All dogs need a leader. Fact! No breed is particularly vicious or aggressive, some are more so than others, but it is how they are brought up that counts.
Breeds - First let's look at the Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Staffy) and the English Pit Bull Terrier (Pit Bull). The Staffy is nowadays an iconic symbol of power and strength, and many people get one just to raise their own status. This is not a good reason to buy a dog. The Staffy was originally bred for ratting (chasing and killing rats) and for dog fighting. Therefore the more powerful, vicious and aggressive the better. But nowadays there are more humane ways to rid yourself of a rat infestation, and dog fighting has been outlawed in many countries. But this breed is still highly popular. I have met Staffy's first hand that are adorable, affectionate and loyal but with low to no aggression. So is it the breed? All dogs seek an Alpha male, a guide, and they will respect and react in accordance to the Alpha (the owner).
The Pit Bull was originally bred for fighting bulls. As you can imagine this took great strength, cooperation and a killer instinct. As with the Staffy, this dog suits no purpose in the modern world. But with it's thick neck and powerful body it can still do a great deal of damage. Crossing between Old English Terriers and Bulldogs gave rise to the Pit Bull, to which it still shares some traits, such as a fearless attitude.
Two breeds, both designed for different purposes, but both so similar. And many dogs like this appear in the news for maiming, or worse killing a child, baby, adult. With these sad stories the breeds reputation takes a hit, until we end up in a place where people are scared of that particular breed. But we do not need to be...
Alsatians, also known as German Shepherd Dogs, were the power status symbol before Staffy's took the crown. A large breed, the Alsatian is noted for having a large muzzle and wolf-like appearance. It's size can be intimidating, but as with all breeds they start off as a blank canvas. But for everyone who fears this impressive breed, did you know they are used as guide dogs, and on search and rescue missions? They make exceptional police dogs and I can guarantee that any canine handler in the force will tell you they are lovable, loyal and in many cases their best friend!
Can we always blame the owner? - No. Sometimes dogs will freak out for no apparent reason. It is the way of nature, remember these animals are still descended from the Wolf (Canis lupus). Other things that may turn a dog are illnesses such as canine distemper and rabies. But generally all dogs can be controlled. Imagine every dog is a superhero. With their super powers they are asked to work for good or evil. You (the owner) have the training to take the dog along whichever path you choose. We all like a good superhero!
How can I control my dog? - Without going into actual training (as I would not like to claim I am an expert under any circumstances) I have found methods that I feel work. Firstly any commands giving to a dog should be said loudly, clearly and with a confident tone. Let's be honest you don't want to be repeating yourselves. And don't forget the rewards, if your prize pooch has completed a task as asked, reward them, let them know they have done well. Always remember that you are the leader. You own all space, all food, all possessions and you choose to allow your dog to play with them. But above all, remember your dog is a pet, not a robot or machine, show them love, show them affection and take them for those much needed walks!
Are the walks important? - Yes. Walking with your dog builds the pack bond. If you are confident then that confidence will be felt by the dog and it will fill content. If you are nervous, guess what...you pass all the nervous energy onto your canine. So just enjoy it, don't fear others walking their dogs, interact and mingle. If you have a dog that can be a little aggressive or boisterous, just use a muzzle as a precaution. Dogs need guidance, social bonding and a loving family.
If you are still reading then I haven't upset you, which is good! I find it so hard when I talk of dogs and say for instance “I like Doberman's”. The reason being? The response is usually “Oh no, you don't want one of those around a young child” or “They're really vicious”. They are not. I have met a Doberman named Emmy, and she is one of the most well behaved dogs I have ever met. She is protective but not aggressive, in fact she is quite a big softy.
The message - Any breed has the potential to be vicious or aggressive, for instance the Staffy has extremely strong jaws so if one turns it can cause a lot of damage, and it is due to this reason they are labelled as dangerous. But it is up to us to lead the dog down the right path and show them the love and care they deserve. A happy dog as all dog owners know, can be so affectionate, regardless of breed. Once a dog respects you, it will be happier in life as after all, like children, they just want to be part of the family (pack).
The last thoughts - It is not unusual for some dogs to bark or growl in play, usually accompanied by a wagging tail. The trick is to always be observant, not just with dogs but any animal (even other human beings), but do not make assumptions on what society would lead us to believe. I would happily have any of the aforementioned dogs, I would never leave them alone with a young child, but then I would not leave any breed of dog alone with a young child. Dogs are to be enjoyed and to provide companionship, so put your paws up and help rid the breeds of their unfair tags.