The word “bully” probably created visions of being shoved in a school locker or having your lunch money taken. There is always that one kid on the playground who was mean and made your childhood grade school experience miserable. He was the one everyone feared and few attempted to friend. Everyone has a unique approach to dealing with a bully but not everyone is capable of instantly coping with the situation and moving on.
90% of animal shelters are full of “bully breeds”, so what is a “bully breed” and how do you know if one is right for you? Fostering is key for the success and continued operation of any animal rescue organization, but with shelters full to the brim with bully breeds, few foster families are willing to consider one of these dogs.
The myths and misconceptions about these breeds have many people afraid to even come in contact with these dogs let alone provide care for them. So what are the facts about the bully breeds and who should foster one of these dogs?
- Confident, experienced dog owners-You wouldn’t buy a Maserati as your first car, so don’t get a bully breed if you’re an inexperienced dog owner. These breeds have special characteristics that require experienced attention. Potential foster parents should be confident, experienced dog owners that can take a leadership role with a confident, energetic, strong dog. You should also have experience visually differentiating a dogs “moods” (fearful, aggressive, happy, etc.)
- Able to provide ample exercise-Bully breeds typically have a lot of energy and need a lot of attention and exercise. These dogs need to be physically and mentally stimulated and tend to play rough. Rough play is common in bully breeds as well as the destruction of toys; these dogs should be crate trained and not left alone in a home unattended.
- Consistent home environment-Bully breeds need structure and discipline. If you work long hours or have a sporadic schedule that could leave the dog unattended for long periods of time, a bully breed isn’t for you. Pent up energy can channel into aggressive and destructive behavior so you should have a consistent lifestyle and be able to provide a confident and consistent “home life”.
- Older (or no) children in the home-Because of their size and strength bully breeds do best in homes with no children or children who are older (at least 6 year old). These little powerhouses on four legs don’t always know their own strength and could unintentionally harm a small child just with their strength alone. Children should be old enough to understand the appropriate ways and times to show affection (not while a dog is eating, etc).
- Confident, submissive dogs at home-Having your own family dog doesn’t necessarily mean you aren’t a good fit to foster a bully breed. Because of their strength, high energy and tendency to play rough your dog should be confident in play or submissive (not dominant) as to avoid an explosive energy between the two dogs.
- No small pets at home-Bully breeds have a potentially high “prey drive” so smaller pets like hampsters, bunnies and even cats may not be a good idea. You should have the dog temperament tested and know the strength of its prey drive before bringing it into a home with small animals.
When it comes to any bully (four legged or otherwise) knowledge is power. The more you understand about the bully the better you can address the issues they may experience and prepare yourself and your family to deal with it in a proactive way.
If you think you are qualified to foster a bully breed you should fill out a foster application form and contact a rescue group. We recommend the Grosse Pointe Animal Adoption Society or the Detroit Dog Rescue.