Breaking the Stigma: How To Prove that Your Powerful Breed is Safe and Utterly Awesome

If you’re a dog owner who loves powerful breeds, you probably don’t even think twice when you see another owner with a big, muscled dog at the dog park or on the street.

Why? Because you know that with proper training and firm but loving hand, dogs who get a bad-rap like Pit Bulls, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers can be gentle and devoted companions.

The general population, however, may need more convincing. Because there is a prevalence of misinformation out there regarding various dog breeds, not to mention breed bans that unnecessarily discriminate against certain breeds and their owners, you may encounter friends, relatives, and community members who just aren’t quite as stoked about your dog as you are. But, never fear, there are things you can do to make your dog, as Cesar Millan puts it, a “breed ambassador. Here’s how.

Work Harder Than Other Dog Owners

Here’s the deal. If you choose to own a powerful and stigmatized breed, then it is your responsibility to work hard, very hard, harder than most dog owners, to make sure that your animal is a model citizen. Not just for your sake, but for the sake of these animals who, through no fault of their own, have been villainized.

As such, train consistently with your animal, socialize them from the time they are a puppy and continuously throughout their lives. Put them in a variety of situations with a variety of people.

Also, though this is the owner’s personal choice, it is wise to never allow your dog to play with children unsupervised, no matter how well-trained and non-aggressive you believe them to be.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Many Pit Bull, Doberman, and Rottweiler owners have taken to Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram posting adorable, candid, and stigma-busting pictures of their fur-friends. For example, Cutie and the Beast follows a beautiful little girl and her beloved Doberman. You’ll find them romping in the snow, wearing tutus, and cuddling. The cuteness is almost unbearable.

That said, if you have some friends or family who are on-the-fence about your dog, showing them a quick photo of your animal cuddling with children, playing with other dogs, or calmly relaxing at your campsite may assuage their fears.

©istockphoto/Gerdzhikov

©istockphoto/Gerdzhikov

Correct Your Animal Privately and Publicly

Whether you’re at the dog park or walking down the street, you should always be in control of your animal (no matter what its breed). However, a more powerful breed may need even more guidance and correction depending on where they’re at in their training. Therefore, when you’re out and about show others that you take your dog’s training seriously.

Here are some things you can do to help others feel more comfortable and to showcase your animal’s training:

  • Make them wait patiently, sit, and lay down before entering the dog park.
  • Do not allow them to pull or walk in front of you.
  • Make them wait for your permission before greeting other dogs on-leash.
  • Never allow them to jump on people.
  • Keep them on-leash when leash-laws are in effect.
  • If you notice a person is approaching who seems fearful of your animal, move your dog off the sidewalk or trail, have them sit, and allow the other person to pass.

Be Honest With Yourself

Your dog is your family member and a reflection of you. As such, it can be difficult to admit when your animal has a particular weakness, needs additional training, or is exhibiting signs of bad behavior. No matter what breed you have—small or big, lazy or energetic, yappy or powerful—you don’t do yourself or your dog any favors if you make excuses for their poor behavior and you refuse to take steps to correct it.

If you see behavior from your animal that is concerning, take immediate action to correct it. Talk with your vet, a dog trainer, read some books, watch some Youtube videos, and work hard to find a solution. Dogs, like humans, are very rarely “lost causes” and the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” simply isn’t true. With patients and consistency, most dogs can be trained and retrained at any age.

Meet the Author: Hope Gately

Hope Gately is a haphazard outdoors enthusiast. She summits Colorado 14ners, hikes the backcountry, canyoneers, and climbs with the best of 'em. The best part about her travels is that her loyal Blue Pit Bull, Indy, is by her side at every step!

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