Pet ownership is a big responsibility. When you adopt an animal, you are signing on to take care of that animal – which includes making sure it has plenty of food and water, a warm, comfortable place to sleep, a place to get in out of the chill of winter and the sweltering heat of summer, and the companionship of humans – for the rest of its life.

Pet ownership is a big responsibility. When you adopt an animal, you are signing on to take care of that animal – which includes making sure it has plenty of food and water, a warm, comfortable place to sleep, a place to get in out of the chill of winter and the sweltering heat of summer, and the companionship of humans – for the rest of its life.

Taking proper care of a pet also means keeping it safe and keeping others safe when they are around it.

For a long time, I was not convinced that dogs such as pit bulls and Dobermans were naturally predispositioned to aggressiveness. There are, after all, some perfectly fine pit bulls and Dobermans who have made lovely pets – playing gently with the children of the house in one minute and fiercely protecting them in the next.

But then we got our two cairn terriers, and upon reading up on the breed, I found myself being warned that they are intelligent, independent and fearlessly tenacious. Boy, whoever wrote that description got my two dogs down perfectly!

As lovable as Blanche and Sophia are, however, that tenacity often pits them against each other, especially when they find themselves vying for the attention of one of the human members of the family.

When they start staring at each other, their tales rigid and just barely wagging, we know trouble is in the air. They have gotten into some horrible fights, to the point that once we finally get them calmed down, one or the other of them is often bleeding.

I don’t mind telling you, it’s a scary thing to watch, and fearing that one or both of them would get seriously hurt, I even considered finding another home for one of them.

Realizing that was the last resort, however, I began working with them, trying to maintain an air of calm when I saw them starting to get agitated.

And I won’t say the fights have stopped, but they have certainly diminished, and now the two of them can actually play with each other without getting so serious.

Are these two tenacious terriers predispositioned to being overprotective of their loved ones and to fight off anyone – human or animal – that gets in the way? I would say yes.

Just like pit bulls are predispositioned to be aggressive and protective of their territory. And that, by the way, includes families, too.

But if we as pet owners truly care about our dogs, we will work with them and try any humane solution we can come up with to work through the problem.

For my terriers, the secret seems to be to threaten them with an old belt. If I can catch them just as they are starting to get fired up, it has seemed to work. Sometimes, all I have to do now is say, “I'm getting the belt,” and they back off. (Please note: I said “threaten.” I would never hit either of them with the belt -- but they don’t know that, and that works for me!)

With a pit bull, maybe the answer is a higher fence, a stronger chain and a little more diligence in keeping him on his own property.  Or maybe it’s finding some sort of humane behavior modification technique and the patience to work with the dog.

If worse comes to worst, there are all kinds of organizations out there who rescue endangered animals and work toward getting them rehabilitated.

Granted, rehabilitation may not work for all dogs. But I would certainly rather think that I tried that route before I considered an alternative reached by lethal injection.

The point is: The inhumane, and often criminal, thing to do is to do nothing.

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