Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dog Wars: Amstaffs and Ridgebacks

I am at the opposite end of the spectrum from someone who might pick out a puppy because “it’s cute.” I spent years as an engineer analyzing the appropriateness of parts and entire weapon systems for given tasks. I am too old a dog to teach new tricks. If I have to begin thinking about my “next dog,” then I must also think about my requirements and circumstances. What will this dog be expected to do? What do I want from this dog?

One of my requirements which I have come to think of as suspect is that I need two dogs. The Ridgeback is laid back and not much of a watchdog, at least not in the house I live in. Having one Ridgeback is not negotiable; so if I want watch-dog capability, then I must get a second dog. But, I have come to think recently, if I keep things locked up, then any intruder would have to make so much noise to get in that even a laid-back Ridgeback would probably wake up and go down to see what was going on. So I can probably get by with just one Ridgeback.

But before I came to this tentative decision (engineers never make absolute decisions), I considered the Amstaff, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the AST, as a second dog – the more alert watchdog. From all I’ve read, and from talking to a breeder, I think this is a great breed. But in terms of size, a male wouldn’t be that much smaller than a Ridgeback; so the only combination that would work, if I wanted to consider myself as having supplemented my laid-back Ridgeback with a smaller more-alert watchdog, would be a male Ridgeback and a female AST. I’m convinced that would be a good combination. My male Ridgeback might weigh 90 pounds and my female AST might weigh 45. The AST could be a watchdog at home and when we went chasing rabbits down at the river, I wouldn’t worry about her ability to defend herself.

From an engineering standpoint, the combination of a Ridgeback male and AST female seemed perfect, but then I started checking the AST discussion lists. I discovered something that reminded me of the NRA. I dropped my membership in the NRA because every month I would get a magazine that was filled with doom and gloom. I was made to feel guilty because I wasn’t out there campaigning against restrictive gun laws. Heck, I’ve got all the guns I’ll ever need. I don’t need to be harangued by that sort of thing every month. And with the AST something similar seems to go on. If you are an AST, Staffordshire Terrier, American Pit Bull, or just plain Pit Bull owner then you should be out in the trenches trying to stop restrictive dog laws. I imagined that if I got an AST I might be harangued more often than once a month. Then too, there might be restrictive Pit-Bull laws for my area that I am unaware of; or if not, then they may be on their way. And what about my home-owner’s insurance?

Gad. If I got an AST I wouldn’t worry about it being dangerous. As my son tells me, any dog I got and raised myself would probably turn out just like my girls. Maybe he is exaggerating a little, but not much. If I got an AST I wouldn’t worry about its causing trouble. It just wouldn’t. I’m not the sort of person where that would happen – as long as I have total control of the raising of a dog. But do I want to buy into a controversial dog war? Probably not.

My Ridgeback girls are quite a bit softer than my previous male Ridgeback, Trooper, but Trooper was raised and trained by my wife. When I would get home I would take him jogging and sometimes hiking, but Susan was with him all the other times and almost certainly influenced him more than I did. Susan herself has a softer personality than I do, and the dogs she raised turned out to be much tougher than the ones I raised; so maybe my future male Ridgeback, might seem like my girls. Well, okay. I can accept that better now than I could a few years ago.

I might question the degree of home-defense I have in my two “soft” Ridgeback girls, but Monday a Sears (now K-Mart) Dishwasher Repairman came to the house to check our malfunctioning Kenmore Dishwasher. I had the girls on the stairwell with a little fence down at the bottom. When the repairman came in and saw the girls through the stair railing, I could see panic in his eyes. They didn’t bark or growl but they were bouncing around and looking very intently at him. I assured the Repairman that the girls would stay on the stairs, and he accepted that and went to work, but probably anyone would be concerned to see two large unfamiliar dogs bouncing around and behaving like my girls. That’s probably all I need.

With Trooper, he had to check out each visitor and would not let anyone in unless Susan or I said it was okay. My girls aren’t like that, but maybe their effect is equivalent.

Now, I’m sure an AST would be an equivalent or even superior deterrent, but when I was looking for a second dog, I was not looking for an equal to a Ridgeback, but something a little different, a watchdog rather than a guard dog, but a dog who could at the same time defend itself down at the river where there are feral dogs and coyotes. I suspect an AST, even a female AST would sit on my stairs with my Ridgeback and represent a forbidding aspect to any visitor. An intruder would have an even worse time of it.

But the wind was taken out of my AST sails when I thought of all the political flack, and the dog war I would be expected to take part in.

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