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« Lee's Summit, MO revises Dangerous Dog Ordinance | Main | Weekly Roundup »

September 22, 2007



Brent, I don't work in rescue, though I do own a rescued pit bull. I don't quite understand why you choose to denigrate the experience of experienced rescuers, though... they see far far far more pit bulls than any one person such as you or I. As for your notion that a

Caveat, there is ample evidence that behavior IS (to some extent) a genetically determined trait.. which is why you see behavioral differences in virtually newborn puppies. And of course behavior is also very very influenced by training and treatment.. as for that matter are physical capabilities. But as you know the "nature vs nurture" debate is pretty hairy. As for your statement that animals can't be aggressive towards its own species.. well, I guess you haven't been reading about chimpanzee wars..

Morgan, the fact that YOU have never seen a pit bull "turn on", or (I gather) 2 pit bulls get into a fight (or one pit bull get into a fight with another dog) doesn't mean that they are not deadly serious affairs that are of a different character from the average dog fight (most of which are not really fights but loud disagreements). If the dogparks you go to frequently have adult pit bulls present, it's only a matter of time. Then you'll see what every other pit bull owner in the world lives in fear of. Which is not the fight, but the horrific results.. which is not just bad press and injury to animals, but the disillusionment of people like you who really believe "it's all how you train them." The fact that many pit bulls live in multi-pit bull homes says nothing. Smart pit bull owners supervise their dogs and keep them separated. And those that don't do that may come home and find some injured/dead dogs. As for your backing down anecdote, pit bulls are SUPPOSED to "back down" from people. It's DOGS they don't back down from. Pit bulls that are human aggressive are abnormal and should be destroyed.

Of course pit bulls are dogs and share most traits in common with all other dogs.

Let me ask you all this: if you owned a greyhound, do you believe you could train it not to chase rabbits? Would you leave your greyhound alone in a yard with your pet rabbit and expect to find the rabbit still alive when you got home? Well, some times you would. But if you think that would be normal, common behavior for a greyhound, well, you're just plain wrong. You'd have a dead rabbit.

If each breed of dogs doesn't have distinctive capabilities and behaviors, what's the point of having breeds anyway?

The American Pit Bull Terrier is a unique and distinctive breed. Those of you trying to make it into something it is not just don't seem to understand the breed's history.

Sorry guys, I can see you're having fun with me, but I stand by my statements which are backed by YEARS of knowledge and the experience of dozens of breed experts. You have your hearts in the right place, but you're just plain wrong.

I suggest that you talk to your friend Kim Krohn whose fabulous dog Suzi you highlight in your conference story. If she doesn't support everything I posted, I'll buy her dinner the next time I pass through



Let me say this. I adopted all three of my dogs. Two of them came from a rescue group who's leader -- with many, many years of experience doing pit bull rescue who preached to everyone how different the "breed" was, how they were prone to dog on dog aggression, how they would get crankier as they got older, and how I could never trust them not to fight. Many of the same things you said.

I heard the same thing from many of her fellow rescue people (they likely heard them from her).

My experience from knowing all of them is that:

a) the people who accept this as part of the 'breed' have way more problems than the ones who don't

b) they tend to fear socializing their dogs for fear of what might happen, and end up with under-socialized dogs.

Meanwhile, all three of my dogs have actually mellowed as they've gotten older.

Rescue people and others like to preach "blame the deed, not the breed" and encourage people to judge dogs based on their own unique personalities (which we know they have if we've ever had a couple of litter-mates in your household). And then, they turn around and make blanket statements about the "breed" as "experts" and cause as much or more harm than the people they criticize in city council meetings that are doing the same things.

Jim Crosby -- who is a canine aggression consultant -- was talking at our conference about breeds being subsegments among a species -- basically being genetically a direct equivelent to races in humans. We know that there are a wide variety of different types of people within a given race. Why do we not accept this as being true among dog "races" also?


There is absolutely no scientific evidence of which I am aware to support the media theory that antisocial aggression is inheritable, or that species-specific aggression is anything but learned.

I'd like to see some references that prove me wrong.

Wars are different from what you are describing. You are saying that every 'pit bull' is born with a tendency to want to kill its own kind. I'm saying that's BS.

Some of us have been around the track a few times, so quoting Kory Nelson and Tom Skeldon isn't going to cut it here.

Show me the science.


Let me correct you EmilyS. My family has breed these dogs for about 50 years+ so I have seen it all but the only time I ever saw one want to fight was when it was a new one that would come and stay for breeding reasons and it was just scared because it was not a member of the pack witch you will find happens with any breed!!!
So maybe you need to find someone else to raise your dog!!!!!!!!!


Sorry, Brent. This is going to be a long one. ;-(


Please...seriously...enlighten us all. Really... I mean it. I would love to hear your basis for making those claims. :-)

If the alleged "inherent traits" you're espousing are genetic, please explain what you mean by that, and how it manifests aggressive behaviours. It's simply not good enough to say, "I (and/or others) believe this, therefore it's a 'fact'."

Your answers need have some scientific validity.

(i.e. "...of the 320 mapped canine genes, a mutated form of #182 has been found in common exclusively amongst dogs who attack unprovoked, and how this aberrant gene acts on the dog's behaviour is still being studied"...or..."gene #22 is found to be mutated only in 'pit bull'-type dogs." "...The gene acts on the production of..." or "...The gene causes the dog to develop heightened/lessened perception abilities compared to other dogs..." "...which, in turn, causes the dog to...")

I mean, that should be simple enough if we're talking about "facts". I'm always puzzled by the assertion something is an absolute "fact" when there is no scientific basis, whatsoever, for the presumptive conclusions.

An inherent trait (genetic, biochemical, etc.) is always present and can not be "trained away". Yet even horribly abused 'pit bulls' are routinely rehabilitated by competent trainers. I've done it many times, myself. Some of my rehab. dogs have come directly from fighting rings and not one, to the best of my knowledge, has reverted. I've never met any dog that was "inherently aggressive" towards anyone or anything. (And neither have many other excellent, experienced trainers.) (The not-so-excellent, and not-so-experienced trainers are another matter, though. Too bad they outnumber the rest. The old saying is as true today as it ever was, "You get the dog you deserve.")

The Greyhound example you mentioned earlier demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding about how behaviours are learned, and what it means to say something is an inherent trait.

Yes, if you train a Greyhound to chase a rabbit or rabbit-like object, it may be difficult to re-train it not to seriously go after anything that appears similar. The training plays on both the dog's ability to learn what is rewarding for it, and the natural instinct all dogs possess, to some degree, to chase things. You're not seriously suggesting that Greyhounds arrive in the world fixated on chasing a white object around a track, or that a Greyhound PROPERLY raised with rabbits will attack them every opportunity it gets, are you?

Greyhounds are dogs, and all dogs have an innate drive to chase fast moving objects, to one degree or another. Some have a very high "prey drive" and will chase any moving object with glee. That is rarely species-specific, unless the dog has been trained that way.

People often confuse all sorts of learned responses with what they believe is an innate quality.

I wrote:

"Although there may be personality traits which make an individual more likely to overreact in certain situations, thus potentially starting on a path which may lead to aggressive behaviours one day, biology plays no role in the behaviours themselves.

For example, people with impulse control issues, whether physiological, psychological or genetic, are as apt to take up extreme sports (a positive activity), as criminality or violence (negative activities). Psychologists agree the determining factor is primarily how those individuals were raised, and which behaviours were reinforced."

I also wrote:

"There may be elements of an individual's temperament that can be genetically linked, but that is not a cause for the development of aggressive behaviour. It merely means that some individuals may be more likely to react more quickly or more vehemently than others in the same situation. HOW the individual responds has everything to do with personal experience.

For example, an outgoing child might be more likely to rush to the aid of an accident victim, whereas a more timid child may not. That same outgoing child may then steal the victim's wallet (if raised in a home where criminal behaviour is the norm). The timid child may draw on his CPR training, giving him the confidence to push him into action, ultimately rescuing the victim. Temperament may affect the manner in which we react, but it doesn't determine the actions themselves."

Many people hold up "herding ability" as the justification for presuming aggressive behaviour is innate. (Keep in mind, I'm talking about the behaviours, themselves, and not the natural desire of any individual to protect itself from perceived threats or to manipulate its environment to its advantage. How one goes about accomplishing those two tasks is clearly learned.)

Yet all instinctual behaviours of dogs are present in all dogs, regardless of breed, to one degree or another. (My Great Dane, for example, is as good at pointing as any Pointer. Just put a motionless squirrel in her line of sight, and she'll likely instinctually stop, stiffen her tail, lower her head, raise one paw, and point. She'll only chase the squirrel if it runs off AND I've given her the go-ahead to do so.)

One resepcted herding dog trainer runs an all-breed training facility. This is what he says, "I have worked Dobermans, Afghans, Poodles and several other individuals from breeds you don't associate with herding, with good success in many cases. Conversely, I have tested other individuals in breeds in the AKC Herding Group that showed no interest in livestock at all."

I also wrote:

"For example, we see more Border Collies winning Agility because a higher percentage of Agility participants choose Border Collies to compete. Although many Border Collies have just the right combination of temperament and ability to succeed in Agility, this does not mean that every Border Collie is a born Agility champion, nor does it mean that ONLY Border Collies can succeed in Agility. Far from it, actually! We must always step back and look at all the factors involved in why certain breeds seem to excel in certain areas, and distinguish between causal factors such as owner influence (no dog signs up for Agility on its own), conformation (you can try to compete in high jump with your Chihuahua, but you probably won't be very successful), temperament (a dog that is eager to work will be much more likely to stick with rigourous training), and instinct (a natural herding ability will probably be necessary for successful training of a herding champion)."

Maybe you're saying you believe this alleged inherent quality is biochemical in nature? If so, what are the neurotransmitters and receptor sites involved?

(i.e. "testing of dogs involved in unprovoked attacks shows a higher than normal, naturally-occurring level of corticosterone..." or "'pit bulls' produce a higher than normal level of corticosterone, compared with other kinds of dogs..." "...and this is why they [all?] attack unprovoked.")

Please explain your theory, and contrast that with the biggest study of its kind, which found no abnormalities amongst dogs invovled in serious attacks. At necropsy, veterinarians and scientists examined the dogs' bodies, brains, and bloodwork. Nothing anomalous was found. Just plain ol' dogs.

You'll also have to explain why young wolf cubs play with any other creature that comes their way (with no fear or aggression), and only begin demonstrating actual predatory behaviour after instruction from adult wolves. Please square your answer with the fact that man has not once been successful in raising wolves in captivity and releasing them into the wild (yes...even in facilities that are using proper wild-release rearing techniques). (Turns out, without the instruction of another wolf...and, of course, practice...wolves don't learn to hunt and kill for food on their own. They quickly starve to death, without continued human intervention.)

I mean, I could go on, but those are just some extraordinarily basic questions that anyone espousing those kinds of theories should be able to answer, if they have any factual basis whatsoever for their claims. I mean, people have every right to go around saying they believe this or that. It doesn't mean what they're saying has any factual merit, though.

You could even statistically try to prove your case. But to do that, you'll have to explain how your theory jives with the fact that virtually all 'pit bulls' will never be involved in an attack at any time in their lives (something that just doesn't make sense if the theory is they ALL possess this alleged innate drive to kill other dogs), and why dogs that are not 'pit bulls' (and do not share any relevant ancestry with 'pit bulls') make up the overwhelming majority of dogs involved in every category of attacks: humans, other dogs, other animals, etc.

Both statistically and practically we know the overwhelming majority of dogs who attack other dogs are not 'pit bulls', and most 'pit bulls' (even those that have been poorly socialized) will never attack another dog.

When children are born, they don't know that a clenched fist precedes a punch, or that the threat of a punch can get them something they want. They LEARN that.

I watched as one breeder "demonstrated" how her puppies were "naturally aggressive." At the age of 3 weeks, she takes the puppies and handles them in a very irritating way. Of course, none of the infants react in any way, other than tring to get away from this loser, the first time she does this.

As an observer, anyone could see how the puppies went through every available option they'd learned so far in their short lives. Stunned by their first exposure to harsh treatment, they usually did nothing, the first time the woman tormented them. Eventually, they'd try to pull away. They'd cry for their mother's, or littermates', assistance. They'd tightly close their eyes and attempt to wrestle away. They might use a paw to try to push the woman's hand off them.

It takes several attempts before they ever get 'round to trying out their teeth. When they do, the woman stops pestering them, and announces she's just proved their aggressive behaviour is innate. "See? They're only 3-weeks-old, and they're already trying to bite me," she announces with glee.

(By teaching the puppies they need to get to the point of using their teeth, she's doing little more than proving puppies can LEARN to use their teeth to manipulate their environment, when all else fails. By stopping the antagonism once the puppies use their teeth, she's actively teaching them that by using their teeth, they can get what they want. ...Maybe even teaching them to skip the other unsuccessful attempts, and go straight to using their teeth, in the future.)

There are countless behaviours a dog must practice and develop before it ever attempts its first bite. Dogs only have so many physical tools. One of them is naturally going to be their teeth...if their environment demands it get to that point.

The scale of escalation for aggression in dogs is quite predictable. A dog who's left to stare, stiffen its body, bark menacingly, growl, raise its lips, lunge, and attempt bites, will eventually make its way to biting, if left unchecked. By correctly interacting with the dog at the staring or stiffened body posture stages, the dog never learns the more serious forms of escalation. (For instance, my properly raised/socialized dog has not only never behaved aggressively, but she's never growled. She's going to be nine-years-old soon. I don't reward fearful behaviour in my dogs. As a result, not one of my own dogs has been aggressive.)

An unprovoked bite is always the last sign of aggression in dogs; never the first. By ignoring the escalating signs of aggression in dogs, we practically guarantee a future bite.

I remember watching a documentary about a band of monkeys. (Yes, I know. I'm not trying to prove anything. It was just some lame documentary that had a small element that was of interest to me.) The band of monkeys lived next to a pack of feral dogs. It turns out, the band sometimes steals a puppy, to keep as a sort of pet/protector. The young pupppy eventually assimilates into monkey society, and thrives.

But what struck me most (probably because of my experience with dog behaviour, canine genetics, dog bite research, etc.) was seeing the puppy's reaction when it was abducted. The filmakers actually caught one of these puppy-nappings on film. And this feral puppy, appearing to me, at least, to be a few months old, never once tried to bite its abductor, despite being obviously quite terrified. It just wrestled and cried and used its paws to try to push the similarly-sized monkey away. I thought that was very telling, and squares completely with what I know about how dogs learn aggressive behaviours (i.e. just like children learn aggressive behaviours).

As a trainer who specialized in working with aggressive dogs for so many years, I always caution people not to tolerate aggressive behaviours in their dogs. "Management" never works, in the long run because humans simply can't "manage" dogs absolutely 100% of the time. Aggressive dogs will behave, well, aggressively.

One of the classic examples are people who keep dogs separated at feeding time. This has one result: the separated dogs develop anxiety associated with feeding time, and typically come to see other dogs as rivals for "their" resources.

If you want a bloodbath one day, keep dogs separated at feeding time, and never address the reason you think you should keep them separated.

I have a lot of experience with dogs who have "resource guarding" issues. All dogs in my home must sit quietly and wait for a release command before they are allowed to go to their food dishes at feeding time. When a resource guarder enters the mix, sure there's a learning curve. But it never begins until I require the dog to behave the way I expect. It usually only takes a few days (if that) for the resource guarder to learn it is much more beneficial to do what I say, and ignore the other dogs eating nearby, than to behave aggressively.

Yet one dog rescuer was recently mauled by one of his/her foster dogs. It was absolutely no surprise to me it happened when the dogs were being separated for feeding time. Managing aggression, instead of correcting it, is always a disaster waiting to happen. Yet time and time again I'll hear people counsel others to choose management over training, often with terrible, but predictable, consequences.

There are so many ways I could relay my understanding of how behaviours are learned, but people are only willing to read so far. (I've probably lost everyone already.)

Bottom line, there is a difference between wanting to protect yourself from a (perceived) threat (and, through poor rearing, even harmless situations can come to be perceived as threatening) or a desire to manipulate one's environment in one's favour, and learning how to best accomplish that. We aren't born with complex coping mechanisms. We learn them, through observation, and trial and error. We continue (and perfect) those behaviours that have a positive result, and we discard any unsuccessful attempts.

I will happily elaborate more on any points, if anyone wishes to discuss one or more elements in more detail.

Always in the spirit of education and understanding,



That was long but very good!!!!

I Agreee w/Emily

Finally, someone on this blog speaks the truth. Emily verifies all of my issues with pit bulls, they’re unpredictable, violent, can’t be trusted and should ABSOLUTELY be regulated to make sure they don’t harm other animals and people. I don’t think they should be banned but should be muzzled in public as they can come across other dogs and should be banned from public gatherings. I’m sure Emily agrees with this as she states “pit bulls can NEVER be trusted not to fight” – its nice to have this information for my next city council meeting. There shouldn’t be more than one dangerous dog in a house as that raises the possibility of a fight and humans getting hurt breaking it up. I don’t agree that they can be trusted to be human friendly as it’s a FACT there have been fatalities by pit bulls – so you can’t say they’re all bred to be human friendly, since the fatality proves that not to be true. Since pit bulls shake their heads unlike other breeds, they cause more damage when they attack – so pit bull owners should have to have at least a million dollars in insurance. Thanks for all the great information.


I would have to say that ,I Agreee w/Emily, is one of the dumb mother f***ers that speak before they think!
Please read alot of books or talk to more than one group of people not just narrow minds before you blab your thoughts!!!!!!!


Oh by the way, FACT?
This is MO show me state!!!!!!!!!



I can only assume that "I Agree w/Emily" was a satirical post to highlight the absurdity of some of the common myths about 'pit bulls'. (If it was serious... ...Shudder...)

You'll notice still not a shred of scientific or statistical corroboration for those 'pit bull' claims, though. Gee...could that be because there isn't any?


Your right, I just get real hot when I read or hear that kind of bull sh**.
Hey mabye I get my temp because I was raised by crazy wild pit bulls? (ha ha)!!!!!


That post isn't really a satire because BSL proponents say this stuff all the time. Peculiar, MO took the kind of info that Emily posted as just cause to pass BSL. Look at Toledo/OH law that states you can only own one pit bull - it comes from the same kind of rhetoric. Does anyone here think anyone gives a shit the "pit bulls were bred to be friendly to humans" when a pet has been killed by a pit bull or that it means anything when discussing a fatality? One of the reasons Peculiar wanted to ban them was a dog on dog attack. And then some rescue guy gets up and starts spewing almost verbatim all the stuff that Emily has stated. The city council went on to defend their actions because they were based on the rescue's website information! You'd think some of their info was straight from PETA...

Use fact (information backed up by science & studies) based arguments when fighting BSL - not rhetoric you saw on some website.




Shaking my head, hoping I'm doing a lot of damage - to unschooled troglodytes who seem to want to post their inane comments.

Kory, is that you? C'mon, man, 'fess up!


People often confuse genetic phenotype with genetic behavior/functioning. For example, most African decendents have curly hair (a missing Sulphur bond) because this "form"/phenotype allows for increased surface area to dispense doesn't mean all dark skinned curly headed ethnicities will crave to live in the desert! or that hardly means all Africans will "act" the same because "they were bred with these genes". Emily even stated herself that 'Puppies from the same litter will have one that is aggressive'....then why aren't they all? why aren't all dogs bred from Champion stock champions? Why do identical twins (with identically mapped genes) go on where one has scidsophenia, epilepsy, or congenital heart problems and the other doesn't?
Early bulldog breeds were often bred to have thick muscular necks and heads to withstand being kicked by bulls or bitten while they went to ground to hunt the gophers.....that is form...whether the owner takes advantage of that form to teach them to fight or just lay on the couch is the function part not the genetic part.
Not all tall people play basketball!

Jennifer Bibler

If aggression were an inherited trait in these dogs then the Boxer whos aggressively attacked and injured my dog now twice, would have maintained agressive retaliated dog bite injuries in return. Not only was this not the case, the but the Boxer was unharmed with ZERO bite injuries from my dog in both incidents although the Boxer aggressively targeted and injured the face, head, and muzzle of my own dog. In conclusion my dog is living proof that these dogs are highly intellegent, sensative, and do not have an inherited gene of aggression as so many of you ignorantly suggest.

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