A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Owning dogs of a "mean" breed

So we think we have figured out what breed mix our puppies are.  Pit Bull and Rottweiler.  So this got me thinking about all the aggressive breed hate out there, since by owning these pups their public impression is something I have to consider.

I've owned many bully breeds in my life, most of them rottweilers but I have fostered others.  From mastiffs to ridgebacks, with some interesting designer hunting crosses ("pig dogs" a mix of pit and ridgeback being one of my favorites).  I've only ever had one planned litter of puppies in my life, and that was part of the agreement for me getting my Susie.  The stud was selectively picked (a therapy dog), and the puppies all were sold before they were born, into well vetted homes.  I won't even go into the heart break of sending the pups home!

My first dog I got from a pet store.  I didn't MEAN to, but I had 30 minutes to blow at the mall (I was researching costumes for colorguard, and waiting to meet someone) and so I stopped in to look at the cuteness.  One pup there called out to me.  It truly was love at first sight, and I spent the next 17 years with him at my side.  Every dog after that has been a rescue.  I've never picked my dogs based on breed.  I have a handful of criteria: large (around 100 pounds minimum), short hair, and intelligent.  Color, breed, gender... those things don't matter to me.

So, when we went to pick our puppies, I looked for the smartest ones in the litter.  Jae fell in love with Boba at first sight, but when I was told we could take 2, well... I looked and looked, and noticed the cute little blue male watching everything intently.  Now, a week later, I can honestly say that he's exactly what I wanted.  Jango reminds me of Susie in many ways, with a touch of Hobbes (that first dog of mine).  He's smart, he's willful, and he's harboring an inner wimp.  Boba on the other hand is very different.  He is social, transparent, and gregarious.  Together, they are exactly what Jae and I wanted.  I love Boba, but he's very much Jae's dog, and Jae loves Jango, but he's very much my dog.  The puppies even agree, since Boba won't cuddle with me, but will lay on Jae's lap as long as he can, and Jango cries for "mommy" when I walk out of his sight, even if he's with Jae.

We've been working with the pups to learn good manners.  They can't bite at us, they need to come when called, and they need to be properly socialized.  This means we introduce them to something new every day that we can.  Jango gets fearful of new things, but I can't coddle him as that would only prove to him that he's right.  Take the goats as an example.  When we took the puppies to the barn, Boba heard to goats, and got nervous, but trusted his humans' lack of fear to mean that it was ok.  Jango, on the other hand, saw the goats, and when one walked to the stall mesh, Jango feared for his life - tucking his tail and running out of the barn, across the barn yard, through the parking area, and heading for home as fast as his stubby legs would take him.  We got him stopped some where about 300 feet outside the barn, but if I had tried to reassure him, or pamper him, well... there's a good chance I would have a goat aggressive dog. Instead, I simply picked him up, and carried him back to the barn.  We walked past the goats again, and he shook in my arms, but I just ignored it, and kept moving, while allowing Jango to see the goats, and see his brother sniffing the goats, and realize that no one else was scared as he lived through the experience.  The next day, the goats were only a bit scary, but mostly interesting.

So, I'm making a very intense effort to properly socialize my puppies.  They are learning "no", learning "good boy!" and learning to stay with me.  Because we have 2 of them, we get to work on human/pack handling now too.  Things like sticking my hand into the puppies when they are playing.  They should submit, and never try to bite.  Getting distracted, and confusing me with a brother is BAD, and gets scary noises made.  (They hate the "unh UH!" noise already).

And yet, with all this training and effort to make sure that the boys are good dogs, I know that the biggest threat to them is their appearance.  Boba (the black) looks like a Rottweiler.  Jango (the blue) has a very strong physical resemblance to the pit bull side.  This means that when they grow up, people will judge them on news stories, and not on the dogs they have been raised to be.

If my puppies ever break out, and go running across town, they won't be treated the same as a labrador on the loose.  No, people are more likely to shoot them rather then look to see if their tails are wagging.  This means I also have to train my neighbors.  I mean, they are puppies, and I have a lot of land.  There's a good chance that at some point, one will run off when he's working off leash, and "terrorize' the neighbors.  I have made sure to mention that we have new puppies.  As they grow up, I will be sure to take them for walks (on leash) so people can see them with me, and know where they live.  I will also do my best to make sure they never get loose.

I figure that it's much better to have someone call me about the evil dog I didn't keep contained, and to get my butt chewed, then to find my dog shot and dead.  Sadly, because of their breeding, this is something I have to think about, and plan for.  Most of us have a break out at some point.  The pups are chipped, but will also have tags on their collars.

I'm also planning to train Jango to herd the horses.  Boba shows NO interest or talent in herding, but Jango does.  This means I will have to consider the opinions of my boarders, and I might loose some clients because of my puppies' breeds.  I figure it's a price I'm willing to pay.  You see, I have always done best with the strong willed breeds.  My only problem with pit bulls has been that they are too small for me.  I love my Great Dane, my Rottweilers, and get along with dogs who aren't overly sensitive, like Australian Cattle dogs.  Labs make me crazy, while they are good dogs, they are just not a breed for me (in general).  And the working dogs, like huskies or border collies... oh my.  I can only do a few hours at a time of those breeds.  I couldn't even foster them with out going crazy.  I don't like the bully breeds because of their reputation, I like them because of the traits that the breed was created - centuries ago - to have.

And because I now have puppies that I believe to be pit mixes, I did some research on pit bulls.  Until a few decades ago, the pit bull was considered to be one of the best family dogs available.  Rottweilers' protection instinct comes from their love for their humans... they are notorious for not guarding the house, but being willing to die for their person.  It's only recently that bad humans have made these breeds (and others) notorious for their aggression.  Just look at Petey from The Little Rascals, a pit bull.

My point is, no dog is born mean.  Sure, they have traits that are bred into them in the creation of their breed, but those traits were chosen for their usefulness.  As a dog owner, it is my job to manage my dog, and train him to be a good canine citizen.  This takes time, it takes effort, and it's work.  I can't just chain my dog out back, and expect him to learn everything.  But when a human does that, we so rarely blame the person, instead we blame the dog, and the dog's breeding.

Now, I'm not here to tell you that all bully bred dogs are great dogs and can be rehabilitated.  Some times people do more damage then anyone can fix.  It's sad, but true.  I'm just thinking that with the stereotypes these breeds have, I need to be sure and do a LOT of work to make my dogs safe.  I think of it as protecting them, Boba and Jango.  I'm very happy that in my small town, we have no laws against owning these breeds.  I can't imagine what I would do if my breeds were ever banned (law suit comes to mind though, as I would not take it quietly).  The dogs I have always worked best with are the exact breeds that keep getting outlawed!  To me, it would make more sense to punish the owners who don't properly train and handle their dogs, then punishing those who may prefer strong willed companions. 

I don't think of my puppies, nor my older dogs, as "mean".  In fact, I often joke about Susie, my Rottweiler, never having met a stranger.  She thinks all humans are her friends, and doesn't understand the idea of "protection", except when it comes to guarding the horses.  Moose, my Great Dane, would rather run away from strangers then even think of doing anything aggressive.  My best "guard dog" right now?  My fox hound!

I've just always known, since I was a young child, that in order to be a good dog owner, I had to make sure I have good dogs.  That means training, and lots of it.  The puppies are nothing but balls of cuteness right now, but in a few short weeks, they will start to mature.  I'm already training them.  I already take my duties as their caregiver seriously.  I already worry that the misdeeds of other people will cause problems for them.

I worry about my boys just like a parent worries about their child.  I wonder if they will make friends.  I worry that they won't be treated fairly.  I hope that they will have a bright future, and do all that I can to help them achieve that.  I love them.  To me, it doesn't matter that they speak in wuffs and whimpers, they are family.  I always wanted a large family.... of dogs, and again I have it.  I'm as happy as can be.  The boys are all that I had hoped for, and I wouldn't trade them for the world. 

Even if they are bed hogs.


  1. I am glad that you are doing your part to make ambassadors for the bully breed. I myself have an American Bulldog, and socialized the heck out of him, he was my horse dog, would leave all the barn animals alone. Even the dogs that would bark and carry on at him.  Some people unfortunately will see the breed, not the dog itself. 

  2. It's tough owning 'mean' breeds for sure. My biggest challenge with Herbie is other people's perception of her. She's not aggressive in the least, but I have to watch every interaction she has. If another dog goes after her, I have to worry that people will blame it on her for being a pit. Etc, etc.

  3. I love that you take the time to train and socialize them. They will be good dogs then.
    Sadly its the people that dont that give them a bad name.

  4. My mom has a husky that looks like a wolf. We have to be very careful trailriding with her or people will shoot her cause they think she is going to attack us or the horses. So when we go out we put a big orange vest on her. Also my husband is in the military and there is no military base in the world that will allow a bully breed on base. I love rots but until my husband retires we will never have one.