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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

It Isn't Just A Pit Bull Thing. Cattledogs Get It Too!

OK, OK, I know. A lot of my friends have or work with or volunteer for Pitbull type dogs.  Two of Artie's bestest friends are pit-type dogs.
The Spousal Unit with Kinners: two guys hangin' out.

Oreo: he's down with that!  Artie loves him!

The boys check out Co
usin Artie
So yes, we have contact with many "big heads."  And we love our pit-type friends.  We hear the stories, the misconceptions, the comments about them.

I've been a lot of places where there are dogs and now because of my exposure to pit-types, I don't have any pre-conceived notions.  It's a dog with a (usually) square head, period. I ask if I can pet etc. just as I would with any dog.  And I've done events with a pit-type on my arm, so to speak, and have educated and advocated for them for years now.

I think I've heard darn near every comments a person can make about pit-type dogs and I'm here to tell you, it runs the gamut from "Awesome" to "Satanic."

I've heard, "You can't trust 'em, not one of 'em," to "Best damn dog my family ever had!"

What is fascinating to ME, personally, is for as many bad or  fearful stories that people tell, I've heard an almost equal amount of curious, respectful questions to misty-eyed memoirs to powerful stories of love and loyalty.

I can honestly say (if the locale is pretty neutral) that the nice comments or questions run about anywhere from 40-75% of what I've heard if the dog I'm with is a nice, mellow dog or goofy, happy dog.

The negatives just seem louder than the neutrals and positives.

Now folks who have pit types wail and gnash (rightly so) about how misunderstood their dogs are.  They are.  I'm not saying they're NOT!  BSL, extreme prejudice, unnecessary killings and incarcerations. Pit type owners have every right to feel, nay, be paranoid, vigilant and on guard. If you're on a Pit Group on Facebook or you know folks who have them or work with them, this is nothing new. It's an exhausting round of educating John Q. Stupid-Public.

However, you're not the only ones.

We have (for those of you who don't know us) a lovely female mix and an Australian Cattledog (ACD). He will be 2 in Sept. 2013 and his name is Artie or "Blooby" as he is most often known.  (Blame the S.U. on that.)

Artie is my 7th (including fosters) ACD. This is my 20th year with cattledogs.

Brief synopsis for the uninitiated: An ACD (sometimes known as a Blue Heeler, Queensland Heeler or Heeler) is a medium sized herding dog breed, originating in (who'd a-thunk?) Australia!  They come in blue or red (plus blue or red speckle).  They were bred to herd and guard feral cattle in the outback.  They are also used on sheep and other stock, including reindeer! They are very smart, pretty biddable (I think) and tough. They have teeth (scissor bite) which they use to herd stock with, often nipping at the heels of recalcitrant cows. Thus the name "heelers." They are often called "velcro" dogs because they want to know what you're up to at any given moment.
They are athletic and sturdy with a weather-resistant coat. They should have upright ears and tight "cat feet."
They are loyal to their humans but often diffident to down-right suspicious of strangers. They often are not tolerant of other dogs.  They need a ton of positive socialization. They have a lot of energy, although I have had a few that were pretty laid back. (That's not the norm.) They are a "busy" dog but I think there are many dogs that are far busier.  They love brain and/or body work and excel in a wide variety of dog sports.  At 17-20 inches, it's an easy size to live and travel with.

Artie has some of the best qualities of his breed and of a companion dog in general.  We're very, very blessed.

ACDs are also an extremely unusual LOOKING dog. Once you know what a cattledog looks like (or SHOULD look like) you can honestly say, "Yep, that's a cattledog!"   They are pretty unforgettable!

(I have to preface this by telling you I live in the Midwest.)

Here are some of the "usual" comments who someone has met Artie (or any of my other cattledogs.)

"Wow, what kind of mix is THAT?"
"Man, how old IS your dog?" (This only seems to happen with blues; must be the grey hairs in the coat.)
"Does that dog have WOLF in him?"
"Is that a little German Shepherd?" (I never know where people get that from.)
And startlingly close to the truth) "Is that a (part) Dingo?"

Once in a while (and it's getting to be more commonplace than it was 20 years ago) you hear:

"Is that one of them blue heelers?"  This is often said in the same semi-suspicious tone as many a pit type owner has heard.  "Is that one of them pit bulls?"

Now, OK, all right, call me grammatically biased but the minute someone (no matter what city or state I'm in) says "them heelers" or "them there heelers" or even 'them cattledogs," (yes Virginia, some people DO get it right), my intellectual-snobbery-hackles start rising up.  Even when someone say "those cattledogs" with the emphasis on "those," I inwardly cringe.  I'm sure pit type folks do too.

"Oh, God, here we go. And it's not going to good."

Here's where the pit type folks and the cattledog folks diverge. With a pit type on the other end of your leash, you COULD ostensibly B.S. your way through that query especially if your dog is black, brindle or fawn colored.  I've heard lab-boxer mix, hound-boxer mix, poodle-terrier mix (yes, we had one of those of the Humane Society) etc. etc.  John Q. Stupid couldn't pick out a pure-bred American Pit Bull Terrier out of a line-up!  Many experts can't either!

But if they've identified your ACD as a heeler or cattledog, yeah, you're pretty much sunk.  Here it comes, I think.  The Bad Cattledog Story. And it almost always begins with "My cousin" or "My friend had one of them."

It's usually a cousin. If it's a cousin, you know (9 out of 10 times) it's going to be bad.

Let's say, on a good week, you and your friendly, social dog meet 20 pretty neutral-to-nice people, all men.  In a good week, the pit type folks  might get 40% - 60%  neutral to positive reactions.  The rest, admittedly, are going to suck.

In that same week, the cattledog owner, meets 20 people (men) who guess (correctly) what he is. 17-19 of those people will say the following:

"Cool looking dog. You cousin (insert other friend or relation) had one of them (there) dogs.  Meanest damn dog you ever saw. Bit everybody.  Loyal as hell but damn, was he ever mean!"  

Your heart does a little downward spiral because you know that yet another jerk owns an out-of-control, untrained (or badly trained) cattledog and is doing a huge disservice to the breed. Your brain goes slightly postal and you think with in inward sigh:

Educate. Again. It's a training exercise for my dog, meeting new people. Again.  I bet Lab/Pug/Fluffy Dog people don't go through this sh*t.

So, Pit type dog owners and lovers, you are not the only ones.  If you're out in public, cattledog people get this all the time.  All. The. Tine.

So do Rottweiler people.  And Doberman people. And German Shepherd people.

Perhaps it might comfort you folks with pit type dogs to know you're not alone.


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  2. Great Blog Mia!! I never realized ACD owners got it also!

    1. Yep, we sure do, Dee! Some of the comments other ACD folks have posted about the comments THEY get are hysterical!
      It's that a .....Wolf, hyena, cheetah, part-coyote, fox (the reds). One owner took her red to an APDT meeting and they thought it was an old Border Terrier!