Which Dogs are Best with Children?

That question was intended to be ironic… and also to hopefully entice those curious internet searching parents to learn just why they should never trust ANY type of dog to be better or worse with children. It is up to them as responsible dog owners to manage dogs who have healthy interactions with their kiddoes. Don’t believe me? Below I will share the scientific fact behind my position.

If you’ve been following along with us for very long, you probably know that we think the folks at  Animal Farm Foundation are just about the best thing since bully sticks and peanut butter kongs… and if you’re new, you can check out some proof of our admiration, here, here and here! The biggest goal of AFF is to spread the knowledge that dogs should be judged based on their individual qualities, as opposed to breed labels or statistics. Their latest infographics (shown and explained below) share the science behind why an individual approach is not only more fair, but actually also more successful!

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(All of the images in this post are courtesy of Animal Farm Foundation.)

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Did you know that while 50 out of 20,000 (0.25%) of a dog’s genes determine physical appearance, those genes are entirely separate from the genes that influence brain development and function? Therefore, it is scientifically proven that there is NO link between appearance and behavior. And yet our politicians continue to make giant, life-changing assumptions based on that less-than-one-percent. Don’t judge my dog by his cover! Just because a dog looks like a pit bull, does not actually confirm that they have any genetic ties to a staffordshire terrier (think boxer x lab, as just one prime example).

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One reason any vet worth their weight in Acana dog food might suggest that a mixed-breed dog has better odds than a purebred of staying healthy for its lifetime, is because in a closed gene pool (see above) all of the genes are concentrated… the good, the bad, and the hairless (sorry, Chinese Cresteds). Did you know that most purebred dogs originated from only a handful of foundation sires and bitches, which was sometimes as few as 5? Talk about inbreeding! A 1994 Time magazine article on the effects of overbreeding reported that as many as 25% of the 20 million purebred dogs in the US are afflicted with a serious genetic problem. In the world of agriculture and animal breeding, this trend of improved health in mixed-breed animals is called hybrid vigor. By mixing two or more separate gene pools, overtime the recessive genes that carry health and other genetic problems are minimized. All of this contributes to the conversation about individualism in dogs, because a physical appearance really can only tell us so much.

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“Wait, so AFF is telling us that identical twins have identical DNA, but even dogs in the same litter have different DNA? Well, I’ve met identical twins whose attitudes and personalities were nothing alike! I guess it would be crazy to assume that dogs who look similar would have similar behavior…”

Even when dogs are 100% purebred, we cannot predict their behavior. Even in the case of cloned pets (genetically identical animals) scientific evaluation of these animals still shows differences in their personalities and behavior. This is because the behavior of all dogs (or any being!) are not just influenced by genetics and breeding, but also by many outside factors including training, management, environment, and socialization.
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Not only does physical appearance have little to do with behavior, but scientific studies from AFF peers have proven that attempts at visual breed identification by animal welfare professionals (vets, scientists, shelter workers) are incorrect more than 75% of the time. Even worse, those incorrect evaluations are not even the same across the board… those assigning the breed titles cannot even agree! This is because our personal experiences play a large role in the comparisons we draw between a dog’s appearance and their breed of origin.

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This is an interesting way to look at it. Tonka is the offspring of two purebred dogs, and the rest of his 12-pup litter looked very similar to my boy. Any guesses as to the parents’ breeds? (Seriously, would love it if you’d guess in the comments below!) Spoiler alert…

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If I had a dollar for every person that literally ARGUED with me that my dog was at least part black lab, I would be able to take more than one reader out to dinner. Nevertheless, the facts remain that Tonka’s father was a brindle boxer (deep chest, athletic body) and his mother was a golden retriever (long snout, expressive almond eyes, floppy ears)… where did the rest of him come from? I’d like to think that much of his behavior comes from a very conscientious upbringing by me, and thanks to the research from Animal Farm Foundation, I can be confident that this may largely be the truth.

Animal Farm Foundation says it best when they say that: “The only way we can accurately determine what a dog’s needs are is to look at the individual dog in front us for the answers. In other words, we can’t judge a book by its cover (even if that cover looks like other ones we’ve seen before!)”

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AFF: “Treating all dogs as individuals means that we let go of biased thinking, recognizing each dog for who they really are, not who we assume they are based on looks, labels, or past experiences. In doing so, we set all dogs free of the baggage and consequences caused by our assumptions, prejudices, and discrimination.” Hmmm. That sounds kind of like the way most of us agree we should evaluate the people in our communities. From a genetic standpoint alone, why should dogs be any different?

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So maybe (hopefully!!) you already new and totally agree with all of the facts shared above. But more importantly, do you understand why they are so important?

It matters to families and communities…

Regardless of ‘breed’ or ‘type’ of dog, false expectations (positive or negative!) can be dangerous or unfair to the animal, and to the families they love. For example, if we assume that every lab is going to be naturally comfortable around children and have an affinity for water, we might not take the time to set the individual dog up for success through careful introduction and training. This may create a dog that has fear or anxiety issues. You can turn this around in the other direction by recognizing the truth behind confirmation bias… In any situation in life, if we approach with negativity and trepidation, we oftentimes set ourselves up for failure, and unintentionally cause the very events we are anticipating. No breed description should be considered a fool-proof road map of a dog’s preferences, personality, or ability. These qualities are heavily influenced by environment and management. If we approach each dog as an individual, and let the animal tell us more than we assume based on their appearance, we are much more likely to wind up with a dog that is a happy member of our families, and of our society.

It matters to those in the animal welfare industries…

As rescuers, shelter workers, and animal advocates, it is always in our best interest to be as honest as possible with potential adopters, volunteers, and the general public at large. By labeling dogs without factual knowledge of their true backgrounds, we are unintentionally being dishonest, and may be setting the dogs up for failure. Instead of meeting an adopter who wants a Golden Retriever, and providing them with dogs that match that physical description, we need to start advocating for “types” of dog. Maybe to the average dog owner, a Golden Retriever fills them with ideas of a dog who will happily play fetch and join the family on hikes, while snuggling in their childrens’ beds at night. Perhaps your shelter has 3 dogs that match this description, but who may or may not look like a Golden Retriever. In this case, you are providing the family with a variety of dog types, all of whom are more likely to be compatible with their lifestyle long-term, and giving many of your rescue or shelter residents an opportunity at a proper home. At the same time, you are doing your part to not reinforce stereotypes or set up false expectations. No breed description entitles an adopter the guarantee that a dog will act a certain way, or have specific preferences… only each individual dog can tell us that!

Additionally, these preferences, personality traits, and abilities, have a large propensity for change over time. If we assumed that a dog’s genetic composition determines their personality traits (Georgia), we would have never taken the opportunity to improve her associations with other animals… we would have assumed that her preferences were intact and not subject to change. This refutes the common pit bull advocacy statement that ‘it’s all in how they’re raised,‘ because it is in fact, more in how they are managed, that matters most. If we assumed that all dog behaviors were set by their genetics or their early life experiences, we would never give cruelty or neglect victims a chance, and everyone searching for a new family member would be getting their dogs from breeders. And that would be a huge problem!

It matters to politicians and law makers…

Once and for all, it is time to put an end to laws passed on the flawed idea that you can determine how a dog will act based on how they look or their breed label. Rather than punishing all dogs and their owners based on the negative or criminal actions of a few, let’s start legislating and enforcing responsible dog ownership laws for owners of all dog breeds and types. In this way, we hold all owners equally accountable, and thereby truly create safer communities. Dogs should be labeled based on their actions or behavior, not on their breeds or physical traits. No one, human or animal, deserves to be persecuted (or even killed!) based on stereotypes.

The AFM5 Moral of the Story:

The world of animal rescue and advocacy is a huge one, and perhaps because of that, it is constantly evolving. That is a great thing for the animals, because it means that we are always being presented with new tools to improve our understanding, and become more competent at finding homes for unwanted pups, cats, rabbits, horses, etc. We have all been guilty of unintentionally spreading misinformation a time or two. What matters is that you take the time to educate yourself as thoroughly as possible, and keep your own missions and morals at the forefront of your mind. Let’s make sure that when we are well-intentioned in advocating for our animals, that we are doing more GOOD than harm.

 

AFF CITATIONS:

The Dog and It’s Genome by Elaine Ostrander

Genetics and the Social Behavior of the Dog by Scott and Fuller

National Geographic

Kristopher J. Irizarry, PhD

Janis Bradley, The Relevance of Breed in Selecting a Companion Dog

Dr. Victoria Voith

AFF ABSTRACTS:

Brachycephalic traits

Morphological traits

Brain development genes

Cranial facial development and here

Canine skull development

Wordless Wednesday: Luca Gets Around

Do you remember the sweet CharlieDog & Friends pups we gave away? Well, Little Luca was my favorite. I have always had a soft spot for white-faced pitties, and just because she’s stuffed, doesn’t mean she is any exception to that rule. So, it was really difficult for me to part with her. However, I know a special little girl who could use some extra love in her life. You can read more about her story, here. It turned out to be a match made in heaven. This little lady has never been one to hold onto toys, but Luca goes along with her on all of her adventures. Every. Where. Talk about positive pittie publicity!

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Help! Spots, Rashes, and All Things Itchy

We have been noticing lately, more and more, that poor Miss Gia has some itchies that we just cannot seem to get under control.

When she first came to us, she had some not-so-cute rashes on her tummy. We were able to alleviate this by a simple switch to a higher quality food, as well as a few medicated baths.

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For a while, this seemed to curb her problems. However, as spring started to finally arrive in our little piece of Pennsylvania, we noticed our girl doing more itching and licking than ever! We would notice an issue especially after we cut the grass, or she spent a lot of time outside ‘hunting’ in the woods (her favorite!) At first, we could combat the problem by treating her with some liquid Benadryl, but now even that doesn’t seem to be able to combat her itchings!

Caught in the act =/

Caught in the act =/

She will even wake out of a deep sleep to lick or itch at her paws or back end or tummy, and then go right back to dreaming. We are having a hard time telling if this is something that is physical (there are no lumps, bumps, fleas, or rashes) or mental. She will just lick and lick at her paws if we aren’t there to stop her. When we correct her (just with a quiet ‘no’ or by redirecting her to a toy or bone) she will give a big yawn, as though she is worried or stressed. If I had to guess, I would say that it is probably a combination of both.

When we went to our vet, they were pretty blase about it… they told us to try Benadryl (duh, been there, tried that) and Fish Oil (check!) neither of which seemed to do much for our girl. We know that pittie mixes can have a tendency towards the itchies and the allergens, so I know that some of our wise blog friends will have some suggestions for us! We’d love to hear your thoughts to make our girl more comfortable… should we try allergy testing, or is there an intermediate step we are missing?

Thank you in advance for your help!

Wordless Wednesday: Pocket Pittie Snuggles

IMG_2957Check out this little cutie! ❤ We sent surprise packages out last week, filled with our Charliedog & Friends pocket pitties, to some very lucky friends!

In love with this little lady? Read her special story on her mama’s blog: The Sweeter Side of Mommyhood

Ambassadog, Extraordinaire: Vivian Peyton

Because we exist to celebrate all things pit bull, we wanted to take a moment to talk about a special little dog that you may or may not have heard of (no, not Georgia!)

Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/VivianPeytonDog?group_id=0

Photo courtesy of Vivian’s facebook page

Her name is Vivian Peyton, and her story is heart-warming. What we know of her past began at the Animal Care and Control facilities in Philadelphia, where she was rescued from a life that suggested a history as a bait dog. Her scars may bear witness to her past, but her heart is even more noteworthy. Thankfully, a special group called New Leash on Life USA saw that much in her, and pulled her as a student in their three month prison dog-training program, where inmates work to socialize and train the dogs in preparation for adoption. In this novel program, prisoners help dogs gain a second chance at life, both simultaneously working to redeem their reputations, all while learning from one another.

Upon graduation from the training program, Vivian Peyton was adopted by Michele Pich. Michele is a veterinary grief counselor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital, where she comforts grieving pet owners who are working to overcome the loss of their beloved family members. On her own time, Michele visits children at the Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. Michele knew from their first meeting that Vivian Peyton would make a great partner in both of these endeavors, and so she worked to achieve further accomplishments with her. Vivian soon became a Penn Vet VetPets therapy dog, and soon thereafter passed her Therapy Dogs International (TDI) certification.

Vivan’s touch offers an opportunity for healing when it comes to grieving pet lovers at the veterinary hospital, who gain so much comfort in having an animal to hug. She also provides an outlet for children who are subjected to treatments and extended hospital stays. Her owner tells a special story, ” There was a little girl who, since she had some surgery, had some scars, and used to get picked on in school,” Pich says. “We used it as a teaching point to say Vivian used to get picked on by bullies, and even though she has some scars, she has been able to rise up beyond that.” The young girl took comfort from that, and was grateful to just be around Vivian.

Photo courtesy of Jack McMahon Jr.

Photo courtesy of Jack McMahon Jr.

For all of her contributions to her community, Vivian Peyton was recognized at the 2012 National Dog Show Presented by Purina, where the sweet little Staffordshire Terrier mix was honored as one of three Purina Therapy Dog Ambassadors. It is clear to anyone that Vivian Peyton is an amazing ambassador of the pit bull type dog, and we hope that her achievements will encourage others to give an unlucky shelter dog a chance to do something special.

Slone, Ernie. “A Champion for the Underdogs.” Dog Fancy. 01 Apr 2013: 24. Print.

 

Channing Tatum <3 Pit Bulls

Anyone else feeling the Monday blues? Well, we here at And Foster Makes Five are with you. We want you to know that you are not alone. And we want to do our part to make the day a little bit more bearable. Since our viewer statistics show that the majority of our readers are females, here is some eye-candy, with a pit bull flavor, of course.

Did you know that Channing Tatum has a pit bull rescue of his own?! As if you needed another reason to love him...

Did you know that Channing Tatum has a pit bull rescue of his own?! As if you needed another reason to love him…

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Woops... I don't know how this one snuck in there! Anyone else see the resemblance Foster Dad shares?! No, just me??

Woops… I don’t know how this one snuck in there! Anyone else see the resemblance Foster Dad shares?! No, just me??

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PS- For the record, this post is also a ploy. It is a test to see whether or not Foster Dad actually cares to read our blog posts… to be continued!

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In other news, Gaige has a :

Public Service Announcement

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If you want to continue to have our facebook posts (and those of your other favorite bloggers!) show up on your newsfeed, please be sure to follow the instructions above!

Have a happy Monday everyone 🙂

How Mean is Your Pit Bull? : Contest Conclusion!

Most of you are well-aware that And Foster Makes Five has been holding a contest for the past few weeks. In the contest, we accepted silly photos of your pit bulls (or other ‘dangerous’ dogs) at their ‘meanest’. Each submission counted towards 1 pound of dog food, which we will be donating to a local shelter. Simultaneously, we edited these pictures and shared them on our blog and facebook pages. The photo with the most shares and likes would win an undisclosed prize… well, it’s finally time to announce our totals, our winners, and just what the lucky champions will be receiving!

A few of you may not have heard about our contest until it was too late, but you still wanted to send us some snapshots of your precious pups. We LOVED seeing these photos. Seriously, we think that the AFM5 readers and followers have a disproportionate amount of adorable dogs. It’s just not normal!! While we did not have enough time to edit and add some of these late-comers before the end of the contest, we still counted them towards the totals for the food donation… which was 40! Woo-hoo 🙂 We will be rounding up and making a 50 lb donation to a local Pittsburgh shelter.. stay tuned for that post next week.

There were 29 competitors in the facebook sharing contest. Each like counted towards 1 vote, while each share counted as FIVE votes! Here are our top entries, with impressive numbers!

Winner: Forrest – 125 votes!

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Forrest is a big clown, who also happens to be a foster pup through LCPO, Georgia’s rescue! He is available for adoption, but until his forever family comes along, his foster family is loving every second of his adorable antics. He is approximately one year old, and was saved from death in the NYC ACC shelter system. He loves people, dogs, and cats, and while he is 100% house and crate-trained, he is a diligent student in obedience class. We love you Forrest! Thanks to his foster mom, Chrissa, for submitting this adorable photo.

Runner-Up: Oscar – 109 Votes!

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You may recognize Oscar as the resident Super Dog over at Tails of a Foster Mom! Our friend Rebecca rescued him after the adoption of her beloved foster dog had left her heartbroken, and the rest is history. She received an email about this boy (known as Half-Pint, at the time!) who was slated for euthanasia, simply due to lack of space, and she knew she had to make him a part of their family. His growth was stunted due to severe malnutrition as a pup. While that leaves him with an eternal puppy presence, he certainly doesn’t let it slow him down! He has made a perfect addition to their family, and serves as a great friend and greeter for their revolving door of foster pups!

Honorable Mentions

These two were not at the top of the list as far as votes are concerned, but they were nevertheless two of my favorite submissions, for different reasons.

Midnight

315646_364786986974775_721839060_nI have a soft spot for dogs (and their owners, of course!) who are pulled from NYC shelters, and Miss Midnight is no exception. She now lives out in Western NY, enjoying life as a country girl with her ‘big sister’ Babygirl, a rescued German Shepherd mix.

Norman

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This photo needs no caption. I just can’t get over this shot! It is too adorable for words. You may recognize that sweet face as Norman, from My Two Pitties, along with his feline friend Marty. Too cute!

We thank everyone who made submissions, as well as those who liked and shared. We couldn’t have made this donation without all of you! … Well, okay, we could have. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun, and we wouldn’t have been spreading pit bull love throughout the interwebz while we did it!

You may remember that yesterday’s post featured our friends at CharlieDog and Friends. They are generously donating prizes to our contest winners! We couldn’t be more excited to partner with such an amazing organization. Be sure to check out yesterday’s post, and LIKE them on facebook. They deserve all of the support that they can get!

If you are one of the winners, please send your full name and mailing address to me (Stephanie) at: sel1490@gmail.com