My goal with this blog is for you to enjoy your time here. Most of the posts talk about my experiences raising my two yellow Labrador Retrievers, some are just for fun, and others share the best dog related information and products I have found.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thanks to my labs . . . I'm regaining my balance

So the cobwebs were getting thick and I had no more excuses so I figured that this blog was due for some spring updates as well. I got two bad colds, my niece came out for spring break, I was involved in helping out with a church event, and of course these are all excuses.

Back in March Pappy's Dog Blog shared a post titled, "Rough day at the dog park", in which he shares the following:

That takes me back to the time that Pappy was injured in the dog park. I still tell myself that it was a play accident rather than an act of aggression. But the truth is I really don't know what happened. Even with my dog being the victim, I was pretty desperate to rationalize the whole situation as something that wasn't going to implicate the safety of the dog park. Because if the dog park isn't safe, what am I doing taking my dog there?

Of course this rationalization is less dangerous than the one that an erratically aggressive dog can be trusted at a dog park, no matter how much someone loves him. [...] When you think about it, it's a pretty thin fabric of faith and good sense that holds the dog park situation together.
Well, he was braver and more optimistic than I have been. It wasn't more than a few days after reading this post that a female pit bull that we had spent the last 8 months interacting with at our local park went after Nutmeg. The growling and snarling freaked me out. One minute Nutmeg was panting at my side after retrieving a ball and the next she was snarling back at this dog to protect her own face and neck.

I can make all kinds of excuses for this pit bull; she was: - a rescue that for whatever reason was sound sensitive, - a dog generally more on the nervous side; she was a dog: in the hands of an owner that was not at all capable of understanding her needs, - an owner who used more negative reinforcement than was ideal, - a man who had come to the park drunk with his dog and to say the least just didn't quite get it. Than come to find out this was not her first incident, it was her forth. For me, I realized after that day that is was the last time I'd trust that dog with my dogs.

I realized that because I had begun to trust my dogs more I had eased up my vigilance in watching them as closely. This incident made it very clear to me was that even if I could trust my dogs I could not always trust the dogs around me, not mention the care or carelessness of their owners.

Yes, I love Labradors, but I also have been honest that they are not the perfect dog for everyone. I never wanted to fall back on stereo types when it came to dogs, but this incident has taught me something. There's a reason the school yard mean kid is called a "bully". It's the same reason why a whole category of dogs are called "bully" breed dogs. Does that mean that I think all these dogs a "bad", absolutely not. But these breeds of dogs in the wrong hands are a very dangerous combination. That being said any and all dogs in the wrong hands can be an accident waiting to happen.

Being a responsible dog owner is a challenge when you live in a suburban community. I can appreciate why Suzanne Clothier lives in upstate New York where she can happily say, "I own everything I can see from my house." There are days I'd love to be able to say the same. I'm afraid that here in California it will not likely ever happen for us. I suppose one can always dream though.

More to come soon, I promise . . .


Author Mom with Dogs said...

Dog parks give me hives. It's a miracle that there aren't more problems with injuries (play or aggression) than there are.

jan said...

Even highly trained police dogs can occasionally weird out. Sometimes it's easy to forget that they are dogs and not ruled by human reasoning. But then that's why we love them so much.

Pappy's Fella said...

There are certainly no easy answers. I certainly can't pin anything on breeds, except that some breeds, occasional Labradors included, are frighteningly powerful. I am much much more comfortable going to our park in the early morning where it is the same group every week. Some dogs have their off days, but I trust all of them with my dog's safety. We just have to keep tabs when a the new guy shows up.

"Sunshine" said...

Karen, I couldn't agree with you more. Dog parks don't make sense for my dogs. They are retrievers, they need to run, the american bull dogs, and other herding breeds try and herd them and some have not been very nice, the ball thieves just defeat the purpose of chosing the dog park as a place to exercise my dogs, the over assertive undersocialized dogs make it tough for every one. So we turn one blind eye to the leash law at our local park and run our dogs there. I keep it to times when no one else is there or at dusk when a nice neighborhood group meets.

Pappy's Fella, as I mentioned, "I'm getting my balance back". If I had written this post a month ago I would have gone off on a certain breed of dog. That however would not have been fair. I agree that Labradors can be frighteningly powerful and not all are as well socialized or trained as I have strived to have mine.

This experience simply made me realize that we all need to respect what a given breed of dog was bred to do. What drives and instincts were exaggerated or hightened by hundreds of years of careful selective breeding. Our culture is overly concerned with appearance and this has unfortunately resulted in some dogs being chosen on looks alone. Instead, dogs should be chosen for their ability to live in their new home environment not to mention the ability of their new owners to meet and understand all their needs. Of course this is just my humble opinion.

Thanks for all your input.