By Cesar Millan

This last week, I celebrated my 45th birthday with friends and family. For some reason, birthdays divisible by five are a big deal to humans.

Maybe it’s because of how many fingers we have. Maybe not. If dogs could count, maybe they’d be very interested in numbers that end in four.

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Related: How did pit bulls get such a bad rap?

Or maybe they wouldn’t be. Because there’s one big difference between how we see the world and how dogs see it.

Dogs see the world through their instincts, so things like math or historical dates or birthdays mean nothing to them. But humans see the world through their intellects and emotions, meaning that things like dates, numbers, names, and information define our world.

So... the year I was born and the date I was born and how many years it’s been since the date I was born are important to humans. And they are all arbitrary.

To a dog, I am not my name or my species or my age. I am my scent and my energy.

Animal, Species, Breed, and Name

It doesn’t matter whether you’re nine or ninety. If you are a calm, assertive leader, dogs will follow. A dog doesn’t care whether you’re male or female, or whether you’re Mexican or American or Dutch or Chinese.

Dogs see themselves as animal, then species, then breed, then name, and they see humans in a similar way — as animal first, then as Homo sapiens — but they look at those last two in entirely different ways than we do. To dogs, human “breed” is our energy — positive or negative, dominant or submissive, strong or weak. And our “name” is just our scent, our unique smell through which dogs’ incredible noses can recognize a person.

Now, here’s the important lesson that humans need to learn from dogs. Outward appearances are unimportant. Energy is everything. When a dog sees another dog, it doesn’t see a pit bull. It sees energy and intention, and that’s how one dog decides whether another dog is any danger.

When a human sees a pit bull, they don’t see a dog. They only see the breed and then their intellect kicks in with all of the “facts” about that breed. This triggers their emotions and, far too often, the response is fear. “That dog must be dangerous because it is a pit bull.”

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I’ve known plenty of pit bulls in my life, and they can be among the sweetest, calmest, and most loyal of dogs. My pit bull Daddy always knew exactly the right thing to do, and he taught me wisdom. My pit bull Junior isn’t quite as confident as Daddy, but he is teaching me how to rediscover youthful enthusiasm and joy.

Power Breeds and Their Undeserved Bad Rap

Long before I ever had a television show, I naturally gravitated toward the so-called power breeds, like pit bulls, Rottweilers, and German shepherds. I used to walk a pack of about thirty of these dogs, without leashes, through the rough streets of South Central L.A. Apparently, because of the reputations of these breeds, I wound up scaring drug dealers out of that neighborhood.

But they are un-earned and undeserved reputations, especially among pit bulls. In the early part of the 20th century, pit bulls were the preferred breed for watching after children. Their reputation at that time was that they made great nanny dogs. In the U.S., the pit bull was even considered the all-American breed.

What changed that reputation was not the dogs but rather how people treated them. During the 1980s, pit bulls became popular with gangsters for protection, and they were also used (and abused) for dog fighting. The breed is not naturally aggressive, but suddenly they were being trained to be that way. The only reason they were chosen over, say, beagles, was because of their size and strength.

The good news is this: what humans have done, we can un-do. It just takes awareness and education, and the realization that a dog is just a dog, regardless of breed.

Stay calm, and hug a pit bull today!

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