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The State of the American Dog
July 15, 2014 7:02 PM   Subscribe

Reviled, pit bulls have become representative. There is no other dog that figures as often in the national narrative—no other dog as vilified on the evening news, no other dog as defended on television programs, no other dog as mythologized by both its enemies and its advocates, no other dog as discriminated against, no other dog as wantonly bred, no other dog as frequently abused, no other dog as promiscuously abandoned, no other dog as likely to end up in an animal shelter, no other dog as likely to be rescued, no other dog as likely to be killed. In a way, the pit bull has become the only American dog, because it is the only American dog that has become an American metaphor—and the only American dog that people bother to name.
posted by latkes (146 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related, here is a look at what a century of selective breeding has done to the bull terrier, among other dogs.
posted by mhoye at 7:15 PM on July 15, 2014 [10 favorites]


Any dog will attack a human, given the right circumstances.
posted by starvingartist at 7:19 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Prepare forehead for palm impact!
I am aware that my argument has been made before: for Second Amendment rights and gun ownership. There is a reason for this besides the frequent comparison of pit bulls to AK-47's and the like. More and more, the arguments we have in our society boil down to the same argument, with members of an aggrieved group asking to be considered as individuals and members of society at large insisting on judging them as a group—with the exception deemed the rule. When pit bulls are criminalized, will only criminals have pit bulls?
That's in the article. Someone took the time to drool that idiocy out onto their keyboard, and another someone at Esquire thought that would be a good thing for people to read and paid monies for it.

Meanwhile, science (.pdf from the CDC) - studying dog attacks, Pitbulls and bully-breeds killed more people than other dog breeds - twice as many as Rottweilers, and the Rotties killed twice as many as German Shepherds.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:19 PM on July 15, 2014 [25 favorites]


Before this descends into pit bull haterzzz vs. pit defenders deathmatch: one reason this article stood out enough for me post here was that it openly addresses ambiguities about pit bulls and safety. It's also largely about what pit bulls mean symbolically in the US and how we all project a bunch of crap on them. Worth reading!
posted by latkes at 7:20 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


But even if you concede the worst of the statistics—even if you concede the authority of a fourteen-year-old CDC report that implicated pit bulls and rottweilers in a majority of fatal dog attacks—one thing is certain about pit bulls in America: They are more sinned against than sinning.
That's the only mention I saw. Anything else?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:21 PM on July 15, 2014




Pit bulls are enormously strong dogs for their size. This, combined with owners looking for a "tough guy" dog who don't appropriately socialize or train them, is a recipe for human and dog injuries.

That said, well-trained and socialized pits are some of the most enthusiastic, loyal, fun-loving dogs I've ever met. Mija, Lucy, Clockwork, Julep - just amazing dogs. Breed bans seem like a bad solution, but the inability of Animal Control to do much about bad owners until a human or animal injury occurs leaves me wondering what a good solution is.

Pit bulls are good dogs that deserve better humans. :-/
posted by murphy slaw at 7:29 PM on July 15, 2014 [78 favorites]


Slap*Happy: That's in the article. Someone took the time to drool that idiocy out onto their keyboard, and another someone at Esquire thought that would be a good thing for people to read and paid monies for it.

Keep in mind, this is the same Tom Junod, and the same Esquire, that felt the need to tell single 40-something women that they could maybe, if they played their cards right, remain fuckable, at least to 50+ year olds like Tom Junod.

If there's a reason to visit esquire.com other than to read Charlie Pierce's blog, I'm unaware of it.

I also had a paragraph about pit bulls, but murphy slaw said it better than I did.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:30 PM on July 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


I love pits. I used to work in a pit-friendly grooming/boarding facility and never had any issues with any pits. I went into that job being apprehensive about it being a pit friendly place. We regularly had freshly rescued pits in and I never had an issue. 99.8% of dogs want to be happy and friendly. You'll occasionally get a dog that is just born being pissed off but most mean dogs get mean because of how they've been treated.

Little white fluffy princess dogs are generally assholes, though. Please don't raise your dog to be an asshole because you don't think small dogs can do damage.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 7:30 PM on July 15, 2014 [19 favorites]


And so I called a professor of comparative genomics from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences named Kris Irizarry. "You look at a pit bull's DNA," he said, "and the only thing you can really tell is that it's a dog. That's why the tests don't work. There's no boundary between what genes may or may not be in the breed, and that's why it's not a breed. It's just a general dog and there's no way to predict its behavior from its appearance. I'm not saying it's not biology that caused your dog to attack another dog. It's biology. But it's dog biology rather than pit-bull biology. And so I'm respectfully asking you: However your dog acts, keep it to your dog. Don't extrapolate and think that all pit bulls do this. Or that all dogs from shelters do this. Or that all short-haired dogs do this. Look at your dog as an individual. That's the challenge."
Since it seems like the article is doomed to be unread, I thought it'd be useful to put this here in the thread where people can see it more easily.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:32 PM on July 15, 2014 [39 favorites]


Meanwhile, science (.pdf from the CDC) - studying dog attacks, Pitbulls and bully-breeds killed more people than other dog breeds - twice as many as Rottweilers, and the Rotties killed twice as many as German Shepherds.

Fatalities may not be the best way of measuring aggression in dog breeds.

For example, Cocker Spaniels are highly represented in non-fatal bite statistics, but not in fatalities since they are too small to do that much damage. But they're clearly still aggressive.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Breed bans seem like a bad solution

I sort of agree (having met one extremely calm and loving pitbull) but if I was a landlord I'd probably use that same list to filter both dogs and tenants. It's not quite right, and yet I'd be hard pressed to do it differently.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:35 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The pit breeds are the "dog-other" that our society places it's bullshit on, just like all the "others" that are place holders for blame in an increasingly more broken society.
posted by Divest_Abstraction at 7:42 PM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


I sort of agree (having met one extremely calm and loving pitbull) but if I was a landlord I'd probably use that same list to filter both dogs and tenants.

Aren't there laws that prevent landlords from filtering tenants by race?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:44 PM on July 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


This 2008 University of Pennsylvania study has some interesting findings on breed aggression.
Eight breeds common to both datasets (Dachshund, English Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Poodle, Rottweiler, Shetland Sheepdog and Siberian Husky) ranked similarly... for aggression directed toward strangers, dogs and owners, respectively. Some breeds scored higher than average for aggression directed toward both humans and dogs (e.g., Chihuahuas and Dachshunds) while other breeds scored high only for specific targets (e.g., dog-directed aggression among Akitas and Pit Bull Terriers). In general, aggression was most severe when directed toward other dogs followed by unfamiliar people and household members. Breeds with the greatest percentage of dogs exhibiting serious aggression (bites or bite attempts) toward humans included Dachshunds, Chihuahuas and Jack Russell Terriers (toward strangers and owners); Australian Cattle Dogs (toward strangers); and American Cocker Spaniels and Beagles (toward owners). More than 20% of Akitas, Jack Russell Terriers and Pit Bull Terriers were reported as displaying serious aggression toward unfamiliar dogs. Golden Retrievers, Labradors Retrievers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Brittany Spaniels, Greyhounds and Whippets were the least aggressive toward both humans and dogs. Among English Springer Spaniels, conformation-bred dogs were more aggressive to humans and dogs than field-bred dogs ... suggesting a genetic influence on the behavior. The opposite pattern was observed for owner-directed aggression among Labrador Retrievers... indicating that higher levels of aggression are not attributable to breeding for show per se.
Tl;dr, they found that dachshunds and chihuahuas were more aggressive than pitbulls.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:48 PM on July 15, 2014 [16 favorites]


America is two countries now—the country of its narrative and the country of its numbers, with the latter sitting in judgment of the former. In the stories we tell ourselves, we are nearly always too good: too soft on criminals, too easy on terrorists, too lenient with immigrants, too kind to animals. In the stories told by our numbers, we imprison, we drone, we deport, and we euthanize with an easy conscience and an avenging zeal.

Tom Junod really is incapable of making sense, isn't he? This is so dizzy with cognitive dissonance, so full of rhetorical hot air and empty of fact, that I can't even tell what he thinks he's saying. As far as I can tell he's for some reason unable to come right out and say that, you know, facts suggest that breed-based scapegoating is total bullshit, but he still wants to insinuate it vaguely while preserving his right to backpedal later without providing evidence.
posted by RogerB at 7:52 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jack Russell's are horrible fucking beasts. But they are unlikely to kill you or a child. I'm a dog lover, but there are too many bad people, raising Pits to be "bad". Should be stopped. If that means the end of the breed, well, they are domesticated, selectively bred pets. The world won't end because of no Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Chow's...
posted by Windopaene at 7:59 PM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


I see the tally of fatalities logged such factors as whether the dogs (involved in fatal incidents) were on or off the owner's property, and on or off a leash. However the study seemed to place most of its emphasis on the breed of the dog, not the conditions under which the dog lived, or any sort of training the dog had. Nowhere in the study did I notice a log indicating the type of training any of the owners had.

They did stoop to notice that guard dogs and police dogs were exempt from their tally, because, um, well, because.

Please let me make an analogy that deals with the dog as a weapon: let us compare an AK-47 to a .410 gauge shotgun. You will easily see that the AK-47 is more deadly, because it kills more people than the small-bore shotgun. In effect, this is what the study said.

I am not advocating sub-machines. The point is that people who need a deadly weapon are more likely to choose the AK-47 than the small-bore shotgun. If you and I were in a room, I could use either one to kill with equal facility, so the comparison, on those terms, is useless. If I were to broaden the scope of the discussion to include combat tactics, I could make the case for the AK-47 stronger than for the shotgun.

In clearing up the notion of how deadly dogs are, I suggest that this study is worthless, because all it does is show which breed has successfully killed a human.

I used to live in an area in the Sierra foothills where dogs were an issue. Stray dogs were captured, if possible, and returned to their homes. However, if three dogs were discovered running together, this was considered to be a pack, and it was proper to shoot them. The reason for this was two-fold. Pack dogs are not your rover. They kill livestock. Sometimes they attack humans. They are far more efficient predators than coyotes and wolves. When they band together....let's say rover meets fido and fifi from down the road...and go roaming, they can be deadly to any animal they decide to attack.

Breed is not an issue. Dogs of different breeds are as likely to pack as dogs of similar breeds. They don't seem to pay attention to their relative size when they are in a pack.

If you were to analyze stock predation by dogs I'm pretty sure you would discover that any breed can be dangerous.

My idea is that the dog is a product of humans, and will be whatever the pack leader shows him is his proper role in the pack. Unfortunately most owners haven't a clue how to establish this relationship. They love their dogs, and it seems likely to me that their dogs love them back--unless they mistreat the dog. In any case, you don't have to mistreat a dog to make him dangerous. All you have to do is misunderstand the incredible creature that he is.

I noticed that someone's cocker spaniel killed a person. Maybe that's a clue, eh?
posted by mule98J at 8:00 PM on July 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh man, my family and family friends shit a brick when a pitty got dumped by my house and I took him in. One family friend who was the dean of students at a major university made an appt for me with the head of vet medicine. And mr. Head of vet medicine told me to have the dog put down. Mr. Pitty took about 6 months to fit in but he was emaciated and abused when I took him in. 5 years later and my mom and dad now refer to themselves as his grandparents! I just sent a pic to them of him making a blanket fort. (Little chilly here for July)
posted by futz at 8:03 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


This thread has a significant lack of pictures of people's cute pitbulls.
posted by gregoryg at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2014 [37 favorites]


Pacific Standard - The Tragedy of America’s Dog: A brief history of the vilification of the pit bull
In decades past, the American pit bull was a canine icon. Nicknamed “America’s dog,” and favored for its remarkable loyalty and affability, images of the breed were everywhere. A pit bull named Sergeant Stubby won 13 decorations for his service in the trenches of the First World War. Nipper, the dog from the classic RCA Victor advertisements, was a pit bull. So was Pete the Pup, canine companion to The Little Rascals. Their affinity and gentleness toward children was so widely known and appreciated it inspired a second nickname: “the nanny dog.” [...]

Evidently, the pit bull problem isn’t really a pit bull problem. It’s a human problem—like most “animal problems” upon closer inspection. And BSL [breed-specific legislation] is a cop-out. It shifts culpability from the truly responsible parties—irresponsible owners—and unfairly manipulates the image of an already exploited breed.
posted by flex at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2014 [29 favorites]


In effect, this is what the study said.

Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Komondors, Newfoundlands, Napoleon Mastiffs, Bloodhounds - don't seem to be on the list. All of them big, strong animals, and the Great Pyrenees is a proven bear-killer.

The Great Pyrenees is also an interesting case on this topic as well:
The key fact in this story is that these untrained dogs acted almost entirely as though they were trained protector dogs in how they protected the cattle, harassed the dogs, coordinated their efforts with each other and with the humans, etc...

So, there's at least one type of dog where complex behavior patterns are part of the inherent package, and not trained into the animal. Things may be more complex than simply blaming the owner.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:22 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


If pit bulls were 'eliminated', the same macho idiots that inbred and then abused the breed would simply move on to the next macho breed and abuse it.
posted by notreally at 8:22 PM on July 15, 2014 [23 favorites]


The scale of the abandoned pet problem is appalling. Did people not watch enough The Price is Right? How can this be?
posted by asperity at 8:24 PM on July 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


I just sent a pic to them of him making a blanket fort. (Little chilly here for July)

I feel like your story is incomplete without this picture.
posted by lunasol at 8:26 PM on July 15, 2014 [32 favorites]


I'd also like to add that as much as I looooove my dog I will probably never let him around kids. Adults he warms up to quickly but kids are too unpredictable. I am lucky to live out in the country and have a huge fenced yard. My dog was in bad bad shape when I found him and it took him a long time to trust. I respect his limitations. He may be fine around kids by now for all I know but I am not willing to find out. And not just because he is a pit...it is because i am a responsible dog owner.
posted by futz at 8:32 PM on July 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


You can of course train any large breed dog to be a good, safe pet. The problem is that 90%+ of pet owners are totally irresponsible, incompetent dipshits and the more of a dipshit he is, the more likely he wants a pitbull.

My brother can't even train his pitbull to sit. He just shouts "Sit! Sit! Sit!" at it like it understands English. Whenever I've been over there, the entire time he just keeps yelling, "Spot, no! No! No! Spot! Spot! No! No! No! No!", again, like the dog somehow understands English. I've seen him walk the dog and he can barely restrain him. He's a terrible owner and he's unintentionally training his dog to be aggressive because he doesn't even have the slightest clue how to train and socialize a dog. He's already attacked my parents' little 10 pound dog over a rawhide bone, bit him by the neck and drew a lot of blood. I'm just waiting for the day when he attacks someone and my brother says, "I don't know what happened, he was never aggressive before!"
posted by stavrogin at 8:33 PM on July 15, 2014 [27 favorites]


Grew up with a succession of Staffordshire Bull Terriers, best dogs in the world. Stupidly happy dogs and so good with kids. Pit Bulls are unfairly maligned, as someone pointed out in another thread, in the 80s it was Rottweilers and if Pit Bulls didn't exist, assholes would move on to another breed to abuse.
posted by arcticseal at 8:34 PM on July 15, 2014


The best part of that article is the advice from Jason Flatt:

"You have to make sure you don't set [your dog] up to fail."
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 8:37 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Stavrogin, can you family put their foot down and say no more dog contact until he's trained? Both your brother and the dog...
posted by futz at 8:43 PM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


This thread has a significant lack of pictures of people's cute pitbulls.

See my recent post, the exact opposite of this one in that I didn't address any Issues, just cute pictures.
posted by librarina at 8:43 PM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


my objection is to the ridiculous generalization that pit bulls "are the only American dog." anything else written after this becomes suspect. why make such gigantic generalizations? drama. just stick to the facts, or to opinions even - without making pronouncements as if from on high.
posted by TMezz at 8:43 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I just sent a pic to them of him making a blanket fort. (Little chilly here for July)
posted by futz at 11:03 PM on July 15 [+] [!]


Imma gonna need a picture to verify this
posted by schroedinger at 8:45 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Komondors, Newfoundlands, Napoleon Mastiffs, Bloodhounds - don't seem to be on the list. All of them big, strong animals, and the Great Pyrenees is a proven bear-killer.

And there are like twelve of each in the US, compared to at least tens of thousands of dogs potentially definable as pit bulls. The CDC study isn't normalized for population at all. And its authors' handwave about how their result is real despite that methodological failure isn't super-convincing, considering the basic failure of reasoning:
the data indicate that Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs accounted for 67% of human DBRF in the United States between 1997 and 1998. It is extremely unlikely that they accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities.
The problem with this, of course, is that they'd have to account only for 60% of the population of large dogs, dogs large enough to be physically capable of killing a person, not 60% of all dogs. Of course a list of fatal dog-bite wounds isn't going to feature a lot of Chihuahuas.

The other problem, one so basic that even Tom Junod managed to figure it out, is that you can't have a "breed-specific problem" without a breed.

So, there's at least one type of dog where complex behavior patterns are part of the inherent package, and not trained into the animal.

That blog post does not demonstrate, or even begin to argue, that that was a breed-specific characteristic. All dogs do all kinds of complicated social behaviors — they're pack animals!

I've really seen very little evidence of dogs having much breed-specific behavior, compared to how much I've heard people talk about it.
posted by RogerB at 8:47 PM on July 15, 2014 [6 favorites]


My opinion is that when gang bangers and other criminal types made pit bulls their dog of "choice" it gave the poor things a bad reputation. It was just bad owners in my opinion, I have seen some of the sweetest dogs who were pits and some dachshunds (mine) to be the snarliest creatures. It is just a sweeping bad generalization that got a lot of political heft.
posted by OhSusannah at 8:52 PM on July 15, 2014


Meanwhile, science (.pdf from the CDC) - studying dog attacks, Pitbulls and bully-breeds killed more people than other dog breeds - twice as many as Rottweilers, and the Rotties killed twice as many as German Shepherds.

People frequently cite stats about how pit bulls are responsible for a disproportionate amount of dog bites. However, this information is very difficult to verify because the people who are reporting are not experts on identifying dog breeds. Disagree? Try to identify the pit bulls in this quiz.

If you want to minimize dog bites, support spay and neuter programs. 97% of dog bites come from dogs who were not spayed or neutered, according to the ASPCA.

A beautiful silver pit bull with big blue eyes used to live next door. She was behind a fence but she would push a tennis ball under the fence to people who walked by and wait for them to throw it. She would look into YOUR SOUL, imploring you to throw the ball. I think she died a little inside every time her tennis ball rolled under a car. And she loved it when I would pet her. he was so sweet. I'm not sure that I would trust her around a kid because that's a high bar but I might. I definitely miss her and would have loved to take her home.
posted by kat518 at 8:54 PM on July 15, 2014 [15 favorites]


The solution is pet licensing and harsher penalties for irresponsible dog owners. It's straightforward to the extent that even an idiot could understand it. And I mean an absolute, gibbering, five-alarm idiot. A drooling mess of fail and stupid could see that banning backyard breeding, enforcing pet licensing, and gouging out the eyes of people who mistreat their animals either by malice, ignorance, religious conviction, or for the purposes of turning them violent, would solve all of these problems pretty much overnight.

I have zero time for any person who would wail and teeth-gnash over "dangerous" dog breeds. Dogs have been part of the makeup of civilization for as long as civilization has existed. Many would argue that we wouldn't have made it where we are today without the domestication of the "dog". But as intelligent as dogs are - and they are genuinely super-smart critters, every last one of them - they still rely on instinct, and if they are programmed by a human to have shitty instincts, then they are going to act on them.

It's like blaming cane toads for fucking their way across Australia and killing the shit out of everything in reach. They didn't charter the fucking boat.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:00 PM on July 15, 2014 [9 favorites]


Try to identify the pit bulls in this quiz.

I got it right on the first try im so excited im gonna hug a dog right now
posted by elizardbits at 9:04 PM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


In the 80's for me it was all about German Shepherds and Dobermans. In the 90's Rottweilers and Chows took center stage.

I feel like in non-rural areas, pet ownership should be a privilege and not a right. Like driving, you must demonstrate that you are capable of training and "operating" an animal.

Breeding is out of the question, sorry. No backyard breeding. Spaying and neutering is mandated. Vaccinations too. Sorry anti-vaxxers, your dog will die of Parvo, ask me how I know (conspiracy nut friend).

Sorry, but you weren't going to breed that, right? Pet acquisitions are tracked and problem owners are not given carte blanche to try one animal out after another when their training abilities come into question.

And, you don't get to interchangeably return and adopt new pets every year or two, and if your kid kills a kitten on accident because you weren't supervising them, you're going to have a bad time getting another pet. (Personal experience in this paragraph, family...)

Pet shops? Puppy mills? Gone. Those are evil, no moar slingin' animals like they're raw commodities. Goldfish used as wedding decorations? Fuck you. Butterfly releases? Nope.

I realize the logistics are challenging but this is a battle we can win on various fronts, not as challenging as gun control. It's not about pit bulls of course, they are guilty by association and they are powerful, so by neglecting them you can easily create a dangerous situation. Perhaps the more potential your pet has for killing someone the more mandatory training and demonstrated compliance you must complete. I don't warm up to the "other animals aren't able to kill as easily so the stats are off" argument totally, and I don't want to analogize a pit bull to Adderal exactly, but let's just say that some things are easy to get into trouble with than others, especially through neglect, and there should be social pressures that discourage people from acquiring an animal that is more able to kill or more prone to establish a death grip due to a "misunderstanding" or failure to train. Much like we don't encourage people to raise tigers from birth and then cuddle with them, even though for the most part they'll probably be chill until some shit sets them off. I realize there are plenty of big "friendly" dogs that can easily take out most able-bodied people too, so it's a difficult thing to tease apart. I would say "discourage" rather than "malign" the acquisition of breeds for the sake of having an intimidating animal.

They can be purposed for good or evil by their owners and neglect is the most banal form of evil. Banning breeds is dumb and slippery-slopey, but on the other hand I think things can be done to discourage people from proliferating pits along with all manner of maligned or high-maintenance or whatever breeds into the hands of morons.
posted by aydeejones at 9:08 PM on July 15, 2014 [16 favorites]


To add to that last sentence, I think it's just as irresponsible to adopt a cute breed that has some health issue you can't afford to address as it is to adopt a "pit bull" because it's scary. One could argue that it's unfair to say a pit bull owner should have to perform more training or what have you, and perhaps that's true -- mandatory training must extend to all breeds to some extent, with special emphasis on how to deal with your own breed's known quirks (energy levels, size, propensity for aggression, whatever). If pits are not any more inherently likely to attack, then requiring training of any kind and disallowing backyard breeding and free-for-all "pit bull procurement" should help to bring their CDC stats in line with other breeds, and then maybe we can have a more rational conversation about pets in general.
posted by aydeejones at 9:13 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sorry! Not going to post pics of the dog fort. I got side barred once one here for posting pics of me babysitting tiger cubs and things got ugly off site. *but if we still aren't be indexed by the googly...*
posted by futz at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2014


In a way, the pit bull has become the only American dog, because it is the only American dog that has become an American metaphor—and the only American dog that people bother to name.

WTF?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:15 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


> This thread has a significant lack of pictures of people's cute pitbulls.

I can't provide a picture of a cute pitbull, but I can provide a picture of my adorable pit-bull bite from 3 weeks ago!

This is the cutest (read: least gory) shot, partially healed. The dog actually bit through the skin and into my muscle; its top & bottom teeth connected inside my leg. This was a dog on a leash being walked by a nice middle-aged lady -- not a dog running free owned by a thuggish kid -- and it attacked without warning or provocation as I passed by on the sidewalk (the same sidewalk where children from the local montessori walk every day to the beach). Something in this dog just snapped, and while its breed may have had nothing to do with it snapping (#notallpits, &c), its breed did give it the tenacity and strength that made this incident pure agony. Like the dog in the article with the cocker spaniel in its teeth, the dog that attacked me refused to let go. I moved toward it as it pulled for fear of losing flesh, and it's lucky I did.

> I respect his limitations. [....] And not just because he is a pit...it is because i am a responsible dog owner.

Yes! I cannot favorite this hard enough. And it's not just knowing the dog's limitations, but also knowing one's own limitations as an owner. (When the chips were down, the lady on the other end of that leash didn't have the strength to restrain it, the fortitude to pry it free, or the wherewithal to stop it from attacking my arm after it let go of my leg.) With a dog of that strength and tenacity, a tug-of-war is not easy to win if the worst occurs.
posted by Westringia F. at 9:22 PM on July 15, 2014 [22 favorites]


Were you wearing yellow?
posted by Flashman at 9:33 PM on July 15, 2014


Yellow? Did I miss a joke?
posted by futz at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


West F got bit by a dog and your point is?
posted by futz at 9:40 PM on July 15, 2014


Junod had actually generated a bit of sympathy in my mind until the part toward the end about his pit bull snapping a smaller dog's leg simply because that small dog was positioned between the pit and Junod's little girl. I reread that part a couple of times. I saw no mention of aggression or threatening behavior on the part of the smaller dog. Did I still manage to miss something? To my reading, his dog broke the smaller dog's leg because it didn't care for the positioning of the smaller dog relative to the little girl. How is this anecdote supposed to make me sympathetic to pit bulls in any way?
posted by azaner at 9:42 PM on July 15, 2014 [4 favorites]


Were you wearing yellow?

Appropriate place to put a link to a Dog Vision Simulator. Yellow doesn't seem as though it would be some sort of a weird trigger that red wouldn't be.
posted by Nanukthedog at 9:43 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nobody should wear yellow? Junk science.
posted by futz at 9:45 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


This thread has a significant lack of pictures of people's cute pitbulls.

My word. Let me fix that.

Meet Jack. This picture was taken a few weeks after I found him wandering the papermill where I was co-oping. He was a rail thin stray and this is how he looked after putting on quiet a few pounds and minus about 60+ ticks (no heartworms, I was *surprised*).

Now meet Coke, she's the tiny one. She's a rescue from the local shelter and Jack's playmate/tormentor extraordinaire. Except when she's being super cute and lemur like.

I was raised with dogs (house, working, and outdoor), have bitten* and been bit by dogs, have worked with rescue agencies and no-kill orgs... and these two are the first pits I've ever owned.

And they're great. A much better breed than chow chow or any other number of dogs that people ignore as just normal breeds when they are actually risky and/or not ideal for casual ownership. Be warned, they do have laser-beam eyes and will root around in your xmas presents looking for their treats from grandma.

But they're not overly protective of their personal space, even when idiots decide to plank in their kennels, nor are their fearsome mandibles something to quake with fear over.

They're dogs. They're going to behave as their owner's training abilities, or lack therof, and care, or lack thereof, dictates. But the baseline with this breed, from what I've seen and read and experienced is much maligned from what the actual case is when owners are reasonable or even when they're adopted/rescued later in life from situations that are very much subpar. But I rant, forgive me.

* Ok, ok, I was 4 or 5 and he wouldn't. drop. my. tennis ball. Stitches and me crying all the time because I thought the dog was going to take the blame even after I admitted that I bit him *hard* and surprised him.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:52 PM on July 15, 2014 [21 favorites]


Nobody should wear yellow?

Jack disagrees.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:54 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I am cracking up ROE. You dogs look like Am Staffs like mine. But yours are more chupacabraish. Be wary.
posted by futz at 10:00 PM on July 15, 2014


In my downtown LA neighborhood, pit bulls are everywhere because hipsters adopt at the pound and that's all there is to adopt. The dogs are okay, or would be, if their owners could be bothered to train the dogs. And themselves. But they seem to think letting their dogs jump up on people and strain on the leash and misbehave is cute. Too bad there's no operator's test for people who want to adopt a dog.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:04 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yea they're very much mixed, as strays and rescues will be, but the genetics test (thanks wedding gift!) we ran on them is dominated by Pit with a crazy amalgamation after that, as well as hefty dashes of unknown. Those tests are fun. If you get them as wedding gifts or something I can highly recommend them over the casserole dishes with floral prints or knitted tissue paper box covers (thanks granny).
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:05 PM on July 15, 2014


I don't know whether to sigh or to laugh about that yellow thing, but I'm pretty sure it's the first time I've heard a victim-blamey "what were you wearing" applied to a dog bite. (And no, I wasn't wearing yellow, not that it should matter if I had been wearing a catsuit of fluorescent tennis-ball yellow flocked rubber.) (Which I now kinda want.)

> West F got bit by a dog and your point is?

futz, I'm not sure if you meant to address that to me or if I'm the subject of that question directed at someone else, but just in case you were asking me what my point is, it's that pits are more dangerous than many other (esp smaller) breeds because of their strength and tenacity, and that that should place an additional burden on owners to be extra responsible and respectful of the dog's strength & temperamental limitations, because otherwise, OW, as illustrated. Which I think we're basically in agreement on!
posted by Westringia F. at 10:05 PM on July 15, 2014 [5 favorites]


Not at you at ALL. Flashman brought it up.
posted by futz at 10:16 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


that that should place an additional burden on owners to be extra responsible and respectful of the dog's strength & temperamental limitations

If this were somehow, magic wand level or something, fairly and feasibly implementable then I'd be 100% behind it for all breeds/sizes of dogs. From little shit chihuahuas up to mastiffs, owners need to be, generally, better than they are on average.

But what isn't cool is not being able to find a place to rent or even a hotel room while traveling solely because of the breed of the dogs we have vs the dogs someone else has that are just as big or hairy or whatever. Seriously, it's a sore subject because we just went through this with a move and a tri-state drive in a U-haul. It was terrible enough to manage, but layering on top of it the number of places where a legit answer of "Yes" to a question of "Is your Dog(s) a pittbull?" meant we were ineligble to rent or hotel crash was the icing on the cake.

Thank God our current landlord, when we were stammering to answer the question of "Now what breed dog are you bringing?", responded with a (in the jovial tone that only the Irish, Scottish and New Zealand folks can do properly) "Oh it sounds like you have pitt bulls right? ...Here's some pictures of ours with our 2 year old. Yes, no worries, people don't understand the breed at all. It's crap the way folks that own them are treated." We knew we had lucked out once that stance was out in the open.

Someone upthread said they'd use the breed issue to screen possible tenants because *reasons*. That sounds mighty unkind, and borderline racist to be honest, if you ask me. Don't do that. We're good people and *great* tenants. Our dogs match.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:24 PM on July 15, 2014


(Ah, got it, futz! And on rereading the comments it's totally obvious you meant that for Flashman. Sorry for the confusion -- clearly it's past my bed-time!)
posted by Westringia F. at 10:24 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree. But also, this particular breed is the evil dog of our generation. I have taken the responsibility with my dog, given his history to restrict his contact with the wider world. Would he be bouncy pouncy fun if I let him choose his own adventures? Probably but I am not taking that chance. He has a great life except for the really fat squirrel that torments him and the UPS truck. Life is hard for mr wiggle butt.
posted by futz at 10:26 PM on July 15, 2014


We are cool WF :)
posted by futz at 10:30 PM on July 15, 2014


Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Komondors, Newfoundlands, Napoleon Mastiffs, Bloodhounds - don't seem to be on the list. All of them big, strong animals, and the Great Pyrenees is a proven bear-killer.

My puppy-in-law is a rescue Great Pyr (there are quite a few Great Pyrs in the states and quite a few terrible old owners) and if she weren't enormously lazy and a little fur-zaftig, she would be quite scary and probably dangerous. I suspect there are fewer Pyr attacks because most dogs that weigh 100-150 pounds require a lot of land (and grooming, it's like being hugged by an bear rug that can drool) and so tend to be found in places without humans, but I would be quite wary of her otherwise on the street. Most importantly though is that she's well, well trained and always, always on a secure puppy-proof lead when outside. And her owner can haul her inside if necessary, which requires a lot of strength. There's so much dog there, you can't take chances. But she wouldn't be banned by any of the rental agreements I've signed (unless there's a weight limit.) I'd support mandatory certifications of dog lessons over breed bans, especially if that led to more dog training clinics and options.

(No pictures because iPad :( )
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:44 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


The meanest dog I've ever known was a Pomeranian. Go figure!
posted by SisterHavana at 10:47 PM on July 15, 2014


Wow, according to your dipshit insights that's over 60 million dipshit households in the US alone.

Sounds accurate.
posted by modernnomad at 10:51 PM on July 15, 2014 [7 favorites]


Wait - between

"And so I called a professor of comparative genomics from the College of Veterinary Medicine at Western University of Health Sciences named Kris Irizarry. "You look at a pit bull's DNA," he said, "and the only thing you can really tell is that it's a dog. That's why the tests don't work. There's no boundary between what genes may or may not be in the breed, and that's why it's not a breed. It's just a general dog"

and

the genetics test (thanks wedding gift!) we ran on them is dominated by Pit with a crazy amalgamation after that, as well as hefty dashes of unknown.

which is it?
posted by progosk at 10:54 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's no public muzzle laws in the U.S.? Scheduled dogs require a different license here - you put up a banker's bond or insurance, and then you get fined heavily if your dog is out in public without a leash and muzzle. I wish they'd extend that to Golden Retrievers, bloody awful dogs to have around cats. We had a soft cloth muzzle for our mongrel who nipped boys (pre-adoption abuse) that she wasn't wild about but worked fine.
posted by viggorlijah at 11:00 PM on July 15, 2014


Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, Komondors, Newfoundlands, Napoleon Mastiffs, Bloodhounds - don't seem to be on the list. All of them big, strong animals, and the Great Pyrenees is a proven bear-killer.

A good friend of mine used to have Great Pyrenees dogs. She and her partner made the difficult decision to have one of their dogs euthanized after a number of biting incidents. They felt that they'd been lucky their dog hadn't done permanent damage to anyone, or severely hurt a child, and decided they weren't comfortable taking that chance. They researched every option, including sending the dog for intensive training, trying to get him a spot at a rescue place, a ranch out west, that specialized in aggressive dogs, and so on.

One option that was suggested to them was that the dog be muzzled when other people were around. But they felt that any option that depended on confining him or muzzling him was prone to human error, and that human error always occurs.

That was actually my thought reading the article. The dog in the article, Dexter, had pretty seriously injured two other dogs in the space of just a few months. The author attributed it to human error, and it was human error in both cases: a cocker spaniel getting accidentally let loose, his wife not recognizing the risk of letting the dog to up onto a porch where there was another dog (and not listening to the daughter, who told her it was a bad idea).

The trouble is, that if there's room for error, error will happen. We had a husky mix for many years. If she got loose, she would just run happily around the neighborhood until she was ready to come back. We developed a whole repertoire of tricks for getting her to return, and some of them worked sometimes, but mostly the best strategy was just to sit on the porch, catching occasional glimpses of her in the distance, and wait for her to wear herself out and come home. When we were new to our current neighborhood, she got loose, and a neighbor, not recognizing her, called Animal Control. The Animal Control guy couldn't catch her. He eventually gave us a verbal warning and left, taking my word for it that she'd never done any harm and would eventually come back.

Uncatchable even by Animal Control. That was our dog Kira.

The solution to that problem, of course, was to be very careful to make sure she didn't get loose. And we were very careful. We went months, even a year or two at a time, without her slipping out. But all it takes is one person coming to the house who doesn't know not to open the door when she's loose in the living room for her to be gone in a flash. It was a friend's 3-year-old who opened the door and let her slip out when we'd first moved here. Or a utility company meter reader who leaves the gate open, and we either forget to double-check it or don't even know the meter reader was here, until we let the dog into the backyard and two minutes later see her streaking off down the street.

My point is, that one thing I was expecting from the end of the article, after his talk about human error, was to hear him be somewhat conflicted about his dog. Because human error will always happen. Our friends who put down their Great Pyrenees felt sure that someday the dog's muzzle would get left off, or someone would accidentally make a gesture the dog found threatening, and that would be it. In the last incident before they made the decision to euthanize, the dog bit someone's hand severely, and her doctors said she was lucky there hadn't been permanent damage. Our friends thought to themselves, "Next time, there might be." They didn't want to be responsible for someone losing the use of their hand, even partially.

I know the point has been made up-thread, but I think it's important to keep in mind not only how often dogs will bite or be aggressive, but how much damage they can do. I'm not painting pit bulls with a broad brush here: I'm specifically talking about the dog in the article, who has twice injured smaller dogs and bitten the humans who tried to separate them. In one of those incidents, Dexter was the aggressor.

I don't have a problem with pit bulls. But I don't trust this Dexter. I'm not sure Dexter is fit to be a family pet, and, remembering my friends, I wonder if the author and his wife are going to wait until their daughter has seen her dog kill another dog before they consider that possibility as well.
posted by not that girl at 11:06 PM on July 15, 2014 [14 favorites]


Those dog dna tests have been proven fraudulent haven't they? Or inaccurate at best?
posted by futz at 11:06 PM on July 15, 2014


If you have any kind of strong feelings pro or con regarding pit bulls, I strongly recommend reading Vicki Hearne's book, Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog


I don't particularly care for pit bull type breeds, because I love the crazy spaze herder breed personality, and I'm pretty doggist when people tell me they own a pit bull. The owners fall into two major types. The first is obnoxious, with poorly controlled dogs they encourage to intimidate other dogs and people. The second is obnoxious, with poorly trained dogs they deny could possibly be a problem. Granted, they usually aren't, but it's often touch and go. The third owner is a minor type you see on occasion: an absolutely delightful owner that gets dogs and has a happy well-trained dog that's expressive, chock full of personality, and very nice to be around. Most are slobbery doofs, but occasionally you run into a sober pit, and he's very much all about the business of being a businessman in a dog suit.

Any type of legislation or movement against pit bulls is crap. Don't move against the dog, move against breeders and dog fighters. We should throw the book at anyone running any kind of breeding facility for the pit breeds. There is NO REASON to breed pit bull type dogs. When thousands of dogs are being destroyed daily, I think that trumps any right to create more puppies. License the living shit out of breeders. Yeah, I realize that unfairly targets poor mostly street dog (probably black) breeders as opposed to rich, mostly show dog (most certainly white) breeders. Tough. It's not about your race, it's about what happens to the dogs. If you can guarantee your puppies go to good, permanent homes and don't end up in the pound--oh, wait, no one can do that! I've seen very expensive papered dogs end up at that pound. A good quality, registered, trained dog has a lot better chance of getting adopted though.

Also, you own a dog? It better be spayed or neutered. Provide low cost spay and neuter clinics ($10-15) and fund them out of the fines tapped from people who won't neuter. Intact dog roaming street--double the fine of a spayed dog. Intact dog owner tagged for failure to clean up, double.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:08 PM on July 15, 2014 [3 favorites]


Even the name makes me think it's a tough-guy/girl attack dog.

Buuuuutttt....

Veronica Mars' dog was a pit bull.

His name was "backup", and he was an awesome actor.

Damn, I miss v-mars.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:17 PM on July 15, 2014


I don't have a dog, but our office dog has his own Instagram for all of your cute doggy pic needs.
posted by billyfleetwood at 11:20 PM on July 15, 2014


Well bluehorse you have just blamed the dogs for belonging to their shithead owners. Take the pit out of your above equation and place the blame where it needs to be. Oh, and my pit is a total spaz at 8 years old. We have a skiddily whee crazy eight circle you can't catch me oh did you dare touch my tail game every day.
posted by futz at 11:23 PM on July 15, 2014 [1 favorite]


A lot of dogs were purpose bred. If you need a livestock guardian dog, get a Great Pyrenees. If you need a bear dog get a Karelian. If you need a guard dog get an Akita. If you need to heard cattle get a heeler or for sheep a border collie. If you need a family pet you can take multiple places that is cool being around new people and dogs constantly and is not territorial or naturally inclined to guard or bitey then don't get one of those breeds!!

It really is that simple. I grew up with farm dogs. They were super awesome. As farm dogs. They killed coyotes, guarded the livestock and kids and kept strangers in their cars until we came out. If we took them to a suburban dog park they would have been bad, bad dogs.
posted by fshgrl at 11:32 PM on July 15, 2014 [8 favorites]


Pit bulls don't kill people, pit bulls' owners kill people
posted by one_bean at 11:57 PM on July 15, 2014 [2 favorites]


Personally I'm upset at being unable to purchase an automobile in the United States that isn't mandatorily equipped with safety belts, since clearly they would be unnecessary if people would only get better at driving.
posted by 7segment at 12:16 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


All the pit bulls I've met were very nice and friendly, even to strangers. Yet, I recently saw this Wikipedia post, which has more up-to-date info than the CDC study, and I just can't get it out of my head (especially when you read the stories).

And people here saying that it isn't deaths that is important, but how aggressive the dog is, just pushes me further away. Just a hint, if you are trying to convince anyone in favor of pit bulls, don't ever use this argument. It might work for you but it definitely will work the opposite of what you are intending on others.
posted by eye of newt at 12:31 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


There is the concept of an attractive nuisance. For kids, this might be a swimming pool or a trampoline.

Unfortunately for most of us, Homo machismo dudebrosius, an insecure species with the reasoning power and sense of responsibility of a ten-year-old H. sapiens, is attracted to a lot of problematic things, one of which is, sadly, pit bulls.

Your average dudebro is incapable of making a decision without first determining if it's "manly", defined as whatever they think will sound most "metal" to their fellows. With their dogs, it's all about aggression. Their idea of a good time is watching dogs kill other animals, or other dogs, or maybe for a cool-down, ripping a foam-rubber caricature of their personal bogeyman to bits in the backyard. Spay or neuter? You have to be kidding, what kind of wimpy dog do you think they want?

I think what doomed the pit bull is its name, which sounds "bad-ass". Maybe we should all get behind renaming a variety of miniature spaniel the "libtard killer"...maybe within months we'd see these idiots roaming the streets with handbags containing ill-socialized, snarling 2-pound fluff balls.*

There are responsible pit bull owners, but just as with the responsible gun owners, they're absolutely overwhelmed by the majority, attracted to the guns or the dogs by the perceived manliness, and who want no part of the responsible aspect. To them, "being responsible" is exactly the same as "stealing our freedom!"

* Which, to be fair, describes a lot of extant 2-pound fluffballs, their owners being just as clueless as the dudebros.
posted by maxwelton at 2:55 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I ended up skimming the article. I feel bad for all the pitbulls, especially the mistreated ones. Poor things.

PANPAN. She's 50lbs, give or take, a very shiny silky brown with blotchy white cowprints on her bosom, and has a pink nose. My family took her in because my friend, her actual owner, is a renter and their landlord made it prohibitive to have pitbulls. Besides, now she gets to sit around on a couch most of the day, gets a walk every day, noses people's hands when she needs to relieve herself, doesn't have to live in super hot-humid weather, and has humans that will tuck her into her kennel at night. I believe she is a summer baby, and will be eleven this year. I moved away and miss her so much. Maybe I should update her account....

I was introduced to her and it took a month for me to get familiar with her big goober silly attitude. I'm still afraid of most dogs, especially big ones. So far as I know Panpan's never bit anyone and even so I've never let her near children because I didn't raise her. But around adults, Panpan is a great dog.
posted by one teak forest at 3:22 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


My opinion is that when gang bangers and other criminal types made pit bulls their dog of "choice"...

Ok, I'm gonna assume that gang bangers aren't people who take part in gang bangs... If they are, please could no one correct me, because I don't want to know what pitt bulls have to do with it. kthxbye
posted by Ned G at 3:49 AM on July 16, 2014


I think most of the time when people say things like "there are no bad dogs, just bad owners" they are thinking of dogfighting animal abusers, when, in reality, a bad owner could simply be a well-meaning person a little short on time for training.

I adore animals, but I know I'd be a bad pit bull owner because I am lazy (which is why I have a pug).
posted by Jess the Mess at 4:31 AM on July 16, 2014


"Gang bangers" is sometimes used to be synonymous with "gangsters".

I think the fatality statistics could very easily be an effect rather than a cause. There was a case from my city a few years ago where a family got a pit and literally just chained it up in the basement and never interacted with it. At one point a seven year old child went down to the basement and tried to play with the dog and the dog killed the kid. That's another pitbull fatality because some idiots created a feral, unsocialized animal and kept it in their basement and then were too dumb to keep kids away from it.

Sigh.


Of course what this means is that if we get a dog I'll probably feel morally required to get a pit from a shelter (sort of like we adopted a 10 year old cat that had been in the shelter for a couple months already) and then my homeowners insurance policy will get canceled. Agh.
posted by kavasa at 5:11 AM on July 16, 2014


Ok, I'm gonna assume that gang bangers aren't people who take part in gang bangs

It's a dogwhistley statement along the lines of "urban youths" unfortunately.
posted by elizardbits at 5:59 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


The problem is not the dog. It's the owner.

Spay the problematic owners?

Chihuahua, any dog, can be viscous; now take two crazed abused dogs, a chihuahua and a pit bull, choose which one you'd rather be stuck in a dark ally to fight off?

Just watching one episode of the Dog Whisperer, it's clear that virtually any dog can be helped, socialized, helped to live reasonably in the society of men and dogs. But some owners just could not.

How do you fix the owners?
posted by sammyo at 6:14 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


That blog post does not demonstrate, or even begin to argue, that that was a breed-specific characteristic. All dogs do all kinds of complicated social behaviors — they're pack animals! I've really seen very little evidence of dogs having much breed-specific behavior, compared to how much I've heard people talk about it.

Except it did. There's a lot of evidence of some types of dogs exhibiting complex behaviors based on their breeding. Anyone who's ever tried to walk a beagle off-leash where such things are permitted is excruciatingly aware of this.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:25 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


The failure mode of a pit bull is that it kills someone. The failure mode of a chihuahua is that you get really annoyed.

As far as a dog with an aggressive temperament, I suppose it is entirely possible that a "good owner" could train it out of the dog, but the number of owners with that amount of skill and patience is small compared with the number of people that want to own a dog. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't insist on mandatory spay/neutering and criminalizing unlicensed breeding and unlicensed sale of pit bulls.

I mean, honestly, there is no reason that pit bulls need to exist at all, though they can probably be tolerated in low numbers, particularly by filtering out from ownership anyone who refuses to do basic amounts of paperwork.
posted by deanc at 6:42 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


7segment: "Personally I'm upset at being unable to purchase an automobile in the United States that isn't mandatorily equipped with safety belts, since clearly they would be unnecessary if people would only get better at driving."

Look, if we're intellectually honest about this, we're going to either (a) ban outright or (b) require public muzzling on any dog deemed large enough to potentially kill or injure a human being. But actually trying to pursue that policy would result in mutiny from nearly all dog owners. First they came for the pit bulls, etc.

Those who say "it's not the dogs, it's the owners" aren't suggesting that the owners should just spontaneously get better at owning dogs. That's not the end of the discussion; it's a reframing of the argument. And instead of trying to draw a box around an inherently unclassifiable breed and scapegoating them for the problem, to me it makes more sense to target dog owners through leash laws. (I'd even be OK with a mandatory six-hour class before you can own a dog, even though I worry it'd be infeasible to implement.)

(Texas, for all its idiocy, gets this right: state law permits municipalities to regulate dog ownership except for regulations that consider breed. Sadly, apartment complexes are still allowed to ban pit bulls.)
posted by savetheclocktower at 6:46 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]




Leash laws aren't even enough when you have a dog big enough to overwhelm the owner's ability to control.

I used to live down the street from a lady with two Neapolitan mastiffs. She might have weighed a hundred pounds if she had on really heavy boots. If those dogs decided they wanted to do something she had absolutely no chance in hell of stopping them. I would always immediately walk the other way when I saw her with them.
posted by winna at 7:03 AM on July 16, 2014


Ok, I'm gonna assume that gang bangers aren't people who take part in gang bangs... If they are, please could no one correct me, because I don't want to know what pitt bulls have to do with it. kthxbye

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from the original UCB show:

"There's only two things that broke up an orgy: dogs, and a bigger orgy across town."
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:15 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Tl;dr, they found that dachshunds and chihuahuas were more aggressive than pitbulls.

The difference is in the perceived threat.

My wife & I walk around our neighborhood every morning. The purse dogs barking at us are not frightening because I don't expect any real harm from them should they somehow attack me. However, the large, aggressive pit/mutt rescue dog in my friend's yard barks at me as soon as it hears my voice down the block, and I know that there is a history of dogs of that kind actually attacking people.

Am I not calculating risk properly? Perhaps I should be more like Spock. But the dog weighs more than my smallest child, and she is afraid of it -- without having her opinions shaped by social media or reading the newspaper.

I love dogs and I admire people who will take in a rescue, but that damn thing is genuinely frightening.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:28 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think the best argument against pit bulls isn't that the breed has some tendency towards violence, it's that dogs with the capability for inflicting serious damage on humans (a 40 lb pit has far more muscle and jaw power than a 40 lb australian shepherd) can be dangerous in the wrong hands and wrong situations. It's like gun control - it's not that guns are dangerous per se, but humans are stupid and make mistakes and so without gun control we get a lot of avoidable deaths.

Without some sort of controls on who can own a dog capable of easily killing humans, those dogs will at times wind up killing humans. You can love the dogs, you can blame the owners, but if you don't enact some sort of controls the attacks and injuries and deaths will keep happening.
posted by crayz at 7:28 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I think it's pretty important to note if you've ever been around unsocialized dogs - in their default state dogs are often extremely territorial and aggressive towards intruders/those near the territory, especially e.g. at night. Their default behavior absolutely would be to attack in some instances. So you are counting on *every single owner* properly socializing their dogs and untraining what biology is telling them to do, and that socializing sticking in all circumstances.
posted by crayz at 7:37 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


My dog, Cappy, is a pit bull mix. We adopted him from a shelter, where he had been for months after being abandoned by his owners (he had tags when caught, naming him "Capone", but no one was at that address anymore. The shelter changed his name to a more friendly "Cappy").

We didn't go to the shelter expecting to adopt a pit bull. For one thing, we were looking for a smaller dog, but also we knew the stories. But we live in a city, and the only thing in our shelters are pits and Chihuahuas. We gave Cappy a try, not knowing how this would turn out.

The first day we had him, he was on a leash in Petco while we looked for a crate and bed for him. He was minding his own business when a little kid bolted up to him, yelling, "Doggy!" Every dog owner knows this is not a good idea, and here we were with a pit bull we didn't know very well. I feared the worst. Cappy looked up at the kid and wagged his tail, letting himself be pet.

It turns out this vicious "Capone" is the sweetest, friendliest dog we've ever owned. He has never acted out against any person; all strangers are, to him, just potential butt-scratchers. He loves everybody. (He's often not crazy about other dogs, and he doesn't like cats or squirrels.)

We took him to obedience class and he did fine. These dogs are intelligent and eager to please, so they're easy to train. If you want to train them to be assholes, they'll be as much of an asshole as you want them to be. And they're big and burly, so they can really dish out some harm if that's what you want them to do.

I know my one experience doesn't change much of anything, but what it changed for me was not just knowing the situation with the breed but having a better understanding of why that situation was what it was.
posted by Legomancer at 8:01 AM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


The problem with dogs, any dogs, is that they are perfectly predictable until they are not.
posted by winna at 8:07 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you ban pit bulls, and somehow manage the impossible task of completely eliminating the entire breed-that-isn't-a-breed from the planet, there will just become another breed or mix that is the tough guy/fighting dog du jour. Rotties, or GSDs, or for example I just saw a Cane Corso puppy yesterday. Assuming again being able to achieve the goal of then eliminating each new tough guy breed as it becomes popular, eventually what? Plus you have to consider that ill-intentioned backyard breeders will always be take individual aggressive badass dog of any breed and breed it with another individual aggressive badass dog and keep selecting for those traits. There will always be some version of the pit bull.

Personally I don't know what the answer is for sure, but my first inclination is VERY strict spay and neuter laws. Like, walking around with a dog that still has his balls without hard-to-get papers showing that you've got the requisite training and proper facilities and adoption processes in place to breed a dog and home the puppies, is cause enough for a citation on sight.

I love every socialized pit bull I've ever met (my dog-niece, Q, is especially great), but personally I know I am not a good enough dog owner to put the training time and exercise and discipline in to owning one. But that's the case for me with lots of breeds - you couldn't pay me money to own a Border Collie, not because they aren't wonderful, but because the dog would destroy my house out of boredom and lack of exercise. So I stick with Greyhounds because their dog care mode is set to Easy.
posted by misskaz at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2014 [8 favorites]


That was a very weirdly framed article, but that's pretty par for the course when you're talking about something as fraught as as nebulous as 'pit bulls.'

The first thing everyone needs to understand about the topic is that there are no reliable statistics anywhere. There's no universal definition of what a 'pit bull' is, and the legal definitions are always so vague and sloppy that they're worse than useless. We have no idea what a 'pit bull' even is. We have no idea how many of them are out there. We have no idea how many have bitten or killed people. What we do know is that there are very ingrained biases in the media that report disproportionately on 'pit bull' bites and cover other breed bite incidents little if at all. Even fatal dog attacks sometimes aren't reported at all in the mainstream media. Even self proclaimed dog breed experts can't tell you what a 'pit bull' is, but they're heavily inclined to identify aggressive dogs as 'pit bulls.'

And look at that Wikipedia article on fatal dog attacks. It sure looks like there are a lot of pit bulls represented there, but one of the supposed 'pit bulls' in that list was 130 pounds.

There is no such thing as a 130 pound pit bull. The maximum size of any of the primary breeds identified as pit bull is around 70 pounds. A 130 pound pit bull is like a 30 pound shih tzu. That's ridiculous and obviously wrong. And that's just one bad ID that's obvious from based on the little blurb provided. I can almost guarantee that's not the only incorrect ID. If you look around a little at dog bite stories and try to find pictures of the offending 'pit bulls,' you're going to see a whole lot of dogs that look nothing like you'd imagine a pit bull looks. Labrador Retrievers in particular often magically transform into 'pit bulls' after they bite someone.

One of the worst effects of this sloppy and inaccurate reporting (on which all available statistics are based, including that CDC study) is that it draws attention away from the real, important statistics that aggressive dogs are disproportionately unneutered, unsocialized, kept chained up outside, and from impoverished areas. It's tempting to point to some simple, easily remedied factor such as breed to try to address the problem, but it's wrong and it's counterproductive. And it only serves to misdirect our limited resources. Fun fact: Denver, which has had a longstanding pit bull ban, has the highest rate of serious dog bite injuries in the state. (Here's a PDF with more.)
posted by ernielundquist at 8:31 AM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


When we lived in Tennessee, our girl Rosie was called a Border Collie mix by vets and groomers. When we moved to St. Louis, the first vet we took her to said she was a Pit mix. St. Louis is a dog city and there are lots and lots of Pit mixes running around. We've had people stop us on the street and ask what kind of dog she was and where we got her. Many of them assumed she was some form of Pit.

Finally after 11 years of wonder, my husband and I got a dna test for her. Results: Border Collie/German Shepard parent and an American Staffordshire Terrier parent.

Honestly, the most difficult behavior we have to work on with her is a tendency to herd small children. She wants them to be grouped together and sometime clicks her teeth at them. Best training we've ever taught her was "Leave it". She plays well with the cat, kids, and other dogs her size. She's been frequently attacked by little dogs, so she tends to greet them with laid back ears and a nervous posture. We do make an effort to limit her exposure to little dogs because we understand that the size differential is a factor.

All and all, and this comes from a girl who had hound dogs and beagles all her life, when Rosie leaves us, I'd like to get another dog exactly like her. Because she is one of the smartest, sweetest dogs I've ever met. Pit bull or not, she's a damn near perfect dog.
posted by teleri025 at 8:32 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a neighborhood with a lot of dog fighting, and the pit bulls were terrifying. They would start out as expressive, friendly, adorable puppies, but as they were "trained" to fight (which basically meant being ignored, periodically starved, abused, and trotted around the neighborhood carrying weights, etc) they turned mean. And a mean pit bull is *dangerous.* It easily has more muscle power than a full grown woman, and likely most full grown men. If it starts attacking you, you'll easily be killed. And what "fighting dogs" are trained to do is to attack and keep attacking until their opponent is dead.

Volunteering for animals shelters and dogsitting, I've come across many sweet, wonderful pit bulls. Most pit bulls I've met are sweet, loving, and joyful, actually, and even the "fighting dogs" I remember from childhood by and large started out that way as puppies. I don't think that there's an intrinsic temperament problem with the breed. But they're so immensely strong and their jaws are so large and have such an ability to clamp, that when something *does* go wrong with a pit bull -- either from mistreatment or confusion, a health problem, a sudden attack of fright, whatever, any of the stuff that could go wrong with any dog and lead it to get aggressive for even a moment -- it easily turns catastrophic.

I think that, rather than getting rid of the breed altogether, it would be better to try and breed pits for smaller jaws, smaller and less muscular bodies, etc. Breed out the attributes that make them so easily lethal when they attack, in other words. Pits tend to have sweet dispositions overall and they're often very healthy dogs, so I think snuffing out the breed would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. However, I'm not really sure how a change in breeding (to steer away from the heavily muscled, iron-jawed traits) would happen, since pit bulls are so ubiquitous and I don't honestly even know who's breeding them in the first place or way (aside from as fighting and possibly guard dogs).
posted by rue72 at 8:33 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


A few years ago, I was walking to my bus stop when I found an enthusiastic pit mix (whatever that means) puppy, hassling a neighbor for attention. It was clear that the neighbor didn't own or like the puppy. So I ended up taking the pup home and giving her some food, while I tried to figure out what to do with her.

Here is what she looked like right after I found her. (Pardon the bad angle and bad camera phone quality.) A lot of those hairless areas were raw and weeping. She also had a deep slice in the skin above her shoulders. She was very sweet, but in horrific shape. Beyond what you can see, she also had a jaw deformity and a hip bone issue that later required surgery.

We couldn't keep the pup, due to our two mentally insane cats. While we were trying to arrange for one of my co-workers to come get her, another neighbor called Animal Control, and they took the puppy. (Boy, was that a long, stupid, frustrating story rendered into a single sentence.) One of my friends had a contact with a dog rescue, and she had the rescue put a hold on the puppy with Animal Control, until my co-worker could come get her.

Once my co-worker got the pup to her vet, the vet opined that she had been deliberately burned, probably with a hot liquid. "To make her mean", the vet said. Her other injuries appeared to have come from her escape - maybe worming under fences, getting snagged on sharp stuff, etc. I thought she had mange, but the vet said she did not.

I'm definitely not a dog expert. I'm actually afraid of dogs, in general, because of terrible owners. I certainly agree that the fallout from a large dog's bite is bound to be worse than the fallout from a small dog's bite. And I know how lucky that puppy was to end up with my co-worker, who is truly great with dogs. She turned out to be a wonderful adult dog.

But, jeez. If this is the kind of thing that people do to pit bulls with any frequency, no wonder they end up aggressive and awful.

Big_B, I'm very sorry about what happened to your kitty. I'd probably get arrested if any of our neighbor's dogs did that to either of our cats. When I was a kid, our neighbor's Akita tore open our outdoor rabbit hutch, and killed our rabbit in a similar manner. The neighbor was full of excuses. It is the fucking worst.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


I think the best argument against pit bulls isn't that the breed has some tendency towards violence, it's that dogs with the capability for inflicting serious damage on humans (a 40 lb pit has far more muscle and jaw power than a 40 lb australian shepherd) can be dangerous in the wrong hands and wrong situations.

Sure. But the core stupidity with breed bans is that the underlying demand from macho pinheads for dogs that seem macho is still there, and pit bulls are rather small and human-docile for that class of dog.

I assure you that you'd much rather have the macho pinheads in your city keep on having notional pit bulls (even if they're really amstaffs or other bully breeds) than cane corsos, as misskaz noted, or presa canaria or, God help you, black Russian terriers, bred by the NKVD to eat dissidents. In no small part because many of the alternative dogs to pit bulls, in that macho-dog world, were originally bred to be human-aggressive instead of dog-aggressive but human-docile in addition to being much larger.

Big_B, it sucks that your cat was killed, and not maintaining control over your dogs is an awful thing. But the dogs being pit bulls, assuming that they are, doesn't have much of anything to do with it. Lots of dogs see cats as prey and that's not a mark of viciousness or anything like that.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:45 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


A few months back, I was returning from a walk with my dog (a rescue GSD) when I heard someone screaming down the block. I went back out and discovered a 40-or-so lb pit bull on the end of a flexie lead, with a cat in his jaws. It took three people, simultaneously pulling and kicking the dog, to get him to let the cat go. The cat's owner was right there, btw.

The cat died.

I blame the dog's owner. She knew the dog was cat-aggressive (and probably small-dog aggressive, too), and she walked this strong, aggressive dog on a flexible leash, so when he jumped up onto the porch and grabbed a cat that was just minding its own business, she had no way to stop him.

I read her the riot act, but for all I know she's still walking him around the neighborhood on that damned flexie. Saying, "He's never done that before!"
posted by suelac at 8:49 AM on July 16, 2014


Someone upthread said they'd use the breed issue to screen possible tenants because *reasons*. That sounds mighty unkind, and borderline racist to be honest, if you ask me. Don't do that. We're good people and *great* tenants. Our dogs match.

It is hella racist and it is totally done. We used to live in a southern state, and you bet our low-rent apartment complex and every other one in the city had "breed restrictions" because "we all know" "what kind of people" have pit bulls. And I would bet a lot of money that a middle-class looking white person in our apartment could have gotten away with a kind of pit-looking mutt dog, but a poor-looking or black person would have been denied.

*Not saying this only happens in southern states, just my experience
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:54 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Big_B, I'm so sorry about your cat. That is really awful. But a pack of three dogs larger than say 25lbs of any breed could be capable of killing a kitty. It really sucks that the owners are negligent (or worse) enough to let their pack outside of their yard/control and you have every right to be upset with them. But it is not because they are pitbulls. Greyhounds are named on the list mentioned in this thread above as especially non-aggressive, but there are stories of greyhounds killing their OWN kitties in their backyard, cats who they lived with peacefully indoors. Dogs as a species are hunters and it would behoove their owners to recognize that.

I just moved to a street with a LOT of dog owners (Partly due to a row of apartments managed by the same company that allows dogs without any breed or size restrictions. It's why I'm here.) I would say that the majority of the dogs on my block are pits or pit mixes.

Now, my greyhound is pretty even-tempered but if another dog is all riled up he sometimes has a hard time staying calm. He gets kinda whiny and his hackles go up, although he only barks/growls if the other dog is literally jumping all over him.

There are two pairs of dogs I will go well out of my way to avoid when walking my pup. One pair is a couple of yellow labs, who bark and snarl viciously and pull at their leashes so hard that they are practically walking on their hind legs. The other pair are a couple of little white fluffy dogs behind a fence that also snarl and growl at everything, dog or human, that walks by.

(That said, I will do my best to avoid ANY dog of ANY breed who is off-leash. Even though my greyhound is not aggressive, he will defend himself and he is 80lbs - so I'm nervous about small dogs for their sake. And greyhounds have the thinnest skin and no body fat, so what would be a minor puncture wound from a bite on another dog, on a greyhound it tends to result in torn skin and many stitches. Ask me how I know.)

On preview: ARGH flexi-leads are the WORST and should be banned entirely for all dogs, end of story.
posted by misskaz at 8:57 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, flexible leads should be banned. They're terrible. You have no control of your dog using one, which is the whole dang point of a leash.
posted by winna at 9:03 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Personally I'm upset at being unable to purchase an automobile in the United States that isn't mandatorily equipped with safety belts, since clearly they would be unnecessary if people would only get better at driving.

I know right! You'd think they'd make people do some train or get some kind of license before anyone let them operate a big dangerous machine like that!
posted by VTX at 9:09 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Lots of dogs see cats as prey and that's not a mark of viciousness or anything like that.

We have "neighborhood dogs" in our neighborhood - pets that are allowed to roam free - and none of them have ever killed one of the neighborhood cats. We have dogs that are penned up behind an invisible (or physical) fence, and when they escape from time to time, they don't attack people or cats. This is true for every neighborhood I've lived in since childhood, city and suburb. It's not normal behavior in non-feral dogs.

Pitbull owners with pets who've never caused a single problem are confused and feel put-upon, but those who have seen the effects of stray pitbulls, or pet pitbulls that have turned aggressive, are in no mood to hear how huggable and maligned they are. So, in this case, anecdotes are worse than useless - on the one hand, those who love their pet bully-breeds will try to find some way to explain away the shock and trauma of the experience with a nice story about a happy dog and some less-than-scientific song and dance about how all dogs are equally dangerous, while on the other hand, those traumatized feel insulted, marginalized and in some cases frightened by these anecdotes and assertions.

So, we're left with science to tell us the real story, and strip away the "One killed my cat! One saved my life!" competing narratives.

Science says pitbull breeds, in aggregate, "as a category" if you will, are far more likely to attack people and pets than other types of dogs, and will cause more damaging injuries and death when they do. The reasons for this are irrelevant. They need to be regulated and closely monitored and controlled, even if your particular pet is one of the "good dogs."
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


For further reading, please check out the American Temperament Testing Society, which tests dogs of all breeds, and provides statistics. Pitbull breeds are some of the most-tested of the breeds and score fairly high. http://atts.org/

Also, Malcolm Gladwell's article comparing pitbull profiling to racial profile. I agree. http://gladwell.typepad.com/gladwellcom/2006/03/the_pitbull_par.html

And, my doggie http://www.owlsoup.com/dog/ who turns 11 this year
posted by asfuller at 9:22 AM on July 16, 2014


Not saying this only happens in southern states, just my experience

My experience is it's pretty widespread, and I think it's absolutely true that breed bans are a legal loophole for housing discrimination. I recently looked at a ton of apartments in the stereotypically liberal Northwest, and virtually every cheap apartment that allowed pets at all had an "aggressive breed" clause in the lease — but it happened several times that a rental manager, after sizing me up, would explicitly offer that for "nice"/"responsible" people they'd look the other way when assessing the breed.

I don't think that there's an intrinsic temperament problem with the breed. But they're so immensely strong and their jaws are so large and have such an ability to clamp

It's a myth that pit-bull-type dogs have "clamping" jaws or greater bite force than other dogs, you know.

Science says pitbull breeds, in aggregate, "as a category" if you will, are far more likely to attack people and pets than other types of dogs

Bullshit. It says nothing of the kind.
posted by RogerB at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I have a Jack Russell Terrier (shelter dog). He's aggressive to unknown dogs, but friendly with dogs to whom he's been introduced. Never been aggressive to human, though I really watch him with little kids, who think small dogs are okay. I've had several shelter dogs, generally great pets.

I've been bit by a stray who had to be monitored for rabies when it bit several people. My son was badly bitten by a German shepherd who jumped out of a vehicle when my son was walking nearby.

I've met more than a few charming pit bulls. As a kid we had a boxer who was like Nana in Peter Pan. I wouldn't dream of owning a pit bull. On ice, a pit pull would pull me over in a second. In any kind of difficulty, I wouldn't be able to control a dog with that strength. I'm okay at training dogs, but I just can't own a dog that much stronger than I am.

Humans are so fucked up for what they do to dogs. Breeds that routinely require serious medical intervention because they've been bred for cosmetic or other non-working traits. It's genuinely cruel to promote that sort of breeding. In Maine, there's a shortage of shelter dogs; they don't survive winter, and Mainers *mostly* have a responsible dog culture. They bring dogs here from other shelters around the country, where dogs are abandoned routinely, and not neutered. Where I live, and probably where you live, there are macho young men who want a tough dog, and who don't neuter or properly their pit bulls. Those dogs get surrendered frequently because the owners may not have a stable life. I ended up adopting my current dog in Georgia, where I could have picked any of a number of wonderful dogs, many purebred. At my local shelter - I could have chosen a pit bull of any color, age, gender, and few other breeds. It's incredibly stupid, unkind, irresponsible to breed dogs with genetic problems, to breed genetic problems into dogs, to have a non-neutered pet, to treat dog ownership casually. It's a human problem for which dogs pay the price.

The idea that pit bulls(chows, GSDs, boxers) are big cuddly harmless sweeties is incorrect; pit bulls are dangerous if not well-trained and controlled, and can do more damage than many other breeds. Maybe insurance companies should give you an insurance break for training your dog, like getting a break for driver's ed. But charging more to insure breeds who cause larger claims is an actuarial decision, and insurance companies are pretty smart about that stuff. Love your pit bull. Train and manage your pit bull.
posted by theora55 at 9:26 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Legomancer, you've essentially described my Reese perfectly. A rescue, picked out from a plethora of other pits; clearly originally owned by someone who wanted a "tough" dog; and has the attitude of an eager to please puppy who is terrific with kids and adults alike. And pits really are an incredibly eager to please breed, even compared to other breeds, which I think is part of the problem. If you want them to be friendly, they are happy to do that. If you want them to be vicious, then that's what they'll be.

There is no such thing as a 130 pound pit bull.

This is true. A pit should be able to semi-comfortably fit into an ordinary laundry basket of clean clothes.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:27 AM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]



Keep in mind, this is the same Tom Junod, and the same Esquire, that felt the need to tell single 40-something women that they could maybe, if they played their cards right, remain fuckable, at least to 50+ year olds like Tom Junod.

I made the horrible error of clicking on that article, only to find that the ad at the bottom consisted solely of a screenshot of Karen Gillan saying "YOU ARE TALKING NONSENSE."

Sometimes the world works properly.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:27 AM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


My rescue pup, Kenobi, is a mutt who is most likely some combination of lab/pit/general doofus. He is 63lbs and strong and black. He is also incredibly sweet, lazy, and a big silly baby....but I understand how he doesn't look like that to most people (it gets pretty obvious when his goofy, spotted, tongue is waggling from his big dorky grin, though).

Kenobi was abandoned by his former owner when he was around 13 months old. He was most likely abused, and almost certainly neglected. He was very, very anxious and scared when we first got him. He was too busy being frightened and wanting to hide to ever exhibit aggressive behaviour, but those first few weeks with him were TERRIFYING (intellectually, not physically; he never so much as snapped at us even in his most anxious state) because we had no way of knowing if that submissive fear was going to turn into something else towards us or someone else in any given situation. And that was really worrying. Kenobi had a traumatic early life, and I know that he carries those scars within him. It breaks my heart, but it also made me hyper alert.

Because of the many unknowns in his past, we've worked really hard to help him feel safe and comfortable with us. We've done doggy school, we've done several private sessions with our trainer, we've slowly and carefully introduced him to other dogs in the neighbourhood and have paid close attention to the dogs that make him uncomfortable and avoid those, and we work on training EVERY SINGLE DAY (but don't tell Obi that....he thinks were just playing). All of that has really helped, but it's an ongoing thing, and something we will continue for the forseeable future. I think that for many dog owners, they go to puppy class for a month, and then assume that their pooch is somehow "trained", when in fact training and socialization are a constant and ongoing process that needs to be reinforced over and over again.
What has been really important for us is not only focusing on training our boy, but also in really getting to know and understand his body language so that we can ensure that we're not putting him in situations that trigger his fear response or make him uncomfortable. This is something that you don't neccessarily get in puppy school/obedience classes, and why I think that even mandatory obedience classes are not enough on their own. Dog owners need to really, really know their dogs, and really, really understand their behaviour and really, really be alert to when their dog is feeling icky/scared/nervous/etc.

Kenobi is the sweetest, silliest, most loving, most sucky, most submissive, and most ridiculous creature. He gets along beautifully with our three cats (even though the cats tend to be jerks who get a kick out of swatting his wiggly tail), and has several doggy bffs in the neighbourhood. He doesn't have an aggressive bone in his body. I love him more than I thought it was possible to love something that demands that you interact closely with its poop on a twice-daily basis. He is an absolute darling, and, despite his really terrible early life, a giant, smoochy, lap-dog baby. But he is also a dog, who has dog instincts, and it is my job not only to love him, but to be aware and vigilant and ensure that those instincts never pose a threat to any other person or animal. I work really hard to fulfill that role, because I could not live with myself if my dog harmed someone else or someone's pet, and I could not live with myself if my negligence put him in a place where he was a threat to others and had to be put down. Many dog-owners (and pit-owners) I know feel exactly the same, and work equally as hard.

But not all of them do. And that is tragic for everyone involved.
posted by Dorinda at 9:35 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Breeds that routinely require serious medical intervention because they've been bred for cosmetic or other non-working traits.

Oh god, it's such a fucking nightmare. There's a lady on my block with a hugely obese english bulldog with a face like a prolapse. His tongue is overlarge and his jaw so badly deformed that he can't close his mouth; his tongue just hangs out the side like a dead piece of meat. His gait is slow and awkward and seems a bit painful, and his breathing is so stertorous that I can't believe he hasn't just dropped dead in the summer heat yet.

The crowning glory of this fucking entire abomination is that he's unfixed. She clearly intends to breed him, or has already done so.
posted by elizardbits at 9:36 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


High school friend of mine posts pictures of her "pibbles" on facebook all the time.

Here they are FIGHTING over pillow space
Steely-eyed glare
Weight training
posted by phunniemee at 9:37 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


Science says pitbull breeds, in aggregate, "as a category" if you will, are far more likely to attack people and pets than other types of dogs, and will cause more damaging injuries and death when they do. The reasons for this are irrelevant. They need to be regulated and closely monitored and controlled, even if your particular pet is one of the "good dogs."

No it doesn't. It says that more attacks involve that type of dog than other dogs. Whether this is because of some inherent trait of the breed or because it's a breed that attracts bad owners is the question.

Even if it is a breed trait (I don't think it is, at least certainly not more than any other large breed), it doesn't tell us that any specific pit bull is more or less likely to attack anyone.

Take, for example, my dog Bailey. She is an American Akita a breed with some tendency towards dog aggression and a natural guard dog. She has never had a problem with any dog she has ever met. Occasionally some other dog doesn't like her. Her reaction to even the most aggressive, snarling display is to back-off and wait patiently for the other dog to realize that they, in fact, best friends. This usually means that we separate them as it can be a long wait.

As guard dog, she somewhat lacking. She will bark, loudly, at any major disturbance but that's about it. Our house was broken into a few months ago and while she had the full run of the house while we were gone, we found zero evidence that she actually attacked the burglar. Which I'm actually glad since I'd rather she not put herself in harms way just to protect our stuff (or her territory).

Lastly, they are supposedly wary of strangers. When out in public with her, I usually treat her like a potentially aggressive dog. Not because I'm worried about her being aggressive but because she is small for her breed at 85Lbs and some people are scared of dogs. She is big and strong and some people are wary of her. I get that so I take pains to send signals that no one else is in danger even if she was aggressive. So we pass other people from the other side of the street or if we're on a sidewalk, we step off to the side and I make her sit. The exception is places like the vet's office where I can count on everyone there to be a dog person or at least not be threatened by her presence. But after her last checkup, some lady was waiting at the desk as we were walking past and I had to wait for her to get checked in before I could pay my bill. Bailey walked up to her and sniffed her hand (which she had just enough slack on the leash to do but she had to reach for it). The lady recoiled and looked at her. Bailey reacted by sitting and dialing the look she has in the picture above up to a 10 as she anticipated getting petted by this new person.

The lady said, "Is that an Akita?"

"Yes."

"Aren't they vicious?"

"Lady, does she look vicious?"

I didn't get a response and I assumed that she much be picking up her cats or something but I saw her getting a cocker spaniel out of her car on our way out.

So in many ways, she acts against her breed's tendencies or they are very suppressed beyond what I expected. Whether this happened exclusively because of the socialization and training we did or it was that and good breeding and/or dumb luck, I can't say.
posted by VTX at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. It says nothing of the kind.

From the CDC study:
During 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people died of dog bite attacks (18 in 1997 and 9 in 1998). At least 25 breeds of dogs have been involved in 238 human DBRF during the past 20 years. Pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these deaths.
And pit-bull breeds were more than twice as lethal as the rotties (which should also be regulated and monitored.)

A more recent, albeit more informal, study is the Clifton Report(.PDF), which compiles and analyzes all reports of dog attacks resulting in death or maiming in the US and Canada from 1982 until present:
There is a persistent allegation by pit bull advocates that pit bulls are over-represented among reported dog attack deaths and maimings because of misidentifications or because “pit bull” is, according to them, a generic term covering several similar types of dog. However, the frequency of pit bull attacks among these worst-in-10,000 cases is so disproportionate that even if half of the attacks in the pit bull category were misattributed, or even if the pit bull category was split four ways, attacks by pit bulls and their closest relatives would still outnumber attacks by any other breed.
Pit breeds are just over 6% of the dogs, while in the past five years they are responsible for 70% of dog attack fatalities.

This came as something as a shock to me when I started to look into whether or not pitbulls were more dangerous than an akita to own for a friend who asked. I had assumed the answer to be "no", figuring the knock against them was mostly racist/classist anecdata and not grounded in reality. (I mean, "Petey" from the Little Rascals, one my fave TV dogs, was a pit!) Well, sometimes reality sucks this way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


The juxtaposition of
Most pit bulls I've met are sweet, loving, and joyful, actually, and even the "fighting dogs" I remember from childhood by and large started out that way as puppies.
and
...no other dog as likely to end up in an animal shelter…
suggest that the wonderful people who open their heart & home to a rescue dog are, more than likely, going to get a dog that started out good but was simply damaged by a previous owner.

As a guy who grew up with dogs this makes me very sad…but as a guy who has squishy little kids and an angry rescue dog around the corner, I know which one I consider the more important living thing. And I resent that some meathead has forced this moral choice onto me & my neighbors.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:14 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pitbull fight!

Do not google images for pitbull fights. Srsly.
posted by workerant at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2014


And pit-bull breeds were more than twice as lethal as the rotties

No, seriously, they weren't — that'd be a rate, not a raw number irrespective of population. It's clear you're seriously misreading and misunderstanding both methodology and results here. There's no obvious reason why you'd want to focus only on the relatively tiny sample of fatal dog bites in the first place; there's no attempt to come up with a reasonable estimate of the total population of different breeds to allow rates even to be calculated; there's no way to correct for very obviously present, and probably very large, selection effects among owners (macho assholes and dog-fighters being unlikely to adopt Pomeranians). There is just no available data that would suggest major inherent aggression in pit-bull-type dogs, even if they were a breed in a meaningful genetic sense in the first place so that it made sense to look for inherent behavioral traits. There are way too many competing causal factors and too few good numbers available for the bite statistics to be easily referred to inherent breed traits — and then there are the temperament tests by dog behaviorists, which, in the absence of all the social confounds, consistently find no major difference between pits and many other dog breeds. It's simply ridiculous to get all "Science Says" with bluff certitude like this in support of a bunch of urban myths, considering the actual state of the easily-Googleable data — from notoriously untrustworthy radicals like the ASPCA.
posted by RogerB at 10:25 AM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]


You have to read that CDC study very selectively to reach a different conclusion from the one they offer.

Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates.

It is also made very clear that the 'statistics' they collect are based on media reports, which are known to be both incomplete and unreliable. Merrit Clifton's methodologies are even worse. Anti pit bull sentiment, in fact, is dominated by a couple of people, Merrit Clifton and Colleen Lynn, who are both well documented as unreliable sources. The reason for this is that there just aren't any experts on dog behavior who take an anti-pit bull position. Their prominence is based entirely on the fact that they're just about the only self-proclaimed experts who don't oppose breed discrimination.

There are NO statistics on the popularity of various dog breeds. None. Anyone who claims to be able to tell you this information is lying to you. There are no consistent and reliable statistics on serious dog bite injuries. Anyone who claims they have this information is mistaken. There is no reliable method for identifying dog breed, and every report that claims to be able to identify dog breeds involved in attacks is basing that data on media reports. The media very rarely reports dog bites at all, unless the dog involved is identified as a 'pit bull,' but if a 'pit bull' is involved, they'll report even the most minor incident as a 'pit bull attack.' See the photo toward the end of that article, showing the result of a pit bull attack the media thought was newsworthy enough to report on.

If you're actually interested in the subject, I can't recommend Brent Toellner's blog more highly, from both of those links above. He has taken on the unenviable task of trying to collect data about serious and fatal dog bite injuries, and his approach and results are thorough, sobering, and nuanced.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


IN CONCLUSION FRANCE IS dogs are A LAND OF CONTRASTS.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:28 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also I feel like I link this in every pit bull thread but I don't care because it's glorious

KISSING BOOTH
posted by elizardbits at 10:29 AM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]


The Nissan 350Z was over-represented in driver fatalities in 2011. The NHTSA gave it 4 or 5 stars all around. Other cars are more powerful and/or have fewer safety features. ABS is standard and most of them have traction and stability control.

So is it more likely that there is something inherently unsafe about the 350Z or that assholes tend to buy 350Zs and then proceed to drive them unsafely?
posted by VTX at 10:32 AM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


Now I want to fill a Nissan 350Z with pit bulls for important scientific experiments.
posted by elizardbits at 10:38 AM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Now I want to fill a Nissan 350Z with pit bulls for important scientific experiments.

UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED
posted by murphy slaw at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, to people saying that pit bulls are more aggressive/deadly as a breed, from the article:

" as pit-bull advocates like to point out, "the pit bull is not a breed; it's a classification." Even the municipalities that have banned it acknowledge as much in the language of their laws, which is a language of approximation. Denver, for instance, stipulates that a pit bull "is defined as any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any dog displaying the majority of physical traits of any one (1) or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds." Yet Luis Salgado, the animal-services investigator charged with enforcing the pit-bull ban in Miami, admits that "there is no reliable DNA testing for that breed. DNA is useless. If you look at where that breed came from, there's American bulldog, there's terrier—all watered down and mixed together to produce the dog we now call the pit bull." What Salgado uses to establish a dog's genetic identity is not genetics but rather "physical characteristics—we have a forty-seven-point checklist. Any dog that substantially conforms to the characteristics of a pit bull is considered a pit bull.""


So essentially.... "pit bull" is not a genetic, discrete category. The category for pit bull is "things we think look like pit bulls" which surprise, includes "dogs that look scary or mean" because that's our cultural concept of them.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:08 AM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm going to stick with my policy of never owning an animal that through strength or poison, is able to kill me or another human being. Dogs over a certain size with powerful jaws are too potentially dangerous to own, and yes, I am a scaredy-cat. That pit bulls have this debate at all is more than enough for me to stay away.
posted by agregoli at 11:18 AM on July 16, 2014


Ok wait unless you are talking about a cat with a penchant for arsenic and old lace, you most probably mean venom, right?

unless you are planning to eat this animal
posted by elizardbits at 11:57 AM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]


guys i am breeding chihuahuas to be venomous is this a bad idea y/n
posted by murphy slaw at 11:59 AM on July 16, 2014


Great movie reference but I wasn't aware I needed to be so incredibly specific as to use the word venom instead of poison.
posted by agregoli at 12:03 PM on July 16, 2014


[derail] According to this TED talk poison "has to be inhaled, ingested or absorbed" while venom "has to be injected into a wound" and the difference is purely in the method of delivery and "chemically both are considered toxins." [/derail]
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:15 PM on July 16, 2014


All dogs do all kinds of complicated social behaviors — they're pack animals! I've really seen very little evidence of dogs having much breed-specific behavior, compared to how much I've heard people talk about it.

Then you haven't been around a lot of well bred dogs because that is the whole point of breeding them. My friends akita goes to doggie daycare and the dog park and hiking with other dogs every day of his life. Yes fine. You still can't bring a male dog to his house or he'll attack it. They are bred to be territorial and he is.

Same with all the stupid herding dogs I grew up with. You run, they chase. They can't help it. Cattle dogs nip because they're specifically bred to, sheep dogs nip less because it's not a desired trait. Terriers kill small things. Dogs bred to be family companion or guard dogs tolerate children much better than dogs bred to be outdoor dogs (huskies, in my experience are bad kid dogs).

People buying a dog because they have some romantic idea of the breed or good childhood memories and trying to slot it into suburban life causes 99% of dog issues. Australian sheep dogs are fucking terrible pets for most people, as an example. They are bred to bark, chase, nip and are super high energy. But they're so common now.
posted by fshgrl at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2014 [4 favorites]


I always cross the street when someone with a dog approaches me. I just don't trust the owners to be in control. And all other things being equal, I'm obviously way more apprehensive of a person with a "pitbull" than a chihuahua. I was attacked by a German Shepherd once as a child. The owner's response: "He's never done that before." Which is my point. I don't trust you, or your dog.
posted by monospace at 12:24 PM on July 16, 2014


I love German Shepherd Dogs, but a neighbor has a GSD puppy and none of them can control it. My mother-in-law has always had GSDs and trained them all; she's switched to a Shih Tzu for her most recent puppy, and she's training it just as she did the bigger dogs. :7)

It comes down to this: if you won't train your dog, you are pretty much letting down the dog and everyone around you. And while the dog will worship you despite all your flaws, I think you suck.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:34 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "those who love their pet bully-breeds will try to find some way to explain away the shock and trauma of the experience with a nice story about a happy dog"

And cute pictures! You gotta have cute pictures!
posted by Big_B at 1:30 PM on July 16, 2014


Sadly, I think a huge part of the problem is the urge to rescue them. As commendable as the urge is, I think too many people get rescues without understanding how that early trauma will affect future behavior. You can love some of these dogs back to health, but not all of them.

On the other hand, based on my experience with them as pets, you'll never convince me that a pit raised from a puppy in a loving home and treated with the same love as any other breed of dog will be anything short of the best pet you've ever owned.

I understand the fear that some people have for them. The thing I will consistently argue against is the idea that every single one of them is one wrong move away from snapping and killing everything around it. That's just not how it works.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:33 PM on July 16, 2014 [9 favorites]


When people start talking about dog aggression, they often succumb to misleading vividness, losing sight of how rare serious dog bites really are. Generally speaking, you're safer bringing home a dog than a toaster. Dog bites are a problem, and they're actually fairly common at an anecdotal level, but dogs inflicting serious injuries are statistically rare.

And that's what 'pit bulls' are: They're dogs. Regular, normal dogs. They need training and socialization, and they need to be kept under owner control. But it's not just pit bulls. All dogs need that, and focusing efforts on dogs that look scary to us isn't just unfair to those dogs and their owners, but it also minimizes the very real risks that other types of dog can pose.

In Colorado, the breed most responsible for serious injuries is Labrador Retrievers. By far. That's not the breed's fault, either. It's probably due to their reputation as safe, family dogs, and people ignoring danger signs from Labs because they're not looking for them. People recommend Labs for young inexperienced owners all the time, as though they're a safe, entry level breed with rock solid, foolproof temperaments that you don't need to worry about. People are very casual about letting their Labs run around loose and not watching them around kids simply because they've been told they're not a biting breed.

So it's not just an problem of being unfair to pit bulls and their owners. It's a serious public safety problem that ignores the real causes of most serious dog bite injuries.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:37 PM on July 16, 2014 [7 favorites]


When I see a pit bull, Doberman, German shepherd, or a few other breeds, I stay away. It's not the dog -- I'm sure they're very nice when trained well. It's the probability that the owner thinks of their dog as a weapon, or adopted it from someone who did.
posted by miyabo at 5:45 PM on July 16, 2014


The media very rarely reports dog bites at all, unless the dog involved is identified as a 'pit bull'

This is Black-Helicopters conspiracy theory. It's utterly unbelievable. The lab was listed well before the pit - a researcher would have to dig, there.

Neither the CDC study nor the Clifton study have been adequately refuted. I see a lot of Fox-News style denialism, very few countervailing studies.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:29 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]




Did you seriously link to a single news report as if that had some sort of statistical significance?

A study whose data set is pulled from news reports is almost inherently invalid, and in this case certainly is. The Clifton thing is absolutely 100% shit. Sample selection is an important part of getting valid data, and if your sample is "reports from profit-motivated organizations," you're going to have bad data.

The lack of other good sources of data doesn't mean you should just use the bad data.

It's not "denialism" to think that a simplistic, context-free single-factor theory is probably wrong.

The CDC study doesn't say what you think it does, as a previous commenter already pointed out.

There's not a lot of good data and you're interpreting the data that exists badly. For example, you seem incapable of considering any of the frequently mentioned confounding factors. You're doing really common bad-science cognitive things, like concentrating on evidence that agrees with your current opinion and discounting evidence that disagrees without any clear reasons for doing so.
posted by kavasa at 11:19 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]


An addendum to my Cappy story. Cappy is friendly and well-behaved, but we're not idiot owners. We only walk him with a normal, short leash, we move aside for others, and we assure people we're approaching that he's friendly. We know how he can look to others and we respect and appreciate their caution. Although the kids in the neighborhood now know they can pet him, we let them know they should always ask about a dog before they approach it.
posted by Legomancer at 5:57 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


The pit bull bias (that is, overreporting dog bites attributed to 'pit bulls') is fairly well documented.

Here's one discussion of it. Here's another.

Or you could just do the math. According to the CDC, in 2001, there were about 368,245 dog bite injuries treated in US emergency rooms, and far far more that don't merit an ER visit. Most of these stories aren't reported in the media at all, because while serious dog bites are rare on an individual basis, they're pretty common statistically. That's why "dog bites man" is the classic example of a non-newsworthy story.

So when you see a media story about a dog 'attack' where the injuries are very minor or even nonexistent, keep in mind that the vast majority of dog bites aren't reported about in the media and ask yourself what aspect of the story makes it anything more than dog bites man. (And kids are the most frequently bitten demographic, so that's not it.)

And keep in mind that, by nearly any account, Labrador Retrievers are the most common breed cited in serious dog bite injuries, even if you took breed identification at face value. It's pretty obvious that the media is reporting disproportionately on injuries caused by dogs identified as 'pit bulls.'

I understand that people really like comprehensive, authoritative information, but the fact is that for a lot of things, including this, collecting consistent and reliable data is pretty much impossible, for all of the reasons I've already noted. You have to analyze data that actually exists, and you have to look at the source critically. There are far too many confounding factors and biases involved to accept a simple conclusion. (And I'll just reiterate that the conclusion of the CDC's report states this explicitly.)

This isn't black helicopter or Fox News stuff. It's just more complicated than you like.

For a pretty thorough discussion of the subject, Karen DeLise's book The Pit Bull Placebo (PDF) is a very good overview of the subject, and it's free.

I don't expect anyone to read all this source material or anything, but the fact is that virtually everyone who is genuinely informed on the topic reaches the conclusion that breed biases are unfounded and that they pose a serious risk to public safety.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:44 AM on July 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I can't believe I forgot to drop a link to my favorite op ed of all time, A Whited Canine Sepulchre.

I mean, look at these assholes. You know it's true.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:38 AM on July 17, 2014




BREAKING: important cute pit bull news from my friend's facebook feed. It is nap time.
posted by phunniemee at 12:19 PM on August 13, 2014 [3 favorites]




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