August 24, 2013

Misunderstood

|  Rylee  |
Back in February, we adopted Rylee from a no kill shelter in SE Portland. On a whim, we went to visit Rylee and saw a beautiful dog with a sweet face who immediately ran up to us and smushed her body into our laps.  She cuddled up next to Matt and began sneezing this goopy brown snot from her nose.  We later found out that she had kennel cough and Giardia. She had a lot going against her.  First off, she is a pit bull.  One of the most misunderstood breeds.  There was no history on her background or where she came from. She was really sick and in need of immediate care.  Most people probably would have run in the opposite direction and opted to purchase a labrador puppy who has way less "baggage."  Matt comes from a family of lab lovers (he had two growing up) so adopting a pit bull was way out of his comfort zone.  However, we both had this strong and unexplainable desire to adopt a pit bull. All I knew about the breed is that they have a 93% kill rate in shelters and are a highly stereotyped and misunderstood breed. A true underdog. 
|  The day we met Rylee.  Love at first sight for these two!  |
Most of our family and friends (and people we pass on walks that give us suspicious looks) wonder why we adopted a pit bull. Children playing on the side walk are called away as we approach them with our friendly, tail wagging dog.  Little do they know that pit bulls were once referred to as a "nursemaid's dog" because they are so reliable with young children. We have been asked many times we why adopted a pit bull. I wonder how often people with labrador or golden retrievers get asked that question?  One person told us that we don't look like typical pit bull owners. Long story short, the pit bull is a highly stereotyped breed, which is the result of poor dog ownership.  It saddens me that we live in an educated society with Google at our finger tips, but people continue to "buy" the media portrayal of these dogs.  Before we pass judgement - we need to educate ourselves on the subject.  Matt and I are still in the process of educating ourselves on this breed.  We dove in head first, without a clue what we were getting ourselves into.  We adopted a people loving dog who will let anyone through the front door, but has had very little interaction with dogs.  As a result she is pretty clueless when it comes to socializing with dogs. 

We sought the help of a dog professional (trainer) - Dave Wave and have already learned so much more about not only this dog, but this breed.  Rylee has been living with Dave and his pack of dogs and is learning how to be a social girl.  This coming week we will begin our process of training Rylee at home. Our journey with Rylee is a work in progess which I will continue to share as we move forward.  Our motto: "the easy path is boring, step out on a limb and watch how much you grow."

To further answer the question regarding why we rescued a pit bull, I think this video sheds light on our desire to save a dog who is misrepresented and how that life can be turned around:

Click HERE for the youtube video featuring Wallace the Pit Bull

|  Image via Wallace the Pit Bull  |

Educational Pit bull resources:

10 comments:

  1. Rylee is a beautiful girl and I love working with her

    Delete
  2. Hi Kelley, Rylee is beautiful! And you sound like a wonderful, caring dog "mom"... Rylee is a lucky girl!

    Kelley, I want to take a moment to let you know how incredibly important it is that you carefully - very carefully - choose a trainer for your dog. Dog training is a professional vocation, and the professional you choose to trust with your beloved Rylee should be certified, insured and bonded. Certification ensures that your professional dog trainer has a strong understanding of the principles of psychology and learning (written exam) and also pursues Continuing Education to remain certified and keep that knowledge and those skills sharp. For example: http://www.ccpdt.org/ This is one of the most highly regarded and well-known certification programs in the world.

    It's critically important that your trainer understand how to modify behavior using proven methodology. Dogs who are trained with Positive Punishment (leash corrections, shock collars, prong collars for example) or Dominance Theory (establishing an Alpha leader) have merely been taught to suppress their behavior to avoid pain or conflict; the underlying behavior has not been changed.

    For lovely Rylee's sake, please ask your trainer what methods he uses, and if he is certified, bonded and insured. To learn more about why Punishment and Dominance theory should be avoided at all costs, I can direct you to the highly-regarded American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior's Position Statements. There is much detail here about Punishment, Dominance Theory, and detailed information about how to choose a dog trainer. http://avsabonline.org/resources/position-statements

    Thanks for listening, Kelley... may you and Rylee have a wonderful, happy life together!

    Delete
    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment and for your opinions. I will check out the AVSAB website.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your reply, Kelley! The AVSAB website has fantastic information, and is of course a highly respected organization of professionals, with the highest credentials, education and expertise in animal behavior. Their Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Veterinary-Society-of-Animal-Behavior/44964919559

      One more wonderful resource to share with you is a Facebook page focused on training and Pit Bulls... https://www.facebook.com/yourpitbullandyou

      Delete
    3. Hi Kelley, Rylee sure is beautiful, and lucky to have you for a pet parent. I also have a pit bull type dog. He is three and a half now, and we have had him since he was a puppy. He is the love of our life. I may not be the typical stereotypical pit bull type dog owner either. I also think these dogs may not be the right fit for everyone. That may sound odd coming from another pet parent of a pit bull type dog, but there is a greater responsibility ensuring these dogs are presented in the most positive light possible at all times. Their futures depend on it.

      With this responsibility also comes the task of finding the right help for ourselves and our dogs to make sure they have the opportunity to be taught using positive methods. This is how dogs learn best. And the dominance model for behavior is outdated, flawed, and should Never be used. Forcing our dogs to behave in a certain way may appear to work for a short time but it fails to teach them what we do want from them, and how to fit into our family. There are many qualified certified dog trainers in this area who use positive reinforcement training.

      It sounds like Rylee may be dog selective, or may not have a lot of experience with other dogs. That doesn't make her any less of a dog in any way. Some dogs live happily without living with other dogs. This isn't something that should be forced upon her to fit someone's idea of what is right for her. Slow and steady wins the race. Be careful of people who call themselves dog whisperer's, pack leaders, or who use punishment to train dogs. There is a whole world of pit bull type dog lovers out here who do Not believe in dog whisperer's. If you love your dog, and I'm sure you do, do Not be fooled by people using these methods. There is a wonderful facebook page called Your Pit Bull and You. Take a look. You will be happy to find a whole world of positive people to share things with, and get advice from. We are all learning and continue to grow. Please use a trainer that is committed to positive reinforcement training for Rylee.

      Thanks for listening.

      Delete
    4. I appreciate you taking the time to comment on my post and share your thoughts. I will definitely check out Your Pit Bull and You facebook page. I love finding new resources so thank you for sharing!

      Delete
  3. It sounds like your relationship with Rylee will be very powerful in both your lives.

    You might enjoy this recent blog article with a new perspective on pittie adoptions: http://www.aspcapro.org/blog/2013/08/07/they-want-em-they-really-do.

    With her complex and somewhat unknown background, you might want to consider a behaviorist with a veterinary background for Rylee, or make sure that your trainer is coordinating with your veterinarian to take both the body and mind into account through this process that will impact that rest of all of your lives - they are just so intertwined. I would highly recommend Dr. Chris Pachel, Dr. Valli Parthasarathy, or Dr. Sulis at Mt. Tabor Veterinary Care.

    As a side note, I'm organizing free educational events for people who work and volunteer with animals - some of the topics might be of interest to you and your relationship with Rylee: http://animalcommunitytalks.weebly.com/upcoming-events.html.

    Delete
    1. Thank you for sharing these links and contacts. I am always looking for new resources so I appreciate you taking the time to share them with me.

      Delete
  4. As a fellow owner of two rescued pitties, I cannot agree with Anonymous more about finding the right trainer for you and your sweet girl. Dominance-based training may appear to be a quick fix but can be extremely dangerous long term. Suppressing a dog's means of communication will not build trust between you and your dog. What may seem like respect and obedience is fear and uncertainty. Your dog wants to learn but physically forcing them to behave a certain way is not teaching their brain to make positive decisions. Please be very careful and demand of your trainer that they show you their credentials and professional certifications. There is no magic bullet or "whispering" gene that can replace education and experience. I would also recommend that you ask your trainer about prior incidents in which dogs in their care were injured. Rehabilitation takes time and patience. The Vick dogs are a fantastic example and you will find that they were all trained using positive reinforcement. Thank you for listening. We all want nothing but the best for our dogs and to insure that we continue to break the stereotype. Which picture would you rather paint for those people and kids that you pass on the street? One of a pit bull wearing a prong collar and receiving jerks and corrections that feeds into the stereotype or one of the sweet pit bull that we know wearing a flat collar or harness responding to their owners kind words showing that physical force isn't necessary to control their dog?

    Delete
  5. What a beautiful pup. So glad you were able to give her a chance at a wonderful life.

    Delete