Sunday, August 8, 2010

Know your breed

You may or may not be keeping track of the Bear-Bear tragedy (just search for Bear-Bear, you'll find it), but in a nutshell, an off-duty officer shot and killed a Siberian Husky in a dog park, claiming that Bear-Bear was attacking his dog. Witnesses say differently, and subsequent evaluation showed no evidence that either he or his dog were hurt in any way, not even a scratch. The Anne Arundel police department has re-opened the case, so perhaps justice will be found for Bear-Bear's family.

What this got me thinking about was how this horrible tragedy even happened. Leaving aside whether the officer should have ever drawn, much less fired, his weapon, the main thought that came to me was that he misunderstood the play, based on breed. Witnesses say that Bear-Bear was just playing with the officer's German Shepherd, in a way that is typical of Huskies. Aye, therein lies the rub...

Siberian Huskies are very active and noisy when they play. To the casual observer, with no history with Sibes or behavior evaluation, you'd think they were shredding each other. They love to jump on and over each other, lots of teeth showing, and all kinds of WOOs and YIPs. If you watch carefully, there is actually little contact, and no harm - no biting, no blood. But to the casual observer, Hell's Fury hath come to earth in the form of an insane devil-eyed wolf-looking demon dog.

But you know what? The same can be true, in different ways for other breeds. Bully breeds have powerful jaws and high tolerance to pain. Aussies and Border Collies love to nip at the legs. And on and on.

You might be doing the best favor ever for your dog, and others, to learn about the play style and general interaction characteristics of your dog's breed, or breeds. Unfortunately, Bear-Bear was being watched over by his owner's brother, and even he did not have even a few seconds to react before Bear-Bear was murdered. Be aware. Be knowledgeable.

And keep Bear-Bear's family in your thoughts.

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