Is it OK to breed a dog that wants to kill other dogs?
“No!” seems like the most sensible answer, because:
- dog-directed aggression tends to run in breedlines
- dog aggression is a problem in society, which puts innocent dogs and their owners at risk, and most dog owners find it difficult to manage
- dog aggression is a common reason for surrender of pet dogs to shelters, and dog aggressive dogs are difficult to rehome
However, the answer is not so clear cut in dog breeder communities on social media (and probably offline too). A breeder may ask a question along the lines of:
- I have this wonderful dog meant for breeding, but he tries to kill my other dog / other intact male dogs / some but not all stranger dogs. Would it be wrong to breed him for that reason? He is otherwise perfect for my breeding program.
- I am in a breed where DA (dog-aggression) and SSA (same sex aggression) is common. How do other breeders in DA/SSA-inclined breeds manage their dogs, so they don’t fight / kill each other?
“Don’t breed a dog-aggressive dog” seems like a rare answer in dog breeding communities. The typical answer is “it depends on the breed“.
It would be wrong to breed a DA Cavalier, everybody agree, because they are not supposed to be aggressive. However, if DA and SSA is typical in the breed (and perhaps is even part of the breed standard), like in the APBT, then it is OK. Manage the dogs with crate & rotate, kennels, and so on, and for God’s sake don’t let them escape. That would be irresponsible.
Some people say they’ve left certain breeds due to how enthusiastically the breeders and owners not only tolerated DA, but embraced it and seemed proud of it, like it was some sort of tribe membership badge of honour (to be fair, many people leave breeds because they don’t like their cultures, which can be for many reasons).
Breeders and breed cultures create the justification for BSL (Breed Specific Legislation)
The view amongst breeders and breed enthusiasts that DA and SSA is acceptable in certain breeds, and the perpetuation of breed specific DA based on that view, is what ultimately justifies and drives draconian dog management solutions like BSL. Because if DA is acceptable in certain breeds, and those breeds pose a serious risk to other dogs, then it ought to be OK for society to ban those breeds to protect the safety, freedom, and welfare of other dogs and their owners in the community.
I’d also like to point out that while DA is heritable, it is also contageous. Attacked, traumatised, and sometimes just frequently threatened dogs often become dog reactive, even when they wouldn’t have been otherwise. DA spreads in society like a virus.
BSL is a band aid solution to a problem created and perpetuated by breeders who, generation after generation, continue to chose to breed dogs with DA tendencies, in breeds where DA is already common.
These “acceptable dogs” or their descendants (pure or mixed), eventually end up in homes of ordinary dog owners who don’t necessarily understand the breeds and their management requirements.
They may end up in shelters and adopted out to new owners, who don’t actually want a DA dog with complex management requirements (because few dog owners do), but who may either be unaware of the risks, or believe that “it is all in how you raise them” – the commonplace belief that dogs are born as blank slates, but may become aggressive if they’re treated badly… until restored to a neutral “just a dog” version through love and training.
These dogs may be taken to dog parks, walked off leash, be adopted into homes with other dogs, where everything may seem fine for the first 3 months or 5 years or whatever… until the bomb goes off. Because this dog actually required careful management and breed awareness due to choices made by breeders in the past; choices that continue to be made, generation after generation.
- Breeders: “DA and SSA is OK in my breed because it is breed typical. Dog owners just need to understand the breed and manage their dog responsibly”
- Dog lovers and pet rescuers: “It is all in how you raise them!” (“Let’s go to the dog park!”)
See the problem? I sure do