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Ask the Trainer: Overcoming Your Dog’s Stereotypes

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“People are scared when they see my Rottweiler, because he’s so big and intimidating looking.  He is a sweetheart who wouldn’t hurt a fly.  How can I help people understand he’s not dangerous or scary?” – Shelly

Hi Shelly,
Unfortunately breed discrimination is a subject that plagues many owners and negatively impacts countless dogs. The reactions you are experiencing stem from widespread misconceptions, stereotypes, and myths. Many breeds get a bad rap for being “dangerous breeds” simply based on their looks, media propaganda, and misinformed individuals.  

For this reason, I am thrilled you wrote in with this question! I feel it is our responsibility, you as an owner of these loving dogs and me as a professional, to share our positive experiences with these breeds.  

Here are three things all owners can do to help dispel myths about their dog’s breed:

Share The Breed’s Backstory:

Most people are unfamiliar with different breed’s history, so share your dog’s lineage and backstory. For example, too many people believe the hype that Pit Bulls are chemically imbalanced and have a lockjaw. Both of these statements are proven to be false lies. Very few people know that, according to the 2010 American Temperament Test, the American Pit Bull Terrier received an overall temperament rating of 83.9%, while the general canine population scored only 77%. Pit Bulls exceeded the general population by nearly 7 percent.

Pit Bulls are arguably the most misunderstood and discriminated against breed, even though they are used as Search and Rescue dogs and therapy dogs (visiting nursing homes and children’s hospitals). President Theodore Roosevelt had one as his best friend companion while in the White House and Presidents Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, and Jimmy Carter all called this breed their best friend at one point in their lives.

Ensure They Are Well-Trained:

It’s imperative that every dog be well-trained and behave politely on and off-leash. However this is even more important for large breed dogs and will aid in making them appear to be less-intimidating to others. A dog politely sitting and waiting, is much less scary than a dog who is jumping. A Rottweiler calmly heeling by your side, provides a better presentation than one who is straining at the end of a leash.  

Start with these 5 Obedience Commands to Make Your Life Easier. You can even go a step further and have your dog become a Certified Therapy Dog or pass the Canine Good Citizen Certification.

Set Your Dog Up for Success:

I always encourage owners to advocate for their dog. Do not force your dog in situations/interactions that they feel uncomfortable with. Your dog does not need to meet every person or dog they come across.  

When they do meet people, make sure those individuals are not “looming over them”, hugging, grabbing their ears and face, or making quick moves toward your dog in order to pet. Intimidating or over exuberant greetings can set any dog up to fail. Even the calmest of dogs can react out of fear, become overexcited, start jumping, etc. Greetings should be calm, with your dog only working in their comfort zone.

It’s normal for some people to feel scared or intimidated by dogs. I am not trying to dismiss anyone’s fear of dogs. What I am trying to do, is encourage people to spread the positive points of their dog’s breed – so that way we can help erase the lies, misconceptions, and discrimination that unfairly plague responsible dog owners and prevent deserving dogs from being in loving homes.

S.R. Dog Training is the #1 choice for dog training in Putnam NY and Westchester NY.  For more info on dog trainer Steve Reid, visit www.srdogtraining.com and “Like” Steve on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SRDogTraining.

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