Dog Training and the Social Fabric of America
By Robert Forto, PhD
My name is Dr. Robert Forto and I am a canine behaviorist and the owner of Denver Dog Works in Colorado. I specialize in canine aggression and violent dogs and I will admit that people’s political leanings do influence how they care for and train their dogs. I am researching this topic for an upcoming paper and I hope to have the results out before this year’s election. In the days of Big Government and Big Brother everybody has an opinion on how a person should own, handle, train, restrict and allow various forms of behavior of their dogs in public and in private.
In the news recently a big-time NFL star has gone to prison for animal cruelty and others have had their dog’s party to the judicial process for everything from instinctual behaviors of an Australian Shepherd to irate home-owners at a Home Owners Association meeting fueled by the fact that dog’s do bark.
I spent a great deal of time in my practice educating the public about the nuances of canine behavior and my professional opinion on everything from banned breeds, violent dogs, canine aggression, dogs-at-large and many more. I am a firm believer that the way that people handle their dog’s is a gauge of their political, financial, societal, environmental and religious beliefs. All of these leanings give the canine trainer or behaviorist valuable insight on how we can help our clients in their quest for having a well behaved dog and the ability to cope with a litigious society so bent on making our furry friends social outcasts while these people stand on their soap boxes and complain about dogs when their underlying fear is far something greater.
For those of you who read this blog I’m sure you’ve figured out that I don’t usually write all nice and sweet and fluffy things about dogs. This is one of those articles that is not sweet and fluffy. It’s what is happening in our society in the world of dogs. The politics of owning a dog nowadays is not cute or fluffy by any stretch of the imagination. In this article I am going to address just one area: Breed Specific Legislation. In coming articles I will delve into other topics that conger up our societal ills relating to dogs. I thought that dog’s were supposed to be regarded as our best friends. It is a shame that the actions of a few have given so many a bad rap.
The Band Aid
I remember growing up when people took responsibility for their actions but apparently the government feels they need to mandate everything today rather than hold people accountable. The fight for animal welfare started as a noble fight but has degenerated into opposing sides of animal rights versus animal welfare and it is appearing more and more like it isn’t about animals at all. Dogs seem to be at the top of the hit list with Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) leading the way. By banning breeds as many European countries do, we’re only falling into the trap of thinking by putting this band-aid on things our problems will go away. Banning a breed does nothing more than drive the criminals who abuse and use these breeds to choose yet another, and another and another until eventually we have no more breeds left. Therein lays the crux of the problem I think.
The problem is a human one not a dog one although it is always the animals who pay the price for human actions. One faction of the animal fight thinks the solution to world peace and harmony is to free all animals and that freedom means killing them because then they are truly free. That sounds rather harsh and violent to me, so how does more violence end violence? It doesn’t and that is just stupid.
Another faction has sat by and watched and now are scrambling to try and catch up and fix things but aren’t sure how or where to start. The problem is, the politicians care about votes so they are readily grasping at the straws of Breed Specific Legislation to control so-called “vicious” dogs. Dangerous dog laws really address the owners as they should so focusing on those makes far more sense but since when do politicians care about making sense?
The factions wanting all domestic animal ownership ended are in control and are doing a great job of “educating” our children and our college students into believing their rhetoric. We have a lot of propaganda and financing to fight to end all this nonsense. Maybe it’s just using plain common sense again.
I think a first step is to educate. Educate people about what it means to own a dog. Educate at the family level first. This is where we can make the most impact.
Secondly, that we need to take responsibility for our own actions. When we decide to own and bring home a dog it is our responsibility to know how to take care of a dog, the nature of a dog, and how train our dog to be a good canine citizen. If we would all do that we would have no need for stupid laws that want to mandate away our rights as US citizens such as mandatory spaying or neutering and micro chipping and training.
We would have no need for politicians wanting to band aid a human social problem with Breed Specific Legislation. We would have no need for factions wanting to destroy animals to “free” them. But I must be thinking of Utopia or maybe heaven, because everyone would rather have the government doing their thinking for them these days it seems. Maybe I am just living in the wrong era.