Saturday, March 30, 2013

A question for pit bull owners

I've been pondering one of life's little mysteries, and it occurred to me to mention the conundrum here. OK, some background: It's not too difficult to establish the fact that pit bulls are responsible for the vast majority of fatal dog on dog attacks, and while they are said to be "only" animal-aggressive (as if it's OK for pit bulls to kill innocent family pets) it's also a fact that pit bulls injure, maim and kill more human victims than all other types of dogs combined.

As thinking people, we look for patterns and meaning in events.  We tend to notice things like the fact that, of 7 Americans killed by canine so far this year, all 7 were victims of pit bulls (references below). So naturally, one asks, "why is this the case?" or "what factors could account for this disproportionate representation of pit bulls in the statistics on violent attacks, injuries and deaths?"

One might look into the history of the breed (the term "breed" is used loosely here) to see what clues, if any, may be gleaned. Sure enough, we find several hundred years of selective breeding and violent blood sport: A molosser breed, the "bull dog" was bred to torture de-horned bulls or de-clawed, tied up bears in the UK for sport from the 1500s to the 1800s. These canines were bred to be tough, to grip the victim with strong jaws, and hang on to the death, disregarding any pain or injury suffered.

In 1835, "bull baiting" was outlawed, but the sadism of the dog men didn't disappear, but rather sought a new outlet, and "pit fighting" became the new pastime. Two bull dogs would be placed in a fighting pit to battle to the death. Here, the selective breeding continued, tuning the specialized canines to an existence optimized to killing canines in the fighting pit. These pit fighting bull dogs, or "pit bulls" had the normal canine etiquette bred out of them. No warning of an attack was given, and the normal canine language which existed to avoid actual deadly conflict, was stunted. When a pit bull attacked, it didn't matter if the other canine submitted, fought back, or tried to run away, the relentless attack was to continue to the death.

It was soon discovered that breeding the bull dog with the athletic and energetic terrier created a more energetic, relentless attacker, and thus the "bull and terrier" was created. Compact and muscular, tenacious and relentless, with a powerful jaw, no mercy and a freakish insensitivity to pain, the "English Bull Terrier" or "Staffordshire Terrier" became the standard pit fighting dog.

When dog fighters travelled to America, they brought their pit bulls with them, and renamed them the "American Staffordshire Terrier". In any case, pit bull breeding and fighting continued in the colonies, but in no way were the fighting dogs ever generally popular, nor were they ever considered suitable as family pets. The dog men knew better.

The dog fighters continued to breed for "gameness" - the drive to attack, and not to stop the attack no matter what. Dogs that submitted, or didn't want to fight were considered "useless curs" and were cruelly culled. Only the most relentless killers were allowed to breed.

Fun fact: AKC registered "American Staffordshire Terriers" can be registered with the UKC as "American Pit Bull Terriers"

For many decades, pit bull breeding and dog fighting thrived, but began to move underground as disapproval by the general public began to re-shape the legal landscape in favor of curtailing the violent sport. Things began to look grim for the dog fighters as the "sport" was outlawed in more places. Even though law enforcement often looked the other way, it was always easy to spot a dog fighting operation: the presence of pit bulls was a dead giveaway.

During the 1980s, certain organizations began pushing the idea of "rescuing" pit bulls and promoting them as family pets, a brilliant move which, if successful, would provide cover for the dog fighters; if pit bulls began to appear in homes as family pets, the presence of a pit bull would no longer be a reliable indicator of dog fighting operation.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this "rehabilitation" of the pit bull is that normal dogs began to pay the price. As they say, you can take the pit bull out of the fight, but you can't take the fight out of the pit bull. Shelter workers, who had not seen pit bulls before, would mistakenly put a pit bull in the same cage as a normal dog, and come in the next morning to find a dead dog, cruelly torn apart, in the cage with the pit bull. Normal dogs would roll over and submit when the pit bull got the upper hand in a fight, but to a pit bull, this was merely an opportunity to disembowel the poor dog.

Since the 1980s, hundreds of thousand of innocent family pets have been cruelly mauled to death, often in their own yards, sometimes in their own houses, by roaming pit bulls. And another statistic began to appear. Prior to the 1980s, there were maybe 3 deaths a year from dog attack. But once pit bulls started to be placed as family pets, the number of human casualties began to rise sharply. The number of human deaths from dog attack is now 10 times what it was in 1980, and pit bulls are responsible for the majority of the increase. There is really no other factor on the radar. Rottweilers are a distant second, and no other breed is even anywhere near the Rottweilers in the statistics.

So, when one hears the old "first it was the Dobermans, then it was the German Shepherds" it's instructive to keep in mind that even in the "Decade of the Dobermans", the Dobermans never killed anywhere near as many people as pit bulls.

So, I've said all that to say this: it would seem apparent to me that the reason pit bulls are responsible for such a disproportionate number of violent attacks, resulting in serious injuries and deaths, is that they are simply doing what they were bred to do.

"Not so fast!", the pit bull advocates say, "pit bulls are wonderful, loyal, gentle, misunderstood creatures that would never hurt a fly, so loyal that they will fight to the death for their people."

I ponder this, and then have to ask: "If they are so loyal, why do they kill their owners so often?"

The answer comes back from the pit bull advocates: "it's the fault of bad owners!"

"But", I ask, "aren't pit bulls predisposed to violence due to their breeding?"

The pit bull fans respond: "No, pit bulls are absolutely the same as any other dog. All dogs can bite. It's all in how you raise them. When a pit bull attacks, it's only because pit bull owners mistreat their pit bulls, they abuse them and train them to be vicious".

At last, we have the answer. It has nothing to do with the hundreds of years of breeding for sudden, violent attack, the gameness, the uncanny tolerance for pain. It's all because those damned pit bull owners are so evil.

Then the pit bull owners share an interesting fact: "Do you know that pit bulls score higher on the ATTS than any other breed?"

"What is the ATTS?", you might ask. Well, according to the pit bull fans, it's a test that accurately measures the soundness of temperament in a given dog, with a high score indicating a dog that is dependable and reliable, and non-aggressive unless there is a genuine threat. (From what I can see, the test actually measures the boldness of a dog and nothing else, but I digress)

So we think about what the pit bull fans have told us: "pit bulls are exactly the same as any other dog, it's all in how you raise them". So obviously, the reason pit bulls have such high scores in this ATTS thing is due to the fact that pit bulls have such awesome owners, right?

But wait - this is a conundrum. Which is it? Do pit bulls have the worst owners of all dogs, or do they have really great owners? Please enlighten us, enquiring minds want to know!

References -

Fatal pitbull attacks
DBO: dog bite fatalities
Staffordshires Online
The nanny dog myth revealed
The bull dog - an abnormal canine monster dog
Animal Experts and the Innate Aggressive Traits of Pit Bulldogs


  1. Good to see a new blog up, Jake. Well thought through.

    I thought of you when I read this story of a hero chi. Did you happen to catch it as well?

  2. Thanks DubV - Yes, I'd seen that story about the brave little Chi - now *that* is a heroic dog. So overmatched, in a hopeless cause, and he put his little life on the line. That's a dog I would put myself in harms way to protect.

  3. Well-written, Jake! An clear and effective counterarguement to alternate pitbull history propaganda we have been bombarded with lately.

  4. jake
    what you say about the breed and fanciers makes a lot of sense and would be funny if it wasnt also disgusting and dispicable

  5. Good un! Hits all the bases. What Snarky said...


  6. i just get so tired of little chis and dashunds ect getting such a bad rap . my little man has never as much as killed a fly but he would defend me to the bitter end . these sweet little mutants are the most hated and abused critters on the face of the planet , except for shitbulls. i just think that pitters should overcome their paranoia and prejudice and get to know a rat dog . they wont lick you to death but they might gum you to death .

  7. If you actually go to the ATTS website and look around you will notice a few things...

    1.THERE IS A DISCLAIMER: "The pass-fail rate is not a measure of a breed’s aggression, but rather of each dog’s ability to interact with humans, human situations, and the environment. See a description of the test on the TT Test Description page."

    2. Breed Break out...Pit bulls actually break out 94th of all breeds tested, not up at the top like their advocates imply.

    3. Pits and Rotts are the heaviest users of ATTS, yet are the number 1 and Number 2 Canine killer of humans.

    *You Can't Make This Stuff Up!


  8. i think i would rather run a gauntlet of nasty chihuahuas than one of sweet shitbulls trying to lick me to death.

  9. depends on how you define WORST and GREAT.

    pit bulls have owners who are the worst at following the rules and the greatest at lying, cheating and playing the victim card.

  10. great article. - Jon

  11. The next time someone says they're just like any other dog, it's how they're raised, it's the owner, etc. ask them why you never hear about poodles, Bassets, or border collies being matched in the pit. Ask also if they're just like any other dog why have one when any dog would be just they same. They can't give a coherent answer but will get extremely irritated and loud.

    1. I agree Pits were bred for fighting, but does that mean they will always fight? No. However, they're not for first-time owners as they require very good socializing and handling.

      And weren't humans, in roman/greek times, fighters too? Aren't some of us still? Yes. Do we go round whacking each other? Sometimes, but not often.

      And the reason you never hear of different dog breeds attacking, well, who wants to hear about a Spaniel biting someone when that pit bull is running around killing everyone?

      I have a Staffie, and he's completely harmless. Yes, he is strong, and yes, he has a strong jaw, but no, he has never bit me. But you can be sure he's licked me.

      So if you reply, try to have some knowledge of real, good family dogs.

  12. @Reverie - Kudos for posting a comment which was fairly rational in some aspects. You presented your opinion without too much drama, and actually threw in some logic, all of which is conducive to further discussion.

    But alas, your logic began to unravel when you implied that deaths due to attacks by other breeds are being kept secret. Sorry, the fact that pit bulls are by far the most common type of dog identified in serious attacks is not a media conspiracy as you suggest. The actual reason is much simpler: pit bulls are in fact committing the majority of the violent attacks on people, and to an even worse extent, on innocent animal victims.

    True to form, your testimony about a "harmless pibble" is right out of the pit nutter handbook. You are in effect boasting about an un-detonated IED. It's an established fact that pit bulls never attack, until they do.

    Ah, you couldn't resist a little dig at the end, could you? You imply that those who dare mention the big problems with pit bulls are merely ignorant, uninformed or uneducated.

    Actually, most of the people with concerns about pit bulls started out giving all dogs the benefit of the doubt, but were educated about pit bulls, largely by pit bulls.

    If you dare read it, here is the education of one thinking person re: pit bulls - my journey

  13. Jake, excellent post. Btw the first line of photos, the two dogs in battle was shot just outside Vidalia, GA. by a blogger on that other board.

  14. I find it fascinating that the defenders of pit bulls always describe specimens as "The sweetest dog I ever knew" "would lick you to death" etc, which is just the most juvenile overcompensation, and points to the obvious fact that these behaviors are anomolous to what the dog is capable of--dogs that are, and are EXPECTED to be kind natured and affectionate, are not constantly remarked as such, nor showcased as being remarkably forgiving and tolerant.
    By the way, I've had, in turn, a Rough Collie, a Samoyed, a mixed-breed spaniel, and two Min Poodles, and while all were loving, devoted, trustworthy, and kind-natured to humans and animals alike, non were servile hand or boot lickers-they respected me, and I, and everyone else, expected them to act like civilized creatures, as they did honorably throughout their long lives.
    Finally, I will say that the feebleminded slogan "Blame the deed, not the breed" is possibly the worst indictment of all, in spite of its easily memorized, nursery-rhyme doggerel-- its not trivial harm these creatures do--and what other breed needs a cheap meme to sway public opinion? Its just embarrassing that in some susceptible skulls, it's imagined to have the status of truth.

  15. I loved your comment on the rhythm. I've been tempted to ask why not "if it does not fit you must acquit ".

  16. Damn it! Browser is doing it again. That's RHYME, not rhythm. Sheesh.

  17. I've delt with fights between Pits and my normal dogs.
    Half where no different then other large breeds,others a little more violent,one very violent,although the most violent one the Pit got more injured in it.
    Some staffs or non game pits actually do show doggy signals and submission signals.

    Also normal dogs can fight quite fiercely at times.
    From reading "The Pit Bull Garden" It mentions a Airdale that defeated 3 Pit bulls in the pit,and a Labrador that was used as a fighting dog. They mentioned the Labrador proving itself game. Also some lines of Tosa Inu's,Ovtcharka's,and Kangals are known for killing Pit bulls.

    Denying dog/animal aggression and a higher then normal fighting instinct in Pit bulls is idiotic though.

  18. as a pitbull owner, i can say that the dogs were bred to be animal aggressive. not all are though. and that natural animal aggression can directed towards humans if trained. The breed also attracts tons of idiots. 9 out of 10 pitbull owners seem to be retard thugs or wannabees etc. live thier tuff guy fantasy through their dog. if someone is uneducated or ignorant on a subject, they cannot speak on it intelligently. catching a news story on tv about pitbulls does not classify as educated on the breed. read a book, study dog behavior and training, own one, etc. etc. if you step into the "dog world" of dog educated people, such as people that particpate in dog shows, dog training, protection work, etc. you will see that most people educated on the subject agree that they are good dogs. and despite the publics general view of pitbulls, there are many more breeds of dog that are much larger, stronger, and dangerous than pitbulls, that have been bred to have human aggression, these dogs are just not well known to the public. also as a general rule, any large muscular dog, or mix of breeds, generally gets labeled as a pitbull as well.

    1. @Muay Thai -

      You are correct about ignorant people getting bad information about pit bulls - for instance, they look to propaganda sites that parrot nonsensical myths e.g. "pit bulls were bred to be nanny dogs" etc, and which try to suppress information about the actual origins and history of pit bull type dogs.

      When it comes to reality, it's not a popularity contest: the facts are the facts. And the fact is that pit bulls are the result of hundreds of years of breeding for violence, and and as a result we have a real problem - a problem that pit bull advocates are trying to cover up. Even though pit bull type dogs are somewhere around 5% of the dog population at large, the are obscenely over-represented in terms of serious, disfiguring and fatal attacks on humans. Sadly, the epidemic of pit bull violence against animals is much worse.

      While I agree that there are dogs which are larger and stronger than pit bulls, they are absolutely not more dangerous. Even though a number of breeds are capable of doing as much or more damage than pit bulls, they don't have the desire or motivation to do so, and that is the huge difference between pit bulls and normal dogs.

      Even though livestock guardian breeds can and do kill pit bull sin the line of duty, we don't have a livestock guardian problem. On the contrary, livestock guardians have been protecting sheep from coyotes, wolves, big cats, bears and other predators for centuries, and yet they are all but invisible in terms of the numbers of serious attacks on humans.

      As for mis-labeling of breeds, it's really silly to say that any large, muscular dog is labelled as a pit bull. Nobody will ever mistake an Akita, or a Kangal, or a Caucasian Shepherd for a pit bull. These dogs might be mistaken for a wolf, but never in a million years would anyone mistake one for a pit bull.

      What in fact happens in exactly the opposite. I am always seeing pit bulls mis-labeled as "boxer mixes" and "lab mixes", among other deliberate lies.

      The pit activists really love to throw that accusation around, but they never ever want to get down to details, because the whole argument falls apart when they try.

      The fact is, the overwhelming majority of disfiguring or fatal dog attacks over the past 10 years have been committed by pit bulls. Feel fee to drill down and talk about which ones you think are actually not pit bull type dogs, or pit bull mixes. I wager you'll find your task rather difficult and fruitless.

  19. I am an owner of 2 american staffies and a 4lb chi, i love them all and i think both breeds being so different are amazing. My opinion with the pitties is that unfortunately they are used for dog fights, and i think it is poor breeding, my two i can trace their parents and are excellent listeners and great with my daughter but i did have one that would become very violent with small animals but NEVER exhibited that kind of violence with people. Unfortunately for their bad reputation you have to be careful when getting one. Like most dogs who are poorly bred they have higher counts of violence and neurological issues. But also 2 years ago i havent checked since the highest rate fr dog bites was a golden retriever.

    1. @Jess Tedesco - Your story is all too familiar. You've ignored all the warnings and swallowed the pit bull propaganda hook line and sinker.

      You're dangerously misinformed about pit bulls. They are "used for dog fights"? No dear, they were designed and bred specifically for a life in the dog fighting pit. The trick is not getting pit bulls to fight - no, that's no problem, and there is no training required, as it's been bred into them. No, the real trick would be if you could somehow keep them from attacking. Obviously that's not going very well, since innocent little dogs are attacked, tortured and killed by pit bulls every day.

      Golden retrievers? WTF? are you seriously deluded enough the believe that golden retrievers are a bigger problem than pit bulls? And do you really think everyone else is deluded enough to swallow that crap? I'd like to know where you got your information, because it's pretty easy to find out these things, unless you try to find the facts from a pit bull propaganda site, which is the only sort of site that would ever make such a ridiculous and obviously impossible claim.

      So far in 2013 there have been over 500 serious pit bull attacks on humans, and anywhere from 10 to 100 times that many serious pit bull maulings of innocent animals. (it's difficult to come up with a precise count because pit bull attacks on animals are woefully under-reported)

      AT any rate, if you look at the stats for the US and Canada, pit bulls account for more serious attacks on humans than all other breeds combined. Large retrievers (which include labs, goldens, etc) aren't even on the radar.

      BTW - when those pit bulls decide to torture your little chi to death you should be charged with felony animal cruelty.

  20. The ATTS (American Temperament Test Society), which the nutters are always citing as proof pit bulls make great pets does NOT test for pet suitability. The test was developed in 1977 by Alfons Ertelt and he was a printer, NOT an animal behaviorist. He owned German shepherds and was involved in the sport called shutzhund, which involves training dogs in the same manner in which police dogs are trained. The ATTS was intended to test working dogs for jobs such as police work and it favors bold animals, i.e., dogs that face danger head-on without hesitation or fear. Courage is a desirable trait, timidity an undesirable trait. Thus, German shepherds do much better on the ATTS than do collies and other timid breeds. In fact, 95% of the dogs that fail the ATTS do so because they “lack confidence,” e.g., when approaching a weirdly-dressed stranger. Of course, pit bull-type dogs are going to score well on a test geared toward aggressive behavior because these monsters were bred for the purpose of fighting and killing other pit bulls and nothing deters them, certainly not weirdly-dressed strangers!

  21. Most human being are so cruel and disgusting people. That's why I loved the dogs more than most human being. They are so wonderful animals who loved you unconditionally and all they want is love and attention. Thats so powerful and beautiful animals.

    1. I love dogs too - that's why it hurts me to see them tortured to death by pit bulls.

    2. Bearmon: Your comment makes me sad. You sound hurt and sad. Don't let your hurt define you. You have been hurt by other people I guess. There are good people in the world - kind people. There really are. Be careful. Look up, "misanthrope" because that is (based on this comment) what you are painting yourself to be. Hopefully you really are not. The fact you seem to feel hurt (as opposed to just hatred) is a positive sign. Get help - Not a pit bull. The breed is the danger, but combined with owners who care more for dogs than for people it is a disaster. Lots of us need to get counseling and psychological help because we feel misunderstood or hurt by other people. No shame in that.

  22. The answer is obviously both - they have some of the best and some of the worst owners. However, when they end up having the worst the results are more likely to be deadly than your average bad dog owner.

  23. I just want to say as a proud pittbull owner that I got my dog as a rescue when he was 3. They said he had been beaten, starved, and neglected and yet he is still the sweetest dog I have ever had, not aggressive towards other animals , nor towards people. So basically what I mean to say is that you can't let a few rotten apples spoil the bunch. And honestly it is not the dogs fault if they are aggressive it is the owners fault, pittbulls will defend themselves when needed or they will attack when they feel endangered. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    1. In speaking of your own pit bull, it could be that you got a dud - a "cold" pit bull. Such things happen, but you certainly can't count on it, and you won't know for certain until it has died of old age.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "a few rotten apples" - what I am sure of is that there is a bloodbath going on, with some 60,000 innocent animals tortured by pit bulls last year - by pit bulls, doing exactly what pit bulls were designed to do, no more and no less.

      As far as trying to figure out who to blame, there is not much point in that. The pit promoters are always looking for someone to blame. The rest of us aren't interested in the blame game, we just want the torture and killing to stop. But if you want to philosophize about who to blame, I'll play along. Do I blame the maulers for being exactly what they were designed to be? That wouldn't make much sense, would it?

      I blame the sadists who created these torturers to commit atrocities against animals for their amusement. And I blame the tools who try to promote them as family pets, claiming they are no different from other dogs.

      You speak of pit bulls "defending" themselves, but we both know that's a sick joke. When pit bulls hop over a fence, go into someone's dog door and spend a delightful afternoon torturing and killing all the animals inside, that's hardly defending themselves.

      Btu you knew that already didn't you?


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