Nanny dogs not nuisances

Bundy is a four year old mixed bully breed with a lot of love for his human friends. He attends obedience classes twice a week and easily wins over even the most cautious guests in his owner, Tyler’s, home.

Bundy - four year old mixed bully breed.

Bundy is dog reactive and as such, one of the classes he attends is specifically tailored to help with this. It is his general obedience class, however, in which Bundy has run into issues.

Due to his reactivity, Bundy is kept muzzled both for his protection and for that of the other dogs present. Being a responsible owner, Tyler has no problem with this.

What she does take offence to, however, is that while there are two other reactive dogs present, Bundy is the only one who is actually required to wear a muzzle.

Tyler feels that Bundy has been singled out due to his appearance, as one of the trainers went out of their way to point out that dog reactivity is “very common” among Pit Bulls which is what they feel Bundy “obviously is”.

To add context, the other two dog reactive animals in the class are a Jack Russell type and a Cavalier type.

Bully breed dogs, and by extension their owners, face this kind of discrimination on a daily basis. They have been vilified to the point where, in many parts of the world, there is legislation in place with the sole purpose of further persecuting dogs like Bundy.

Despite this, bully breeds make up half of the top ten most popular breeds in Australia and anyone who’s ever owned one has nothing but nice things to say, so why do we have such a hate on these dogs?

Breed Specific Legislation played a significant role in the moral panic that now surrounds the breeds, but it was far from the instigator.

If we look to history, we can see that various breeds have previously faced society’s wrath.

Image sourced from Dog FIles facebook page
Image sourced from Dog FIles facebook page

Generally, as a breed’s popularity rises, so does the negativity surrounding it and bully breeds are the latest victims of the cycle.

For decades they were considered ‘nanny dogs’, bred and owned specifically to be companion animals for families. They were considered to be especially helpful to those with young or disabled children.

Kylie’s little boy Ozzy, is a perfect example of this.

Although he is only seven months old, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is “nurturing with children and understands the importance of gentle play with the little ones”.

He has a loving and gentle nature and enjoys the company of other dogs as well as that of humans.

These shining qualities, however, haven’t saved Ozzy from society’s ire. He regularly receives dirty looks and derogatory comments purely because of the way he looks.

Studies have shown, however, that many bullys are actually among those considered least likely to bite.

dog bites by breed
Information sourced: https://www.dogbreedinfo.com/articles/dogbitesurveymostleast.htm

Skye Squires readily admits that she believed the court of public opinion’s guilty verdict before welcoming Phoenix, an American Staffordshire Terrier, into her family.

When her husband suggested adopting a Staffy, Skye initially refused stating “they’re those violent dogs that attack everything”. Having previously owned Staffies, her husband called her out on her stereotypical view and after doing her own research, Skye fell in love with the breed.

Dog injury data
Information sourced from the AIHW National Injury Surveillance Unit

“One thing that never falters is her absolute love and loyalty.”

Like most bullies Phoenix has faced her fair share of discrimination. Skye recalls a time when they were out walking with their trainer only to have a woman, who was out with her older dog and German Shepherd pup, seem rather afraid of the trio.

“It didn’t occur to me she could be fearful of our gorgeous girl as her older dog started aggressively barking at us.” But now, after reading other’s experiences, Skye believes that the woman may have been scared of Phoenix.

In many areas it is illegal to re-home a ‘Pit Bull type dog’, thus leading to any dog labelled as such (most bully breeds) being destroyed.

In places where it is permissible to list them for adoption, bully breeds (especially those labelled explicitly as Pit Bulls) spend, on average, three times as long as their non-bully counterparts waiting for their forever homes.

pitbulls in shelters
Information sourced: http://notabully.org/

This has lead to a small amount of cases in which the truth has been fudged a little, or, in the case of Phoenix, quite a lot in order to get the dogs adopted.

People also often overlook the personal toll society’s discrimination takes on owners. Not long after Sarah got her now three year old English Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Norman, she was verbally attacked because of his breed.

It was their very first session of puppy school and Sarah was simply doing the right thing by teaching Norman basic commands and politeness but this turned out the be the opposite of what she received.

A man, who was also attending with his poodle, turned to Sarah and declared:

“You are a disgrace, that’s a Pit Bull! They’re illegal! How dare you come to puppy training, my wife and kids are here! You and your dog need to leave, they are an illegal breed and you are an idiot for buying one.”

Although the trainer stepped in to correct the man and diffuse the situation, the experience was far from pleasant for Sarah and Norman who she says “is the biggest sook in the world and would lick you to death before biting anyone”.

head of security

Generally, however, bully breeds are never even given a chance with the most terrifying implication of this being the violence that can stem from people’s fear.

Remember Bundy and Tyler from the start of this article? They’ve been threatened on two separate occasions and the police can’t help because Tyler didn’t even know the individuals involved.

During a morning stroll on ANZAC Day of last year, Bundy leaned in to sniff a man. Although there was still at least a metre between the two, the man started screaming at Tyler about her “f*cking feral dog” and how he would shoot him if he ever saw him again.

The man continued to scream about how he had “heaps of guns” claiming that Bundy went for his neck.

On another occasion, Tyler had gotten up early (about 5am) to walk Bundy. Along the way they encountered a couple who were arguing between themselves, this startled Bundy causing him to bark.

Although Bundy readily moved away following a simple command of “no” from Tyler, the male involved threatened to stab him.

Incidents like these strike fear into the hearts of bully breed owners everywhere, and it is the stereotype and stigma that put them in this perilous position. While all owners hope to be the exception, they live with the reality that this is the rule.

With instances like these being as common as they are, the truly dangerous thing about bully breeds is how something as simple as how a dog looks can cause such division and hatred, not the dogs themselves.

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5 thoughts on “Nanny dogs not nuisances

  1. Have always had Staffordshire Bull Terriers, about 8 in my family over the years. Some reactive some not. Had 1 Jack Russell that bit 3 family members and lived to be 19. I will never have another Jack Russell. And I also note that the dogs barking the most at my Staffs are usually Jack Russels or other little dog breeds. Thanks for your article. Wendy

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  2. I have two Staffordshire Bull Terrier x dogs which I adopted from a shelter as puppies and who are now 5 years old. They are the most calm, gentle, beautiful dogs I could ever hope to have. People often marvel over how obedient they are, and I am very proud of them and the way they interact with other people and dogs. Many local people from my home town know and love my dogs. Despite this, I can relate to the discrimination discussed in this article. Strangers sometimes give us dirty looks just for walking by minding our own business (usually they are owners of small or ‘designer’ breed dogs). Often we have small dogs charge up to us yapping and snarling, and my dogs just wag their tail and literally turn the other cheek. This doesn’t stop the owners of the small dogs sometimes making nasty comments about the breed my dogs are. The best example of this happened at a local café. A man was there with his standard poodle when we arrived. The poodle lunged and snarled at my dogs, who only wagged their tails and then turned away. But to my great astonishment (and to the other people in his own group’s embarrassment) this man started ranting. I caught the words…”I’m not going to have my dog ripped apart by a dog who looks like THAT”!! Pardon??? My dog had not even reacted to his dog’s aggression, but all he had to do was ”look like that”. I think that sums it up, doesn’t it. They look like ”THAT”.

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    1. Thanks for sharing Melinda, I’m sorry, but not surprised, to hear that you’ve faced this kind of behaviour 😞
      I’m glad that your experiences are mostly positive though and I’m so happy that both fur babies have found a loving home with you 😊

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  3. I have fosted several Pit Bulls from the Humane Society through out the years. Each one coming to me with his own horrifying story. But EVERY one of these dogs found their own sweet place in my home, with my husband son, and two other dogs.

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