What does breed discrimination accomplish?

During a recent visit to Barley Cove, a beach in southwest Ireland, I was surprised and dismayed to see this sign posted at the boardwalk to the beach:

Breed discrimination

I have heard about such blatant breed discrimination before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it myself. As you can see, German shepherds are on the list, along with many breeds that have acquired a negative public perception, thanks to decades of media hype and stereotyping.

Obviously, if you have a people- or dog-aggressive dog, you shouldn’t bring her to a public beach and let her off leash, regardless of breed. Which is why this ruling is so irritating to me. Dogs of ALL breeds can be dangerous. Yes, an aggressive chihuahua is going to do less damage to you than an aggressive akita, but the presumption that particular breeds are, by intrinsic nature, dangerous, could not be further from the truth. Dogs are individuals. A fear-reactive golden retriever could be much more dangerous to the public welfare than a well-socialized pit bull. By passing legislation like this, towns only further reinforce negative stereotypes about certain types of dogs.

To me, the irony of this ruling (breeds on this poster have to be leashed and muzzled) is that a dog who was on a beach like this, watching every other dog run around off leash, would be likely to be more reactive if he was the only dog leashed and muzzled. I know my dogs, who are on this list of banned breeds, would be immensely frustrated and probably act out if an off-leash dog ran up to them while they were constrained by a leash and muzzle.

Also, the crossbreeds addendum (the ruling applies to all dogs on the poster and their crossbreeds) is ludicrous to me. People, myself included, are notoriously bad at guessing breeds. Even shelter workers are just as bad at guessing which dogs are “pit bulls” and which aren’t. You simply can’t conclusively know a dog’s heritage by looking at him, and even if you could, the breed background wouldn’t tell you anything certain about the dog’s temperament. Our dog pal Howie is a great example:

Play date with Howie
Full German shepherd on the left, half German shepherd on the right. Would you have correctly guessed Howie’s “dangerous” parentage? (I wouldn’t have!)

Howie is half-lab, half-German shepherd. His mother was a purebred German shepherd who came into the rescue, but he bears hardly any resemblance to his mother’s breed. This sweet, shy pup would qualify as a “dangerous crossbreed” according to this legislation. But anyone who looked at him would think he was just a slightly leaner, leggier labrador.

Again, dogs are individuals. Our two purebred German shepherds are as different from each other, personality wise, as night and day.

Barley Cove
Barley Cove.

It makes me sad to think we haven’t moved past this in the 21st century, and especially in a country thought to be as progressive as Ireland.

And a related/recent update on this issue: The Battersea Dogs & Cats home in the UK just published a damning report of the breed discrimination law, including photos of dogs they euthanized because the dogs had a “pit bull” appearance.

What do you think about it? Do you think such bans are a good idea? Are there any breed discrimination laws in your area?

Read on

Puppy play-date at dusk

Last week, we had a bunch of young ‘uns come over to romp: Howie and Fiona joined Pyrrha and Trina for an early evening play session.

(It was getting dark, and I am still a bad photographer, hence all of the blurry photos. These are the best ones I got, seriously.)

Blurry puppy play-date
Meet and greet.

Pyrrha, at 2 years of age, was the oldest dog in the pack, and so there was lots of fun, floppy puppy energy!

Blurry puppy play-date

Trina was a little nervous about everyone at first, but after about 5 minutes, she warmed right up. Howie and Trina particularly seemed to enjoy each other, and Pyrrha was obsessed with Fiona. It’s funny to me how they kind of pick their “favorites.”

Blurry puppy play-date
Sharing the water bowl.
Blurry puppy play-date
Sallie goes with the puppy who matches her hair color.

Despite my poor photography skills, I think everyone had a great, tiring romp. Nothing better than an exhausted little shark (cough, cough, TRINA).

We’d love to have this bunch of puppies over again soon!

Blurry puppy play-date

Play-date with Howie, a fellow rescue alum

On Sunday night, Pyrrha had the privilege of meeting a fellow Southeast German Shepherd Rescue alum, Howie!

Play date with Howie

Rainer and I got to visit Howie’s new parents during their application process with SGSR and do a home visit there, so we were excited when we heard that they were finally able to find the perfect puppy. Howie came from a litter of 11 (!) puppies born to a German shepherd mama, Rosetta. As you can see from his appearance, there’s a good chance that his daddy was a black lab. I think you can really discern the shepherd-ness in his face, though.

Play date with Howie

We let Howie and Pyrrha sniff each other through the fence first, which went fine for a few minutes, but then Pyrrha started getting agitated and barking at him. I was thankful for Emily (Howie’s mom), who wasn’t scared off by this behavior (as Howie had recently graduated from the reactivity class that we are about to take with the same trainer). We let the dogs take a break; she walked Howie back up to her car, I brought Pyrrha inside, leashed her, and then we let them have some space in the front yard to look at each other for a bit and then carefully sniff on loose leashes. In a second, they were wagging and play-bowing, so we brought them back to the fenced-in yard, where they played perfectly without an incident.

It was a good reminder that dogs sometimes just need to be introduced in a different way, that they are very capable of recovering and being perfectly at ease if we just give them the chance. I was also very thankful for Emily, who understood this!

Play date with Howie

I didn’t get a ton of great photos, as it was quickly growing dark, but these two had a great time together. And they were both thoroughly worn out after about 30 minutes of their vigorous game of tag.Play date with Howie

Howie is 7 months old, and he was a great match for Pyrrha in play behavior. She tends to like these floppy, adolescent males!

Play date with HowieWe hope we’ll get to play with Howie again soon!