K9 Corner, Nov. 21

Published 9:33 am Tuesday, November 21, 2017


A reader asked about “pit bulls” (which are properly known as the American pit bull terrier). The gentleman also wanted to include the American Staffordshire terrier and the Staffordshire bull terrier in  his question. “Are these good family dogs?” he asked.

I answered that if the pup was purchased from a reliable breeder, preferably one who routinely shows his stock in dog shows and takes time to socialize his pups before releasing them to new owners; who screens the people who want to purchase a pup, making sure that the home is a desirable one; who asks questions and answers the questions of prospective buyers; then pups from these breeds will usually make good family dogs.

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However, I added, these are strong, dominant-natured breeds and require special handling. Obedience training is a must and the discipline should be firm, consistent, but not harsh. The new owner should be physically strong enough to be able to restrain the pup as it lunges after a squirrel or rabbit, yet calm enough to distract the pup from its goal and redirect its attention.

Since answering the question, I remembered reading about homeowner insurance companies taking a hard look at the breeds of dogs the prospective customer wants to own. Unfortunately some people are taking the most aggressive pups and breeding them in order to get what I call “fighting machines.” The insurance companies cannot differentiate between a well-bred, well-socialized dog of these breeds and the poorly bred “fighting machine,” so they are, in many states, putting a ban on insuring families that own one or more dogs of any large, dominant-natured breeds. Sad to say, some companies are including German shepherd dogs, Doberman pinschers and Rottweilers.

Therefore, if a family wants to have a dog of one of these breeds (or any of the available large, dominant-natured mixed breeds), I would recommend that they prove the temperament of their individual pet by earning a Canine Good Citizen certificate sponsored by the American Kennel Club. Any breed, even mixed breeds, can enter this test and the certificate will prove that the dog has sufficient training and is socialized so it can pass the requirements.

I would also go a step further and take the dog through the American Kennel Club’s Companion Dog trials in order to earn the “C.D.” title. The United Kennel Club also holds these trials and their titles are listed as “United Companion Dog” or “U.C.D..” Both kennel clubs allow mixed breeds to register in a special category making the animals eligible to earn obedience titles. Why do I think this is necessary? Just in case the homeowner insurance company balks at offering insurance at the normal rate, the dog owner can prove the temperament and self-control of the individual dog.  Besides, it is good training for the dog as well as the owner and periodic refresher courses would be in order too.