I love dogs.
I’ve owned a number of dogs over the years, from poodles to Doberman pinschers, and enjoyed every one of them.
When I was studying journalism in Toronto many years ago, I worked with a veterinarian to help make ends meet during those financially hard student years.
I was in charge of running the kennels and I had the privilege to work with many varieties of dogs during my time there.
We humans have created many breeds of dogs to meet our needs since we domesticated wolves thousands of years ago, and now there are hundreds of breeds, each specialized to a particular task.
The huge Irish wolfhound was bred for, as its name suggests, hunting wolves, beagles specialize in hunting rabbits and, believe it or not, poodles were actually first bred as duck hunters.
What struck me in the kennels was that, while there’s no doubt that individual dogs certainly have their own personalities, members of different breeds all tend to have specific characteristics that stand them apart from other breeds.
Border collies, for example, were bred to herd livestock and when you see them in action, it becomes quite apparent that they are hard wired to the task.
Even while in a house, I’ve noticed that border collies always tend to move in circles when they are excited; as if they were in a field herding sheep.
That’s why I find it so hard to understand why people who own dogs that are considered aggressive breeds, such as American pit bull terriers, get so defensive when local governments enact special bylaws to restrict them in their communities.
There is a reason why these dogs are required to be leashed and/or muzzled in many jurisdictions.
It’s not that they are not loving and affectionate to their owners and the families they live with, it’s what they are capable of that concerns authorities.
During my time in Toronto, I lived with a group of guys who had a pit bull terrier as a pet.
The dog was great with everybody in the house and everyone loved its company.
But when the pit bull terrier saw another dog on the street from the front window, its eyes would glaze over and a kind of Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde transformation would occur.
The dog would start snarling and baring its teeth and lunge at the window in an effort to get at the dog on the street.
It was scary and completely out of character for the sweet little dog that we experienced most of the time.
I could only imagine what would have happened to the poor, unsuspecting dog on the street if our dog was able to get through the window.
I know there’s an ongoing debate over whether it’s the owners’ fault if dogs are aggressive, or whether it’s the nature of the dog that matters.
I also know that many will take exception to my suggestion that some dog breeds will be more aggressive than others, regardless of how well they are raised.
But, when you have spent as much time as I have with so many different breeds of dogs, it’s not hard to see the differences and similarities in them according to what breed they are.
As said, humans have bred the characteristics into each breed that were needed at the time.
It’s not politically correct in the modern era to remind people that bull-baiting and dog fighting were, and still are in some parts of the world, quite popular.
But we have to live with the lingering impacts of that; including dealing with dog species that were originally bred to do these things.
And that’s why I have no problems with laws requiring some breeds of dogs to be muzzled and leashed while in public.
Robert Barron is a reporter with the Cowichan Valley Citizen. He can be reached at Robert.Barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com.