As many of you know, I am dedicated to educating people on how to stop aggression in dogs. I love my bull breeds and misunderstood dogs and I will not call them “pit” bulls as this is a term not a breed! I always have and always will stand up for them when everyone else gives up. As an advocate for the “bad reputation” breeds, I have spent months researching breed specific boards and discussion groups trying to get a “feel” for an average owner and what their views, beliefs, and the training methods are.
Any person who owns a computer can jump online and find a discussion forum that is dedicated to the breed they own. This can be helpful in many ways; for example: learning about breed specific health issues, diet, and personality traits. At the same time, this can be very dangerous for the breeds I love the most!
Recently, I have read disturbing posts regarding making bully breeds more “persistent” by using cloth hang toys and flirt poles. I am a firm believer in letting a dog release their mental frustration with a good game of tug, but you also need to teach them how to turn “off” their prey drive; NOT how to be more persistent. Bull breeds have a naturally high prey drive as do many working breeds; this is why we see them in the papers so often! Too many owners forget that teaching a dog “persistence” leads to unwanted aggression.
These same owners/breeders post comments about how they cannot get into a good game of tug because their dogs will incidentally get “out of control” and it results in a bite to their hands during play!! They have essentially taught their dogs to “explode” when using their mouths!
I have been barred from quite a few boards because I have voiced my concern about this and it makes me wonder how we can protect a breed that so many people already choose to ban if we are teaching them how to be aggressive! How can you say you are an “advocate” to the breed if you are admitting your hand in your dogs’ aggression?
Yes, you can use a flirt pole or play tug with a dog, but you must remember to teach control of their mouths as well. If you own a “bully breed” or any other “misunderstood” breed, you must harness that behavior in a good way; not by teaching them how to be persistent with their mouths. Use their natural power to pull, use their brilliance to excel at obedience, and use their mouths to retrieve and release not grab and hold!
With all the “misunderstood” dogs I have rehabilitated, I have never seen a need to teach an average dog how to grab and hold. You are conditioning your dog to not release when their bite is engaged. The only cases where a dog should be taught these traits are for k-9 security officers, military, or police dogs. There is a reason police and military personnel are so diligent in picking the right dog for the job. Not every dog can be turned off when taught how to bite.
Help promote the breed by being an ambassador by educating your dog and your neighbors on how intelligent they are instead of how “tough” they are.