Friday, November 30, 2012

Not everyone should own a gun.

Before Seppel came into my life, my Pit Bull experience was limited to dogs I've met working in the veterinary field and dogs I have met owned by people I know. I'm not sure when exactly I decided I wanted a Pit Bull, but at some point a neighbor had a litter of puppies. I remember stopping by to see how much the pups were and fell in love with a black and white puppy. It was from that point I decided someday I wanted one [preferably AmStaff], I wanted it to be Black & White and wanted to name it Dakota. I was convinced I would get one, train it properly, socialize it, and I would show the world how great these dogs can be. Such a pipe dream! As I talk with other Pit Bull people I have begun to realize - some dogs are wired wrong, doesn't matter what you do, they are what they are. I also have learned that it isn't all in how you raise them. There are many "bad" dogs out there who have not been beaten, they live leisurely lives and are well taken care of.

I have also come to see the different sides of the Pit Bull world. I went from a dog forum where everyone had to crate & rotate, they didn't believe in tying dogs outside, everyone believes in management, to a forum where everyone supports tying out dogs [if done properly], culling if necessary, where I also learned that not only is this breed not for everyone - it doesn't make you a horrible person if you cannot manage this kind of a dog. It's understandable when people are passionate about things that they get riled up. I lurk a lot on a fairly popular Pit Bull forum. One day a person came on, not really asking for advice. I think if anything they just wanted someone to say "It's okay." These people had four dogs, one was a Pit Bull. The Pit Bull was buddies with a lab mix that they had. One day the owner was standing maybe two feet away when the Pit Bull hauled off and attacked the lab mix with the intent of killing it. After that they separated the dogs. As the story unfolds the dog has had a sketchy past, the dog has been dog aggressive in the past and is also becoming aggressive with humans. The owner was posting to say "I think we're going to have to euthanize our dog." People whipped around saying "You do what you want, but this situation is EASILY managed." They got absolutely no support, instead they were treated like crap for even thinking that humane euthanasia was an option. I think it's really unfortunate that people so quickly jump to those kinds of conclusions. I sometimes wonder how many people out there are dealing with a dog they really can't handle - but are too afraid to come to these forums and ask for help. Afraid that they will be harassed and shot down for being a sub-par owner.

The thing about dog management is that it isn't easy, especially with this breed. Most Pit Bulls are high energy dogs, if you are in a crate & rotate situation you need to make sure all of your dogs get adequate exercise, if you're rotating Pit Bulls it's even more imperative that they get adequate physical and mental stimulation. I work 7:30am-7:00pm. When I get home I barely have time to eat, shower, and get to bed. If I had to crate & rotate my dogs it would add another couple of hours to my evening trying to spend time with everyone individually. I'm not saying that euthanasia is the route to go in every situation, I am not one to support an easy way out and I feel people need to take responsibility for their choices. However, on the other side of the coin, if the person is not cut out for managing an aggressive dog I feel euthanasia is a safer option vs. the dog being in a poorly managed situation - getting out - biting someone - and spending its last days in a shelter before being killed.

Before I had Seppel, I had no idea how serious this breed is. Don't get me wrong - there are some Pit Bulls out there who do act more like poodles or golden retrievers, but they are few and far between. My friend Danielle's Pit Bull Karmann is a fairly mellow dog. She has some prey drive and she has the energy to get up and go when she wants to, but she can hold still. I would say that mellow personality is more rare unless you know the lines you're buying/you're purchasing more of a show dog. Seppel's energy out-let needs are much greater than that of Seth and LiLo. I've started running all three of my dogs on the treadmill, mostly for Seppel and Seth's benefit.

Seppel was a pro at this, he's had to have been on one before. Contrary to popular belief, treadmills aren't just a tool for dog fighting - they are a way to condition your dog and burn off that excess energy. I tried bike riding with Seppel and all he would do is trot along. There's no way I'm going to ride my bike for hours just to give Seppel an adequate workout. The treadmill is AWESOME. Seth runs for about 10mins at 8mph, Seppel is now just up to 15mins at 8mph. I rotate between the two boys and try to get 20mins in for both of them. I've noticed Seppel is a lot calmer, I run the dogs almost everyday. He settles a lot better after he's been on the treadmill as well. He's never been one to pace or be anxious, but without some energy release he doesn't settle down as well and moves every time I move. I've certainly learned this is not a leisurely breed!

I was at petsmart the other day getting canned food for treadmill bait. I brought Seppel with me. The guy at the counter was all "Oh they are such a misunderstood breed!" I said "Yeah..." he says "You know, they are banned in Europe!" I'm thinking, no kidding. I own one, I know all about BSL. He then says "They are really great dogs." I looked at him and said "Yeah, they are, but they aren't poodles. Not everyone should own a gun, not everyone should own a Pit Bull."

I don't know if the guy really got it. Even as a kid I was thinking that if I raised it and trained it right, a Pit Bull could be like any other dog. Honestly - they are not like every other dog. They are intense, stubborn, intelligent, they can be dog aggressive. Pit Bulls don't just give 100%, they give 110% in everything they do. I noticed it with Seppel, I think it's the tenacity and drive that they have. They just barrel in there and do it. Even when Seppel is being "naughty" or not doing what he should be doing, he still gives it his all. It's that spirit that has made me fall in love with the breed. Seppel never has a bad day, he's never grumpy. He never looks at me as if to say "No, I don't want to do it."

I think the hardest part about owning a Pit Bull is being responsible. Making sure he can never get loose and harm another dog, making sure he doesn't knock someone over, making sure the house insurance will cover us if an accident does occur. I don't think he would ever bite a person - unless I told him to, even then, I'm not so sure. But I am leery of small animals. I think as a Pit Bull owner you have to be overly cautious because there is so much scrutiny that comes your way because of the breed. Pit Bulls are not dog park dogs - if you take them to a dog park and they get into it with another dog, even if they didn't start it - you will get in trouble. Not only is it my responsibility to keep my dog safe, but we are representing the WHOLE breed when we step outside! I think as a Pit Bull owner I feel more pressure for my dog to behave, to set a good example because when we go out we represent them all. In some cases, this pressure backfires because I think we sometimes forget at the end of the day they are a dog before they are a Pit Bull. I also think this kind of pressure can be a good thing because it helps those of us who take the ownership of this breed seriously to learn and grow and become the best dog owners and handlers we can be.


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