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« Weekly Roundup -- Week Ending 6/12/11 | Main | Ohio HB 14 hearing again TOMORROW »

June 14, 2011


H. Houlahan

Focusing on abuse and self-defense is a red herring.

Do abused -- by which I think you mean, physically beaten -- dogs tend to show more behavior problems?

I think so, though if a dog is abused and has no behavior problems, I don't tend to see him.

Do those behavior problems typically include killing their abuser? Almost never. Defensive aggression? Much rarer than you think. The kind of predatory aggression that leads to fatal attacks on people other than the abuser? Not on the radar.

No, most beaten dogs' behavior problems have to do with fear, hypersubmission, urinating (a function of both). It is rare for a beaten dog to come back with overt aggression. One might find threat displays when cornered, and slashing defensive bites in extremis.

Why is this important? Because another dog-killing myth we trainers and rescue volunteers deal with is the "abused" dog as broken and dangerous.


H -- I agree. And I did mean for this post to be much more broad than just focusing on abuse. That just tended to lean that direction because that was the scenario for the example. Frankly, most of the abused dogs I see are far more fearful and "shut down" than aggressive (as you noted)...and most dogs, regardless of their situation, don't tend to lash out aggressively (a huge credit to them and why we have taken them into our homes).

The point was that for each of these rare incidents you have to look at the people behind the situations -- improve the people, and the dog will almost always improve also.


Is it wrong that this story warms the cockles of my heart? :-)

I teach all-breed obedience classes and we absolutely see a lot more fearful dogs than aggressive dogs, and the fearful behavior is then reinforced by the owner, who coddles the dog because it was (a) abused, (b) used as a "bait" dog (we don't see many of those and those folks with dogs with NO scars get an earful from me), or (c) used as a puppy-mill breeding dog (and those owners ALSO get an earful - please explain how breeding results in fearful temperaments?)

I usually tell people the dog was simply neglected and unsocialized, not abused, not fought, and not bred constantly. And then there's always the chance it just had a crappy temperament in the first place. It happens.

Pretty good article, Brent, but I'm having a little trouble with the numbers on "pit bulls" being disproportionately abused, unless of course they're including all the dogs killed thanks to City Hell. :-) I recognize those aren't your numbers; they're from Pet Abuse (*groan*). There's a lot of bias in there, like breed I.D., over-reporting of "abused" pit bulls because everyone is looking for the next Mike Vick, and possible under-reporting of other breeds that suffer abuse and neglect. How many times do we hear people complain that Animal Control won't "do anything" when a dog doesn't have food/water/shelter? They're more likely to "do something" if the dog is a "pit bull" and the city has a ban or MSN like KCMO - not because they care about the dog, of course.

Also, regarding the Golden Retriever - keep in mind breeders haven't watered down the temperaments of dogs in other countries like we have here in the states (which is why police departments go overseas to get a lot of their dogs). I know a woman who is Austrian (or maybe German) and she and her husband have Goldens that I believe go back to European field stock and those Goldens are tough as nails. They are not your "lie by the fire" Goldens. But I understand your point about the dog being a Golden and public perception, because as my dad tells me, at some point perception becomes reality to the public.

H. Houlahan

If you talk to trainers, we are seeing a lot of biting goldens in the past decade.

Really nasty operators.

Field goldens -- the dogs I grew up with -- are high-energy, drivey, wiry, small, and incredibly sweet.

These pet-bred and show-bred nasty goldens are mostly oversized, often fat/lethargic, but surprisingly speedy when they want to play hole-punch on a person's hand or foot. Many of them also have seizure disorder or hypothyroid, and many of *those* are not diagnosed before a trainer gets hold of them. But some are just downright genetically nasty dogs. I worked with one that I believed at the time was a potential killer and not salvageable, told the owners that, and had my opinion rejected. (The vet agreed with me.) Their young son was eventually mauled. No headlines.

Lis C

"(c) used as a puppy-mill breeding dog (and those owners ALSO get an earful - please explain how breeding results in fearful temperaments?)"

Breeding doesn't. Puppy mill conditions, though, result in dogs who have had no exposure to most of normal life that they encounter if they get out of the puppy mill. That can make the world a very scary place. Those dogs need help learning what's what in the world, and building their confidence.

Most people, of course, need guidance in confidence-building vs. nurturing the fear, but unlike the people who think their unscarred dogs are former bait dogs, you might want to ask the ones who say their dogs are former puppy mill breeders what information they have about their dogs' backgrounds before you write them off as overly sentimental idiots.

And puppy mills, of course, don't keep dogs around who aren't useful as breeders, so that eliminates one other way your massive contempt for your clients might be grounded in fact.

Jen Brighton

I was recently reading some comments on Retrieverman's blog where many owners had written in asking his opinion about their goldens exhibiting aggressive tendencies towards both humans and other dogs. His take is that the golden retriever line is being ruined by backyard breeders and breeders who solely breed for color. He stated, similar to H. Houlahan, that goldens are not being used for what they were meant to do, i.e., used as sporting/hunting dogs that require lots of exercise and mental challenges.

The breeding for color argument is similar to what I've read about pit bull breeders that breed for those "oh so rare" (ha, ha) colors like blue- and red-nose pits rather than being more concerned about the dog's overall health, conformation and solid temperament.


@Lis C - "massive contempt for your clients". LOL. That is so doggone funny.

It's not contempt for my "clients" (by the way, they are "students" - I instruct for an AKC licensed club so I don't get paid). It's contempt for the Animal Rights propaganda machine that indoctrinates people to believe every single dog has been abused, fought, or bred indiscriminately. Sometimes a dog is just timid. Sometimes a horse is just a horse. I think rescues and shelters tell people that crap to make them feel sorry for the dog and increase its adoption chances.

By the way, here in Missouri some of the the biggest clients at the auction houses are rescues, which buy those pregnant "puppy mill" bitches (but we call them commercial kennels, thank you) and sell the puppies for $600 to $800 each. The really good kennels I know place the dogs they no longer breed (usually at 5 to 7 years of age) with hand-picked rescues and there is NOTHING wrong with the dogs' temperaments. A Toy dog has a lot of good years left at the age of 7.

I've been in a lot of commercial kennels and the dogs were far more social, acted better, and certainly smelled better than the dogs in local shelters. By the way, LisC, how many commercial kennels have you visited? How many commercial breeders do you know? How many of them were licensed? And if they were really bad places were they indeed a kennel or a hoarding situation?

I talk to plenty of people that haven't actually ever seen a "puppy mill" but they've looked at lots of pictures. ;-)


When will we understand that it is not about the animal, it's about the owner and the environment these animals experience. The golden is one of the most beloved and intellegent breeds. They are loyal to a falt. How much abuse did this owner level on this unfortunate animal for it to revert to its most basic instinct of survival. Now they both pay a price!

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