Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vicious dogs? What are you talking about?

When I was eight years old, my mom and dad drove out one Valentine's Day and came back with a loving gift for our entire family. A puppy.

But not just any puppy.

This was the cutest, fuzziest puppy I'd ever seen. Black with a fluffy coat and a purple tongue, it look more like a teddy bear or a lion than a dog. We named him Taz, like the Tasmanian Devil from the cartoon, and he became a beloved member of our family.

Taz was a breed known as a Chow Chow. Until we got him, I'd never heard of the breed, so all I knew about Chow Chows was what I learned from Taz.

They make great pillows. They are good foot warmers. They like to cuddle. They are warm. You can brush them for hours and it never gets boring. They like treats. You can teach them lots of tricks and they learn quickly. They like oatmeal, and love eating it from a spoon rather than from a bowl. They like to sleep under the covers, head on a pillow. Kisses are a daily requirement before any person is allowed to leave the house.

It wasn't until he was fully grown that we learned that not everyone loves Chow Chows. We moved to a house in a quiet neighborhood in Jacksonville, and my sister and I were walking him.  We were, of course, scrawny and undersized children. Small, blonde, not the kind of kids you'd expect to see walking around a giant lion dog unattended. But like I said, Taz was a giant teddy bear. He was gentle, walked by your side, never pulled the leash. He was a good dog. When we were out one day, a woman stopped us and asked if she could pet him. (We learned later she lived three houses down and her name was Suzanne. Mom never liked her.)

Taz loved to be pet. A pat on the head was second only to a good belly rub in his world, so we told her of course. She praised him and then asked, "What kind of dog is he? He's so good!"

"He's a Chow Chow," we told her.

She snatched her hand away."A Chow Chow? Your parents let you walk him alone? They're dangerous!" 

I remember being confused. How was a Chow Chow dangerous? Taz didn't bite people. I'd never even heard him growl at someone before. We told her, "He's not dangerous. He's a good dog." We told her about how the Twins rode him around like a horse. She was appalled that our parents would have a "vicious dog" in a house with four small girls. 

She hurried away.

Every time we took Taz our for a walk, someone would comment about how it was dangerous to let us walk him alone. One man even escorted us home and told Dad that he was "concerned the dog would turn on them. Haven't you heard about these dogs?"

Our dog would turn on us? 

What were these people seeing when they were looking at Taz? 

Is that the face of a dangerous dog about to turn on his little girls at any moment? What exactly where they seeing that seemed so dangerous? Sure, he looks like a lion, but not in a dangerous way! But all of these people seemed so worried!

Dad did some research.

So it turned out that Chow Chows had a bad rap. They were considered high risk breeds. Something about extreme aggression.

Well you know what?

It's bullshit. Straight up bullshit. That dog never in his life showed a hint of aggression. He loved children and adults. Yeah, he was a guard dog. The one time he ever tried acted viciously, and he was protecting our house from someone trying to break in through our back door. It was unfortunate for that man that Taz was sleeping in the den by the back door that night. (He normally slept in bed with us. I can't remember why he was in the den that night, but I'm sure glad he was!)

That Chow Chow was raised in a home with four little girls constantly underfoot, ranging from ages  five to nine. Our cousins were often over for visits, ranging from ages four to thirteen. Friends from school parading through, our parents' friends. A constant flow of people in and out of the house. Taz never so much as showed his teeth in anything other than a welcoming smile. 

And you can sit there and tell me, "Well, you had the one good Chow Chow. Most of them are dangerous! They've killed people."

My answer?

There are no such things as bad dogs, just bad owners.

You can take any dog of any breed and turn it vicious. You could make a Boston vicious if you were so inclined. It's not in the genes of the dog, it's in the personality of the owner. I've known lots of Chow Chows in my life, and they were all beautiful specimens and a credit to their breed. Polite, loving, cuddly, and loyal. 

I've always said that when I live in a house and I have a yard, I'm going to get another Chow Chow. When we took Penny to her first vet visit, there was a golden Chow Chow in the office. I got really excited and I commented to the owner, "What a beautiful Chow Chow! They're such great dogs!"

She answered, "Are they? I just got him from a pound because he's so pretty! Everyone's been telling me they're really bad pets because they're mean! You're the first person who had something nice to say."

I snorted, "They are not mean! They're great furry children! Anyone who told you that has clearly never owned one. I grew up with a Chow Chow, and he was the best dog ever!"

When I commented to Padawan that I intended to get another one, he said, "Chanel, those are really aggressive dogs. Do you want to risk Choo Choo?'

I berated him for listening to stupidity. German Shepards and Rottweilers have the same reputation for aggression and violence, and my family has owned both. They were all well trained, well behaved, gentle dogs.

I've read articles that claim that Chow Chows do not obey well, that they tend to dominate their owners, that they are difficult to train.  I don't know who these people are or what the heck they've been doing with their dogs, but if I could train my Chow Chow to sit, lay down, roll over, and shake within two months as an eight year old, then surely experienced dog owners could do better! As for the saying that they are dogs with the personality of cats, I've never met a Chow Chow who fit the description, and Taz most certainly didn't! 

So if you're ever out on the street and you see a dog that the media says is "vicious", pause for a moment before you hurry to get away and think. There is no such thing as a vicious breed of dog. Every dog is different, and every owner is different. Before you label that dog as dangerous, wait and see what it does. Every dog deserves a chance at happiness, and imagine how you would feel if people shrank away from you because they thought you might be dangerous. 


  1. I've heard that about so many different breeds. I had a friend once who owned a pair of Dobermans. They wore spiked collars and looked mean as heck. But actually they were very sweet loving dogs who loved attention and chin scratches. It all depends on how they are raised.

    1. Dobermans are smart dogs! And they love people! There's a Doberman at the dog park that Choo Choo is in love with, and I admit he looks a little dangerous with those pointy, cropped ears, but he's a sweetheart.

    2. My sister owned four chows simultaneously. Pharaoh, Misha, Nikko and Rowdy. Every last one of them were/are great pets, loving furry balls of fluffy fun. Misha, the only female was a bit aggressive but only if she did not know you. Once you rubbed her belly, it was all over...friends for life. She( my sister) is down to only two as the others had aged to the point where she had to put them down. Nikko and Rowdy are still here and they get big pets and hugs and lovin's from me fact they whimper until they get some affection. My sister is a hair stylist and Nikko MUST rub himself all over your wet hair or he cries until you do. It's the most bizarre thing I have ever seen a dog do, but I oblige him every time my sister does my hair. Dog's are as good as there owners...period. Taz is a great name BTW.

  2. "Kisses are a daily requirement before any person is allowed to leave the house."

    *groan* :)

    My Curly was part Rottweiler, and I'm sure you know the reputation that they have. And yet, she was nicest, sweetest, dog ever. It's true what you say about dog owners. Pit bulls have a bad rap too, and I know some people that get them purposely because they WANT a viscous dog. Then they antagonist it to make it even more viscous. Behind every bad dog, there's probably a bad owner.

    1. Even so, bad dogs can be rehabilitated. Most shelters don't even give the a chance! They euthanize puppies rather that try to find them homes out here! If you find a stray pit bull or a rottie or any "vicious" breed, you'd better find it a home yourself or keep it around because it's instant death to take it to a shelter.

  3. Awww!!! That big chow chow is so stinkin' sweet-looking, I just wanna hug him! It's hard to know why so many people will shun a particular breed of dog. ALL dogs can be vicious if they are raised to be that way. PEOPLE can be vicious too.

    I've always loved the "gentle giant" types. They make me smile. :)

    1. Chow Chows are the sweetest dogs! I don't see how anyone could be afraid of one, but there you have it.

      And a lot of people ARE vicious. And jerks.

  4. HOOOOOMG. don't even get me started. German Shepherds are considered 'dangerous breeds' in Massachusetts. We had to get her insured. I'm serious. We almost couldn't rent our house, but luckily our landlord is a decent human being and let her stay as long as we had insurance for her. Then HIS insurance came out to inspect the property, saw Holly (our Shepherd), and started threatening to drop our landlord (oh, and according to our landlord, "apparently you guys have three dogs now." yeah. the insurance guy can't even COUNT.) Thank god our landlord was so understanding.

    Thankfully (or so I heard), Massachusetts is going to drop those rules NOT because they're ridiculous, but apparently because you can't discriminate against people for what kind of dog they own. Whatevz. I'm just glad it's never gonna be an issue ever again. So good on you, Massachusetts, no matter what kind of logic you have to use to get there.

    Can I get on another tangent about chow chows? They're GORGEOUS, and sweet—my neighbor had one. But my dog (Apollo the German Shepherd/Lab mix) has a spotted tongue. A lot of people have asked me if he's a chow. I say no. They move on. But one time at the vet this guy comes up to me and says, "Is he a chow?" I give my standard "No, a lot of people ask that, but he's straight Shepherd/Lab." "Well," he says, "He MUST be chow. I've never seen ANY other dog with a spotted tongue other than a chow."

    ....well then.

    Just because YOU, in your small little life, have never seen any other dog with a spotted tongue (and how many dogs' mouths have you really looked into in your life? what are you, a doggie dentist?), means YOU get to determine what my dog is?

    also: pit bulls. We have a the loveliest, sweetest, most non-aggressive pit bull you've ever seen in your life in our neighborhood. The problem is that this lovely pit bull keeps running into our yard (we have an electric fence for our dogs). HE may be lovely and sweet, but Holly is not keen on ANY animal (squirrel, rabbit, fieldmouse, gnat) running into her yard, let alone another dog. So we put up a fence. Not to keep our dogs in. But to keep other dogs OUT. It's ridiculous.


    1. Yeah, I don't know who first decided that German Shepards were vicious, but I have never met one that wasn't sweet and loving, and we loved out Baby from the first day she came to us until she left. And I HAVE seen another dog with a spotted tongue. It was a Lab mix, so perhaps there's something rare in Labs that crops up every now and again. I know the PURPLE specifically is only a Chow Chow trait. As for that man, maybe he just likes to smell doggy breath. You should ask him if you ever see him again. Or you could say, "Actually he's part grizzly bear."

      Pit bulls are great. They are forbidden in our Apartment complex, but that doesn't make a difference. People own them. I haven't got a problem with any except this one. And it's not because it's a pit bull, it's because this one is straight up mean. Which, again, wouldn't really bother me. Except that the owner takes it out without a leash. One day she was on her cell phone, talking away as she ignored her dog,and I was walking Choo Choo and then it snarled and came charging at her. I scooped up the Choo Choo and swung out my leg. I caught the poor thing in the chest but I had to hold it there with a lot of force because it was snarling and snapping and trying to get at my dog. At least the girl was sorry. She apologized, but really. All you have to do is keep your dog on a leash! That's the LAW!

      Sorry, I had my own rant. I'd like a Pit Bull, one day. One that will walk on a leash and obey commands and love Chihuahuas.

    2. I'm so, so sorry that happened to Choo Choo—having another dog charge you is one of the scariest things in the world. And no apology can make up for it. Here goes Rant 2: I don't care WHAT kind of dog you own, keep the damn thing on a leash. It doesn't matter if your dog is sweet and loving. A.) Not all dogs are sweet and loving, or even okay with other dogs. Our Holly's the sweetest thing on four legs when it comes to kids/humans/dogs she's been introduced to, but any strange dog is an enemy. Your dog may be sweet as pie. That doesn't mean MINE is when your dog comes charging up to us. B.) Not all people are cool with dogs. I know people—grown 6-foot men, even—who are TERRIFIED of dogs. That's not their fault. They probably had a bad experience as a kid. Whatevz. They've got a right to their own fears. But they shouldn't have to live in fear of people with unleashed dogs.



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