Everything You Know About 'Bad' Dog Breeds Is Wrong
We asked pet behaviourist Dr Kate Mornement which dog breeds have a bad rep -- and why.
She called out German Shepherds -- also known as Alsatians -- Dobermans, Pit Bulls and Staffordshire Bull Terriers as being labelled as 'bad' breeds, something which she puts down to how they've been portrayed in the media.
But are they all the vicious, wild and blood-thirsty killers we see in the news?
Not in Mornement's opinion.
"Most of these breeds make fantastic companions given the right breeding, upbringing, training, socialisation and home environment," she told 10 daily.
What's in a breed
In Mornement's experience, a dog’s breed doesn't determine if they’re ‘good’ or not -- it's how they’re trained, loved and looked after.
Vickie Davy, founder, partnership and programs lead at Petrescue agrees.
"It is absolutely ridiculous to use looks to determine the personality of a dog," Davy told 10 daily.
A pooch's behaviour and personality are, as with humans, determined by a combination of genetics and prior learning.
"If their mother was shy, they may be shy. If their father was a boisterous high energy dog then they may be too," Davy explained.
Dogs aren't born knowing how to behave in our human world of rules, regulations and social etiquette. That's why socialisation -- which involves exposing the pup to positive experiences with different people and other dogs -- is incredibly important.
Again, like humans, a dog's past experiences, or lack thereof, help mould the way they view the world. A pooch that's had a tough life is understandably going to have a tough outlook.
Don't believe the saying that old dogs can't learn new tricks -- training can help a pup change their ways.
"We need to teach them good behaviour by using positive reinforcement and that the world is a safe place with ongoing positive socialisation," she said.
The sad cost of stereotypes
Sadly, homeless dog breeds that are 'blacklisted' are often overlooked in council pounds and rescue organisations in favour of 'friendlier' breeds.
Davy sees this first-hand every day at PetRescue, and while she can't give an exact figure, she told 10 daily that the organisation sees a "huge difference" in enquiries according to breed.
"A gentle, social and well-trained big dog may get one or two enquiries over several months because they are a bully or staffy breed, while a popular poodle cross -- who needs a great deal of training and management -- may literally get hundreds of enquiries in just one day," she said.
Not only are the pooches at risk of living out their days at a rescue -- or worse, being destroyed at a pound. According to figures released by the RSPCA, 5,763 dogs were euthanised in Australia in the 2016-17 financial year. 3,964 of those were killed due to behavioural issues.
It also means that potential adopters are missing out on a great pet because of a misguided belief in breed suitability.
Davy told 10 daily that a huge misconception with rescue dogs or mixed breed dogs -- particularly if they're older -- is that you can't predict their temperament when actually the exact opposite is true.
That's because the staff at the rescue facility and the carer who has fostered the dog are able to provide a full run-down on the animal to potential adopters.
The goodest 'bad' dog -- an owner speaks out
Aida Evanian is a proud 'mum' to Judge, a seven-year-old pitch-black German Shepherd. According to her, Judge is the exact opposite of what his breed is made out to be.
"He's the most placid dog we’ve ever had," she told 10 daily.
In fact, all he really cares about is his ball, she said. "Other dogs actually get frustrated with him 'cause he won’t play with them!"
Picking a pup that's best for you
Mornement shared some tips with 10 daily on choosing a pooch that's perfect for you, your family and your lifestyle.
Most importantly you need to consider the exercise needs of the dog -- high-energy working dog types are best suited to active people with space and time to provide lots of exercise, training and mental stimulation.
If that's not you -- say, you live in an apartment and work full time -- a couch potato or older dog is a much better choice.
You'll have to set aside a lot of time for training, exercise and companionship. for puppies and younger dogs whereas older dogs are often less energetic, already socialised and many already know the basics in terms of training.
Will your new pup have to share their home with other pets? It's a good idea to choose a dog who already gets along with those types of pets, or has the potential to with some training and guidance -- the rescue organisation can clue you in on this.
"A gradual and positive introduction is important when welcoming a new dog into the home," Mornement said.
And bear in mind, as Davy said, love knows no breed!
Feature image: Getty.