Olive, Snoopy and Me
After our widely successful post on positive dog training we move on to our second P- Pit Bulls.
Now i can speak on this subject mostly because of a story about the first dog i ever owned named Olive. I don’t like to think of myself as an “expert” because frankly i do not think anyone is an expert at anything, we can always learn if we keep our ears open and our pride down. However i do owe most of my knowledge and relationship with dogs to my pit bull Olive.
To keep a long story short Olive was 8 months old, and living at the local humane society after being picked up from a dog fighting operation. I was 18 years old, in love, and we wanted our first dog. I did what most responsible semi-knowledgeable albeit young people do and ventured to the local pound with my boyfriend to pick out our first puppy. Having been bit by plenty of dalmatians and dachshunds in my life i steered away from them, and towards what was the vast majority of dogs impounded in concrete run after concrete run. I found a wonderful 2 year old brown and white pitty, and the boyfriend fell in the love with the unsure, scared black and white young pit from the dog fighting bust. He won, and we brought her home the next day after being spayed.
According to the shelter she was sweet, a bit shy, and loved everything. Well she was fear aggressive, guarded whatever she had within 5 feet of her, and wanted to kill every dog she saw. I chalked it up to the fact that most pounds cannot really distinguish a dogs personality without allowing it to live in a home and bond, hence why there was a very high failure rate. That would be addressed in the coming year when I founded and incorporated Life Long Tails a 501(c)3 not for profit foster based rescue for dogs, cats, and small animals.
But anyway, i digress, after adopting Olive i not only found my love for teaching and training dogs for fun (competing in obedience and agility with my troubled girl), but also how to rehab extreme aggression issues and really try to understand how the canine mind works. This brought me years of traveling all over the USA taking classes, learning how to run an effective rescue, certifying as an animal rescue technician, and assisting at large scale disasters both natural and man made. It also led to me a large amount of work with bully breeds, and other high drive, high strung, misunderstood dogs.
Each animal species i work with comes with its own set of assumptions or automatic conclusions. Cats like to sleep, dogs like to play, horses enjoy grazing, and cows give us little affection but good milk. That being said each breed of dog also gives us natural tendencies which have been manipulated over the generations by humans breeding without discretion or knowledge, and further more, each dog within its breed has a unique set of characteristics that make him or her form an identity. We all know that Pit’s have been the “fad for discrimination” now for a few years, and the breed holds its place after Rottweilers, German Shepherds, and Dobermans to name a few. What i think has forced this breed to hold the spot for not only a lengthy amount of time but also with severe consequences is humans. The general lack of understanding of the breed, its purpose, and it’s identity as a canine has caused humans to place it in less then optimal conditions resulting in the severe consequences both behaviorally and genetically. In order to work with a dog you must first understand him as a breed, and then him as an individual. All breeds, and all dogs have limitations and as humans have indiscriminately bred dogs they have altered many of these negatively. Combine this with the breeds popularity, the fact that we are really dealing with 5 plus “breeds” that are considered pit bulls, the media and celebrity ownership, and the status that has come with owning them and a recipe for disaster was imminent. There is no quick fix (which i swear is what almost everyone who contacts me about dog training wants) or answer to this problem. We need to educate, train, cease breeding indiscriminately, and correctly read and interpret their strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.
Olive is still alive, and on her way to almost 13 years old. She doesn’t live with me anymore, and i miss her like crazy but in the settlement after divorce it was agreed that she needed to live out her last years in the home she was used to and happy in. That girl is responsible for pushing me to become a better dog owner, and in turn a dog trainer, canine behavior consultant, and many other paths in my canine-human relationship over the last decade. She is proof that dogs can change, and you should never judge a book by its cover, or a dog by its breed.