As a dog care professional I train, board, and walk dogs daily. Over the years I’ve encountered many dogs with a wide variety of personalities and behavioural issues. I’ve worked with both happy-go-lucky dogs and some with pretty severe issues. In my experience, breed has never been a reliable predictor of which is going to be which.
As someone surrounded by dogs all day I’m astonished that anyone still believes that breed is what we should be focused on to stay safe. First off, it’s extremely difficult to determine the breed of a dog based solely on looks.
Behaviour, Not Looks
More importantly, we in fact need to be assessing each dog’s behaviour, which is unique to the individual and is a blend of nature, early nurture, and life experience.
I’m out every day with my client’s dogs and I take the responsibility of keeping them safe very seriously. There are enough poorly behaved dogs out and about (of all breeds) that I’m always on the lookout to avoid possible negative encounters. When I see a dog in the distance I begin assessing immediately whether it is in our path and what the dog’s body language tells me about how he’s feeling.
And I don’t make that assessment based on the dog’s breed…because that information doesn’t help me.
I gain much more valuable information from a dog’s posture, face, ears and tail that tell me about his frame of mind. Out and about in the real world, guessing a dog’s breed simply doesn’t tell me what I need to know about a particular dog in a particular situation.
THE most reactive dog I have ever worked with was a black lab. He started out well in life, but a few unfortunate and uncontrollable encounters and he was rendered a barking, snarling, fearful wreck with dogs and most men.
You never would have guessed it from the way he looked.*
*I’m happy to report that with positive reinforcement training and regular practice the black lab made significant progress.