It’s plain to see, the Offbeat Empire likes dogs. They like them a lot. Everywhere you look on Offbeat Bride, there are dogs walking down the aisle. On Offbeat Home & Life, there are posts about dogs, posts with dogs, posts not about dogs at all — but with dogs peeking into the photos anyway.
There are all kinds of dogs, and there are all kinds of people, and some people have their types. For me, bully breeds are where it’s at. In a way, bullies are the most offbeat of dogs. [Editor’s note: Even the Associate Publisher Megan has a pit bull mix, and Assistant Editor Caroline has a Staffordshire Terrier mix.]
A bully breed is a type of dog that shares in common the traits of a number of breeds of dog. Pit bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, American Bulldogs, some types of Mastiff. They often share a large shovel-shaped head, strong jaw, squat, stocky, muscular body and often what dog people call a merry or clownish disposition. Unfortunately they also share a bad reputation, a number of harmful myths, and a history of being mistreated.
The shelters, especially in large cities, the south, and the midwest, are over-flowing with bully breeds. Because of their reputation, they are often passed over for adoption. Because of the sad truth that they continue to be used in bloodsports, adults are often not fixed, either because their “owners” hope to breed them or as part of a larger pattern of neglect.
Quickly, let me run down some of the myths, and then I promise the tone of this piece will lighten up considerably.
No, they do not have locking jaws, higher pain tolerance, or any other significant physiological difference from other dogs. Their jaws are just like other dogs. They are tolerant by nature, just like Golden Retrievers, but they feel pain just the same. They do not simply “snap” and they give off the same signs and signals as other dogs. Any dog can be aggressive, and any dog can bite, but these are not random occurrences. They have reasons, and raising your dog right and knowing how to read their body language (a necessity with any dog of any breed) and know their limits keeps everyone safe and happy.
Now, on to the happy stuff…
We rescued our dog from a shelter in Bloomington Indiana. He’s a mix, but falls into the bully category. When we first met him, he was about twenty pounds lighter, and you could see many of his vertebrae and ribs. He was shedding like crazy; a function of anxiety, poor diet as a stray, and the fact that he had contracted kennel cough about five minutes after arriving at the shelter. We had met a lot of dogs in the run up to adopting, but both my wife and I were completely charmed by Owen, as he was called. A few days later, we took him home.
In the following weeks, we got to know him. We named him Roland, after the hero of one of our favorite book series. He displayed some of the wonderful qualities of bullies right away: fiercely intelligent, he learned commands quickly and almost effortlessly, especially given how food-driven he turned out to be. For a treat, he’ll do anything you want. He does indeed have a merry disposition, and loves to play all kinds of games, although it took us a little while to teach him fetch. He loves other dogs, and turned out to be very good at managing the social currents at the dog park. He doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body, and is very good at removing himself from situations that might result in a fight. He loves to chew, and we experimented with all sorts of chewies before landing on a rotation of big Nylabones, antlers, and Kongs.
One thing that bully breeds are renowned for among their fans is their cuddliness. In this, he differed slightly. We adopted him at ten months, and before that he seemed to have had no experience with physical affection. It took us a while to get him to be okay with petting, and then with leaning, eventually with sitting together on the couch or bed, and step by step we eventually arrived at a dog who loves to snuggle, with blankets and pillows and his mommies. He loves to wedge himself into the loveseat with my wife while she reads or we watch TV. I have a pain disorder and when it’s bad our boy can most often be found at my feet or snuggled up to my side.
Before bullies were crowned the latest on a long line of dangerous dogs of the decade, they were known as nanny dogs in Britain and were extremely popular pets in WWII America. The Little Rascals had a bully breed dog, and bullies have even served with distinction in the military. Today they are seeing a resurgence of that interest. They are being trained to compete in Agility and Tracking, as well as providing assistance to people with disabilities and serving as therapy dogs in hospitals and nursing homes. Some have been trained to assist soldiers with PTSD.
The next time you are thinking about bringing a furry family member home, think about adopting a bully breed. There are many rescues dedicated to this type of dog, and many local shelters have more than they know what to do with. If you cannot commit to a permanent adoption, many shelters could use fosters, especially in the process of bringing bullies out of areas where they are overpopulated to their eventual safe havens. If you like to take road trips and have some flexibility, you could also consider transporting dogs from one shelter to another.
One of the most wonderful experiences of my life has been rescuing Roland and seeing him blossom into a well balanced, well mannered, happy adult dog. I especially love to see his big bully grin when we come home. He’s an essential part of my offbeat family.