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?
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.