The first step in improving the reputation of the breeds we love is to show the public that we, the owners of such animals, are law-abiding citizens. Educate yourself on the dog laws in your area of residence. Be sure to license or register your dog as required, and obey all collar and leash laws. Are there any regulations specific to your particular breed of choice, such as fencing or insurance requirements? If so, be sure to comply with them, unfair though they may be. Show your disagreement with such laws by contacting your government representatives, not by becoming a law-breaker!
TIP: Check out your state's official website and follow links to the legislative pages. You can also follow the government links to find out how your representatives vote on animal control issues.
BREED RESPONSIBLY (...or, better yet, don't breed at all!)
Also of great importance in the preservation of stigmatized breeds is careful breeding to bring out the best they have to offer, as well as avoiding unnecessary or unwise breeding. Veterinarians highly recommend waiting until two years of age and having both dogs' hips checked for soundness before breeding. It's also a good idea to have other health tests done, especially if certain health problems are prominent in your breed of choice. Before you decide to take the final step, however, objectively assess your dog's personality. If the animal has been needlessly aggressive or unstable at any time, DO NOT BREED!
Another EXTREMELY important factor to consider when deciding whether or not to breed is where the pups will go. It's hearbreaking to think of those sweet, wiggling balls of energy ending their lives unwanted in an animal shelter, torn apart in a fighting pit, or abused by cruel owners. Some questions to consider:
- Are you CERTAIN you will be able to find good homes for your pups? What will you do if you cannot find buyers for them all?
- Are you willing to CAREFULLY screen prospective owners to insure that they are loving and responsible? Are you willing to ask for veterinary references, landlord approval, and other references?
- Are you willing to remain in contact with purchasers to insure that your pups are well-cared-for and to answer any questions or concerns the new owners may have?
- Are you willing to have ALL purchasers sign a contract requiring them to return the dog to you if they cannot keep it or no longer want it? Are you williing to take back an unhealthy or unwanted dog, no matter how long the purchaser has had it?
If you cannot answer a definite "Yes" to ALL of the above questions, DO NOT BREED!
If you do plan to breed your dog, select a mate with good temperament and sound health. Inquire about the health history of the potential mate and its ancestors. Be willing to pay for veterinary health screenings, such as hip and eye certifications, if they have not already been performed on the dog. Observe the animal's behavior and question its owner: Does it get along with other dogs? Is it good with children? Is it friendly and outgoing? If the potential mate has been bred before, try to locate some of the offspring, if possible, to see how they turned out.
And if you don't plan to breed your dog...
PLEASE SPAY OR NEUTER YOUR PET!
RAISE A GOOD CITIZEN
The most important step in being a responsible owner of a stigmatized breed is making sure your pet doesn't live up to the stigma! Start when your dog is just a pup... be consistent, be firm but gentle, and be diligent, and you will have a well-socialized, fine representative of the breed.
+ Introduce your pet to a variety of friendly strangers and dogs -- frequent strolls around the neighborhood are perfect for this. Offer your dog a treat each time a person or dog approaches, and he or she will soon associate such encounters with good things!
+ Be a calm but in-control leader. You are the alpha dog, your family are the high-ranking members, and your neighbors and friends are also part of your dog's extended pack. Enforce this perception through GENTLE discipline and control. Use a firm but controlled voice when issuing commands, and make your pet earn treats or special privileges by performing tricks or obeying you. As long as your pet considers himself to be a low-ranked but loved member of society, he will respect humans and not challenge them (unless, of course, one of his pack is threatened!).
+ Discourage aggressive behavior. If your pup plays too roughly, say "Stop!" or "Ouch!", or yelp like a puppy, immediately stop the game, and step away for a few moments. This is the same method his mother and littermates would use to tell him his behavior is unacceptable. The loss of your attention will act as a punishment to your playful pet. Do not resume play until your dog has calmed down.
+ Training, training, training! Obedience classes are available for all levels and stages of life, from basic puppy training to specialized skill training. Many national pet store chains, such as SuperPetz and PetsMart, offer excellent classes at times to fit virtually any schedule. You can also try asking your veterinarian, groomer, or a dog-owning friend for a recommendation.