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The problem with dog stereotypes

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Posted at 11:10 AM, Jun 16, 2022

Known as a man's best friend, dogs have proven to be a needed companion.

Sarah Ballard's dogs are just that, but they also have a necessary life-saving job.

Ballard owns Dog Training Elite in Denver. She trains dogs to be service animals.

"For years, we've kind of been selective about which dog does which thing and I think, we as people, are very quick to fall into stereotypes," Ballard said.

Stereotypes are not the best way to find a dog to do a certain job, according to Ballard.

"It comes down to breaking barriers and stereotypes for service dog clients, for people in our community who really need the support of a dog to help them access everyday life in meaningful ways," she said.

Ballard claims breed has little to do with a dog's ability or behavior.

"The relationship between the person and the dog is the most important thing for them being able to provide the services and the comfort that the dogs are intended to," she said.

That relationship, along with specific drives and character traits, is something Brett Titus looks for when training dogs to be K9s.

"There are specific breeds that tend to have better drives and character traits than others but none of them, there is no breed that can be lumped under, ya know German Shepherds. All German Shepherds are protective. All German Shepherds should be police dogs, so not true," he said.

With a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement, much of which was spent working with K9s, he's an expert on what to look for.

"In the police world, military world, there used to be this big misconception of the nastier the dog, the better," Titus said. "We've seen that with breed-specific things as well. So not true."

Titus compares choosing dogs for a specific job to choosing a basketball player to be in the NBA.

"I can dribble a basketball, I can shoot a three-pointer and make it every once in a while but I do not belong in the NBA," He said.

Titus' point is backed by research. A recent study found many of the popular stereotypes about the behavior of dogs aren’t supported by science.