Today, August 26, has been designated as National Dog Day. It is a day set aside to celebrate dogs of all types; purebreds, mixed breeds, pet dogs, therapy dogs, service dogs, and any other type of dog you can name.
In celebration of National Dog Day, I thought it might be a good time to bust some of the myths surrounding dogs.
Let’s start with those dogs commonly called pit bulls. While the title “pit bull” is sometimes used to refer to a specific breed (such as the American Pit Bull Terrier), more often the term is applied to a group of dogs that share similar physical features. Thus, individuals of many different breeds as well as countless mixed breed dogs are frequently referred to as pit bulls.
Pit bulls, as a group, have earned a reputation for viciousness, a totally undeserved reputation. Pit bulls are not, despite popular opinion to the contrary, inherently evil or dangerous dogs. In fact, many pit bulls make wonderful family pets and are quite safe around all people, including children. Like any dog breed, adequate socialization, proper training, and effective supervision are important. However, this is no truer with a pit bull than with a toy poodle, a German shepherd, a mastiff, or any other dog. Any dog can bite. Pit bulls are no more likely to do so than other breeds.
That brings me to the next point. Breed specific legislation (BSL), laws banning specific breeds or types of breeds from specific locations, are not effective. BSL has been enacted in many different locations. However, in none of those locations have the bans been effective in preventing dog bites. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the National Canine Research Council have issued a statement refuting BSL as an effective solution. As noted in this statement, the Center for Disease Control is quoted as saying:
“[The study] does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic…There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.”
Likewise, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) has also issued a position statement taking a stand against BSL.
Hopefully, you’re convinced that pit bulls, as a group, are not dangerous and should not be targeted by unfair laws. But let’s move on.
I totally support rescue. I believe that adopting a pet (dog or cat) from a shelter is never a bad decision, as long as you are able and willing to take responsibility for the care of that pet for the entirety of the pet’s life. Still, I’m not opposed to breeding either. There are many wonderful dog (and cat) breeds that will disappear forever without responsible breeders. The word “responsible” is the key word here though. As a potential pet owner, it falls on you to do the research, should you decide to purchase a purebred dog, to ensure that the breeder is reputable and the puppy is the result of a well-planned and carefully chosen breeding program. Supporting less than reputable breeders, or worse yet puppy mills, is not an acceptable option.
Finally, there is, at least in the minds of some people, the belief that dogs and cats do not get along and cannot live together. This is far from true. Each situation is different, of course. But in most cases, dogs and cats, if introduced properly and given proper time to acclimate to one another, can live together in harmony. In fact, many times, dogs and cats sharing a household will actually become friends and companions.
What dog myths would you like to see busted? Share your "pet" peeve in the comments.
Dr. Lorie Huston