Monday, March 14, 2011

The problem with pit bulls, part 2

An often repeated myth about pit bulls states that they are "just like any other dog". I think it can be clearly shown that these animals differ from normal dogs in significant ways.

Canine DNA is a wondrous thing; it has facilitated the creation of diverse breeds, each with own it's own unique set of distinguishing characteristics, from the original hunter/scavenger species which was related to the wolf. A remarkable diversity of breeds has been produced through selection for specific characteristics, emphasizing specific desired facets of the original hunting behaviors and de-selecting for others. 

For instance, in the border collie, the stalk/chase portions of the hunting behavior were emphasized and are now an evident trait of the breed. In the pointer, the scent/track/orient portions of the hunting behavior were emphasized. Retrievers were carefully bred for the characteristics that allow them to retrieve and gently carry a downed bird to the hunter.

Those benighted souls who produced the fighting dog breeds wanted dogs which would tirelessly tear apart a de-clawed bear or a de-horned bull, or tear each other apart in a pit. The grip-and-hold, the killing bite, and the shearing bite were emphasized. The creatures resulting from these merciless practices were the very first pit bull type dogs, the English Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Terrier. 

For over 170 years, dog fighters and breeders have been unable to produce a more savage killer, pound for pound, than the pit bull. The modern pit bull breeds include names like the American Staffordshire Terrier, AmStaff, StaffyBull, American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT), American Bulldog, and others - different names for what are at most minor variations of the same dog.

Retrievers were bred to retrieve, Pointers were bred to point, Border Collies and Shepherds were bred to herd sheep, and pit bulls were bred to fight and kill other creatures. Full stop. Pit bulls, due to their specific breeding for the hair trigger attack, killing bite and associated behaviors and characteristics desired in fighting canids, don't avoid aggression like other dogs, lack impulse control and ignore the normal canine social conventions and interactions.

And don't kid yourself by the way, dog fighting is still a thriving business in the US and around the world. Fighting pit bulls are highly prized for their killing ability, and the owner of a pit bull who has killed other animals in fights can count on studding income. Dog fighters and breeders are most definitely selecting not only for killing prowess, but a temperament geared to sudden, violent and all-out attack. The "duds" - i.e. those lacking either the powerful killing bite, or the willingness - nay eagerness - to use it, are routinely destroyed.

Although the dog fighting industry and their allies perpetuate the myth that "man biters" have always been immediately culled, and that pit bulls are aggressive only towards animals and not people, grave injuries and death have been the lot of many who've tried to stop a pit bull attack. A pit bull in the "red zone" will often redirect its attacks to the person who is trying to protect the victim, and many pit bull owners have found themselves suddenly fighting for their lives with a pit bull who they had always "known" to be harmless, right up until the moment of the attack.

Unfortunately it's not just pit bull owners who are at risk. Pit bulls are relentless escape artists. They often break out of their enclosures and go looking for victims. Loose pit bulls are a public safety issue, often entering other people's yards or houses to attack people and/or pets. The result is a massacre, and a lingering, horrific memory for those involved.

RIP 1/26/2011 - 5 year old Makayla Woodard killed by neighbor's loose pit bulls

Many in the pit bull community insist that pit bulls are not violent or dangerous by nature, that the breed is misunderstood, that "it's all in how you raise them" and any pit bulls who have attacked simply must have been mistreated, or taught to be cruel by "bad owners".

I beg to differ. The careful selection of fighting dog characteristics which produced their genetic makeup not only predisposes them to certain behavior, but hard wires them for it. For example, Border Collies have an inborn drive to herd. Even though a typical domestic border collie may have never even seen a herd of sheep, and has never been trained to herd, the behavior is latent in the breed, and given a chance they will express that behaviour at some point, herding children for instance. The genetic influence is undeniable. The dog is happiest when expressing his innate behavior.

While not every single pit bull has been or will be observed to attack another animal or person, sudden, unpredictable and violent aggression is a general characteristic of the breed, and can be considered latent within each pit bull, whether or not a particular dog has displayed the behavior yet. Pit bulls are well known for suddenly killing other pets with whom they have lived peacefully for years.

RIP 03/07/2011 Mikey - gentle 10 year old pet killed by neighbor's loose pit bulls

Numerous witnesses to pit bull attacks have commented on the absence of any of the normal warning signals of canine aggression. This is a natural consequence of breeding for a no-nonsense fight to the death. A pit bull will saunter over, looking friendly and submissive, tail wagging - and suddenly clamp his jaws onto the victim. Thus the nightmare begins.

This video illustrates how pit bulls ignore the normal canine social conventions; the pit bull approaches and repeatedly attacks a sweet, docile lab who kept trying to walk away. Finally the poor injured lab lay down, paws up, in the universal canine gesture of submission, but the pit bull completely ignored the submission gesture and continued his cruel and leisurely attack, tail wagging. At one point someone, apparently the owner, managed to pull the pit bull away. The traumatized and injured lab managed to drag himself under a vehicle to hide. His whole world had just been destroyed, and if he survived the attack, which is not clear, he will be fearful for the rest of his life.

The "red zone" is a distinguishing characteristic of pit bulls, often reported by witnesses, and well documented with video footage. A pit bull in attack mode is completely focused on the victim, losing all situational awareness, gripping the prey with powerful jaws, hanging on and shaking the head with strong neck muscles, occasionally letting go only to clamp down again in a different spot.

Pit bulls are unique in their desire to attack and kill not only domestic pets but also horses, mules, cows and other livestock. This video shows a pit bull attacking a mule. A dog of any other breed, after being kicked and stomped by a defending mule, would call it a day and leave, but not the pit bull. This one seemed absolutely driven to keep attacking until it was finally killed by the mule. Unfortunately most equine victims of pit bull attacks do not fare so well.

Witnesses and victims of attacks have reported that attacking pit bulls show no reaction to punches, kicks, or blows to the head with hammer, shovel, or baseball bat. Mace is shrugged off, and tasers have little or no effect. However, shotguns and high caliber handguns have proved effective, and knives have also been shown to effectively stop pit bull attacks when used correctly.

There are doubtless Pit bull owners who are ready to swear that their pit bull has never hurt a fly and would never hurt a fly. I don't deny that they believe what they are saying, but the only problem with that sort of statement is that it has been made before by many pit bull owners, prior to a horrendous attack. I'd say that's a pretty good illustration of the word "unpredictable".  

For more information on the pit bull problem, there are good online resources and references to comprehensive studies conducted by neutral 3rd parties which provide education on the danger to the public. According to the most recent credible studies, pit bulls are the most likely breed by far to maim or kill another animal or a human being, and by far the most likely breed to be involved when a child is treated for serious injuries from a dog attack.

References -

Studies -
"Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to June 25, 2010", 
     Merritt Clifton
"Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog", 
     A. Semyonova
"Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries: A 5-Year Review of the Experience at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia",
    Kaye, Alison E. M.D.; Belz, Jessica M. M.D.; Kirschner, Richard E. M.D. 

Books -
"The 100 silliest things people say about dogs", A. Semyonova

URLs -


  1. Great job! btw, i think i hear the gaskets blowing:)

    re: border collie and this statement, "The dog is happiest when expressing his innate behavior."

    and miserable when it is denied! border collies become notoriously destructive when they are not allowed to engage in their innate behavior. i wonder if this is why pit bulls are attacking more people and why they tend to redirect their aggression towards the nearest person (often their own family) when they can't get to that dog outside the window?

  2. Great writing, great mule video ;)

  3. In my decades of doing rescue, I have learned that almost any dog when engaged in a fight can turn on anyone that tries to stop the fight. However, almost all dogs realize as soon as they do that, it was a mistake and back off. Not so for pits, they take it out completely on whoever is unfortunate enough to intervene. What pit nutters don't realize is that pits never read the book on canine social rules. Anything and everything is fair game to a pit bull, including owners, small children, beloved pets.

  4. What P. said is true. My small dog has never bitten me. He has a few times touched his mouth to me accidentally while he was warning another dog to back off that was intimidating him. For instance, he was threatened and barking and I scooped him up quickly and he thought I was the "bad guy" and turned while barking. He immediately got the doggie "I screwed up" look with ears down, averted eyes, tail down, slouched over, etc.; and seemed like he felt horrible for quite a while until he approached with plaintitive licks.

  5. @P - yep, anything is fair game, nothing is sacred, there are no limits, there are no rules, there are no boundaries. What other type of dog has ever engaged in home-invasion assaults? There have been at least 3 cases of home invasion attacks by pit bulls in the news the past few months.

    @DubV - Yes, there's a difference. I was bitten Sunday by a shaggy little dog in the dog food store. I'd inadvertently gotten into his space, and he reacted defensively, the typical "bite, release and retreat" thing that doggies do when they feel threatened. I felt bad for the little guy, I suspect he'd been abused and wanted to ask about his background but his owners were embarrassed and left pretty quickly.

  6. There is something wrong with a dog that needs to be trained or socialized in a specific way to know how to act like other dogs. As has been often stated, the vast majority of breeds do not want to fight. They have specific rituals that they understand. Even before an actual fight, there will usually be some open mouth barking and head waving near the other dog. This is to warn the other dog to back off or the jaws might close next time. This gives both dogs an out and the owners time to intervene. It is similar to humans pointing fingers and pushing it each other prior to a fist fight. The gripping dogs go straight for the fight as all this display would get you killed in the dog ring.

  7. Here is a link that explains why docile pit bulls are destroyed while aggressive pit bulls breed. Bottom line: pit bulls are still being selectively bred for maximum aggression. The pit bull problem is not getting better, it's getting worse -

  8. @Jake: You just said it: There are still docile pits. If ALL pits have the same bred-in trait, how would this be possible?

  9. @poison - While I will readily acknowledge that there are pits who appear docile, some for many years, there doesn't seem to be a fool-proof way to tell in advance whether a particular pit is going to stay docile forever, or at some point go into the red zone.

    The all too familiar response to a horrific mauling by a pit bull comes from the owner who invariably says "I can't understand how this could have happened, he's so sweet, he's never done anything like this before."

    Given the risk, I think ownership of a pit bull should have some competency requirements. Those who really understand the breed do the whole lion-tamer routine; the isolation, crate-and-rotate, the breaking bar, the need for reinforced enclosures etc. The pit bulls that these folks own are not a problem.

    It's the people who innocently bring home a pit bull thinking it's just like a lab or a golden retriever who inadvertently put themselves and others in danger. They might get lucky and have a pit bull that behaves, but they might not. The risk really ought to be properly managed, that's all I'm saying.

    1. Not to mention, the pit nutters should also arm themselves with liability insurance, for when the inevitable happens.

  10. your all gay for fuck sake any dog is dangerous, i have pits and the are terretorial by nature but lovely dogs

  11. @anon 8:14 - thanks for setting the record straight - what were we thinking? No, seriously, did you even read the article?

  12. Anonymous, that was such a mature comment! You have just proven why people like you shouldn't own that breed!! LOL!
    I have been a pet groomer for 25 years, majority of dogs do give a warning when they're going to bite. Most small breeds are the culprits of biting only because their owners treat them like spoiled children without discipling them. I have a good friend that has raised a pit bull from 7 weeks, and one night she and her boyfriend were fighting and the arguement got heated. Her sweet pit bit them both, her requiring a visit to the doctor and left with a very nasty scar. I love dogs dearly and totally agree with this article, each breed is bred with a certain purpose and we all know what pits were bred for.......

  13. Ever cross your mind the dogs that maul were taught to do that? What an emotional midget. The Pitbulls that bite are like ANY other dog. The ones that maul, were trained! EVERY TIME! The VAST majority of professionals, and every other study that has ever been done disagrees with this article.

  14. the vast majority of professionals agree that pit bull advocates are gullible morons.

    charles w, please post links to some of the "vast majority of professionals" who claim these frankenmaulers were TAUGHT to break containment and maul people and their pets.

    "your all gay for fuck sake any dog is dangerous, i have pits and the are terretorial by nature but lovely dogs"

    anonymous, that statement conflicts with other nutters who say "my pibble never met a stranger and would help a burglar clean me out."

    you guys really need to hold a conference and come to a consensus on your propaganda. you all look stupid!

  15. @Charles W - there is a powerful force at work, called genetics. The applicable DNA blueprint shapes the form and function of every living thing. The DNA of several breeds of dog were combined by the dog men of Stafford, who selected for maximum violence, and the results have been devastating. There has not been any 10 year period since 1850 where pit bulls have not accounted for at least half of all fatalities from dog attacks.

    Your apparent idea that "it's all in how you raise them" is discredited by the hugely disproportionate numbers of serious injuries and deaths from pit bull attacks, as compared to attacks from other breeds.

    There are several types of dog bigger, stronger and with more bite force than pit bulls, but they don't kill people at any where near the rate that pit bulls do - not because they can't, but because they simply don't want to.

    Some of the most horrific pit bull attacks were not from mistreated animals, but from pit bulls which were loved and pampered, raised from puppies and treated like a member of the family, until the surprise attack, with zero warning.

    This is one of the hallmarks of pit bulls, something that can truly be called a pit bull specialty: the surprise attack which seriously wounds or kills the owner.

    To pretend that pit bulls are just like any other dogs is a dangerous deception that is getting people hurt or killed. Every week there are dozens of stories like this one involving a pit bull suddenly attacking its owner. They are like no other breed.

  16. Blame the owner, not the breed, if your not ready to handle a pit bull, then don't get one, it is no fair to kill or ban a breed that is not at fault. Pit bulls are very smart and will protect their owners with there lives, not hurt them. Pit bulls have been used by police as search and rescue, as well as attack dogs. They have been used by the military for the same reasons. You wouldn't tell a cop to kill his dog. They are also some of the best working dogs around, many farmers use them to keep livestock in line as well as keeping unwanted pests away. I have owned several pit bulls, both pure bread and mixes and all have been great dogs. Don't sit her and talk about the breed being the bad guy when it is stupid owners such as gangsters, thugs, and people who can't care for such an animal do not take proper precautions. You wouldn't buy a great dane if you had no room to let it run, why then is it ok for people to put a pit bull in a confined space. It is not the habit of a pit bull to hurt people. People are just stupid and put themselves in situations that they should not be in. I have seen other dogs do the same damage to children, pit bulls just get the blame because they are exploited for fighting. I have seen retrievers bit people, but i have never read anyone saying they should ban them from society. Ban yourself from getting the pit or being around them if you have a problem. Don't try and force your uninformed beliefs on people who responsibly take care of their dogs.

  17. spoken like someone who is either still in high school or in need of xanax or has never seen a pit bull.

    is that you lycan princess?

  18. Complicating and escalating the pitbull problem is nutty people keep several in a household and refusing to spay or neuter them as they are afraid of nuetralizing the aggressive qualities they say don't exist.
    The cat community has been very successful in reducing unnecessary euthanization and suffering by pushing spay and neutering but pitbull owners resist. 70 percent of all dog attacks are in unneutered dogs.
    As for anonymous above who says pitbulls get a bad rap and you should "ban yourself" from being around them... shows just how uninformed their beliefs are... there is no possible way to Ban yourself from being around pitbulls if they are everywhere in your neighborhood, and owners can't control them. I am sorry but the illogical arguments of some pitbull owners make me more afraid as they can't even think logically and will repeat any B.S. about pitbulls they read that is not the truth and they will deny all facts and statistics about the breed. Blaming the media for covering dog attacks by pitbulls and claiming the media focues on pitbulls is pure stupidity. The reason pitbull attacks get on the news is because they do so much more damage and the police have to be called to get control of the dogs. This is not the case with other breeds.

  19. Congrats anonymous 7:34 - I don't see any indication that you actually read the article, but I must admit you did a nice job of copying and pasting the standard pit bull advocacy template complete with the obligatory talking points. I've seen it before, and to someone who had never heard of pit bulls, it might sound convincing. But in reality, every sentence in your pit bull advocacy rant contains inaccuracies.

    Allow me to address your most egregious statement: You said that pit bulls "will protect their owners with there lives, not hurt them."

    Where do I start? Dog attack data accumulated over the years show that pit bulls are far more likely to attack their owners than any other breed. Not surprisingly, pit bulls kill their owners at an alarming rate. I'm not talking about dog fighters or abusive owners, but rather, devoted owners who loved their pit bulls, kept them inside and slept with them. People like Carmen Ramos, Michael Cook, BADRAP member Darla Napora and many many more, each of who were attacked suddenly and without warning, suffering gruesome and terrifying deaths from the pit bulls they loved and trusted.

    Although I could respond to every single one of your fallacies, I really don't want to waste the time. I only hope that people will be encouraged to do some basic fact checking before swallowing propaganda from the pit bull breeder lobby hook line and sinker.

    1. Mate you have not one clue what you are talking about, any dog can attack any person, simple as that, it all depends on how a dog is raised. If it is raised well then it will be a good dog, yes pitbulls are fighting dogs with a fighting nature but what can be bred into them can also be bred out of them.

  20. if you havnt been blessed to raise a pit shut the fu#K up,stop talking about the news said this that article said that or my friend told me his cousins best friends brother in laws sisters husbands grandfather had a pitbull. Because that's all your doing. Do you even know what a real pitbull looks like and if your sooooo smart you should know that more thgan half of ''pitbull'' attacks are actualy dogs that aren't even pitts. I've raised pitbulls since I was 10 years old and not even once have I had any problems your more likely to break into my house than my neighbours with the poodle

    1. I love it when some foul mouthed pit freak shows up to set us all straight. Hey Einstein, I've got a news flash for you. Some of us were pit bull owners too, and big pit bull fans like you.

      BTW you've got it ass backwards about pit bull attacks. The pit freaks always play games with the breed when a pit bull attacks. They'll lie and call it a "boxer mix" or a "lab mix" or some kind of mastiff. But it's getting harder to deceive everyone these days, when attack reports include, images and videos of the attacking dog, ACO records, owner statements, police reports and more. And when pit bull owner says it's a pit bull, the ACO and police say it's a pit bull, and the images and video make it perfectly clear that it's a pit bull, some ethereal pit advocate comes along and screams "where's the DNA test that proves it's a pit bull" or some other idiotic nonsense.

      As for your experience with pit bulls, surely you're not suggesting that your good luck at pit bull roulette trumps the hundreds of disfiguring or fatal pit bull attacks so far this year, or the thousands of innocent pets killed by pit bulls so far this year, are you?

      When someone gets a pit bull for protection, thinking it will somehow make them safer, it's truly sad, because pit bulls end up injuring or killing family members far more often than intruders.

      I'd encourage you to do some research - educate yourself instead of repeating all the same old dumb propaganda. We've heard it all a thousand times before and it's just as groundless as ever.


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