Catching Flies…

As pit bull advocates, we often find ourselves in a position where we need to stand up for the dogs we have come to know, and thereby, come to love. In fact, this can be true for many things in life. When we have a passion for something, be it political stances, social policies, child welfare, or religion, we are occasionally thrown into situations where our loyalty is tested. In what circumstances are we willing to defend that which we believe in?

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

It is important to me that people judge my dogs as individuals.

For me, I believe loyalty to be one of my best qualities, and this is something that I am very proud of. I am a devoted friend, wife, sister, daughter, and pet owner, sometimes to a fault. I am not a fighter, I am certainly not intimidating or imposing, I don’t have a celebrity status to influence those around me… but because I enjoy writing and am always honing my abilities, I carefully choose my words as my greatest defense against those that try to tear down the people and things I care most about. At the same time, it is important to me to maintain a gentle approach. I am a firm believer in the old saying that ‘you catch more flies with honey, than you do with vinegar’. Because of this, even when faced with someone who disagrees with me, I try my best to remain calm, yet assertive, and to avoid accusations. I do not believe that anyone is going to absorb what you say, if you are offending them while you are saying it!

With all of that being said, I learned a valuable lesson last week that I would like to share with all of you.

Our friend J. over at Peace, Love, & Fostering shared this post on their facebook page last week. If you are interested in dog training, as well as the changes in perception our society is making in regards to dogs and dog ownership, it is certainly worth the time spent reading it. I would be interested in your honest, respectful, perspectives. (If you plan to do so, I would appreciate it if you would read it before you read the rest of this post, so as not to be influenced by my opinions!)

My reaction to this post was multi-faceted. I read it and felt such a strong relation to many of the points the writer introduced. She shared many important thoughts that are, in my opinion, so necessary to convey to well-meaning animal lovers. At its most elementary, the piece was about the science behind force-free dog training, why it is more effective, and how many of those who claim to love dogs and advocate for them, are really just muddying the waters when it comes to what is best for the dog, and conveying that to the public.

For those of you that do not know, force-free training is essentially just that: an approach to dog training that enhances your relationship with your dog, avoiding physical manipulation or intimidation, while reinforcing behaviors through positive association.
 
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What upset me so much was not the content, but the writer’s approach. In my perspective, she has this incredible opportunity to convey a point. She is obviously intelligent and talented as a writer, and please understand that I respect her for this. She put a lot of effort into this article, as was evident by her extensive source list. She has a unique perspective on the subject, which could produce positive waves of change in the worlds of dog training and ownership. However (and perhaps, BECAUSE of how valid her argument is) I absolutely shudder at her approach and tone. She continually criticizes and downright ridicules anyone with a different perspective than the one she feels is ‘right’… even if their perspective just comes from a naive and uniformed lack of knowledge or understanding. She is essentially condemning anyone that utilizes force or tools of punishment in an attempt to produce changes in a dog’s behavior. While I absolutely agree that there are better ways to train our dogs, and that our dogs DESERVE a better approach, my question remains: What dog owner would *ever* went to take advice from someone so condescending? And, with such a valid argument and the unique opportunity of a vast audience, shouldn’t that be her goal? I respect her perspective, but I worry that those who may be on the fence and considering a transition to force-free training, will read her article and be so turned-off that they refuse to remain open-minded. To me, her approach simply was making the rest of us who are proponents of force-free training look like judgmental wackos!

In one particular selection, she criticizes those that support forceful training: “but they seem thoroughly intent on attacking anybody who suggests otherwise”… which is exactly what her article does. It attacks anyone that disagrees with, or misunderstands, force-free training. If she believes that a forceful approach is ineffective with dogs, why does she employ such force when communicating with her own kind??

My stance is this: Whether the topic is politics, racism, poverty, etc… If the point of a diatribe is to truly bring about change in the uninformed or ignorant masses, why would you ever take a position of judgmental arrogance? You are not going to change any minds with that approach, and are then effectively just talking to hear yourself speak, or to hear others who already agree with your position, compliment you for it. Whether or not your argument is valid, if you take a judgemental and aggressive approach, the intended audience will never be open to receiving it in the manner in which it was presented.

At the same time, I found myself wondering if perhaps the writer’s purpose was not primarily to evoke a change in readers’ perspectives, but instead to garner attention and inspire conversation. And if in fact that was her goal, perhaps that is not all bad. If she can get the attention of the masses, perhaps some of them will be more willing to listen to the more moderate, respectful arguments that support and share her same perspectives.

Furthermore, there is something to be said for blogging, in that it is an emotional release for writers. Sometimes we have something on our hearts, and we need to express it. Occasionally we need to open up the floodgates, and let the words organize our thoughts and our hearts, without censoring every emotion or editing every accusation. While I believe that when our blogging has a purpose, we have a responsibility to put that goal first at all times, I also know that sometimes we need to write what is on our hearts, as it comes to us.

The bottom line is that when we blog for advocacy, regardless of the subject, we hit a strange paradox: while our blogs serve as an opportunity for self-expression and self-discovery, I believe that we also have a responsibility as advocates for the cause. Certainly, some of us more than others (we will get there someday!), are standing under a spotlight as the poster children for our causes. All we can do is keep our missions in mind, and hope that our words are received in the way that we intend them… I have certainly made mistakes and omissions in things that I have written, but I am sure to stay open-minded, while processing all of the feedback I receive.

I am genuinely interested in hearing you reactions to this article! I would appreciate it if you would all stay respectful, but I do want to know… did you agree with the writer’s opinions? What about her approach? What was your initial reaction, and how did that compare with your perspective once you’d read my own? As advocates for pit bulls, how do you think we can best approach those that don’t understand our dogs? I value your opinions!

Hang in there... it's almost Friday!

Hang in there… it’s almost Friday!

Fundraiser: Prize #4 – Getting Playful!

I know that your dogs would all be thrilled if their owners won them any of the three prizes already posted this week (here, here, and yesterday). However, I wanted to make sure that I offered some items that would really excite the canine crowd!

Squishy Face Studio:

While searching for toys specifically directed at bully breeds, I came across Squishy Face Studio. I don’t know about you, but that name instantly conjured up images of all of my favorite lova-bull, snuggle-a-bull, cuddle-a-bull pitties! And I was ‘leashed’. (Get it?) After speaking with Jessica (the girlier half of owners Justin & Jessica Lohman) I was in love… not only with their products, but with her! I will let you read her personal description below, as I don’t think I can say it any better…

about

“Squishy Face Studio is a Florida-based, family-owned business started by Justin and Jessica Lohmann in 2009. Our mission is to create the most innovative and durable toys available for strong and active dogs. Our toys are designed to provide both physical and mental exercise, with the goal of keeping your dogs happy and healthy. Our products are proudly made in the U.S.A.

We are passionate dog advocates, specifically defending “bully” breeds and opposing Breed Specific Legislation. We feel that education is the key to changing the circumstances of these misunderstood animals. We also advocate adoption from animal rescues, shelters and the Humane Society. We donate frequently to organizations that promote these ideals and work to reach the awesome goal of No More Homeless Pets both in our local community and throughout the nation.

{You thought that was good? Here is where is gets really great.}

We are constantly inspired by our own small pack; Petey, Max, Lily and Mr. Kitty (who thinks he is a dog). All three of our actual dogs have been labeled “pit bulls” or pit bull mixes at one point or another. The truth, as it is with many if not most rescued and adopted dogs, is that they are MIOs (Mutts of Indistinguishable Origin). What DNA tests and conformation standards can’t tell you is that they are a perpetual source of happiness, a constant reminder of what is right with the world. They love us and we love them, and nothing in life gets any better than that.”

Sigh. Have you fallen tail over ears yet? If not, just wait until you see their products.

What I love about their toys, is that they offer a variety of ways to exercise your pet; both mentally and physically! Use their Flirt Pole as a fun, interactive way to play with your dog, building your bond and increasing their confidence. On lazy days when your pup isn’t quite ready to be a couch potato, send them out into your backyard to play with the Super Tug, solo. Either way, you can be sure that your dog is getting a great workout, while having fun, and supporting a company that support pitties!

Flirt Pole

Flirt Pole

Squishy Face Studio has generously offered to donate a toy bundle, consisting of their Flirt Pole and Super Tug. These are durable toys, made to stand the abuse that our active pups may throw at them! Win: Your pups have a blast. Double Win: They are dog-tired by the end!

Super Tug

Super Tug

By now, you should know the drill… simply click here to make a donation toward LCPO. We are working toward a goal of $500, and each $10 donation that you pledge, will give you one entry in our giveaway of 10 awesome prizes!