“It’s All About How You Raise Them”

In 2007, Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting. Somewhere around 50 dogs were taken from his property, the majority of them being Pit Bull Terriers.

About half of his fighting dogs spent their lives chained to buried car axels, just out of reach of one another, and most of them were in poor physical health. At his property there were rape racks(devices used to restrain a bitch so a dog can mate with her without being attacked), a fighting pit, and blood-stained carpets. Dogs that did not perform well were killed, either by hanging, drowning, or being repeatedly slammed against the ground until they died. While I don’t know the specifics about the upbringings of these dogs, I think we can all agree on one thing – it was probably not good. I highly doubt that Vick spent time socializing, petting, and playing with each and every one of these 50-something fighting dogs.

And yet, of all the dogs taken from his fighting ring, you know how many had to be euthanized due to aggression?

One. Just one.

Many of Vicks dogs have gone on to earn their CGC’s(Canine Good Citizenship), some are therapy dogs, some are beloved family pets.

And this is why I feel the overwhelming desire to slam my head against a wall when people say “It’s all about how you raise the dog,” or “Blame the owners, not the dogs.” Clearly Michael Vicks dogs were not raised in the happy, loving environment that true dog lovers will provide. So if it’s all about how you raise the dog, why were Vicks dogs not vicious man-killers? Why is it, then, that people who have done everything right sometimes end up with dogs that are aggressive?

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I've ever known.

Kai, a dog I fostered a while back. She had been chained for so long that the chain had grown into the back of her neck and had to be removed. She was one of the happiest and friendliest dogs I’ve ever known.

It’s because of genetics, the driving force of who we are. Genetics is why reputable Border Collie breeders only breed together good working dogs – to produce more good working dogs. Genetics is why you can’t breed together a dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” with another dog whose instincts say “kill sheep” and expect to get a great trial dog from the litter. Genetics is why no breeder in their right mind is going to breed together two aggressive dogs. Genetics is why reputable breeders will only breed dogs of sound body and mind.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that environment/upbringing does not play a big role in a dogs behavior, because it certainly does! However, “nature vs. nurture” with dogs is something to be covered in another post.

The point of this post is to explain that it is absolutely absurd to claim that all aggressive dogs are simply products of bad upbringing. The saying “it’s all about how you raise them” leads so many people to think they can go buy puppies from backyard breeders and then expect them to all grow up to have stable temperaments as long as they are raised right, and that is just not always the case.

“It’s all about how you raise them” is nothing more than a dangerous myth.

7 thoughts on ““It’s All About How You Raise Them”

  1. Couldn’t agree more! Of course it is important to properly raise your dogs. But people are often completely setting aside how important breeding is. I don’t know if it’s general ignorance or if the anti-breeder mentality among many rescue people is just that strong, but regardless of why, it is indeed dangerous to essentially claim that anyone can raise a good dog no matter what (or no matter what breed!).

    I love pit bulls. Always have and always will. But over-doing it with the positive press and greatly exaggerating claims is hurting these dogs just as much. It’s getting to the point where it’s becoming misinformation, albeit mostly unintentional. I’ve seen rescues pushing that pit bulls are basically the greatest family dogs and love everyone. That isn’t consistently true for any breed, and why would you perpetuate it with a breed that already has issues with uninformed and inexperienced owners that cause problems for the rest of us? We need to be realistic in trying to fix the images of these breeds. We’re not going to succeed with the same sensationalist tactics that helped get them here in the first place.

    Great post. Thank you!

  2. I loved this post, I completely agree…I myself have a Border Collie, who came from a bad home, but you would not find a more happy, soppy dog. Nature V Nurture. I like that.

  3. Excellent post!
    I hear people in rescue say “it’s all about how you raise them” all the time. What are we telling the public? That shelter dogs are all going to be aggressive because majority of them have had less than desirable upbringings??? I find when I question people on this they have no idea what to say back, literally no words, because they are just spouting whatever they’ve seen on facebook.
    Agree with everything in PetPonderers post as well, well said.

  4. really intresting post, though Ive never had an aggressive dog, I certainly know they have thier own personalites and propensities that have nothing to do with my influence.

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