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It's not how they're raised; it's how they're managed

Discussion in 'Training & Behavior' started by Beret, Nov 23, 2012.

  1. Beret

    Beret Bullyflop

    Came across this blog post. Thought I'd share it here:

    It’s Not How They’re Raised, It’s How Dogs are Managed That Matters Most

    by notesfromadogwalker on November 20, 2012
    How many times have you heard someone say about a dog, “It’s all how they’re raised� Probably a lot. If you own a pit bull dog, probably a lot more.

    I hear pit bull advocates saying it all the time, as a way to defend our dogs. I hear other saying it as a flippant remark about dogs in general. This phrase gets tossed around all the time, but no one seems to be aware of what they’re really saying….and how damaging it can be.

    This saying does have a kernel of truth in it, of course, but â€how they’re raised†is just one of the factors that contributes to who our dogs are. It’s not the whole story.

    When people believe that “It’s All How They’re Raisedâ€, there are some real-life consequences for the dogs. So we need to check ourselves.

    Here are a few ways our words hurt:

    People refuse to adopt adult dogs. This idea, that how they’re raised determines who a dog is, makes adopting out adult and senior dogs a real challenge. Why would adopters take a chance on an adult dog, who has been raised by someone else, when they could adopt a puppy and raise it “right†themselves? Some folks really believe this. Seriously, shelter workers are constantly confronted by this way of thinking. It stinks.

    Shelters won’t place victims of cruelty up for adoption. If a dog has survived an abusive or neglectful situation, such as dog
    fighting, animal hoarding, puppy mills, etc., then it is known they were “raised wrongâ€. Some organizations use this as proof that the dogs aren’t safe or fit to be adopted out.The same thing goes for dogs that are suspected of surviving these situations. If the assumption is made that a dog with cropped ears has been fought, that assumption of their past may wind up costing the dog his life if policies dictate that fight bust dogs are not adoptable because they were obviously “raised wrong.â€

    Responsible dog owners feel like failures. People who have raised their dogs since puppyhood beat themselves up when they’ve done everything right, but despite their very best efforts, their dogs still have behavioral issues. I hear from a lot of you through DINOS because you feel ashamed and guilty about your dog’s issues, despite having raised your dogs right. Let me just say it now: it’s not all how a dog is raised that matters. You guys have to stop beating yourselves up (even if you’re a dog trainer).

    Here’s the reality – dogs are who they are due to many factors: training, breeding, socialization, management, genes, and environment. All of these things influence who our dogs are.

    A dog’s past is a chapter, but it’s never the whole story. Let me show you:

    “Raised Wrongâ€

    Some dogs, neglected and abused their entire lives, are well-adjusted, social dogs. Anyone who has worked in rescue has met countless dogs who were not raised in the best circumstances, but despite this lack of early socialization or care (or worse) they turn out to be safe, family dogs. Many of us share our homes with dogs that were raised in less than ideal conditions, but are still wonderful pets.

    One example of this scenario are the
    dogs rescued from fight busts or hoarding situations. Despite terrible beginnings, many of these victims of cruelty are ready to leave the past behind and enjoy family life. They may need training and structure to get used to living with a family in a house (what dog doesn’t?), but many of them are able to adjust to family life with relative ease. Their past didn’t help them do this, you dig?

    “Raised Rightâ€

    Some dogs, purchased from responsible breeders and socialized properly from puppyhood, still wind up with behavioral problems. Many responsible dog owners, who have raised their dogs since they were puppies and did everything right, still find themselves with dogs who have a variety of behavioral issues. These dogs were “raised rightâ€, but are still struggling.

    In both of these cases, the common denominator that is actually determining the success of these dogs as family pets and their safety in the community isn’t how the dogs were raised: it’s responsible management.

    One example of this is illustrated in an article written by a dog trainer who shared her problems with her own dog. Despite her very best professional efforts to raise him right, he has significant behavior issues, some of which may be caused by a medical condition. It’s not how he was raised that’s causing the problem.
    Read it here.

    More Present, Less Past

    Whether they were raised “right†or raised “wrong†in the past, no matter what behavioral problems a dog does or doesn’t have, when owners recognize their dog’s individual needs and provide them the right care and management tools, dogs have a chance to succeed in our crazy world.

    So, it’s not “how they’re raised†(what happened in the past) but rather, “how they’re managed†(what’s happening in the present) that needs to be our focus, if we want to help our dogs and create safe communities for us all to enjoy.

    We can look to their past for clues and guidance, of course. I don’t mean ignore it all together. But we do more for our dogs when we look at them right now, without the haze of a bad (or good) past fogging up our thoughts. Who are they right now? What do they need to succeed today?

    Whoever they are, dogs always exists and act in the context of human beings. They don’t live in a vacuum. They live with us. We need to recognize dogs as individuals, then determine what they need from us in order to succeed in the world.

    What this means is that when dogs are properly managed by a human, a dog with or without behavior problems can be a safe, family dog. Dogs may need a variety of management tools, depending on what behavioral issues (if any) they have. Beyond training, various management tools might include: space management (crates, gates, etc.), muzzles, leashes, fences, proper supervision, etc. I’d also include medication in this category, if it’s necessary. When these tools are used, owners are setting dogs up to be successful.

    This also means that any dog that is not managed properly can be a nuisance to the community or a danger to others. We see this often in the case of dogs that are running loose in neighborhoods. The dogs may be friendly (or not), but by allowing them to roam the streets or chase other dogs, their owners are setting these dogs up to get into trouble. They are not managing them. They are setting them up to fail.

    side note: This is why I’m such a stickler for obeying leash laws. It’s a management tool. I just wish the laws were enforced.

    I think that dogs are only as successful and safe as humans set them up to be – no matter what their past may be. When a dog gets in trouble or acts dangerously, somewhere along the line, a person has failed to make the right choice. But that’s not the same as “how they were raisedâ€.

    How they’re raised may be one factor that influences dogs, but it doesn’t determine the whole being of a dog. Perpetuating this idea only winds up hurting dogs with less than perfect pasts and shaming people who own dogs they’ve had since puppyhood.

    The truth is that it’s how we currently manage dogs that determines how any dog interacts with the world. When we focus on managing them in the present, based on their individual needs, we can set dogs up for success despite what may have happened to them in the past.

    So can we trash “its all how they’re raised†once and for all? It’s such a drag for dogs and their owners.

    Let’s replace it with the truth:

    It’s all how they’re managed. Dogs are only as successful as we set them up to be.

    Read the article here:
  2. K9 Love

    K9 Love Good Dog

    Excellent read! LOVE that last quote!

    Thanks for sharing! :)
  3. AdMae

    AdMae Big Dog

    This is a good way of explaining it. I've always been hesitant when people try to say things like "it's all in how they are raised, right"? I'm around a lot of dog lovers and when it comes down to the "pit bull" talk -they always say that. This article will better equip me to explain that that is not really how it works, that it is just a factor in many equations.

    There ARE a LOT of factors that determine personality. You can almost substitute the word dog for the word child. But I'm not comparing humans to dogs, just behavior as we understand it in this scenario.
  4. ivoryfix

    ivoryfix Puppy

    Great Post!!
  5. Gatorpit

    Gatorpit Good Dog

    People really need to get over THIS taboo, too. The one that says you can't compare animals to humans. You shouldn't anthropomorphize (apply human emotions, thought processes to animals) in general; except in cases where there are similarities. I think it's more important to avoid placing our various morality-induced behaviors on animals than to avoid making comparisons. Humans ARE animals, we have MANY similarities in the technical methods of how and why we behave the way we do

    For example, working in the reptile trade for years, this is one comparison I make frequently to new bug-eating reptile owners to help them understand why not to buy a week's worth of crickets and dump them all in the cage with the pet at once: "Having all those bugs running around after he's had his fill can stress your pet out. I mean, you like to eat chicken, but you wouldn't want 30 of them running around your house until you get around to eating them."

    As in both scenarios the outcome would be the same to both human and animal subjects (stress), it is perfectly acceptable to make a human/animal comparison in this case.

    And in your statement, you can also safely make that comparison, as the very same multiple factors DO effect the personality and temperament development of both humans and dogs.

    What we need to avoid would be thoughts like: "My dogs would never get into a fight, they've been best friends since birth." This is applying a human invented morality to the dogs. The owner assumes that like himself, the dogs have a moral understanding that it is wrong to hurt your brother/best friend.

    This is the kind of comparison that gets us into trouble, not the true comparisons that can be made between humans and animals.
  6. ignitethis

    ignitethis Good Dog

    This is a great article, I first read it off the Yellow Dog Project FB. Can't have said it better myself. Whoever wrote this needs an award.
  7. Tiffseagles

    Tiffseagles GRCH Dog Premium Member

    Here's another good one!

    “It’s all in how they’re raised.â€

    “All puppies are blank slates.†“If you do everything right with your puppy, you’ll have a great adult dog.†“If dogs have behavioral issues, we should blame the handle end of the leash.â€

    These are common misconceptions I hear as a trainer, and they make me so very sad. Behavior is a combination of nature and nurture, and if we could just take a moment to look logically at these myths, we would see just how silly they are.

    Genetics influence behavior. This is part of the reason we have breeds: if you want a dog to work your sheep, you’re going to choose a Border Collie, not a Brittany Spaniel. Even though the two dogs have the same basic size and shape, one is more likely to have the instinctive motor patterns to do the work than the other. Getting a Border Collie whose parents successfully work sheep further increases the likelihood of your dog having the necessary genetic ability to be a great sheepherder.

    In the 1970′s, Murphree and colleagues began to study the difference between normal and fearful lines of Pointers. In cross-fostering experiments, puppies from fearful parents were raised by normal mothers. These puppies still turned out fearful, in spite of proper socialization and a confident role model.

    Interestingly, puppies from normal parents who were raised by fearful mothers also turned out fearful. Environment also influences behavior, and the best genetics in the world can’t create the perfect dog without a supportive upbringing.
    If we believe that the way a dog is raised is solely responsible for his adult behavior, how can the tremendous success of the Pit Bulls from Michael Vick’s kennel and many other fighting operations be explained? With their neglectful and abusive upbringing, we would expect these dogs to be vicious and unsalvageable. Yet many of them have gone on to become wonderful pets. Some compete in agility or work as certified therapy dogs. Many Pit Bull enthusiasts are adamant that it’s all in how the dogs are raised, yet the success of many former fighting dogs tells us that it’s more than just that. These amazing, resilient dogs also have to have a sound genetic basis to explain their ability to overcome adversity.

    On the other end of the spectrum, many of my clients have done everything right, yet continue to struggle with anxiety or aggression issues in their dogs. Certain lines of Golden Retrievers are known for severe resource guarding issues that often show up even in tiny puppies. Most of my German Shepherd behavioral consults occur when these dogs hit 12-18 months and growl at or bite a stranger.
    Miniature Australian Shepherds are likely to come to me due to extreme fear issues at 6-10 months of age. Terrier owners often call me when their dog hits social maturity and begins fighting with housemate dogs. While these traits may be common in my area, trainers in other areas of the country report completely different issues in the same breeds due to different lines of dogs with different genetic potentials living and being bred near them. I also see hundreds of friendly, stable, solid Goldens, German Shepherds, mini Aussies, and terriers in our Beginning Obedience and Puppy Kindergarten classes.

    The truth is that dogs are born with a certain genetic potential that will influence which behavioral traits they display. This could include a dog’s sociability towards people, dogs, or other animals; their level of boldness or fearfulness; their likelihood to display anxious or compulsive behaviors; whether they are calm and confident or nervous and neurotic; and many other behavioral factors.

    Let’s look at one trait to make this more clear. We know that dogs born from fearful parents are more likely to be fearful and that dogs with bold parents are more likely to be bold. There is a behavioral continuum, with boldness on one end and fearfulness on the other. Here’s what that spectrum would look like. A dog on the left end of the spectrum would be incredibly fearful, while a dog on the right end would be exceedingly confident. Most dogs wind up somewhere in the middle, and dogs on both ends of the spectrum present challenges for their owners.


    A dog with bold parents is born with the potential to be quite bold. He is physically capable of bold behavior. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will become a bold dog. If his experiences as a puppy and young adult are very limited or if he has negative, scary experiences, he may develop into a fearful adult due to environmental influence. His genetic potential gave him the ability to be bold, but his environment did not nurture that ability.


    On the other hand, consider a dog who is born from fearful parents. This dog does not have the genetic potential to be bold. Even given an incredibly supportive and nurturing environment as a puppy and young adult, this dog will always be somewhat fearful because the physical ability to be bold is just not there.


    These dogs may present identically when we look at their behavior, in spite of the very different levels of dedication their owners had to socializing and supporting their puppies. However, the genetically bold dog may make a lot of progress with appropriate behavioral interventions, while the genetically fearful dog makes little or none. This has nothing to do with the skill level of each dog’s owner, but rather with the raw material each dog started with. (This is also, by the way, why ethical trainers do not make guarantees: without knowing what genetic package a dog starts with, there’s no way to know how much progress that dog can make until we try.)

    Do you see how very unfair statements about how “it’s all in how they’re raised†are to committed, wonderful dog owners who have dogs with more difficult baselines? Just because your dog flew through a behavior mod program doesn’t mean every dog can or will, and assuming that it’s all because of the owner is unrealistic and downright cruel. I regularly work with wonderful people who do the best they can with difficult dogs, and that adage about walking a mile in someone’s shoes is applicable to their situation. As if living with and training a more difficult dog weren’t enough, these people are often subjected to comments and insinuations that if they were just a better handler, a better trainer, or a better leader, their dog would be perfectly fine. This is untrue and incredibly hurtful, and it needs to stop.

    Do you know anything about your dog’s parents? What environmental and genetic factors do you think contributed to your dog’s behavior? Please share your stories in the comment section below!

    | Paws Abilities
  8. Beret

    Beret Bullyflop

    Great post!
  9. Jamielvsaustin

    Jamielvsaustin Good Dog

  10. dalvers63

    dalvers63 Good Dog

    I agree with GatorPit in this - I compare my dog to my friends' children all the time. There really is not that much difference when it comes to growing up and raising them except that dogs go through it much faster. Having co-workers with kids aged 8mo-10 years I see the same behaviors in their kids that I did (and do) see in our Great Dane puppy.

    Great article (both of them). It will help me in explaining this, too!
  11. Tiffseagles

    Tiffseagles GRCH Dog Premium Member

    I like that it has graphics for visual learners :)
  12. rnel

    rnel Puppy

    Thanks this was very helpful.
  13. Brandy0126

    Brandy0126 Puppy

    I have never had a pit bull before. I am a fairly strong personality and I have strong beliefs about what I should be able to do with my dog, including being able to take away the food while he is eating and not have him turn on me. I've been able to do that with all my dogs, but now I have a 2-3 year-old-male that has been thrust upon me and I don't know how to handle him.

    I am an elderly woman who lost my beloved dog about two weeks ago. A friend of mine had a dog that was abandoned and was found by her son, who brought him home and she's been looking for a home for the dog for six months. When she heard that I had lost my baby, she offered him to me, and I took him on a trial basis. We bonded almost immediately - and he has been loving and affectionate to me - I walk him every morning first thing (I don't have a fenced-in yard - I have invisible fencing, which would NOT hold him for a minute!!), and I walk him every night as well. He is well-behaved on the leash, pretty much, although he walks faster than I do....however, when he gets ahead of me I tell him to wait and usually he stops and when I catch up to him I say Okay, and he walks on.

    However, I've heard so much about pits and how deadly they are and I am a little afraid of him. My neighbor across the street was the one who told me he was a pit - I thought he was just a big ol' Lab with some Rottie in him, but nooooo - and she's a dog trainer and boarder, so she would know.

    I am afraid if my homeowners insurance holder finds out that they will cancel my policy, and I know they will do so. I want to find him a new home, he's a good boy and doesn't deserve to be put down because of his breed, but the sheriff's office doesn't take pits, and I don't know how to offer him to the military.

    Anybody got any ideas on what I can do? I'm in a QUANDRY!!!
  14. Brandy0126

    Brandy0126 Puppy

    One other thing - he got hold of a pair of my sandals (my favorite, most comfortable pair!), and chewed one of the shoes. I was very angry with him, but of course did NOT hit him. (I don't hit dogs in my house.) It had been made abundantly clear to me that he had been hit by SOMEbody, because when I raised my hand to his head to pet him, he flinched. When he chewed my shoe, I went and got it and scolded him, and tossed the shoes, of course, and after a few minutes he came crawling to me on his belly, quite contrite and submissive, and after a while I forgave him.

    And after that he no longer flinched when I reached to his head to pat him.

    Why was that? Now he doesn't flinch from me any more....is it because he trusts me because I got mad and didn't smack him around?

    However, being as how I demand complete obedience from my animals and this dog has a mind of his own, I don't know how we're going to continue to get alone. I am fairly sedentary and have some illness issues and he needs somebody that can play with him and stimulate him mentally or he's gonna get bored and when dogs get bored, they get into mischief.

    I want to donate him to the military for training - this dog not only needs and wants mental stimulation, he needs a job! And the military would be a good place for him, I think.

    Anybody got any ideas about that? I need advice and counseling! I'm afraid he's gonna attack somebody in my neighborhood and I'm gonna have a lawsuit on my hands, not to mention an injured person or a dead animal because of my dog....I'd like to find another home for him with somebody who is experienced with pits and will give him a good home, but that home is NOT gonna be with me, and I don't wanna call Animal Control or the Humane Society - they'll just put him down because of his breed and he doesn't deserve that.

    Thanks in advance to any who respond to my plead!!
  15. catchrcall

    catchrcall Good Dog Staff Member Super Moderator

    I don't believe the military takes donated dogs, but maybe I'm wrong. Whoever told you that bulldogs are man killers was at best mistaken.
  16. Beret

    Beret Bullyflop

    Your dog sounds like any normal dog who needs a basic obedience foundation and some help building confidence.

    I understand not wanting to keep a dog that makes you uncomfortable. Despite my personal feelings regarding your situation and reasoning for not wanting to own this dog, if you don't feel comfortable with your dog and your own limitations, then by all means rehome.

    Like catch said, pretty sure the military doesn't take donated dogs and regardless, he sounds very soft and sensitive... NOT a good candidate for old-school, military style training. Are there any bull breed rescues in your area you could reach out to for help?

    And FWIW, a non-discriminatory insurance co./agent could help you switch your existing policy..
  17. monkeys23

    monkeys23 GRCH Dog

    Sounds like he needs a suitable active home with experience in the breed.

    The military breeds and imports very specifically bred dogs. Even with that there is a pretty high washout rate because of how demanding the work is. There is no reason for them to even try using some random byb pet bull mix dog. Now there have been detection dogs in police departments who were rescued, such as Popsicle: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/CustomsToday/2002/October/k9.xml
  18. ~Missy~

    ~Missy~ Snaptastic

    Hope y'all don't mind but I posted these on my FB wall...I included the "See More" link at the bottom. :)
  19. marny

    marny Puppy

    Thankyou for this imformation. I habe often thought the term its all in how they are raised wasnt right. I have seen very well socilised young dogs development dog agression as they maturd and even well human socialised dog never let go of strangrr danger tendancies.


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