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Why Dog Breed Matters

Johanna has cared for a variety of breeds—from Dachshunds to German Shepherds. She is an advocate for animals and their welfare.

Breed Traits and Bite Statistics

Breed Traits and Bite Statistics

Does Breed Matter?

As the argument for/against pit bulls continues, the question remains: Should we have special laws against some breeds thereby discriminating one dog from another? I want to offer my few cents as a genuine dog-lover and life-long owner of different breeds.

My Opinion

I have discovered that breed really does matter and that a dog is not just a dog—it's not that simple. It makes a difference which breed of dog you get regardless of how you take care of it or even train it. Of course, most dogs will become hostile if abused, but I am not talking about that. Rather, I'm talking about breed traits.

German Shepherds are protective and smart herding dogs.

German Shepherds are protective and smart herding dogs.

What I Learned From Observing Different Traits in My Dogs

I have a purebred German Shepherd currently (my first), and I had no idea that the herding instinct was so ingrained in my dog's personality. She is constantly keeping an eye on everybody at home and prefers for people to be in the same room. Even with friends visiting, she hates it if some of them are outside and she is inside, and vice versa. Basically, all the sheep must be together, otherwise, her instinct of rounding them up kicks in, which causes some anxiety for her. I think herding and protecting go hand in hand.

My German Shepherd's Instincts

The only time the herding instinct in my German Shepherd became annoying was when I went swimming. I learned that I needed to keep her on leash, otherwise, she would come after me at a fierce swimming speed, huffing and puffing, and once she reached me, she was not nice. She would scratch and even bite in an effort to get me back to shore. I guess she felt unable to sufficiently protect me in water. Even when I was out of the water just sitting on the beach, she would circle around and keep a close eye on me.

My Dachshunds' Instincts

On the other hand, while growing up, our Dachshunds would take off at any chance they got. We had four of them over the years and they would disappear for hours and roam around and look for things to hunt like foxes. They somehow managed to find fox holes in the woods and yap their heads off until we came running.

One time, part of an ear on one of my dogs was badly torn by a fox. Those little dogs could put up a fight. Another time, one of them bit a young fawn's leg in half. The poor deer's screams echoed through the woods, leaving us in shock and disbelief that our sweet dogs could do such harm.

Dachshunds make great pets but they are hunters, too!

Dachshunds make great pets but they are hunters, too!

Breeds Are Bred for Different Tasks

Why did my Dachshunds need to go and hunt stuff? Why not stay put like my German Shepherd? I believe certain traits were bred into various dog breeds. For generations, dogs were used to help their owners with farm animals and to protect property. Hunting was also a useful trait as was retrieving. (Have you ever met a retriever that would endlessly keep catching the ball? My shepherd would grow bored after some time.) According to the AKC, there are 35 breeds of hound dogs and 25 different herding breeds.

Pit bulls can be sweet but come with a troubled history.

Pit bulls can be sweet but come with a troubled history.

What About Pit Bull Breeds?

So where does this leave us with pit bulls? There are many types of dogs that are referred to as pit bulls according to Wikipedia: the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and also any mixes of these breeds. Some say the American Pit Bull Terrier is the same as the American Staffordshire Terrier, and others say just as soundly that they are entirely different breeds.

These bull and terrier breeds were used for bull- and bear-bating in the early 1800s. When those sports became illegal in 1835, dogfighting sprung up in its place in Europe, Russia, and here in the United States. That is when some of these dogs were selectively bred for their fighting prowess. But paradoxically, the American Pit Bull Terrier is well-respected for its intelligence and is noted as a good family dog and for being great with children. This can be confusing.

Although small-breed bites are under-reported, large-breed bites cause more damage.

Although small-breed bites are under-reported, large-breed bites cause more damage.

Pit Bulls Can Be Sweet but May Also Exhibit Negative Breed Traits

I think dogs described as pit bulls, especially the American Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, could either be the sweetest dogs or fall victim to their dogfighting past. I am not an expert by any means, but I have seen my dogs' inherent traits surface on their own, so the same is probably the case with other breeds.

Since pit bull breeds have historically demonstrated a genetic predisposition for aggressive tendencies and fighting, don't we owe it to these dogs to take precautions by neutering and perhaps enforcing special laws to ensure the safety of people around us as well as other animals? I think so, since these inherent traits can creep up in the animals at any time. Due to their size and sheer strength, these breeds can be especially dangerous and even lethal. In some countries, pit bull breeds are banned entirely.

Why People Should Research Their Breed of Interest

Learning about a breed's history and its specific traits is needed before choosing a dog to own. The Dachshunds I had as a kid should never have been able to roam free in any forest. I wish we had known that then and spared a fawn's life and the lives of many other creatures that may have fallen prey to our dogs over the years.

I think anyone who wants to own a pit bull breed should do some research on their own accord. This also really goes for all dog breeds, as safety should be a priority for all owners. This is not only with the safety of the dog's family members and other household pets in mind, but the general public and other animals in the community as well.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 29, 2019:

You've raised some interesting points in this article. I've only got to know one pit bull personally and have discovered that she's a lovely dog. I suspect that many factors combine to make a good dog, including general breed features, features emphasized by a particular breeder, and the training of a dog. As you say, people should do a lot of research with respect to a breed that interests them.

Besarien from South Florida on April 12, 2015:

I agree that any breed of dog can be a very good dog if well bred, treated properly, and appropriately trained. Improper breeding can cause behavior problems as well as physical ones. It is likely in places where, say, pit bulls are illegal, that the only breeding being done there is substandard- including inbreeding and breeding for violence and aggression to produce fighting dogs.

I have met some lovely pit bulls, including one big soppy boy named "Puddin" who likes to hold my hand and, well, most of my arm too very gently in his mouth to say hello. He is also a complete belly ho.

In England, German shepherds (or Alsatians as they were called there) had a very bad (mean, aggressive, attacking their owners) reputation for a while in the 70's and 80's. Not sure what it is like now.

My favorite breed is the mutt. I have a rescued golden/mutt right now. She is a sweet soul and a very good girl. I think she appreciates us after whatever craziness she went through. Great hub!