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— June 25, 2013 —

It’s not ALL in how you raise them.
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

Many dogs who are “raised” properly end up with behavioral problems. Many very abused dogs turn out just fine.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it, “There are no bad dogs. It’s all in how you raise them.” While I love the sentiment behind this statement, I can’t completely agree with it as a fact. How a dog is raised early in life is important, but to attribute every thing to their upbringing does dogs a great disservice.

As a guy who has had a couple of problem dogs, I prefer to point out that it’s very important how you manage your dog on a day-to-day basis. Saying, “It’s all in how you raise” the dog gives the false impression that once you raise and train your puppy, your job is finished, that once you have an adult dog, you can just forget about all that work. This would be wrong. Training and management never ends. You will have to train, manage and yes, “raise” your dog for his entire life. If you subscribe to the, “raise them right” mentality, you will possibly end up putting your dog into situations where bad things can happen. Even good dogs have their limits. A well-raised dog may still not like a toddler climbing all over them. A well-raised dog may not react well to a stranger giving him a kiss on his face. Knowing your dogs limits and managing them properly can prevent issues in situations where even a well-rasied dog may bite or snap.

Another issue with the “how you raise them” philosophy is the poor dog sitting in a shelter. In 2012 PetSmart Charities did a study of people who had recently acquired a dog and “you never know what you are going to get with a shelter animal” was cited as a main reason for not adopting. See, no one knows how the shelter dog was raised. There is a common perception that if you didn’t raise them from a puppy, a dog may suddenly turn into a monster or develop bad behaviors. This is simply not true. If you meet an adult dog, there are very good methods to determine what his temperament will likely be. While nothing is foolproof, not adopting a dog because you don’t know how he was raised should not dissuade you from adopting. Unless we change the, “It’s all in how you raise them” mentality, many great dogs will end up dying in shelters because people are just too afraid to adopt them.

Lastly, we all know about dogs that were most definitely NOT raised right. We know that some of the disgraced football player’s fighting dogs, whose name I won’t soil my computer screen with, went on to become therapy dogs. Dog fighting and properly raising dogs do not go hand in hand. We know that many of these dogs were abused horribly, yet went on to be extremely friendly, trustworthy dogs. I have personally known rescued fighters who were some of the most amazing dogs ever. We used to take Dutch to The Taste of Randolph yearly as a demo dog. He was a client’s dog and has passed now, but he was amazing with everyone he met…adults, kids, you name it. Dutch was most certainly not raised right before his final, committed owner took him in.

So, the next time you hear someone comment that, “It’s all in how they are raised” maybe take a little time to help them see things a little differently.