Join Date: Nov 2010
A must read, possible 'sticky' candidate
To gain an accurate understanding of these dogs, we must first set aside all our preconceived notions and most importantly our emotions and approach the subject with a clear and open mind. For it is emotions that give us these false views. On the one hand we have fear- all pitbulls are dangerous and viscious. On the other we have misplaced sympathy projected onto an animal – the dogs are just helpless victims. Objectively, what pitbulls are is animals bred for a specific purpose. What does this mean? Well, we can start by looking at the concept of selective breeding. All breeds of dogs, and many other species of domestic animals, were created by humans. Man realized that animals that acted a certain way or performed a certain function were useful to him. Perhaps, they guarded his home or helped him catch food. In any case, he kept the ones that were best at their jobs and bred them together to hopefully get more dogs like them. As knowledge of breeding and genetics improved so did man’s ability to breed animals for specific tasks. Beef cattle are bred to gain weight fast on as little feed as possible. Sheep are bred to produce the most abundant and finest wool. Horses, like the thoroughbred, are bred to run as fast as possible and dogs have been bred for a myriad of functions from retrieving, pointing, hunting, trailing, guarding, to just being a pet and let us not forget - fighting.
How does being bred for a specific purpose affect an animal? First of all, they tend to be the best at that function. Secondly, they tend to enjoy that function and it comes naturally to them. Third, they have a desire, verging on need, to perform that function. Lastly a higher percentage of animals bred for a purpose are going to be likely to perform that purpose than the general population because they are genetically inclined to do so. This can be a problem when the animal is taken out of an environment where it can perform said function safely. A harmless retriever might chase tennis balls all day. But without sheep, a herding dog, might take to herding children and nipping at their heals or a sighthound might chase the neighbors cat or small dog and kill it. These unfortunate situations are brought about by human misunderstanding of the dog’s natural urges. If a dog has certain drives and no proper outlet for them, serious problems can arise. If humans understood the dog’s needs, they could perhaps provide them a positive outlet for these urges, or better yet, not get a breed of dog that is unsuited for such situations.
I can recall an example of misunderstanding a breed from my youth. I grew up riding show horses and it was the general consensus amongst the show set that Thoroughbreds were crazy out of control horses. As I have gotten older I have become a fan of horseracing and now realize that Thoroughbreds are just horses bred for a specific purpose. That purpose is to run flat out - not to be a child’s saddle pony. Given the opportunity to perform their chosen task, by people who understand what they are about and know how to handle them, a majority of them are quite sane animals, but as saddle ponies they are often extremely dangerous. This does not make them crazy, or vicious, it just means they are out of place.
So, as for pitbull dogs…. what were they bred for? Fighting. What will they be inclined to do? Fight. Pitbulls are the best at what they do because they were bred for it. Since they were bred for fighting, they are genetically inclined to fight. They have an inclination/desire stronger than the average dog to fight because it has been selected for in their breeding. No matter what the media says, you cannot train a dog to fight another dog. Sure you can train a dog to attack a human or encourage it to attack other animals but there is not a dog trainer alive who can teach a dog to fight if it does not want to. Perhaps you can train him not to fight (although I suspect that might be difficult) but you cannot train a submissive animal to fight. They either have it or they don’t. That is why breeding is so important. If it wasn’t, any dog could be used to fight, because surely there are dogs that are more aggressive, stronger, more athletic and can bite harder than pitbulls. The difference is that the pitbull wants to fight. He was bred for it. So, even if they have been bred for generations from non-fighting dogs, all pitbulls retain remnants, in varying degrees, of the desire to fight.
So, contrary to what the rescue groups and petbull owners will tell you about pitbulls, they are dogs that will fight, dogs that are good at fighting and have a strong urge to do so. (Of course there are exceptions as no breeding program is 100% successful. Some Thoroughbreds don’t want to run, some retrievers won’t retrieve etc). This is why I have been uneasy reading rescue blogs that say pitbulls are no different than other dogs. That is flat wrong. Your neighbor’s poopsy-doodle was not bred to fight, to attack another dog relentlessly until it wins. To not acknowledge this fact is dangerously ignorant and could have grave consequences for an unsuspecting adopter or his neighbor. Now before all you pitbull supporters get hysterical let me say that this is not an unmanageable situation. It is nothing to be alarmed about. Pitbulls are not psychotic bloodthirsty beasts, but they are also not poor helpless victims forced to fight, they are just dogs who have a very strong propensity to fight and any potential owner needs to be well aware of this and not ignore it.
Denial of this simple fact can have some of the worst unintended consequences for the breed. People who do not believe that their sweet dog is capable of serious mayhem are unlikely to take adequate precautions in regards to the safety of other people and animals. Failure to acknowledge a pitbull’s full potential is perhaps the gravest injustice of all that is done to the breed, because this type of ignorance/blindness is single handedly responsible for all pitbull attacks.
Rescuers show a gross misunderstanding of the breed by adopting out puppies and young dogs under three years old. On average most pitbulls decide that they want to fight by about 2 years old. Although, some never fight, some are just about born fighting and some may wait until they are 5 years old to decide that an occasional brawl might be fun, but at some point almost all pitbulls will get into a fight. And the pitbull owner had better be prepared for it. There is no one alive, not even the person who bred the dog, that can say with any certainty that a pitbull won’t someday decide to fight. In fact, in one blog a rescuer said in one breath that pitbulls are no different than other dogs and then in the next breath said they can’t even be trusted not to fight on day 750. So which is it? Remember it is in their blood, it is what they were bred to do and they all grow up and turn on at different ages and times. That is not to say that pitbulls cannot make wonderful pets for the right person, but as a rule it is the wrong dog for the job. Should we buy an Indy car to drive our children back and forth to school? The rescue people need to realize that pitbulls are not the same as other dogs. The opinion of anyone who recommends a fighting dog as a pet should be considered suspect. There are hundreds of other breeds of dogs that will do the job better. Perhaps, the only pitbulls that should be adopted out are the old retired pit veterans that have gotten a belly full of fighting and really just want to relax on the couch.
Something else that bothers me is how rescuers say they love the breed and systematically kill the ones who do what the breed was created for. They evaluate rescued pitbulls and the ones who overtly want to fight are destroyed and the ones who are failures of the breed, who have no interest what so ever in fighting are rescued. I am not saying this is not the best thing to do for society at large, it is. But, to love a breed is to love the very best examples of that breed. They say dog fighters are ruining the breed, but fail to fully comprehend that dogfighters created the breed and without them it would not exist. Do we condemn the artist while coveting his art? That is in essence saying you love something for what it is not. They may love dogs…but they do not love the breed.
On the other hand it is this love of dogs in general that is the strong suit of the rescuers and petbull owners. And for this I commend them. A breed that is so frequently neglected and abused as the pitbull, definitely needs people who are going to care for them and lavish them with affection and love. They clearly see the gentle and loving nature of the breed, they just need to be more aware of the fighting potential of their sweet little doggies.
Now on to the pitbull haters, the people who say pitbulls are all vicious killers who will turn on you and therefore should be destroyed.
As far as keeping them on chains making them aggressive (a claim the animal rights groups repeat vociferously) I have given away dogs who were raised on chains to people (experienced dogmen) with children and almost without exception they have all been good with children and made better house dogs than dogs that were raised as pets. It is a also a known fact that the pitbull, especially on a chain, is one of the easiest dogs to steal because they are so trusting of humans. In fact the majority of pitbulls that I have known who were people aggressive or have bitten people were raised as house pets. They are animals out of place with no outlet for their genetic drive. Pitbulls are very willful animals and as house pets this can lead to problems. A dog on a chain knows his place in life whereas a housedog often tends to become protective and territorially aggressive.
The pitbull haters allow their fear to overwhelm their objectivity. They cannot see any of the positive aspects of the breed. They want to trample on people’s rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But, at the same time, pitbull owners cannot trample on other peoples rights to the same. There are far too many irresponsible pitbull owners who do not respect their neighbors’ or other peoples’ rights to not live in fear of their dog. I do not think anyone should have to live in fear of someone else’s dog. So, at least the attitude that all pitbulls should be euthanized is erring on the side of caution and public safety.
This is so, simply because the dogfighter knows what the breed is capable of and he holds no illusions about it. He knows all the myriad facets of the bulldog and is aware of the subtle clues the dog gives when he is itching for a fight. He knows how to prevent fights and he knows how to keep the dogs secure and out of trouble. It is not the dogfighter’s dogs that are roaming the street loose attacking people and animals. The dogfighter is an expert at taking the added precautions necessary to keep pitbulls out of trouble. Where the dogfighter (some not all) fails, is in the empathy department. He often fails to see the gentle, loving side of the breed and is only concerned with the pitbulls’ prowess as a fighter. His lack of compassion for his little warriors is often appalling. Aggravating this potential lack of empathy are draconian dogfighting laws that have forced dogfighters to be crueler than they might otherwise be and it is the dogs who suffer for it. Dogfighters who might otherwise take their dog to the vets or give them a second chance at life as a pet cannot do so for fear of running afoul of the law. The horror stories about dogfighting from HSUS and other groups have become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Equally as myopic as all these other groups are the show and breed preservation people who are enthusiastically trying to put a positive light on something most of them do not fully understand. They mean well and their efforts are to be applauded, But, how can you preserve a breed, even physically, if you have no experience with the purpose for which the breed was created? That would be akin to trying to build a Ferrari when you have never even driven a car and have no clue how one should handle or how the engine should run. You can read all you want about them and look at pictures of them in books but you simply do not have the first hand knowledge or experience to do it. And once you have built what yout think looks like a Ferrari, how do you know if it can really perform, go fast and handle well unless you try it? For this same reason someone who has never fought a dog can never truly understand what is important to a fighting dog and what isn’t. Slowly but surely, you start to put emphasis on the wrong things and the breed starts to change. It has happened with all working breeds….the pitbull will not be an exception.
The pitbull problem and how to solve it? It seems almost no one really understands them. There are too many of them and too many ignorant and irresponsible people own them. What to do about it? Education perhaps. But, all the breed education tends to be lopsided because no one really wants to tell the whole truth. How would the truth look? Suppose one were to say something like this: A pitbull is an extremely strong dog with a propensity to attack other animals, so it must be kept securely on a chain behind a fence when not inside the house. It should never be allowed off leash or be trusted not to fight or left unsupervised. If you are willing to take all these precautions and give it an outlet for its strong prey drive, such as some form of strenuous work, then the pitbull can be a loving and sweet pet. I suspect that might encourage more people to own them for the wrong reasons and facilitate Breed Specific Legislation - but anything short of this is dishonest. The media, animal rights organizations, breed organizations, dogfighters, show dog enthusiasts and the breed rescuers are all making the problem worse. None of them can acknowledge the full truth about bulldogs because that would be giving ammunition to their enemies. The more the pitbull is in the media, the worse things will be for them. Because all pitbulls retain genetic remnants of their past, perhaps the worst thing that can happen to the breed is to have a bunch of people, who are ignorant of what the breed is capable of, adopt them because they think they are all poor innocent, loving, sweet victims. Are you that person?