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Breed Bias

7293 Views 79 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  JohnnyBandit
Part of my family is absolutely freaking out that we are keeping one of the pit bull puppies that we rescued a couple of weeks ago. My parents are the absolute worst. They buy into every myth they hear, and I couldn't help but laugh the other day when my mama kept going on and on about how "they all turn and when they bite you their jaws lock, blah, blah, blah..." We live next door to my parents, so I've made a point to take Scarlett with me pretty much every time I've been over there in the last week. I've made it my mission to change their minds. When I told my mom what my plan was, she kind of jokingly said that the first time she "growls or snaps" at someone she'd be reaching for her gun. When I asked her why she hadn't brought out the gun for my sister's little yappy mutt that bark, growl, and snaps at EVERYBODY, she shut it down.

We stopped by my sister's house today too (she lives on the other side of mom and dad) and was talking to my brother-in-law about Scarlett when he asked if she was a pit. When I said yes he kind of winced and said "Ooooh." I asked him why he responded that way he just said, "I just don't like them." So I asked him, "Have you ever met a real, live pit bull in person?" Of course his answer was no, but that he was afraid of them. It was the first honest answer I've heard out of anyone. So I assured him there would be no reason for him to be afraid of her, now or ever and asked that he at least give her a chance.

When we decided to keep Scarlett I knew there was going to be some challenges because of her breed, but it really bugs me that my family is so ignorant about the breed. I ask myself all the time how I ended up such an open minded person when the rest of my family is so prejudice.
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A lot of prejudice comes from lack of exposure to whatever or whoever the person is prejudiced against, whether it be someone of a difference race or religion or a breed of dog.

People talk about "breed ambassadors" - basically well trained, well behaved dogs of the misunderstood breeds- who act as diplomats to the world around them. It is true and to a large degree, it works. The more people encounter loving, happy, trained dogs, the more they realize that the media blows everything out of proportion.

I do pit bull rescue. I get to hear a wide variety of comments from strangers, friends and family. Most of them are positive, some are ignorant but still positive and some are ignorant and negative. My parents have never been "dog people" so when I got Chester, it was a big leap for them to get to know him but he's just one of those dogs that everyone loves. Now my father actually asks if he can come visit and take Chester to the park (I live an hour away from them). But Chester is not a "scary" breed, although he has more stamina and more power than many a pit bull.

So when I got my first pit bull foster, my parents were hesitant due to the media/stereotypes but they trust me. I gave them good statistics (like the studies showing how pit bulls are LESS human aggressive than many other dogs, even some classic "family favorites" and discussions on how dog aggression and human aggression are separate things) and really, they just met the dogs. The wiggly, loving, happy, nutty, crazy bundle of energy and snuggliness that was Luna - and is many a pit- won them over. I have a photo of Luna sleeping on my Dad's chest while he's laying on the couch. The guy that never liked dogs (never wanted to see them hurt or anything, just didn't want anything at all to do with them) ended up napping with a "scary pit bull!" :)

Train the dog well, socialize her well, and just plug along at showing everyone how great she is. The flipside though is that you have to be prepared for the people that never will trust her or treat her like other dogs. So you have to be that extra step of cautious about leashes, about a dog jumping the fence, about strange dogs meeting her (she will ALWAYS be the one to blame if anything happens to another dog or person, regardless of the real circumstances) and generally be proactive with your precautions. Know your local leash etc laws and always obey them 100%. Know your rights. Have the proper liability insurance (as in, make sure your insurer covers ALL breeds). Get a CGC.

And then go out and show everyone what a great dog a lovingly cared for pit bull is.
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Here's something to give you a bit of hope about people changing their views... here's my father who once said "no dogs in my house EVER" and Luna the APBT

(oddly cropped photo for privacy reasons)
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Then we have had some horrible 'Pits'.
Two of them broke out of their kennel and mauled 3 cats to death.
Many dogs are cat aggressive, even well treated and well trained dogs can simply have a lot of prey drive.

She wasn't bitten but was rightfully about scared to death.
The dogs' owner was cited, fined and made to pay restitution.
Also had to remove the dogs from his premises.
Rightfully scared? Were the dogs truly a threat to her or was she simply shocked by her cats being hurt? Prey drive and human aggression are miles apart.
Since you mention "remove the dogs from his premises" it makes me wonder if the dogs were on the owner's private property when the incident with the cats happened?

I'm not trying to argue with or judge you in any way, I'm simply wondering if this incident and its description is yet another case where a dog of a "scary" breed gets pre-judged. In my city, if a dog kills a cat on its (the dogs) owner's property, it is basically within its right to do so. Off the owner's property, the dog might be deemed aggressive but the owner isn't required to remove the dog or anything like that as they recognize the difference between aggression to animals and aggression to humans. It comes with restrictions, but manageable ones.
Personally I would never get a pitbull (or a mastiff, rottweiler, wolf/wolf mix, etc.). You see on the news all the time that the family pet, that has never shown aggression before, suddenly attacking/killing babies. Of course there are exceptions, but why take a chance? Especially if there is a child in the home?

Except that many times, the dog on the news isn't even an APBT. I've seen Boxers, Bulldogs, Cane corsos etc all called "pit bulls" in the news. There was even a case where where a girl was bit by two dogs and the news showed photos of them (which they don't always do) and both dogs were obvious shepherd mixes. Add in the fact that a lot of time the dog HAS shown aggression, or been punished for growling so they jump right to biting, or the "kid" was a teen that was taunting the dog by throwing rocks and the list goes on. ANY dog can bite, a child and especially an infant should never be left alone with any dog. Even a "leave me alone" nip from a large dog can harm a child, it doesn't mean the dog is human aggressive and it doesn't mean the dog wouldn't be completely safe around adults or older kids

This is a extreme example: I like bears. I don't think we should kill them all, but I would never have a pet bear because they are dangerous.

A lot of people defend pitbulls by saying, "the dog on the little rascals was a pitbull..."
Take a look at these two pictures:

They may both be pitbulls, but I think its pretty safe to say that they have changed a lot since then. And as far as "human-aggression" vs. "dog-aggression", whose to say one couldn't lead to the other? And besides, why would you want a dog that was very aggressive towards other dogs?

The "whose to say" is vets, behaviorists and people experience in working with dogs. DA and HA are different issues. A dog might be both, but one doesn't lead to the other. Having a dog aggressive dog isn't that bad. Many can be managed quite well, even to the point of being able to live with other dogs (not being left alone of course) and they enjoy all kinds of dog activities without other dogs.

Here's a Q&A from dogsbite.org:

Q: Do pit bulls bite more than other dogs?

Depending upon the community in which you live and the ratio of pit bulls within it, yes and no. But whether a pit bull bites more or less than another dog breed is not the point. The issue is the acute damage a pit bull inflicts when it does choose to bite. The pit bull's "hold and shake" bite style causes severe bone and muscle damage, often inflicting permanent and disfiguring injury. Moreover, once a pit bull starts an attack, firearm intervention may be the only way to stop it.

When analyzing dog bite statistics, it is important to understand what constitutes a bite. A single bite -- recorded and used in dog bite statistics -- is a bite that "breaks the skin." One bite by a poodle that leaves two puncture wounds is recorded the same way as a pit bull mauling, which can constitute hundreds of puncture wounds and extensive soft tissue loss. Despite the "quagmire" of dog bite statistics, pit bulls are leading bite counts across U.S. cities and counties.14

That source is full of crap. Their statistics are horrible and they have a huge bias. There are safe ways to stop a dog attack that don't involve guns (and don't come with the risk of shooting the victim!). Any large dog can cause similar damage to an animal or person. Temperament tests have shown pit bulls LESS likely to bite than a number of popular "family friendly" breeds and a dog that is taught bite inhibition won't hurt someone if they accidentally touch teeth to skin (like grabbing for a tennis ball or a tug toy)

I have put my comments in bold.
I never once used profanity in my post, and I hope that you can get your point across without having to resort to that too.

As for dogsbite.org, its pretty hard to be "noneducational" when they have references for every fact they say.
References mean nothing when they are selectively chosen to promote an agenda and when the references themselves are unreliable and/or biased.

Pit bulls scored better on temperament testing than 121 other dog breeds, including Golden Retrievers.
One of many references
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Find the Pit Bull

This photo spread is a great example of why media reports and bite statistics are typically very unreliable when it comes to "pit bulls"--- only 1 of the 25 breeds shown is an APBT.

People with nearly any of the breeds in that photo collection will sometimes get the same kind of comments and reactions as owners of APBT/ASTs. My own dog's breed is shown as #6 on that link; in person no one thinks he looks pure APBT but I've had people ask if he's a Rottie (wha??)

BTW I am loosely associated with a group that is pulling dogs from animal control and training them to be service dogs for our veterans coming back from the middle east.

We are EXCLUSIVELY using pit bulls. And we are not the only agency doing that. The reason is that shelters are full of healthy young pit bulls, with great temperaments, and the aptitude and drive to move on to being service dogs.
That is really cool. I know one service-dog-in-training pit bull. He's the sweetest big baby around and for being just under 1 year old, wonderfully trained. He was from a rescue litter (mama pit gave birth right after being pulled from a shelter, pups and mom were fostered soon after). I've met pit bull drug detection dogs in training and know of some being used by Customs for luggage sniffing.
For psychiatric service dogs, I think their velcro nature can work really well; they are just sooo happy to be close to their person.
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Hopefully you people shut that ignorant person up. Why even BE on a dog forum if you hate dogs you know nothing about? I've never heard of a dog (that wasn't really old or injured or ill in some way) that attacked someone, and never had a problem with aggression beforehand(unless it was PROTECTING someone that desperately needed protection). That just doesn't happen. It's made up, total bullshit. My pit would NEVER bite someone, and I can GUARANTEE YOU THAT. Even if you made it obvious he scared you, he would only push up against you and LICK you to death... I am at a loss of words for that person's stupidity.
I totally agree on the prejudging a large group of breeds thing.
But...while your pit (like any dog) may be exceedingly unlikely to bite someone, there is really no way to say he would never and no way to guarantee it. Overconfidence in the good nature of a dog can get someone hurt when it leads to carelessness and even something as simple as a dog being injured can make the sweetest, nicest dog bite (like the "old, injured or ill" dogs you mention)

I can say that my dog would not bite under normal conditions, I can say that he is in no way aggressive (neither human nor dog aggressive) but if push came to shove, he is capable of biting. Any dog with teeth is capable of biting and every dog has his limits.

I'm not trying to say you would be careless with your dog, just pointing out that ALL dogs should be supervised (around kids, strangers and such) and all of them should be treated carefully when they are sick or injured.
I think how quickly this discussion went sideways is kind of telling about the topic. A pit bull owner runs into people expressing similar opinions as shown in this thread all the time in person. I think in part due to the media and those that want to promote the "tough" stereotype, among all breeds, the APBT can be the most polarizing among even dog people and far more so among non-dog people.

Unfortunately, one bad experience with a dog of any breed can turn someone against that breed and it takes many many more good experiences to counter a single bad one; even if the good experiences are the more typical or true to form for the dog breed.
There is never an excuse or reason for someone's dog(s) to kill another person's animals especially when the animals are in their own yard.
Oh I totally agree when the animals are in their own yards; I posted my comment before it was clarified that the dogs got off their owner's property and the cats were on their own property. The extra information was what I was looking to gain when I questioned the incident. Fully explained, it takes on a different tone.

But I will say that when I got Chester, his prey drive was off-the-hook towards cats. We have a lot of neighborhood roaming cats around here, owned not feral, but not contained. While I immediately starting working with Chester on his prey drive (to the point of being able to have him supervised and off-leash around the barn cats), I also talked to the neighbors and warned them that Chester was aggressive to cats. I said that I would not be responsible if he harmed a cat within my fenced yard- not a cat on the sidewalk or in their own yard, but fully within my property. I responsibly kept him leashed and controlled while walking him and he has never touched a cat off my property. My neighbors understood. They knew they had the option of keeping the cats as indoor cats and that is is against city law for cats to roam off their owner's property.

I really would never ever want Chester to harm a cat, and he's basically at the point where it is very unlikely he would, but a dog does have the right to run around in his own fenced yard also.
I'm now dealing with cat aggression/ prey drive in my foster. At this point, I am actually leashing him even within the fenced yard because I don't yet trust him not to jump the fence after a cat. I am doing my part to train him and control him safely.
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