23 April 2019

Stereotypes: a load of bull

| Michelle Robertson
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Debunking the myths surrounding bully breeds.

The late Dr Martin Luther King very famously rallied for a society where his children would not be judged on their appearance but rather by the content of their character.

What a noble ask that was, and still is.

We should all be extremely wary of blanket, uninformed and misguided judgements based on appearances. Growing up, I frequently witnessed people being judged merely on the basis of their race, their beliefs, their gender, their socio-economic standing or their ethnicity. I have, like many others, also been judged on this basis many times in the past.

Looking beyond the breed

In this article, I want to shine a light on yet another form of discrimination: judging animals, especially dogs, simply based on their breed.

I was surprised when I observed the extent and depth of the harsh and negative perceptions that exist against what we call ‘bully breeds’.

Unfortunately, dogs in this group have fallen victim to inaccurate stereotypes, and many people believe they’re naturally aggressive. In reality, though, the bully breed category offers a number of wonderful choices for potential owners – including those who are in search of loyal, obedient, playful companions.

Ignore the myths, get educated

There are so many myths around. One of my great heroes, Dr Nelson Mandela said that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” and this also rings true in terms of the stereotypes and myths surrounding bully breeds.

I urge you, please get educated before you judge on breed alone!

The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS), a professional organisation that independently tests the temperaments of over 25,000 dogs across 200 breeds, concluded that bully breeds such as the American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and Staffordshire bull terrier all rank in the mid-80th to low-90th percentile in terms of friendly disposition – on par with dogs such as the beagle and the Australian shepherd.

This financial year alone RSPCA ACT has seen 621 dogs and puppies come into the care of our Weston Shelter, with 231 of these dogs belonging to the bully breeds. They are also often the ones who wait the longest to be adopted.

Bully breeds can be irresistibull, adorabull and hugabull.

Be a responsible pet owner

In context, it is so important to note that every breed of dog has the potential to be dangerous. This is where individual character and temperament needs to be carefully considered and matched with prospective owners’ lifestyles.

As responsible pet owners, we have a duty of care to ensure that our dogs are well socialised, trained and that if we take them into public areas that they are under of effective control at all times – regardless of their breeds.

While admittedly no one likes a bully, we at the RSPCA say it’s time to give the canine version a second chance.

Across Australia, RSPCAs want to especially help our ‘bully’ breeds find loving homes quicker and break the negative perceptions that surround them due to their looks. #adoptabull promo is on until end April 2019.

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They have a reputation for a reason….if attacks weren’t happening so often, there wouldn’t be a reputation?
My heart breaks for these dogs on “death row” at the pound. They are popular because they are tough, they look tough and have massive jaws and when in fight-mode, are bloody scary. It’s not their fault, though. Lots of it is how they are raised but as someone else pointed out, if they are dim-witted and territorial…not a good mix.
My own experience with them was when my dear cat got mauled to death by 3 staffies that lived next door – in our yard. They were not all trained to be violent.
Maybe they are extremely friendly, with those they love…I.
I’m sure they are, people seem to adore their staffies.
The old argument “any dog can be dangerous”. I’d rather take my chances with a few daschunds or cavaliers than a few bullies! I do feel sad for all the unwanted ones though.

Michelle Robertson5:25 pm 09 May 19

Hi Yana,
So very sorry about your cat! What a terrible thing to happen.
And yes, it always comes down to us as owners to be responsible. I live in hope that one day we will ALWAYS do the right thing by our pets and as a society not have to deal with the horrible consequences of untrained, unloved and unsocialised dogs.
Thanks for reading this article and for commenting.

While the “bully” breeds may not be any more aggressive than other breeds, the result of any aggression that does occur can be far greater due to their jaw strength. Smaller breeds really don’t get a second chance if a quarrel should break out.
Responsible owners are great but there are some people who buy “bully” breeds for there intimidatory looks, and sometimes they are not particularly responsible people.

Michelle Robertson5:33 pm 09 May 19

Thanks for the comment. I agree, we still have much work to do to ensure that all pet owners are responsible as many aren’t.

The dominant “bully” breeds in Australia are the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, brindle-coloured, small, chunky, robust little dog and the English Bull Terrier, generally white (genetic throwback to the Dalmatian) unmistakable due to the flat, down face shape of the head, strong, muscular.

Both breeds are tremendously loyal, territorial, great “sufferers” (which make them excellent playing with children/infants) hilariously funny, a bit on the dim-witted side but possess a great sense of justice, they like to play mind games with you and make great, placid patients if suffering an injury.

Thoroughly recommended to any family wanting a knockabout dog but crucial to remember one thing: as long as you have them convinced you’re the better dog they will be the best pet you will ever have. If they sense your weakness and outwit you, you will suffer misery.

Michelle Robertson5:31 pm 09 May 19

Thanks for your comment and for reading the article!

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