Recently, two children were killed by family Pit Bulls, and the mother of these children was seriously mauled while trying to protect her children. (https://myfox8.com/news/mother-tried-to-shield-children-killed-in-memphis-pit-bull-attack-family-says/) This case is causing many to question the safety of Pit Bulls, and is clashing with the propaganda for Pit Bulls that portrays these dogs as safe cuddle-bugs, perfect for every single household in America.
Pit Bull propaganda has been on the rise in the past 10 years and has purposefully created the misconception that Pit Bulls are no different than other dog breeds. Pit Bull advocates would have you believe that a dog’s breeding and genetics play absolutely NO role in how they turn out, it is all about how the dog is raised and treated, and that any and all aggressive behaviors are the result of improper rearing and handling of the dog (https://pethelpful.com/dogs/The-Pit-Bull-Dog-Once-Knows-as-the-Nanny-Dog-What-Happened). Even more disturbingly, some try to deny what Pit Bulls were originally bred to do. This misinformation is irresponsible and dangerous, as now thousands of ignorant people own Pit Bulls and are completely unaware that they are indeed different from your average dog, until said dog acts aggressively without any provocation.
Recently, I watched a video by “The Dodo” about Pit Bulls (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ7o9pbQWeM). In this video, the first point that is made is that Pits are no more aggressive than other dogs. This is a blatant lie. I have never seen people try to deny the instincts of other breeds. No one tries to say that Rottweilers and Irish Setters have the same temperament when raised the same. No one goes and buys a French Bulldog and tries to train it to herd. No one buys a Saluki and expects it to point at game like a Pointer. No one tries to make the argument that all dogs are inherently the same, except for Pit Bull advocates.
It is important that other dog lovers make the point that Pits are not like other dogs, as the lies being spread about them are leading people to adopt and buy Pit Bulls under the guise that they are no different from Labradors and Golden Retrievers. In this article, we will look at some of the misconceptions about Pit Bulls, and we will also look at what makes Pit Bulls different from other dogs.
Pit Bull Origins:
The ancestors of the Pit Bull were bull baiting dogs. This bull baiting history is where these dogs obtained their desire to bite and hold (Dog: The Definitive Guide for Dog Owners). When bull baiting became illegal, these bull dogs were crossed with terriers to compete in the sport of ratting. Eventually, they began to breed the dogs to fight other dogs as well (http://love-a-bull.org/resources/the-history-of-pit-bulls/). Pit Bull descend from dogs which were selectively bred to be extremely aggressive with other animals, and illegal fighting still takes place today.
There is a misconception that all Pit Bulls that were human aggressive were destroyed or “culled” (http://love-a-bull.org/resources/the-history-of-pit-bulls/). Yet, writings by some of the old-time breeders of fighting Pit Bulls prove this to be incorrect. This pdf from dogsbite.com has information on this topic, and from the authors research, it seems that “man biters” were commonly bred: https://www.dogsbite.org/pdf/dogmen-conversations-about-man-biters.pdf.
Currently, there are several breeds which descend from these bull baiting ancestors. These dog breeds include but are not limited to the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Bull Terrier (Am Staffs), the Bull Terrier, and the American Bully. All of these breeds fall under the Pit Bull dog type and carry many of the same genes and tendencies.
“It’s All How You Raise Them”
This is one of the worst lies fed to unsuspecting would-be dog parents. People are told this in order to encourage them to take on dogs they are ill-equipped to handle. Herding breeds herd. Scent hounds perpetually have their noses to the ground. Labs and Golden Retrievers love retrieving and are drawn to water. No one denies that these behaviors are from years of careful selective breeding. One can fine tune the dog’s abilities with training, but the drive is in his genetic makeup. Many people don’t want to accept the fact that aggression can be bred into dogs in the same way these other behaviors are selected for. Proper rearing, early socialization, and training are important for any dog, but these interventions cannot erase breed-specific behaviors. Some dogs are more inherently aggressive than others, and Pit Bulls as a group were uniquely selected to be extremely dog aggressive.
Pits Behave Differently When They Attack:
This goes back to genetics and is the biggest reason Pit Bulls are so dangerous. Pit Bulls tend to behave differently when they attack compared to other dogs. They bite, hold, shake, and will not let go. Even Pro-Pit websites recognize this, and recommend owners have a break stick on hand to break up fights (https://www.pbrc.net/breakstick.html).
Just because a Pit likes dogs he has met or lives with, does not change the fact that he may one day meet a dog and decide to attack it. It also doesn’t mean the dog will never develop aggression to dogs which it has been fine with for years. The attack will seem unpredictable, because Pit Bulls were selectively bred to not show normal signs of aggression (https://www.dogsbite.org/pdf/2004-excerpts-dog-bite-prevention-law-enforcement.pdf). The American Kennel Club even notes that even well socialized American Staffordshire Bull Terriers can become dog aggressive at any point in their lives: “It must be noted that dog aggression can develop even in well-socialized Am Staffs; an Am Staff should never under any circumstances be left alone with other dogs.” (https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/american-staffordshire-terrier/)
Most breeds of dog stop fighting when the other dog shows submission. If that does not work, they at least stop when severe, painful stimulus is applied. Pits just do not respond the way most dog breeds do. They were bred to have what dog fighters describe as “game.” The term is used to describe the trait of the dog not giving up, even when experiencing excruciating pain. If you Google the phrase “game dogs pit bulls,” you can find sites and forums where dog fighters congregate and discuss dogs with this trait. It is highly valued and praised in this sick community of animal abusers. It is something that is bred into the dogs, not trained. More disturbingly, these same “game bred” Pit Bulls can and do end up in shelters, and then are adopted out to people, all under the guise of being “just like other dogs.”
Backyard Breeder Issues:
For some reason, Pit Bulls and Bully breeds have seen a surge of popularity in the past 10 years or so. I am not sure what the cause of this is. Generally, when a breed has a huge boost in numbers, there is a clear reason. Rin Tin Tin caused everyone to want a German Shepherd. Lassie saved the day every week on TV, and many families wanted a collie. Recently, shelters saw a significant increase in huskies because people wanted wolves as seen in Game of Thrones. Every time breeds have great jumps in number like this, it is largely due to people breeding dogs irresponsibly, dogs with poor temperaments who shouldn’t be bred, and the result is a mix of some dogs who make great pets and others with anxiety, aggression, and fear issues. In addition to Pit Bulls having poor foundational genetics geared toward aggression, they are also being bred by the worst of people who are breeding dogs with the worst temperaments. This is creating a large group of unadoptable, dangerous dogs who end up in shelters in large numbers because they develop issues ignorant owners can’t handle, and honestly, the best of owners would be unable to handle many of these dogs. Worsening the situation are no kill shelters, which refuse to euthanize unadoptable dogs, and instead let these animals suffer in small cages for years.
But Other Dogs are Aggressive Too!
Yes, this is absolutely true. Dog breeds such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Shar-pei, and Akitas are all more prone to be aggressive to people and other dogs. The difference is, there is no lobby of people trying to fool unsuspecting soon-to-be dog owners on the temperament of these breeds. No on tries to say Shar-pei are just like Labs and love every dog they meet. No one tries to sell Akitas as the perfect “nanny” for little kids. No one says Rottweilers make perfect pets for first time owners. But those kinds of lies are told all the time about Pit Bulls, and the propaganda is causing the death of pets and people.
The “Nanny Dog” Fantasy:
No, Pit Bulls were never ever nanny dogs. There is no such thing as a “nanny dog.” Dogs cannot babysit children. I honestly do not know where this stupid myth got its start, but selecting for traits suitable for a child’s playmate does not result in the Pit Bull. It only takes a little common sense to realize that a dog that bites, holds, and shakes when it attacks is NOT a good dog for kids. An animal bred to chase and kill other creatures that squeak is not the best playmate for little creatures that run and make funny noises. An animal with an incredibly strong desire to finish attacking and ignore all sense of pain has absolutely no place in a household with children.
If someone wants a good dog for young kids, they should buy a puppy such as a Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle, Irish Setter, etc. from a reliable breeder. The puppy should be socialized and trained extensively from a young age, and the children should be taught to be respectful of the animal. Rescuing an adult is still an option, as long as the dog’s background is known. For children younger than 12, the more you know of the dog’s past and the more control you have over its personality and behavior, the better. Socialize early, obedience train it, and teach children to be kind and gentle with all animals. And always supervise kids and pets.
What People Should Know before Getting a Pit Bull:
People thinking of adopting a Pit Bull need to understand the fact that these dogs are not hardwired like many other breeds. They were originally designed to be aggressive, to attack without warning, to ignore normal canine signals of submission, and to fight until the bitter end.
These are not appropriate dogs for children. It is my opinion that they should not be kept in the same house with other dogs, especially if the other dogs are small. Like most terriers, other small pets, like cats, are also a big no-no. If they do share a home with other dogs or cats, they should be separated while not supervised. These dogs should NEVER be off leash where they can meet dogs they do not know, nor where they will meet strangers.
Owners of these dogs should educate themselves on break sticks and have a way to choke one of these dogs off if they do bite someone or something and will not let go. Do not depend on pepper spray to break up a fight between these dogs. Amazon reviews abound with people saying pepper spray does no work to break up fights between Pit Bulls (although if a Pit Bull is approaching, it may prevent a fight from starting).
As a side note, fair warning to people adopting from a shelter. If you do not want a Pit Bull, do not trust the shelter to tell you what the dog’s heritage is. Shelters lie about dog breeds all the time to make their dogs more adoptable. Look for yourself. If it looks like a Pit Bull, it’s a Pit Bull.
Pit Bulls and their ancestors were selectively bred for generations to be more aggressive than the average dog. These dogs were selected for a tenacity that causes them to continue to fight even when experiencing excruciating pain. These dogs are unique and that when they do bite, they tend to bite, hold, and shake which causes extreme damage. Pit Bulls therefore can be particularly dangerous to other pets and children, as their bite style produces horrible injuries, and they additionally continue to fight when most dogs would stop. These dogs also have an unpredictable nature, and can appear fine with other people and pets for years before they attack. For these reasons, these dogs are not suitable for the average household, and they are certainly not suitable as a pet for children.