Laura joins me from Long Beach, California to talk about helping pit bulls. She challenges our perception of pit bulls, introducing many common myths and the truth behind those myths.
Throughout our conversation, she pushes us to stop thinking of dogs in “breeds”, but to think of each one as a truly unique individual. Just like us. Dogs, regardless of breed, have numerous facets to their personality and behavior. They have things that make them joyous, and things that make them scared.
We cannot predict temperament solely based on breed. And decisions about pit bulls in shelters, in government, and in housing should not do this either.
WATCH THE EPISODE:
6 Simple Ideas To Make a Difference:
2. CONNECT WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE IN OUR COMMUNITY. Look for other dog advocates to spend time with. Coordinate a pack walk. Together we create a safety net for not only dogs that look like pit bulls, but all dogs in our community.
3. STOP CLASSIFYING DOGS AS BREEDS. Challenge our perceptions and catch ourselves when we refer to a dog’s temperament based on their breed. Repeat the message that “dogs are unique individuals” as often as we can.
4. CONSCIOUSLY DO THINGS TO MAKE OUR DOGS FEEL LIKE FAMILY MEMBERS. Make sure that our dogs feel like a loved member of our family, not a resident on our property.
6. ALWAYS ASK A DOG FOR CONSENT. Get into the habit of never approaching or petting a dog without first getting the dog’s consent. (Just as we would with people we do not know.)
Facts about pit bulls:
- Pit bulls are loved. People often assume that pit bulls are not loved and are somehow different from other companion dogs. Yet this is wildly untrue. If they were not loved, there would not be so many of them in the shelter.
- Studies show that pit bulls are one of the friendliest breeds. Although you cannot determine if a dog is “friendly” because of the dog’s breed, the American Temperament Test Society has done some studies that show that pit bulls score in the top 23% in regards to their behavior with humans.
- The news is biased against pit bulls. The National Canine Research Council showed that pit bulls are reported in the news far more often, for far less offenses than other dog breeds, perpetuating a negative stereotype. (For more on this topic see “The Pit Bull Placebo” by Karen Delise)
- It is hard to visually identify a pit bull. Studies show that visual identification of dog breed is very often inaccurate. Sometimes up to 90% inaccurate. What we think is a pit bull may very often NOT be a pit bull. Try a little quiz yourself here. Progressive shelters are no longer using breed identification in their paperwork.
Housing Policy & Discrimination:
If you are facing problems with housing because of discrimination toward pit bulls, or if you want to help change policy in your area, Laura shared a few resources to help:
- Reach out to Blockhead Brigade – Blockhead Brigade was created to help with this. They are a community that works together as a safety net for pit bulls and other blockheaded dogs. They are willing to help you.
- Reach out to other like-minded people in our community – Find other dog advocates and lean on each other for help.
- Ask landlord to do a meet & greet with your dog, and make a decision based on your dog as an individual, not perceived stereotype.
- Contact city council members and ask for help.
Guard dogs / Resident dogs / Family dogs:
Laura shared that she likes to think of dogs as companions and family members. If a dog is too protective, it is possible that the dog hasn’t had a lot of socialization, or was mistreated in the past.
She described that a “resident dog” is a dog that lives on someone’s property, often not in the house, and does not have a lot of human interaction. In contrast a “family dog” is going to be treated like a member of the family, with a lot of human interaction, and thus behave differently. (see this article, this interview, or this infographic for more detail)
She shares that the goal should not be to have a guard dog, but to socialize our dogs and treat them as family members.
The benefit of community pack walks:
Properly organized pack walks are a safer alternative to the dog park in which dogs are socially distanced, spread apart but learning to be near each other.
Laura shared that she would love for anyone interested to join Blockhead Brigade’s pack walks in Long Beach, CA.
If you do not live in Long Beach, but you are interested in starting a walk in your area, Laura will help you. Email her.
This episode was transcribed with ai technology from otter.ai. Please excuse any typos or incorrect language.
Brandy Montague 0:03
Welcome to episode number 27 of the for animals for Earth podcast. Today’s episode is titled pit bull talk with advocate, Laura Vena.
Laura Vena 0:13
“We have to be careful we have the word has a lot of power. And I don’t know how much we realized that but the word has a lot of power.”
Brandy Montague 0:21
That was Laura from Long Beach, California as you could probably tell, Laura is passionate about helping pit bull dogs. Today she challenges our perceptions of pit bulls and she pushes us to stop thinking of dogs in terms of breeds, but to really start thinking of every single dog as a very unique individual, just like we are as humans. The simple idea for today is to go look up the all dogs are individuals infographic that Laura mentioned to the interview. You can find a link for that in the show notes and have facts about pitbulls and dogs in general top of mind so that we can share those in a respectful way when the opportunity arises as a reminder Laura’s charity blockhead brigade is our charity of the month for January. So what that means is if you have time Take a chance to jump over and find her on social media. She’s at blockhead brigade on Facebook or Instagram and follow her and like or share something. You could also jump over to her website that’s blockhead brigade.org and check out her shop or donate if you’d like, or join a pack walk, if you live locally. And if you don’t live locally, Laura specifically has said that she would love to help people get pack walks started in their locations, so please feel free to reach out to her. The information is all in the show notes. So, for more simple ideas from today’s conversation, you get a nice succinct list of them there a video of our live interview. Laura’s contact information and all supporting documentation, go to for animals for earth.com slash podcast slash 27. Hi there this is Brandy and you’re listening to the for animals for Earth podcast. This is a space where we inspire each other to take small steps every day to live a more conscious life, helping animals, and the planet, while we do it. I’m so glad that you’re here. Let’s all take a deep breath and let’s get started. One thing I really love about your organization as that it’s called blockhead brigade and I learned from you that a pit bull isn’t always what we think, a pit bull is so I thought maybe we could kick off with why you use the word blockheads, instead of pit bulls.
Laura Vena 3:00
Absolutely. First of all, thank you so much brandy I’m so happy to be here with you. So, blockhead. I, I’ve always liked that term because I feel like there’s so much confusion around the term Pitbull, and because there’s so much misidentification of dogs, when they get to the shelter or when they’re out in society. And so I really liked the word blockheads because first of all people is an umbrella term that it’s often used as an umbrella term for a variety of breeds like American Pitbull terrier American Staffordshire Terrier American bullies Staffordshire Bull Terriers and sometimes even American Bulldogs. So, and within that there’s, you know, so much variety and look and and background and stuff like that. But, I became very interested in how dogs were being judged by that, that term by Pitbull. So, when they’re in the shelter I mean you have no way to know what their breed is. And there’s a pretty good chance they’re mixed. So, but these dogs that end up in the shelter or that are out in the community that have the blocky headed shaped heads right. They’re the ones who are discriminated against, so they’re the ones I fight for they’re the ones you know what, I remember there was one dog. That was clearly a mix. I mean, I can’t, I wouldn’t have even called him a pitbull, but he actually got thrown out of his house. Because of the HOA restrictions on pitbulls. So, any dog that that kind of resembles a block he had a dog for me and those are the dogs that I fight for because of that discrimination.
Brandy Montague 4:49
You know, I love that and I love how right off the bat we can talk about the fact that what we sometimes think is a pitbull may not be a pitbull and what we sometimes classify as a certain type of dog may not actually be that type of dog and I don’t only mean by by breed but I mean by temperament and just the whole thing that we we stereotype, a lot of times with different types of dogs, and you know i’m i’m curious even for listeners and people joining us today. You know me myself when you first hear the word Pitbull. How do you react, and I’m just asking this question for people to ask themselves as we jump into this interview because do you feel scared. Do you feel like, Oh, I just want to play like, you know, what do you feel, because I think there are so many myths out there about pit bulls and about the visual
Brandy Montague 5:50
of a block headed dog that really lead to a lot of discrimination in ways that we don’t even understand and I know that’s what you’re alluding to, as you started to talk about it. So I definitely would like to get into some of those misconceptions today, and maybe we can grow some new advocates in our audience is my hope. So, what would you say, I don’t know if this is going to be possible to say that number one, but what do you think is the most common misconception about block headed dogs.
Laura Vena 6:26
Okay, so my number one is probably different than most people’s my number one misconception about pitbulls is that they are unloved that they that people don’t like them. I find that, even among advocates and sheltering volunteers and rescues and shelter directors that they assume that people don’t like pit bulls that people don’t love pit bulls. But to me, and I’m sure people if anybody’s ever heard me before they’ve heard me say this, there were people people didn’t love pit bulls there wouldn’t be so many in the shelter, because at one point somebody wanted that dog. Right. So we have to look at why and we also have to look at statistics of why they are in the shelter. But if people if they weren’t popular and people didn’t love them, they, they wouldn’t be around they wouldn’t breed them, they wouldn’t be selling them or making money off of them. And please spay and neuter your dogs, please. Because Tipples have huge litters and yeah let’s spay and neuter our dogs, please. But yeah, if people didn’t love them, Why are there so many out there. That’s my number one misconception I could talk about other misconceptions but that’s the one that I feel does the most damage to the dogs. Wow.
Brandy Montague 7:50
Yeah, that’s, yeah that’s really really interesting because I do. I can see that as you say, you know, people think that they’re not loved and I can, I can see that I can feel that how there is this, this thought that hippos are somehow. Like a different kind of dog than other dogs that people have as pets, and I can see why that would lead to, you know, a big problem and I love just the simple thing you said, there wouldn’t be so many of them in the shelter if they weren’t loved by people. Right. And I know I saw data that said about 40% of the dogs in shelters are pit bulls. And I mean that I certainly feel like that’s what I’ve seen at least in the shelters, here in California that I’ve volunteered in. I wonder Can you share some of the qualities that people really do love about pitbulls Let’s share some of the qualities that, you know, this is very stereotypical as well I mean we’re saying oh here’s all the great qualities of pitbulls and that’s a very stereotypical thing to say because every dog is so unique. But what are, why don’t you tell me what are the things you love about your dogs love Okay,
Laura Vena 9:07
so of course we’re going to talk later about how all dogs are individuals, and I think we have to be careful about portraying all pitbulls, as you know, dogs do you would carry in your arms like a little baby. So we have to be careful about those two because every dog is an individual, just like people right and they have their. The things that make them joyous the things that make them scared so with that said of course when I see a pitbull out and about, you know, the skies, open up and the sun shines down on them and I get such a big smile because I love them. I love them and I’m sure that part of that is because they, they are kind of an underdog and I’ve always, you know, been for the underdog but for me, my dogs are there, they’re very loving and engaged, and they, they’re a part of my family. They’re, they’re very friendly. So I think, I think the typical like, I don’t want to stereotype, but a lot of people, you know, temperament temperament tests have shown and united Kennel Club has said that these are very friendly dogs that they’re people friendly and that they love people. So while I want to be careful to stereotype to not stereotype them or say that they’re all like that it seems to be very common to the breed, to love people. So, I mean, I think they’re beautiful and I think it’s hilarious that you know to me they are often clowns in a dog suit. Again, while I don’t want to stereotype and dogs come in all shapes and sizes and temperaments for me I just like it. It’s funny I, you know, I’m sure that somebody if they were to see my dogs in the backyard in the rare times that they are in the backyard, in the backyard when I’m not out there but if they saw them and they were looking to, you know, do something like steal from somebody they’d probably go to the next house. And that kind of cracks me up because my dogs are cartoon characters to me. They’re kind of whizzes, but, you know, that people have that impression because they’re these big muscley strong dogs. So, I love how sporty my dogs are I love dogs who are active. And I love that they are loving and accepting of people. My dogs are dog tolerant, which is, to me, the best, the best thing I’d rather have a dog tolerant dog than a dog friendly dog which we could talk about later maybe. But, but yeah I just love them they’re, they’re cartoon characters and they’re quirky and they have their own needs and we try to meet them as best as we can to make them as balanced as they can be. So, yeah,
Brandy Montague 11:58
I love that attitude and philosophy and I think that it’s something we can all strive for, as you know, dog
Brandy Montague 12:10
dog owners yeah dog stewards. I don’t want to say dog owner dog partners. You know something we can all strive for to create an environment for them where they get to thrive with their own personality.
Brandy Montague 12:28
I know that you like to point to a lot of scientific evidence so I thought something that would be kind of fun for us throughout this conversation is to do a little pop quiz for everybody who’s listening and people who are watching. So the first question I have for you, multiple choice. You can ask yourself if you want to comment you can, which breed is the friendliest a, a beagle be a golden retriever or see a pitbull.
Brandy Montague 13:01
All right, Laura so I’m gonna let you answer this, who’s friendly as to Beagle golden retriever or Pitbull and Pitbull
Laura Vena 13:11
people and I’m not just saying that. So, the American temperament test society has a test that gauges. It tests dogs behavior towards humans so it tests for aggression It tests for friendliness test for fear. And typically, pitbulls are one of the highest they score in the top 23% in regards to behavior towards humans, so I didn’t want to stereotype them as being good with people, but it is often true that the dogs, the testing has found that they’re very very friendly with people. I think they were there like 87% I’m sure I have this statistic right here. They’re, they’re right above Golden Retrievers so you know when when you, when people think, when, when they think bad thoughts about about pitbulls or you know you hear the comments all the time when you’re walking your dogs, I’m, I will say Long Beach is very Pitbull friendly so I don’t get it so much here, but every once in a while you’ll hear a comment and I just think about what, you know, people with golden retrievers would do if people were saying these things about their dogs they’d be shocked. So that’s how a lot of people feel when, when people make these kind of disparaging remarks about the dogs, because typically speaking, they do test very very high. So, so yeah.
Brandy Montague 14:45
I like that you’re pointing that out because that’s something that any of us can try to catch in our own behavior is if we’re walking down the street and we see someone walking block headed up block headed dog Pitbull look alike. We don’t need to perpetuate the stereotype, you know, we don’t need to go up and engage but we also don’t need to run across to the other side of the street, and I think that that’s something very simple, that we can do to help kind of mitigate a bit of the stereotype that’s out there because it’s funny when you say yeah, I mean how often do you think of a golden retriever and the little kids and playing
Brandy Montague 15:29
and, you know, just this this perception we have of them, and often a different perception with pit bulls yet pit bulls test as friendlier and I think that’s probably a surprise for a lot of people. It was for me when I heard it first from you I think that it’s a really cool statistic. Yeah, it’s
Laura Vena 15:49
honestly I believe that it’s all marketing pit bulls are bad bad marketing you know it’s it’s media, and I think it’s, it’s, you know, maybe more exciting to paint pitbulls as the bad guys often with media, and I think we’re, we might talk about that too, that you know they. I think it’s been since the 80s that pitbulls have had this, the stigma attached to them I do think that it’s changed I do think that it’s gotten better. I hope it doesn’t go too much. I don’t want people to think that you should put a baby down on top of a pitbull and now people have to do what they think is right in their families but we you know I’m all for treating you know, even though my dogs are my family. I want to be careful about certain things because dogs do perfect with their teeth sometimes, and stuff like that so I don’t think we need to go. We need to stray too far, we just need to say that their dogs like any other dogs they’re individuals just like any other individuals. And we have to really analyze these things that are in the media and something you mentioned brandy that’s really, really important to me is the things that we say, you know when when we talk about people we talk about micro aggressions against people, the things that you say in everyday life impact like long term impact the lives of others, they impact the dogs, they impact the families of the dogs who are from from, you know, listening to people talk poorly about their family members and and feeling that, you know, it’s very upsetting right to things like housing, not being able to get housing with your dog. And if you, if you don’t have, you know, a lot of, let’s say, like, you don’t have a ton of money and you can’t just go out and buy a house or get the most expensive apartment, these things, you make really big difference and it’s kind of a life or death. You know, like difference for the dogs. So, these little things influence people’s opinions, and then they influence policy so we have to be careful we have the word has a lot of power. And I don’t know how much we realize that but the word has a lot of power.
Brandy Montague 18:12
I you know I definitely think that’s true. And I think also we don’t we don’t often realize how maybe just little. I don’t even want to say conversations, just little points that we can bring up in our lives. Let me just paint a picture because this picture is in my head. I’m walking with my friend, we see a pitbull coming the other direction and I just say to my friend Oh did you know pit bulls are like tested is one of the friendliest, you know, something like that and then we just keep going and we keep talking. And I’m just thinking that you never know that friend of mine could be sitting in a meeting some time and have the impact over the housing policy at an apartment or they may tell a friend and that person could have the impact. And I think what I really love about just honestly I get so excited about this podcast and the ability to have a conversation with somebody like you and to learn and for all of us that are listening to learn these little things and to be able to bring them up in our lives. And, you know, just send out those little ripples into the world of hippos are different than what you may think, and just, you never know where that’s going to catch up with, like you said, a policy, a conversation, just the way that people are thinking.
Brandy Montague 19:33
When it comes to, let’s let’s talk about housing discrimination. Do you have any advice for people on anything that they can do to try to help that problem in their area. I suppose it could be as specific as I’m trying to get an apartment and I’m being rejected because of my dog too. I want to try to help policy in my area. Could you share some advice on that.
Laura Vena 20:00
Absolutely. First reach out to us, and because we’re really trying to the brigade part of the language and blockhead brigade is that we’re a community and we’re only as strong as the people in our communities so I really rely on people like we were going to create a safety net we’re creating a safety net so starting you know reaching out to others who may be like minded helps. Obviously, going, you know, contacting your city council members, doing things like that. There’s a great organization called Animal Farm foundation. I have a link to that on my Instagram. Animal Farm foundation does a lot of advocacy and they work, a lot against breed restriction legislation and things like that. As far as with landlords that’s so hard because it’s, we’re actually starting a program that is going to be reaching out to landlords directly and partnering with some bigger organizations. You know, maybe some help, you know like, housing, insurance, organizations and things like that and trying to get them to help us convince people to at least treat the dog as an individual made the dog, you know, get to get to know that dog, give them a chance. So, you know, that’s, I mean you can always, you know, talk to people and try to make that happen. But I think, I think that’s it is like these conversations are the only thing that that you can do easily on a day to day basis and then from there you can start trying to affect policy, and something as small as, you know, I mean it’s not that small city council reaching out to your city council members and talking to them about these, these things, even though they can control what a landlord or landlady decides to do with a home, you know, and a lot of them are big companies that have these breed restrictions. They can’t necessarily control them but having the problem or the issue in the public sphere is, is usually helpful so and and having the facts to back that up. So, just off the top of my head, those are the kinds of things I think that make a difference. Because housing is a big deal I think, I think you can you can attack it from policy standpoint and then you know conversations with people. So,
Laura Vena 22:35
yeah, I think, I think also speaking from this space of every dog is an individual I think that’s also something that we can so easily. Like tried to flip the switch in our heads and try to move away from classifying dogs as breeds, and saying okay this, this is kind of this temperament, this is this this is what I, I, prohibit This is what I accept you know if if we just in our heads keep working on trying to see every single dog as a truly unique individual, and then perpetuating that out to the people around us our friends, our council members anybody we talked to. Yeah, I really feel like that could go a long way to you can just see how everybody’s mind changed like that you would start to see where the landlord is meeting the dog and making a decision based on you know a half hour hour interaction with a dog instead of just based on breed.
Brandy Montague 23:40
let’s hit our pop quiz again. So you started to talk about this one. Let’s dig into it more so true or false. The news proves that pitbulls are dangerous.
Laura Vena 23:54
Okay so that one’s super interesting because there’s all kinds of research on this and statistics that you can get from the National canine Research Council. So it’s a mouthful but national canine Research Council. I don’t have a link up right now but I will put a link up on our Instagram. In our bio so they, they have did a really extensive amount of research, on, on how peoples were depicted in the media and how the coverage of bad interactions between dogs, and people were covered so I’m going to actually look at that so I can quote it correctly that they, one of the, one of the things that they found is that a non fatal attack by a pit bull type dog so there’s a bad interaction where there was some kind of a bite or something but it wasn’t fatal was reported 230 times in many media outlets. Okay, so one particular incident that was not fatal was reported 230 times, whereas a fatal or more serious attack by labs Labrador Retrievers and other breeds were reported, but only one or two media outlets. So, you know, a lot of times they also found that in other studies that a dog’s breed was misidentified. I’ve, I’ve actually tracked that myself more anecdotal on my part because I’m not doing a study a peer reviewed study like they are but I’ve seen that before to where the initial reports are that it was a pimple and then you find out, it was a golden retriever or it was you know something else. So, they often also get blamed for things that they didn’t do, and then also we could talk about the whole problem with visual breed identification too. But yes, there’s. You can see this. It must be more exciting to talk about, you know, an attack by a blockhead than some other dog. It’s really important. You know I studied like media and stuff like that and it’s really important where, where you how you frame things and where you, you know, put your gaze or your look right so this this is like hard evidence that you know there is bias that we all know there’s bias in the media right. We all know this now right. We didn’t know before I mean I you know I’ve studied this stuff forever so of course it’s not, it’s you know it’s it’s not a surprise to me but we are biased humans are biased so things that come out of our mouths are biased and we can absolutely be more careful about what we say and about doing just a little bit of research, to make sure that what we are saying is correct and based in fact, so I just think that particular information when you go and look at their studies. It’s just remarkable.
Brandy Montague 27:06
You know it’s fascinating and something that you showed in. I met Laura because she did a presentation for Pasadena humane and I just loved the presentation and felt like I learned so much, and something that you showed in that presentation was like a grid of like 25 dogs. And she said, pick out the ones that are pitbulls, and you’re looking through this thing and you’re thinking that one, that one that went that one that one, and then the answer was completely different. And I don’t know if that’s something that if people, maybe if you all contacted Laura after you’d be able to see it yourself but it’s just something that’s a really interesting and eye opening. Fact is just that we as humans what we necessarily what we classify as a pit bull and think as a pit bull and then is reported in the news and media as a pit bull may not be a pit bull. So I just I think that’s a really, I think that was a really interesting thing to learn and, again, brings us back around to every dog is an individual, and they really are there, a lot of them are mixed, some of them aren’t they, even if they’re not mixed their personality is going to be different from the next just like we are, you know, we’re all vastly different from each other and we all have our unique things that make us up and it’s the same thing for dogs, I really love that message that you share.
Unknown Speaker 28:38
The funny thing about that is, there’s been so many studies, I liked that it was visual. But the one thing that was funny about that is there were only three of the dogs that had any Pitbull in them and I think none of them were pure Pitbull but what the one that had like the most i think is a fluffy fluffy dog and, and you’re like, wait a minute, this is a Staffordshire, you know, American Staffordshire Terrier and the these statistics are that that visual breed identification they’ve done a ton of tests on this. The National canine Research Center and other people have done tests on this visual breed identification is wrong. 70% of the time or more. So, and you know, when we can we can talk about breed mixes too if we want to a bit, because once a dog is is mixed up. It’s neither breed. It’s an entirely different thing. And you can’t really look to the breeder to the parents necessarily to know about that dog. and even if you if you think about siblings and a family, or sibling puppies. They have different personalities right so if you’ve ever been around a litter of puppies. They have distinct personalities. So that kind of helps also I think just support that idea that all dogs are individuals, and that you have to look at the that particular dog that’s in front of you, that the most progressive shelters, don’t use breed identification, I know that’s tough because people love you know their blockheads or they love this or that. But, yeah, the most progressive ones know that you just can’t tell unless you do a DNA test. So,
Brandy Montague 30:26
who I love that, I love. That’s really cool because it’s then like a message coming out from the shelter out to hundreds 1000s of people that
Brandy Montague 30:38
you know what you really can’t make a decision based on the breed. Yeah, that’s, that’s really cool. I wanted to take a quick break to share my friend Justin’s shop with you guys it’s called unforgettable goods and the reason I wanted to share it with you is that it is such a perfect fit for today’s conversation because she has these cute little Pitbull advocate things that you can buy and other just adorable rescue trinkets all supporting animal welfare. So if you’re interested in seeing what she has look for unforgettable goods, calm and it’s spelled for, like, a few are like the animals so it’s you in a few our GE TT a ble goods, calm, or you can find her on Instagram at unforgettable goods. Alright, let’s get back to the show. Okay. Pop quiz. Third question. This is our last question. True or False pitbulls are the best breed for a guard dog. And I wonder what people are thinking to themselves in this one.
Brandy Montague 31:52
And then what is the answer.
Laura Vena 31:54
Did I talk about I felt like I talked about this but maybe I didn’t so we
Brandy Montague 31:57
hit on it a teensy bit.
Laura Vena 31:59
Okay, so I’m gonna, I’m going to take two different paths or two different things that I want to talk about. First, the United Kennel Club, does not think that pit bulls are good. As guard dogs. They say they are not the best choice for a guard dog since they are extremely friendly, even with strangers, and the American temperament test Society of course has found that they’re very friendly with people. But I think that I would probably add my underlying thing is, again, to look at the dog as an individual, but also I personally am not a, I’m not, I’m not for using dogs as guard dogs. I’m, I like to think of dogs as companions and family members, right. So, so I think that any dog, when we talk about guard dogs we tend to think about, you know, dogs being protective or things like that. And I think that when it’s hard for it’s a tough question for me because I think that a dog that is too protective maybe has hasn’t been socialized, and that’s not always true. They’re the top dog could have experienced something or been traumatized. I think that any dog who feels frightened, or threatened or who hasn’t had a lot of socializing, or has been mistreated in some way has a potential to be wary of humans. So, I know that there’s a big distinction to that, that is made between resident dogs and their behavior and family dogs, and their behavior. So a resident dog is a dog that lives on the property doesn’t live in the house and doesn’t have a lot of interaction with the people with the family. So I would say that, you know, a resident dog is more of what I, I, maybe it’s a bias on my part, I think of that as more as a guard dog, which to me is not ideal because dogs are pack their pack animals, you know, and when you talk about bite statistics and stuff like that it’s almost always an unfixed male. That’s a resident dog, regardless of breed. So, I know I’m taking your question in a little bit of a different direction but I think when you have a family, you know, a dog is a family member. It’s a completely different thing you know, so so I don’t know if that answers your question, but I remember I read this article once by a veterinarian in Humboldt who used to, he, he did some survey I wish I still had this article. He did a survey of the local shelter. And I don’t know how they could figure out these numbers but it was the statistics supposedly were very high on pit bulls that were turned in that were being used as guard dogs for illicit activities, because they were too friendly. You know, again I without having the article, it doesn’t you know hold as much credence, but I just think, you know, maybe, maybe the goal isn’t to have a guard dog but I think that, you know, if you can, if you can kind of keep keep your dog socialized in the the most comfortable way you can. That’s probably the best way to go. So I don’t know if that completely answers but
Brandy Montague 35:24
well i think i think what it does is actually answers it really really well because I think number one. That statement has a little bit loaded into it by just using the word guard dog. And, I mean, I’ll tell you my dogs are not big dogs and the number of FedEx Delivery men that I’ve seen go running off my front porch just from the bark behind the door. You know, it’s, I think a quote unquote guard dog. Right, little dogs bite just as much right. So, I, I really really like that you’ve pointed out that thinking of any dog as a guard dog is probably not the best way to think about it and what I what I really love is that what you’ve shared is something very actionable which is to think of any dog in your family as a family member, and a unique family member at that they are another member just like anyone else in the family, and I also think that for people who maybe are keeping their dogs outside, I think that that might even be just a bit of a light bulb idea to come from you that you know maybe that dog is not feeling as much a part of your family, as you think they are feeling. Maybe they’re feeling more like a resident renting time on your property, versus, you know as a part of the family because I don’t know if everybody thinks that way and it might just be a thought to to consider, focusing on more of the things that make that animal feel like a part of the family, and not necessarily your body guard to the public.
Laura Vena 37:15
And, and, I mean, just a couple quick points when I’m walking at night with one of my dogs do I feel safer yes I feel safer, although you know I can take care of myself, but I feel safer The funny thing is, is I always think I have to protect my dogs. You know, that’s my thought is like, I actually think like, there’s, I have that I have this thing where there’s only two responsibilities you have to your dog, and it’s to protect them and to have fun with them. That’s That’s it. Everything else like we over love our dogs you know that’s all going to come but to protect them and to have fun with them, I think, but I don’t want to shame people who have their dogs outside either because there’s so many different varieties of dogs of stewardship or dog families, there was a dog adopted out from my local rescue that I absolutely adored and he was going to a family that was going to have him live outside in a dog house with another dog. And I know that he was going to get walked like two hours every morning, and that the family was going to be engaged with him, but I was still so sad about it because of course for me. Ideally, your dogs live inside with you. That is the ideal. Okay. And, and, of course, like I said, I don’t want to shame anybody, and we always want to support people no matter what. So if your dogs are living outside. How can you make them more a part of your family because some people don’t have a choice either. And, or that’s just the way that they, they have chosen to do it either way, and absolutely you can make your dog more of a family member that that dog that was adopted out the family. I talked to them, and I happen to be at the shelter when they picked him up. And they were very nice, and they ended up sending me a video of the dad in the dog house with them getting loved on that he looked very happy the dog looked very happy. And I know they’re taking good care of him so. So while for me the ideal is that the dog especially it’s, you know, because of weather and and socialization and all of that the dogs, want to be with the pack inside, but you know there’s other scenarios to that, that people live in you can always make your dog more a part of your life in some way, and spending quality time with them. So,
Brandy Montague 39:38
I love it. Yeah, I love that you’ve shared that because yeah it’s not something that I’ve thought of much but your point. There’s. It just goes back to remind you that there are so many 1000s of different scenarios that we all live in, in this world and the dogs live in in this world, and I love that you’ve shared that there may not necessarily be like right and wrong ways to do it. But if you are focused on just trying to make them feel as much of a family member, as you can, that probably is going to go a long way. Yeah, I really like that. I’m glad that you’ve shared that.
Laura Vena 40:23
Go ahead. Did you want to try not to be judgmental you know of course we know we have ideas of what we think is best. But if we’re going to be a community organization we have to try and support people where they’re at and see you know can the dog come in at night, maybe, you know, can the dog have like a space in the house maybe that that he or she can be in. So I look a lot to organizations like downtown dog rescue. who are my heroes, and how they interact with people, and, you know, there’s, there’s no point to shame people. There’s, it’s not going to help the dogs, it’s not going to help the people. So, yeah,
Brandy Montague 41:02
yeah and i mean i think that’s a philosophy for all of life, you know, is never value and shaming other people or value in being highly judgmental of the way someone else is handling a situation because we don’t know and I do truly believe that that perpetuates the problems, more so than helping make them better. And, you know, when we talk about block headed dogs I really do think the more we can have open, honest, understanding conversations and just try to meet each other and help each other and ultimately help the dogs. I mean that’s the dream right so.
Laura Vena 41:45
Brandy Montague 41:47
Yeah, I think it’s a good reminder for all of us to to take with us today and on out into the world, you know,
Laura Vena 41:53
Brandy Montague 41:57
So, Let’s wrap up with one simple idea being that you think our listeners or viewers could do to help block headed dogs today.
Laura Vena 42:12
Okay. I kind of snuck into, but I put it in one sentence so don’t challenge your perceptions and become informed. Okay, so I think the we’ve talked about this this is perfect. I didn’t know this would naturally come up in our conversation today but, you know, having some basic information and facts and knowing where to point people to goes a long ways so if we’re informed like go to Animal Farm Foundation, check out there. All dogs are individuals infographic, which is amazing. It has. you saw a brand new with when I had the Pasadena humane webinar. It is really cool it teaches you so much about dogs and their DNA and how you know their, their breed is is only like point two 5% of their DNA and how, you know, once you know those things it’s it’s like, wow, okay. Now I have to check myself when I talk about how much I love pit bulls and what pit bulls are like, that’s why you see me all the time trying to regulate because I love them, but at the same time I need to see them all as an individual, that’s the best thing for them. So, go, go to places like Animal Farm Foundation, the American temperament test society, but the one place, is that Animal Farm foundation and look up the facts and have those handy and point people to them because if you approach people in a respectful way, and you give them some facts and do it and you know, do it with it you know in a very, I don’t know, diplomatic way, you can really help change people’s minds. And you can really help the dogs I think by doing that. So that’s, that’s my number one thing, and, and, yeah, come comes, you know, reach out to us we’ll point you in the right direction. If you forget anything or need some guidance. But yes, challenge those perceptions.
Brandy Montague 44:25
that that’s it’s a really good one. What is the best way for people to get ahold of you if they’d like to contact you.
Laura Vena 44:32
I love when people email me, so it’s it’s a blockhead email@example.com it’s super easy. You can totally reach out to me on Instagram, but I know I get so many messages that it gets lost. So, I may get back to you but then it’ll be like oh I really want to talk to that person and I don’t remember their what their name was so if you can email me It’s the best so of course I’m on Instagram at blockhead brigade. We have our website blockhead brigade.org. And then the email is great so I can have a conversation with you and connect.
Brandy Montague 45:06
Perfect. I love that, I love that and I will, we’ll have all that information in the show notes along with a link to the infographic you described I’m thinking you know if you do one thing today you go and you really like look at that infographic, like, you’ll, you’ll retain the different facts in there just because that’s the way our brains work right so what a cool idea I’m definitely going to be doing that when we hang up so thank you so much for coming on and for sharing your knowledge and your passion for these dogs with us, and I really hope that through this conversation we picked up a few more advocates. And that’s all for today, thank you so much for tuning in and listening, and for supporting the show. If you’re up for it ratings and reviews are really helping us right now as a new show, you can do those if you listen on Apple moron Stitcher. Otherwise, the best thing you can do to help is to tell a friend. I really appreciate your help in helping us grow this community. Remember that you can always join me live for interviews at for animals for earth.com slash live just check out that link to see when the next one is scheduled. And if you want to get in touch with me personally, I’d love to hear from you. Come say hi, you can DM me on Instagram at for animals for Earth. Okay. Until next time, bye.
Laura Vena is an award-winning writer and teacher and is the Founder and Creative Director of Blockhead Brigade, a community organization committed to improving the lives of Pit Bulls and their people through community outreach and advocacy. She is a representative for the Mayoral Animal Care Services Visioning Taskforce in Long Beach and advocates for blocky headed dogs and their people.
About Blockhead Brigade:
Blockhead Brigade is a community organization that advocates for Pit Bull-type dogs and their people through community outreach and advocacy in Southern California and beyond. We offer resources to community members, host free community pack walks and dog management workshops, and advocate for blocky headed dogs in the shelter. We build community around the dogs we love and help create a safety net for blockheads, who often experience hardship based on discrimination.