . If your allowing a powerful dog to feel he is your equal it may become a problem in the future. Even friendly dogs face confusing situations, and this lack of a pack structure can really have bad results. People in general feel " my dog sleeps with me in bed and sits next to me on the couch, he is such a friendly dog" but could this be an underlying issue? I would venture to say that all of these " nice pit bulls" that turned on their owners probably had this sort of upbringing. no they were not abused or mistreated and they could probably sit and stay and lay down. But this was not the sort of training that will prevent a dog from turning on its owner. at my job and on tv I hear or see a lot of people laughing because their dog is trying to hump someone. It shows how people REALLY do not recognize dominant behavior or understand their dogs. I feel that this lack of proper training in powerful dogs leads to many of these " good dogs" turning. ALSO leaving a dog unattended with children is foolish. Its not the dog that always has to be supervised its the children. and you can't honestly expect even the best of dogs to put up with teasing and abuse.

5) Dogs are NOT people. So many forget this. I believe this is probably the #1 reason good dogs turn on their owners. Please read this article in this link. it explains much better then I can the way a dog thinks. http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/articles/humandog.htm it is a good read. This is also a big reason why dogs are not trained properly. Also to me you can not blame a dog for attacking another dog. This is part of the very basic dog instinct. If you have a dog that is dog aggressive it is YOUR responsibility to keep that dog from harming other peoples animals. Don't expect the dog to have morals. Many dogs can not be trained to be trusted with other dogs, and even if they are trained it would be foolish to leave them unattended.
 

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Great thoughts on pit bulls! I believe that the most important thing we can do is be responsible dog owners to help our "pit bulls" (mine is a mix) become advocates. I know my boy has changed a lot of minds, but there is still a long road ahead before these dogs will be welcome in society again!

Having said that, I also think that getting rid of the pack and dominance theory is an important part od being responsible dog owners. Although these ideas have come back thanks to a certain TV personality, they have long been known by knowledgeable dog trainers and behaviorists to be largely untrue for domestic dogs. Dominating our dogs is no less than bullying them, given all the research that shows that dogs learn best through positive reinforcement and conditioning, and do not need to be dominated. We need to help our dogs understand what we want from them, not push them around, alpha roll them, or show them who's boss! I am including an article by Jean Donaldson, a well reknowned trainer and behaviorist. If you want to read more by her about human-dog communication, look up a book called The Culture Clash. Article: http://www.jeandonaldson.com/jeans-blog-mainmenu-51/64-are-dogs-pack-animals
 

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Discussion Starter #3 (Edited)
I do not believe dogs need to be "dominated" in a aggressive way. but i do believe that a dog needs to know its place but there are ways to do that not involving harshness. An example of this is before feeding or giving a treat to a dog making them sit and lay down. this puts you in control in a gentle way that also teaches important training skills. Treating a dog harshly can make a dog skittish and scared dogs are to me worse then aggressive dogs. Training is key People need to learn the proper ways to train their dogs. I do retain the belief that many dogs are pack animals and have certain instincts. some dogs have more of these instincts. but a lot of dogs are more territorial. I am assuming it has a lot to do with the basic gene pool they were bred from. but I do not agree with harsh dominating "bullying" as you put it. Proper training benefits everyone.
 

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In most of the cases I've personally seen of dogs "turning on" their owners, the owner used aggressive training methods. . ."I don't know WHY my dog turned on me!" Yeah? I do. Or the dog wasn't actually being aggressive but his actions were misinterpreted. Usually when a dog gets aggressive with people not in the family, it's because aggression was encouraged, but don't be aggressive to that person! Like dogs can tell the difference between a burglar and the mailman. Although in many instances the owner didn't know they were encouraging the dog to be aggressive. Like slapping the dog every time he barks at the mailman? Yeah, if I got slapped every time somebody walked by, I'd want him dead, too.

I don't think it has anything to do with the dog being allowed on the furniture.
 

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Sure, letting you dog know you are a leader is important... But being his "pack leader" in terms of not letting him on the furniture or assuming that if he jumps on you, his intent is to dominate you is problematic. My dogs go out through doors ahead of me all the time and sometimes sit on my lap or snuggle up with me on the couch. But they are extremely happy and well-mannered, and never have I felt that they are secretly plotting to take over top spot in the household. Like I said, research on dog behavior long ago killed pack theory for domestic dogs. Unfortunately, TV is exciting and glamorous, and its stars often have great influence in spite of minimal qualifications. Training is a MUST for dog owners; dominamce is just bullying.
 

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I'm with you until the dominance/pack theory stuff. None of that is necessary to have a well mannered dog, regardless of breed. That stuff is just a concept to help people understand a training approach. A training approach that can be more easily explained with learning theory - just not as poetic. Dogs need rules and structure only for one reason...we're responsible for their behavior. It's as simple as that. Reward good behavior, punish/extinguish/manage bad behavior...it's as simple as that too, more than not.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
I have a friend that has a pit bull and she babies it. It knows basic commands but it walks all over her. Since she has had the dog it has progressively gotten more bold. It goes as far as taking food away from you right out of your hand. To me it is all about balance. Your point willowy is very true and I agree 100%. and also My 2 inside dogs are allowed on the furniture and they sleep in the bed with me and I have never had a problem. But in some cases with certain dogs I am sure there are contributing factors to their behavior. I can see the point the behaviorist ment when they talked about the furniture, Some dogs can be possessive in this way. I had a little dog that would growl at me when she was on the couch cause she felt it was hers. my friends dog who feels she can do anything she wants too. Is a result of bad training. would probably benefit if the owner set boundaries for the dog. But when i look at my basset hound lounging on the couch it just makes me smile. but my 90lb american bully i had to set more boundaries for because he is so very strong and his assertive personality requires it. When I first adopted him he would get on the dinning room table.
 

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Have you read "The Other End of the Leash," by Patricia McConnell? If not, I highly recommend it to help understanding your dog, or in your friend's case that she needs to teach the dog to be polite.
 

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See, I don't think your friend's pit bull takes food because she babies him or because he's dominant. He (? you called the dog "it"?) does it because that's what dogs do (food?!? Nom!!!), and nobody has taught him that humans don't like that. Or if they've tried, they used ineffective means. Dogs do what's good for them, so if they're taught that (human-defined) polite behavior brings good things, they'll do that.
 

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Exactly, Willowy. Dogs need to learn what human rules are, not be pushed around so they know who's the top dog. They aren't being dominant by climbing on tables and stealing food... They are just being dogs! And resource guarding (like guarding the bed), again, is not dominance. It is a dog protecting his comfy spot. That's it! Possessiveness does not equal dominance. By teaching her dogs what is not acceptable along with more positive alternatives, preferably by using positive reinforcement, your friend will have nicer dogs and better relationships with them. It sounds to me like she currently lacks reinforcement in her training regime. Setting boundaries and constantly telling a dog "no!" when he crosses the line is pointless unless a better behavior is shaped and reinforced consistently.
 
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