by Valeria Rossi – Trad. Mariafelicia Maione – Best thing about publishing ethological articles is that they arouse interesting and smart questions, worth of deeper analysis.
Yesterday article about “alpha dogs and row dogs” made two questions coming out, and I’m glad to answer them:
a) It’s always humans’ fault, if a dog becomes a “row dog”? even if his human was so careful, he socialized the pup at his best, he tried to make him understand he displeased him fighting with other dogs, etc. etc. ?
Unfortunately, my answer is “yes”: it’s always (more or less) humans’ fault, for a simple reason: a “row dog” never existed in the wild. A “row wolf would have become extinct within two month time, because there are no vets in the wild, ready to sew injuries and mend the damage when needed… and with no row wolf to pass down his genes, there is no row dog either.
Dogs are not wolves any more, of course, but DNA matters.
Wolves are basically peaceful animals, likely to avoid conflict as often as possible, that’s ancient history: like the fact that apparently “ruthless rows”, for a female or any other resource, in fact are ritualized, and they always end with a lot of show and little or any substance.
Now, rows happen: sometimes death happens, because wilderness hasn’t been created by Walt Disney. But it’s an exception, not a rule.
With humans, death happens more often, to tell the truth, but here again, it’s an exception: and there are so many of us, that, listening to any News, you can think we spend our time just killing each other. But if that was true, we too would have become extinct a long time ago. We are still there, instead (even if you cannot say for how long now, if this is how things are going to be in the future), because, for every murder there are millions of people going their way without shooting or stabbing anybody.
Back to the subject, wolves and dogs alike are animals who want and desire to live peacefully (we humans, on the contrary…): so, a part from some rare exceptions (not quite impossible, but still very rare), when you see a “row dog” you must inquire when and where his human made a mistake.
You can do wrong with best intentions (see old nice little ladies lifting up their little dogs to protect them), or with very bad intentions (see the badass who wants a bad dog and sets him against anybody): but you can do it just while educating (better, “wrongly educating”, in this case), that is throughout habitat influences. You can’t do it throughout genetics, because a “badass gene” doesn’t exist. And if it doesn’t exist, you can’t create it.
This answers the second question, too:
b) Does “genetically given to row” breeds really exist, breeds that you can’t control, always aggressive towards other dogs?
In this case, the answer is “absolutely NOT!”
If it was the case, Sirchia and all other politicians who proclaimed ridiculous “racial laws” would have been right.
But I need to give a reason for this NO, so I’ll start with the same argument as before: a “gene of fighting without-a-reason-why” doesn’t exist in any dog. And what doesn’t genetically exist, humans CANNOT create from thin air (at least, not for now).
We are no gods and we’re not personifications of Evolution: at the moment, we are sad creatures trying to manage with what we have.
Someone could say now: “Ehh, but they created fighting dogs!!!” (please, do me a favor and don’t add to this “in labs”…): but fighting dogs are not “row dogs”, not at all.
I said it a billion times… and I say it again: people talking about “genetic abuse” regarding those breeds don’t know their letters, or maybe they want to impress with big words just to gain consensus, but they’re lying and they know it.
In fact, if something like a “genetically row breed” existed, no American pit bull terrier (breeded exclusively as a fighting dog) would ever be a pet therapy dog, or a rescue dog: but, I can show scores of them doing that kind of jobs (you can find them yourself on Diane Jessup site, or for Italy on Working pit bull club).
What they did with fighting dogs, was an accurate selection, that is, mating individuals showing specific attitudes: very hard temper, “gameness” (a mixture of toughness and unlimited tenacity), body strength and so on. Then they selected dogs most willing to physically challenge other dogs: but, here we go again, these are not “row dogs”. These are dogs who like to fight, like human boxers like to fight, but humans fight in the ring only, when facing an opponent equally eager to exchange some blows. They don’t go out in the street and begin punching everybody.
And so pit bulls, away from “their” ring, have always been able to be house dogs, living with their family, with children and unchallenging other dogs: the same as now, working side by side with other dogs, and playing and having healthy relationships with them.
I’ll say it again, to make it awfully clear: you can mate “tough” dogs, hard dogs, powerful bite dogs, very hard tempered dogs, with the highest capacity to endure pain.
All those virtues (because they are virtues! Not “genetic abuse”!) already belong to dogs, so you can select them (=mate dogs who have them in their genes).
But, because, as we said before, no dog has a “badass” gene or a rowdiness gene inside, call it the way you want, you CANNOT, even if you want to, create a dog eager to launch out head first against any other dog (or human) to eat him for supper.
If you build such a dog, you build it affecting his environment, not his genes… that’s what happens to “unlucky” dogs I mentioned in the other article: but you can’t select it, you can’t mate dogs with such a gene, because no dog has such a gene and we aren’t able to “make” it from thin air, not in labs or elsewhere. You can make breeding mistakes at most, mating unbalanced dogs: but your result (maybe a real row dog) it’s always fortuitous and you can’t make it represent itself, provided that someone would be so stupid to want it.
For all those reasons, talking about “genetic abuse” for breeds with strong characters and making lists of “dangerous breeds” is just ridiculous – top rank farce.
You should rather talk about “breeds with so strong qualities that they need a qualified human”.
This is true, this is so true.
Because (as I said in my article yesterday) dominant dogs, alpha dogs, dogs who deem themselves to be “better” one way or the other, are smarter, stronger, quicker than any other. So it’s so true that, the more talented on the psychological and physical side a dog is, the more likely he is to assume high ranks in society.
Because they are still dogs!
So the same goes for them and for all the others: when A meets B, if B makes him understand he’s smarter, tougher, more handsome than him… A will willingly submit to him.
I think every one of us has seen with his own eyes (or heard of someone living with) a “strange couple” like Chihuahua + Rottweiler, Yorkshire Terrier + Pit Bull, Pug + Neapolitan mastiff.
I’m sure you have all seen, at least in a video or photograph, how often the little guys boss around dogs 30 times bigger than them.
In that cases, toy dogs simply showed to know a thing of two more than the big ones: and the big ones serenely accepted this fact, because that’s how dogs’ hierarchy works.
Things get complicated when the big one, instead of a little dog who knows a thing of two, meets a human who knows just half a thing or nothing at all (acting in good faith or in bad faith, because of conscious mistakes or because of ignorance, the good kind, i.e. a lack of information/competences).
At that point, a dog very talented psychologically and physically, would deem the logic and right thing to do, to lead his pack/family, because he feels himself to be more of an “alpha” than his two-legged companions.
And usually he’s quite right.
Beware, because any dog will think the same way: even a tiny little two pounds one.
But, usually when the tiny little one begin to rule the house, people are like “soo cuuuuuute!” or like “Ah ah ah, the little rascal… look how he growls! He thinks he’s something, ehn?”
When a Rottweiler growls in your face in exactly the same way, he’s not so “cute” and he perfectly knows he’s something: he’s a hundred pounds beast. Then they call him a killer dog, a dangerous breed etc. etc.: but you see, the mechanics that leads him to tear your face apart is exactly the same for both of them!
Results differ a lot, of course, and that’s why nice little ladies should prefer a tiny dog than a big one; a dog breeded to be docile, friendly, with soft temper rather than hard temper, strong temperament and so on.
But, if the nice little lady is able to manage a dog, she won’t be growled at by Chihuahuas, Rottweilers, not even the pit bulls. And there is more: they won’t growl at other dogs either:
a) Because good management means they have been well socialized also;
b) because they received from their living environment confidence and self-esteem (so that their aggressiveness is low);
c) because they won’t feel the need to make their own decision for their pack’s safety and survival.
Many, many many dogs given to row, feel compelled to protect themselves actually (because of a lack of self-esteem) or to protect their humans (because they’re too protective towards them, and often humans reinforce this, glad to have a dog who “wants to protect them”, unaware that this is because he thinks they’re unable to protect themselves).
This indicates a very unbalanced relationship, because, sure, a leader can use some help sometimes… but he must decide when he needs him, not his dog!
This makes the difference between a protection dog (who attacks when he’s asked/allowed to) and a dangerous dog (who attacks when he wants to, because he thinks his pack’s safety depends on him rather than on his human. And maybe he attacks the uncle who wanted to pat his nephew’s shoulder while he had his Rottweiler on the leash).
Killer dog? Genetically abused dog?
Nope: unsuccessful two-legged leader, incompetent, unable to be. And genetically a jerk.
Last comment: to be a qualified and competent pet owner isn’t easy task (owning any dog, but especially with “tougher” ones), so every human should deem mandatory to choose a dog fit for his possibilities and capacities, avoiding to bite off more than he can chew.
THIS is the right answer to our question: not making whole breeds disappear or condemning those dogs to spend their lives chained up or wearing a muzzle.
Dogs (ALL dogs) have to get proper care, and that’s the end of it: tougher dogs need a little more care than the others.
But what’s really absurd in this situation is that, to help nice little ladies and nice little men to have “a little more care” of their dogs, they would need precious expert care. A lot more precious than it would be to manage a Cavalier or a Golden.
What happens? It happens than if you show up in the training field with a Rottweiler or a Pit Bull (when they’re not two month old…) they shut the door in your face!
And this tells us a lot about current dog experts in Italy… and – perhaps – about my polemic spirit. Because how can you not be polemical, when you see people blubbering about the importance of a proper relationship with your dog, then accept to explain it to you just if you own a Border Collie or a Golden?
And with more character-talented breeds… what’re we gonna do?
We leave them to care for themselves, or, even better, we destroy them?
Unluckily, sometimes that’s the general inclination.
And some people go even further than that: a Facebook friend of mine wrote this yesterday on my wall: “I thought about suggesting to kill all the male pups, because it’s so hard to sell them. You know, dog trainers suggest to choose females, because they are less inclined to fight!”
A gruesome joke, but it indicates a dramatic inclination: to walk around problem instead of studying, getting prepared, making efforts to solve them.
Males are more inclined to fight then females (or may be that I don’t know how to teach you to manage a male dog)? Choose a female!
Big dogs are harder than little ones? Choose a little dog!
And on the same path… smarter dogs are harder to manage? Choose a stupid dog!
And then you go applying Sense Puppy to litters to create “super dogs”, super psychologically talented.
The day when a breeder would have the guts to write upon his website “Dumb-ass Golden” or “Couch potatoes Border Collies”, or “Rottweilers who don’t want to protect anybody”… he will sell thousands of pups, be sure about it.
And thousands of years of accurate breeding will end into the gutter: with a lot of nice dog expert trainers (dog expert, for God’s sake!!!) happy to flush the toilet.
Any photo on this page, except the one of pet therapy pit bulls (belonging to the Working pit bull club) and the wolves, taken by internet, belongs to Giampaolo Urso.