If you were unaware, a couple weeks ago at the Huffington Post it was Huff Post Pit Bull Week. Basically, for the entire week advocates, trainers, behaviorists, and just plain Pit Bull lovers wrote and shared stories combating misconceptions about the breed. Many stories were beautiful, funny, and really moving. I enjoyed these authors sharing their wonderful pictures of their own dogs and such personal stories. As much as I loved and appreciated these authors, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I agreed with everything they had to say (or write).
One of the main sticking points that many authors touched upon was the idea of “it’s all how they are raised.” Many authors brought up the example of the Michael Vick dogs. Stating that obviously those dogs were “raised” to be fighting dogs, authors argued against using the popular euphemism because it was clearly untrue. Those specific Pit Bulls have been able to go on to live wonderful, happy lives and many of them are good-natured and friendly. So, evidently it is not the way that Pit Bulls, and dogs in general, are “raised” that makes them good dogs or not because dogs have a greater capacity to be good, despite people’s past actions unto them.
I get it. I understand the point being made. Dogs are born good. It is what people do to them that has the potential to mold them into something not quite so great, and many times regardless of humans’ actions dogs are still good. Breed matters not here.
And still, I find myself having to say it. . .
I truly do believe that it is how a dog (Pit Bull, Golden Retriever, Chihuahua, Yorkie, and any other breed that exists in this world) is raised that makes all the difference. Regardless of whether or not a dog is born good, “raising” him or her will always have a big impact on how that goodness shines through.
You want to know why?
Because even when my dogs are ten years old, closing in on their twilight years, and slowing down just a little bit I will still be raising them.
I do not believe that “raising” a dog ever really ends. I am firmly living in the camp that raising something, whether it be a dog, a child, or even a goldfish, never stops. The “thing” always has something to learn and be taught, as there are always new lessons to live by. To me “raising” is defined as the ways in which something, an animal or little human, is educated throughout its entire lifetime, not just during a very specific and narrow time frame.
Can you teach old dogs new tricks? It seems that these authors would have me believe that they can’t if they truly believe that “raising” a dog ends after year one. Throughout their stories many authors implied that they adopted their lovable pooches after they were a year old and so, the time for “raising” had obviously passed. However, I can tell you from my own experience that “raising” my two rascals has not ended with year one. Simon (who is working past year three) has just recently learned to consistently Drop It, and Rosee (who is just closing in on year three) is still working to curb her kleptomaniac ways. So, I am still effectively “raising” them and will continue to do so until they leave this earth. My job will not end just because they reach a certain age or because they have learned a specific number of commands. My job will end when there is no more Simon and Rosee, and I hope that that time does not happen upon me for many (many) more years.
If someone were to say to me “It’s all how they are raised” I would say “Yes, it is.” Because if someone is saying this to me, they are saying it in regards to my dogs whom I have raised. And no, I was not a part of Simon or Rosee’s lives in the beginning, you know during that crucial first year. Honestly, my mother adopted Simon when I was going off to graduate school. While I was home for the summer, the rest of the year and the next I lived six hours away. Sure, I came home on holidays, but I was not raising Simon during this time. It’s a similar story for Rosee. My family adopted her during my second year of school, so again I missed the end of that first year for her (and she was initially raised by a shelter anyway). But I have raised my dogs because since I have been home, finished with school and moving on with my life, I have been one (of the ones) to train, care for, and love Simon and Rosee. I have raised my dogs, and when people tell me “It’s all how they are raised” I can agree because in that moment when it is said it is being said about my dogs as are they are in that specific point in time.
People we pass daily on our walks have said similar things. In fact, one woman we pass by all the time has mentioned each time that the dogs keep getting better. (And she should know. We used to have to walk across the street from her. Now, we only need a foot in between.) Every time we are out in the world Simon and Rosee are a direct reflection of me as an owner. Their triumphs are my triumphs. Their failures are my failures. If someone is to judge their behavior out on a walk, they are judging my raising skills, not the ones of Simon and Rosee’s past. No one else knows that Rosee lived in a shelter for eight months, or that Simon was taken from his mother too early and lacked early socialization. All anybody else knows is that in that particular moment they look like (hopefully) good, trained dogs. Whereas the authors of these other stories use this reason as to why you can’t say “It’s all how they are raised,” I say this is why you can say it. By saying this people are judging the way the dog is now, and as of now said dog is not being “raised” in some terrible way. (Or else the raisers wouldn’t be advocates, trainers, behaviorists, or lovers would they?)
My beliefs are also not breed specific. This does not only apply to Pit Bulls (and their owners), they just tend to be the ones held under the most intense scrutiny. When I see an unruly Chihuahua and an owner not paying it any mind I can safely assume that it was “raised” without boundaries or limitations. When I see a very excited Boxer with its owner firmly telling it to “Leave it” I can also safely assume that they’re working on it and I applaud their hard work and determination. Each dog is a firm reflection of their owner (sometimes quite literally) and each owner should take pride in that. I know I do.
Feel free to disagree with me, or even think something completely different than either opinion shared here. Having an opinion is, in fact, one of the great aspects of the human condition. Just please don’t feel the need to ask me to stop happily accepting “It’s all how they are raised” because it means something deeply personal to me. For my dogs Simon and Rosee it is how they have been raised that makes them good dogs. It’s how I and my sister and mother and stepdad have been and will continue to raise them that make them good dogs. It is an acknowledgment of all of the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into making sure Simon and Rosee are happy, healthy, and content dogs, not just the undeniable fact that they were born good, but that they in fact are and will continue to be good. It’s a euphemism that recognizes both the canine’s inherent goodness and the human impact that builds upon such greatness. So. . .
Thanks for the compliment.