XL Bully UK Ban – Below the surface..

xl bully

Since the UK government has decided to ban the xl bullies, there has been a lot of controversial opinions and reactions out there. On the one hand, there are the owners of those dogs who are against that and panic as they don’t know what will happen to their family members. On the other hand, people who have been affected from xl bullies attacks or are worried about their kids, are actually very satisfied and relieved by this act.
Who is the right one here though? Is there right and wrong? Who is the one to blame for all those attacks that happened in the UK? Many questions have been raised in the canine world and all of them need to be answered.

What kind of breed is the XL Bully

The history of the XL Bully is extremely limited as it’s a fairly new type of breed. This type of dog is a mix of several bully breeds including the American Pitbull Terrier.
Although Pitbull type of breeds do very well with people, are easily trained, are loyal and generally tolerant and friendly, the truth is that they have initially been bred for dog fighting and bull baiting. Unfortunately, this is something that might affect those dogs’ behaviour towards dogs and other animals and sometimes kids. In my experience, I have seen a lot of bully type of dogs being gentle and tolerant towards kids and also friendly with other animals but this is not always the case.
Sadly, the American XL Bully has been associated with the wrong people which makes the problem even worse. Not only those dogs are facing the public’s disapproval because of their appearance, they also have to deal with the fact that a big percent of the breed is connected to criminal organizations! There was actually a BBC journalist that went undercover to investigate an extreme dog breeding facility owned by a gang. Read more here

Will the ban solve the problem?

Unfortunately, dog bites (including fatal) have increased in the past couple of years and sadly xl bullies feature in most of them.
For this reason, the UK government decided to put a ban in this breed. However, it seems like they didn’t focus on the root cause of those attacks at all. Some may think that the ban will solve the problem, but it will just mask it as there will still be aggressive, fearful, unsocial, unfriendly and dangerous dogs out there if we don’t take proper action.
In most cases, aggression is caused by poor breeding, bad genetics, lack of socialization and negative early experiences.
The ban has led to an extreme panic and owners have unfortunately started to surrender their XL bullies to shelters that are already flooded by a huge number of existing dogs. It has also made people to demonize and fear the breed.

How breeding affects the behaviour

There are obviously a lot of people out there that call themselves breeders. A big percentage of them breeds for appearance and financial gain. The rest are actually people who care about the type of dog that they breed and they prioritize general health and well-being. Those ethical breeders make sure that their dogs are properly tested (blood, hip, elbow, eye, hearing, dna and other screening) to reduce the chance of passing any diseases or conditions to the next generation and they avoid in-breeding by selectively mating dogs that are not genetically related. They also ensure that the parents have passed a temperament test which will show if the dogs are emotionally stable, social, inquisitive and they won’t exhibit any form of fear, anxiety or aggression. The behaviour and temperament of the parents can easily affect the puppies’ future behaviour so the breeding couple needs to tick all the boxes before mating.
Missing the essential tests on the parents can easily lead to puppies developing mild or serious health and behavioural issues such as aggression towards people or extreme unpredictability and nervousness.

Owner’s responsibilities

So as mentioned above, the breeder should do a number of tests before mating a dog and they also need to take a proper care of the puppies until they are 2 months old and are handed over to the new owners.
If everything is done the right way by the breeder, the owner should now take over. In my experience, 50% of the dog’s future behaviour as an adult is determined by the breeder. The rest 50% is the way that the owner will raise the puppy. Puppies need to be slowly exposed to everyday environments, different kind of people, animals, sounds and sights and have positive experiences between the age of 2 to 4 months old. This is what socialization is and it’s the most critical thing that an owner can do to make sure that the puppy will grow in to a friendly, calm and confident adult dog.
If the puppy misses this socialization window, behavioural problems such as fearful or aggressive behaviour might arise.
For the XL bully breeds more specifically, if we combine lack of socialization and poor breeding together, the result can be a dangerous dog for the public. The reason for that is because these dogs were originally bred for bull and bear baiting and their instincts can be stronger and more intense than other breeds.

Training Methods

When it comes to training, XL bullies owners are usually told (through social media mostly) that correction methods are the best ones to address a behaviour or prevent one from occurring.
Social media posts and dog trainers out there, are encouraging owners to learn how to be the pack leader of the household otherwise their dog will take advantage of them and start disrespecting them.
Unfortunately, these kinds of techniques can make a lot of damage especially in powerful, strong and large breeds.
This breed seems to attract a certain type of people that usually want a status dog that will appear very intimidating in public. In order to achieve this, punitive and aversive methods and tools are used for the dog’s training which can easily result in aggressive behaviours towards people and other animals.
XL bullies might not necessarily be a dangerous breed but in the wrong hands it seems to bring out their worst traits.
Training plays a big role when it comes to raising a dog. Building a solid trust and developing a deep bond between dog and owner can only be achieved with reward-based techniques. Using positive reinforcement, the dog participates in the training because they want to and not because they are afraid of the consequences in case they make a “mistake”. The dog learns to trust you and is happy when you work together as you only offer things that they enjoy. At the end, you have a friendly, confident and predictable dog and not a dog that has lost trust and faith to people.

Last thoughts

We are definitely dealing with a serious situation here. XL Bullies or crosses have unfortunately been at the top of the list when it comes to attacks or mauls but we all need to understand that not all dogs, breeders and owners are the same.
Bringing a dog to our home is a big responsibility and every owner out there needs to take pet ownership more seriously. Education on how to interact with dogs is urgently needed especially for kids.
In my opinion, governments must take measures that will actually help and prevent (or even eliminate) any dog attacks, bites in the future. How?
By introducing laws in which breeders need to follow specific regulations and make sure that they interview the potential owners by filling out questionnaires, taking all their personal details, history, information about their household and routine and doing check-ins to make sure that the puppies are raised properly. Ideally, breeders should pass some sort of test/exams before they start breeding dogs and councils should regularly visit and investigate their breeding facilities / property.
As for the owners, there should be a law that when someone adopts/buys a dog, they should immediately enrol in to socialization and training classes to learn how to read their dog’s body language and what is the best way to teach the basics and prevent future behavioural problems.
We first need to address the breeders and the owners and then the actual breed with enough evidence.
Considering all of the facts, XL bullies and some other certain breeds should only be owned by people who are capable and committed to raise them properly as they can be very powerful breeds and their instincts are stronger than other breeds, especially when it comes to other animals.

About Artemis

My passion for dogs started since I was a little girl. My decision to get involved in dog training was first taken when I met a naughty boxer puppy that was not properly socialized and she was struggling to control her impulses. Now, with over 5 years of experience, I mainly train dogs in basic obedience but I've also worked with behavior issues such as reactivity, fearfulness and aggression towards people and animals.

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