I belong to a “pit bull mom” Facebook group - yep, there really is a Facebook group for every topic - and while I was scrolling through cute photos and various posts yesterday evening, I stumbled upon something that got me thinking about a topic rarely discussed in the dog-parent community. But before we jump into that topic of conversation, let’s start with a little background information on what prompted my desire to share my thoughts.
A fellow pittie-mom posted about an experience she encountered while out walking her gorgeous, fawn-colored pup. She had her baby in her stroller and her pit bull walked calmly beside them on a leash. Out of nowhere, a small dog came barreling towards them, barking and baring his teeth, with no owner in sight. Her pittie, while well behaved is “dog-reactive” and here she was in a panic having to decide how best to protect both her baby and her dog. Thankfully, the owner of the little dog made its way outdoors before anything escalated and after exchanging a few choice words, everyone went about their day. No harm, no foul… right? Wrong….
She simply wanted to share her experience with fellow mom’s who would understand. Because the truth is, as responsible dog parents, this exact scenario has probably played out for most of us at some point or another. It happens all too often - dog parents of friendly dogs let their dogs run free because they’re “good dogs” without any thought to how other pups might not find their enthusiasm as welcoming. Being a dog parent comes with a huge set of responsibilities. Being a pit bull parent however, comes with an elevated level of responsibility simply because our dogs are pit bulls. We have to be extra vigilant in every aspect of their existence because the last thing we need is to have the carelessness of other dog owners fall on our shoulders. In this situation, if anything had escalated beyond what it was it would have undoubtedly been the pit bulls fault simply because of what she looks like.
As I was thumbing through mostly encouraging words from fellow dog moms, a few stood out that were actually placing the blame on the original poster - SHE HAD HER DOG ON A LEASH! The consensus was that her reactive dog clearly needed better training and socialization. Aside from the fact that this is completely inaccurate, it begs the question….. Why the shaming?
Dog mom shaming is a very real thing. In theory, it shouldn’t be that hard of a leap to make since it happens very frequently between parents to children of the human variety. But it happens and dog mom shamers have no qualms about making other dog moms feel inferior about their own parenting…. And for no good reason.
How we choose to raise, train and socialize our dogs can be a touchy subject because there are so many different avenues and methods to achieving our collective goal - to raise happy, healthy, well-mannered and well-behaved dogs. Sure, there are some methods of training I would personally never pursue and others that are downright abusive… but generally speaking, does it matter what route another dog mom takes if their pups are loved, happy and healthy?
The shaming doesn’t stop there. I’ve seen it everywhere because some seem to think it is okay to judge on a variety of topics including where and how someone’s pet was acquired - was it adopted, was it purchased? I’ve been told I’m an abusive dog mom because I often dress my dog in clothing… just for fun. The shaming happens over debates on what type of diet is best, what toys are good or bad…. The list goes on.
The truth is, every single dog is an individual. Every dog, depending on the breed will require different levels of exercise, different types of training, diets, etc. And even dogs of the same breed can have different needs because again, every dog is different. Shaming is not okay because for the most part, we are all doing the best we can. Dog parents should be sticking together, not trying to outsmart each other or outdo one another with the better-behaved dog. This isn’t a competition, rather a community. Why not share what we have learned through our personal experiences and do the best to educate one another in a way that is communicative rather than combative? Because the reality is that what is best for my dog may not be what is best for yours…. And that’s OKAY! At the end of the day, we all love our dogs…. Do we not? And that’s what should matter.