The Primal Blog

Why Dog Parks Are a Bad Idea and Why Off Leash Dogs Suck Part Two

This post actually applies to dog parks and any place where people decide to let their dog be off leash despite the fact that their dog is supposed to be leashed. A very small percentage of dogs have been trained to the extent that their off leash skills are impeccable and worthy of actually being off leash. For the other 99% of dogs this is not the case, but that does not stop the vast majority of owners from letting their dogs run wild all the while not knowing how to truly gauge the temperament of their dog. The excuses are vast when dogs are growling, snarling, snapping, pinning other dogs to the ground or even attacking other dogs. We all hear it all the time, people will say how friendly their dog is and how great they are with all dogs, but usually it is that people are overall unable to come to terms with the idea that their dog might not be as friendly with people, dogs, or social situations as they thought. I have spoke to Mike Jones (the owner and head trainer of Primal Canine) about many times; it is not that people are bad owners, it is simply just that people are not in touch with or have a legitimate understanding of dog behavior, body language and basic training/dog manners.

 

Something I hear often is the term “socialization.” Many people perceive dog parks as a necessary step in the socialization of their dog while believing that socialization comes from a dog experiencing many unknown people, places, dogs and stimuli all at once, and over and over again. As this surely counts as life experience and definitely counts as placing a dog under environmental stress…this is NOT proper socialization. Expecting that your dog will get along with all other dogs is like expecting a human being to love all other human beings. This is unrealistic and in this situation dogs are no different. I find it troublesome when people bring dogs to public places who are clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation as they are flanked with strange dogs and people. This brings me to the next thing I commonly hear from owners, “oh he/she is just nervous, he/she just needs to get used to people/dogs/the park etc.” Well, thrusting your dog into an awkward and uncomfortable social situation is a sure fire way to set the stage for a disaster. If your dog is aggressive or nervous around other people and dogs, what you need is training – THEN structured socialization, not forced, unstructured discomfort in hopes that your dog just works through their issues on their own. Dog parks and public parks are NOT the place to socialize your dog, or bring a dog that an owner can otherwise not control on leash, so it is the last resort for this dog to have exercise.

 

It is exhausting and scary for those of us who are being responsible and leashing our dogs to watch all of the dog fights and scuffles that occur and wonder if next it will be our dog that is attacked or approached by a poorly mannered dog whose owner is none the wiser. This brings me to the next concern I have; I have four “Pit Bulls” and if there is a conflict even if my dog is licensed, well trained, leashed and the victim defending itself – my dog will be blamed. While walking on what is supposed to be a leashed dog area in a wildlife reserve park yesterday, my leashed American Bully was mounted and humped on three separate occasions by different dogs. Each time the owners not only did nothing, but they stood there and laughed as their dog humped my dog because to them it was funny. My dog, as most dogs, tried to get away and after about 15 seconds began trying to nip at the other dog – suddenly the owners cared about the situation and pulled their unleashed dog off of my dog. The most ridiculous part of each instance where this happened (all three times) the owners only cared about controlling their dog when they thought their dog was in danger of being bitten by a “Pit Bull.” Allowing your unleashed dog to run free out of your sight, knowing that your dog loves to be the dog park rapist is a great way for your dog to get bitten. The lack of manners on the part of owners and dogs alike does not even stop there. I have issues walking my dogs in my neighborhood where people constantly allow their off leash dog to run up to my dog and from dozens of yards away yell about how friendly their dog is. Well, that’s great but what if my dog was not? Once again suddenly my dog would be the aggressor because of their breed and the other dog would be labeled the victim because it was just a friendly Lab, Spaniel, Shih Tzu or whatever just strolling up to say hello. That situation would never be acceptable if it was reversed.

 

Overall, public places are supposed to be safe places where people and dogs can enjoy their outing and not have to worry if their dog is going to be safe or not. Leash laws are there to protect your dog and others dogs. Not leashing your dog is ruining the experience of the owners who are actually being responsible. Please remember to be competent about your dog’s likes and dislikes and ability to be in social situations, and always leash your dog. 

Belgian Malinois will be the next Pit Bulls

            Belgian Malinois and Dutch Shepherds have recently exploded in popularity. The problem is that both of these breeds (especially the ones from specific working bloodlines) are not intended to solely be pets or companion animals. Mals and Dutches are working line dogs, they require serious, experienced dog owners who truly have the knowledge of the breed, and the extensive time for consistent, on going training and exercise. Novice and first time dog owners are as a whole are likely to be unfit and unable to provide the amount of mental and physical stimulation necessary to prevent the dog from developing serious behavioral issues. Acquiring any breed of dog because they are trendy, “badass,” or “manly” is ridiculous and the wrong reason to get any animal. Adding a dog to your life should be a decision made with careful consideration, and selected based upon an owner’s competence, experience, and amount of time available for dedication to training and exercise. Not based upon “cool factor.”

 

            If any of you are unaware of what a Malinois or Dutch Shepherd is, I am sure you have seen one before and mistaken it for a German Shepherd. Mals and Dutches are commonly used as multipurpose military dogs, police dogs, and personal protection dogs. Their alertness in conjunction with their drive and energy level makes them excellent dogs for protection and apprehension. Dogs with such drive require structure, training and exercise to properly contain their drive and disperse their energy. As we all know as dog owners, all dogs especially working dogs, who are deprived of dedicated owners will suffer. When working dogs have careless, negligent owners their dogs become highly predisposed to destructive behaviors, aggression towards people and other dogs, and are all around unmanageable. This is in no way stating that Mals and Dutches are inherently dangerous or vicious, because anyone that owns a dog knows that bad dog ownership can cause any dog to become unruly and difficult to manage. Therefore it is simple to understand that the way a high energy dog become dangerous is through the negligence on the part of human beings.

 

          Pit Bulls (the term being used loosely), like Rottweilers, and Dobermans (and many other working breeds) are stubborn, loyal, high energy, alert dogs with a high prey drive, which many people acquire for their “cool factor.” After decades and decades of idiots thinking its really cool to get a dog, never train it, never socialize it, never exercise it, and then be proud of the dog’s unbridled aggression – Pits became labeled as unstable and unmanageable dogs dumped off at shelters with issue after issue that their owners created. Suddenly these issues were branded to breed as if it was the dog’s fault that nobody cared about the commitment of owning a dog. I say that Mals and Dutches are the next Pit Bulls because the rate at which Mals and Dutches are growing in popularity, combined with their drive and human stupidity – they will be filling up the shelters quickly. This can happen a number of ways; people can recognize the growth of demand for the breed and somehow acquire a couple Mals and begin breeding them. Start using the dogs as cash cows, caring only for the profit and not the proper breeding, nor caring about who or where the puppies go. People see cute Mal and Dutch puppies online, think, “oh they’re so cute!” or “babe lets get one they look just like a German Shepherd!” The problem perpetuates from there as these homes and owners were not properly vetted, educated or prepared for this puppy. As time goes on, the owners realize the dog does not do well being crated 8-10 hours a day while they’re at work, and that 20-minute walk around the block doesn’t wear the dog out. The owners become frustrated as the dog tears everything up, barks constantly, pulls like crazy on walks and starts to nip at other dogs because he wasn’t manageable in public and is therefore unsocialized. That dog is destined for the shelter because it’s no longer a cute puppy from Instagram, it’s a 75 pound adult Malinois that cannot be controlled by the owner, he is dog aggressive, has a high prey drive and separation anxiety from being sequestered in a crate all day and night. I can only hope that the solution lies first with breeders being vigilant about where their dogs go, to who and for what purpose they will be used for. Secondly, it is of the utmost importance that owners understand that Mals and Dutches should not be gotten as companion animals. There are so many breeds of dog that are better suited strictly as pets that will of course still require training, care and exercise but not to the high standard which Mals and Dutches require.

Our Dogs Are Not Perfect and That's Okay

I will be a bully breed fanatic until the end without a doubt, and promoting this breed in a positive light will always be a priority for me. I realize as pit bull/ bully breed owners we will defend and protect our dogs to no end because of the already unfair and ridiculous myths and stereotypes that exist about them. We feel the need to shield them from these accusations and at all costs promote the best breed image possible. I have noticed that while in the midst of this noble effort, there are many people (non-bully breed owners as well) who deny…even lie to themselves, that their dog is in dire need of training.

Whether this comes from a disproportionate outlook on what behavior is acceptable from a dog, or from our willingness to make excuses for the animals we love so much. Maybe it is because we feel that rescued dogs or pit bulls as a breed have had such a tough life until this point, they should be allowed more freedom. Personally, I have thought maybe this can be my way of saying I was sorry for someone abusing or neglecting my dogs in the past and this will right those past wrongs in some cosmic karma sort of way. That is about as far as I have gotten with my introspection on that topic, but it seems to be applicable to the way that I hear many people speak about their reasoning for managing their dogs in the way that they do. Allowing bad behaviors to manifest for whatever reason is not helping yourself or your dog or the general image of the pit bull breed.

I guess getting back to my point, we as pit bull owners seem to be scared to admit that often our dogs do have issues like food aggression, dog aggression, people aggression. jumping, barking, biting, high prey drive etc. We tend to think if we are open about a pit bull having one or more of these issues, we are supporting the time old traditional stereotypes about pit bulls. But lets not forget that foremost, pit bulls are dogs. Dogs have these issues, whether we have adopted an adult dog or puppy, or even purchased one from a breeder. It is okay to admit that pit bulls will carry some natural “breed” (obviously that word is being used as a loose term before somebody tells me that pit bulls are not technically a breed) traits and characteristics. Some of those being a high prey drive, being highly aware and alert of their surroundings and being sensitive or aggressive towards other dogs if not properly socialized or correctly introduced to another dog.

Another facet to this issue is added by people who lie to themselves and others on social media about their dog(s) being better behaved than they really are in real life. This bothers me to no end because nothing about this is truly helping the breed image. All these people are doing is hiding a problem with their dog, while promoting their dog to be a model citizen of the breed to the public. While on a surface level, yes, cute and well selected photos of a pit bull will look good for everybody to see, but what’s the point of that if off camera this dog is at the dog park attacking other dogs, yanking you around while on leash and barking non-stop at your neighbors? Good breed image, bully breed advocacy and legitimate responsible dog ownership transcends social media posts and cute, well posed photos. Anybody on Instagram and Facebook can pose their dogs for pictures and talk about what it means to be a responsible pit bull owner. That only means something to me if in real life you are open to truly assessing your dog’s behavior; good and bad. It is simple to focus on all the positive things our dogs do. What I truly respect is if somebody can admit that they are dealing with issues with their dog, especially a pit bull. Because deep down we all know that announcing the good all over social media takes no effort, but to announce the at times ugly side of dog ownership is hard.

My dogs are not perfect and I am still learning everyday about what it takes to be a better dog owner. All in all, being a responsible dog owner and pit bull advocate starts with being able to realize our dogs are not perfect, neither are we, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is trying to save face with your family, friends, followers or even yourself when it comes to assessing and dealing with a dog’s behavioral issues. We all want people to love pit bulls as much as we all do, and see them for the sweet, loving babies we know they are. This starts with accepting that there is a constant need for proper structure, management and training, especially being under the microscope as a pit bull owner and lover. 

 

-@Murdapolis