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.
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.
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'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.
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'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.