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« Guardian? Owner? Both? | Main | Weekly Roundup, Week Ending 2/8/08 »

February 06, 2009

Comments

Donovan

No fooling, that is a good article.

EmilyS

A very nice article and handles the AST/ABPT issue surprisingly well.

But what a shame that as always, the small groups that also saved some of the Vick dogs, get no mention whatsoever.

THIS guy http://www.ourpack.org/leo.html and that group (and the others) are every bit deserving of attention as the 2 big-names ones.

Brent

Absolutely Emily. I think by and large the big name organizations always get more air-time than the smaller ones...even if the smaller ones are technically doing things better in many cases. Heck, why else would PETA ever get an interview other than because they're well-known? They certainly don't know a damn thing about animals. Sadly, I hardly expect reporters to dig and find the lesser-known groups that are involved. And while it would have been great to have all of the organizations that did good work on this get mentioned, I'll take a victory whenever I can.

Julie

I'm sorry, I can't get past this.

"Denying the fighting gene in a pit bull would be like denying that the sun rises in the east. It is, quite simply, a fact of life."

Until this shit is laid to bed, pit bull type dogs will always be demonized. Really, it makes me sick.

Brent

Yeah Julie, I hear ya. One really crappy sentence in an otherwise very good story. Notice that was one sentence that was put in by the writer and not by one of the various experts they talked to?

I've been saving up my frustration on that one for awhile and am going to spend some quality of time on that soon.

Julie

I'm looking forward to it already...

Dan


Thank you Julie. That sort of fake sciencey sounding stuff should be taken to task, especially when it is just a comment by an ill-informed reporter. It's only saving grace is that it was buried lower in the article than most people will read.

What gene? Where is this nonsense coming from? Has there been a study that isolated an invisible aggression gene that I haven't seen? Can we now go to South Korea and get re-engineered bull terrier mixes that don't have it, for a mere $155K?

I had an editor at a fairly well-distributed paper that deals with animals and people and news who I won't name say something about the "aggression gene" in an email, one who I thought was providing a valuable service to the people who owned and cared about animals.

It was something along the lines of "They might be good today, but that aggression gene is going to rear it's ugly head, and it is not going to be pretty." It was disturbing, but made it clear that I should be more careful of data and statements from that source. Sigh. It is still a good source for some information, but I cannot get past the thought that any of it might be tainted by a very conscious bias toward being a PETA apologist.

Julie

I really think we have to pay more attention to this. It's not helping that the majority of "pit bull" advocates believe the whole "born and bred to fight" nonsense. It seems insurmountable, but we have to try.

Donovan

Not a geneticist on this end, so I'll pass on confirming or denying that there is indeed a "fighting gene", but I must say that I am curious as to why this term has got some of you so fired up?

Does it help the cause? No. But neither does the "it's all in how you raise'em" rhetoric, which also fails the cause.


And yes, those of us involved with pit bulls know that dog aggression can run from mild to wild, and dog aggression is certainly a DOG trait that is not unique to pit bulls, but I'll be damned if pit bulls don't do an exemplary job when it comes to controlling/taking purchase of other animals.

Julie (9:27 PM)

"It's not helping that the majority of "pit bull" advocates believe the whole "born and bred to fight" nonsense."

Yeah, there is so much more to these dogs than laying into each other.

Sadly, I hope most would recognize that these days, the dogs are mostly "born and bred to sell." That said, I feel for the unsuspecting folks that get their hands on a hot one of any breed, but especially a hot one of the Pit bull breed.

Selma

I was lukewarm about the article overall, lots of unfounded generalizations and outright lies, such as:

"Denying the fighting gene in a pit bull would be like denying that the sun rises in the east. It is, quite simply, a fact of life."

I suspect this was some editorializing and to say I'm sick of this bulls**t is to put it mildly.

Not only is it not a 'fact of life', it's complete nonsense. I wonder if this 'dog expert' could point us to some scientific evidence for this elusive gene?

Tim's comments about AmStaffs were kind of silly. If an AmStaff bites somebody it's a 'pit bull'? Hey Tim, it's much worse than that. ANY dog that bites somebody is a 'pit bull'. Whiich is why we always put the term in quotes - it's a non-breed and has become a bit of a grim joke.

Selma

I really should read all the comments before posting, since I see everybody else already ripped into the 'fighting gene' thing.

Why does it bug?

Well, it's right up there with locking jaws, a bite pressure equivalent to that of an American Alligator, insensitivitty to pain, endorphin addiction, a chemical in the brain that causes a dog to snap, etc.

IT'S UTTER BS AND MUST NOT BE LEFT TO STAND.

It isolates 'pit bulls' (ha ha ha) and makes them seem different and unlike other dogs - a breed apart.

News flash for the twits who think 'pit bulls' are a breed, never mind a breed apart:

Each breed is unique, each purebred is a member of a breed apart. That's the whole point of breeds, yo.

None of the qualities people attribute to 'pit bulls' (I mean the real qualities, not the fake ones) are unique to APBTs or their kin. All dogs have 'em.

I think what happens sometimes is that people are exclusively involved with one type of dog and don't have a lot of experience with other types. So, they think these tendencies are what make their breed special. You see it at dog shows all the time. 'They' do this and 'they' do that when referring to, say, Poodles.

That's BS too.

Thanks for listening, bill me, will you?

:>)

Selma

One more thing.

The Ontario law was upheld by the Court of Appeal last fall based on scant, non-credible evidence.

What kind of evidence?

Testimony by coneheads with an axe to grind, such as Skeldon and a couple of victims.

And news reports. Lots and lots of news reports.

Hence my paranoia. I'll ask the writer at AP (those guys? again?) for a source for the statement. Since newsies routinely dig up statements by other newsies and call it 'research' and 'evidence' I expect I'll find out who started this one (eyes rolling at mach 10).

It must be crushed.

Maybe it's because of this:

http://caveat.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2008/12/22/4032019.html

Sorry if my comments were poorly written. I woke up on the couch around 2:30, came upstairs saw that 'fighting gene' line and my head became a Roman candle. It's quite a show, you should see it some time :>)

EmilyS

Well, regardless of whether a "gene" for dog aggression exists, surely you all know what the "pit" in American Pit Bull Terrier means, don't you? The breed WAS selectively breed for an enhanced willingness to fight other dogs -- even to the death if need be. I happen to believe this is a modified prey drive rather than "simple" aggression.

No it's certainly not the only breed that has this behavior and yes, this trait displays itself on a bell curve, from cold to deadhot. But there really is no doubt about that curve, or that APBTs tend to skew towards the hot side.

Of course we must insist on individual dogs being judged as individuals.

But breed behavior traits DO exist, and this prey drive is one of our breed's.

I agree it can seem like a PR problem, because people (and the press of course) insist on conflating the various kinds of 'aggression". But I don't see how denying a breed trait helps us in the long run.. in fact I can only see it HURTING if naive owners allow their dogs to get into situations where there can be trouble.

Selma

To date, there is no scientific evidence that aggression is heritable, or that this 'fighting gene' (lol) exists.

That's my problem with the statement.

Are there combative 'pit bulls'? Sure. Just as there are combative individuals in any breed. Are terriers of all stripes more likely to be pushy? Absolutely - but so are herding, working and livestock guarding breeds.

This tendency, which apparently overrides training/handling, is not only not specific to APBTs (which used to be called Yankee terriers) but is rare in those dogs too, in my experience. Mind you, I don't know people who would encourage or tolerate that kind of behaviour and of course, breeders will encounter more dog-on-dog aggression if they are keeping multiple intact dogs in their kennel/house, especially same-sex dogs.

Using the generic term 'pit bull' really irks me as well. If people are talking about APBTs, why don't they say so? If they're talking about 3-5 breeds and an unknown number of mutts, these dogs couldn't possibly exhibit like traits anyway.

It's BS, it was added by the staff writer and it can't do us any good.

Becky

I'm not trying to copy Selma, I just had trouble getting posted before her last post.

I, too, am irate at this 'journalist's personal opinion, inserted into this, as if it were a fact.
I'm sure no genetic scientist either, but I do not believe there is such a thing as an 'aggressive' gene. An attacking, fighting 'tendency', if there was such a thing, is not the same as something like a breed's 'tendency' to herd.

I would think a 'genetic trait', would be something more like being muscular, which would then make a dog very strong.

If, in fact, as Emily said, 'there really is no doubt about that curve, or that APBTs tend to skew towards the hot side', then how come I've never seen an aggressive pit bull?

Sure, I've heard and seen plenty about aggressive pit bulls, but there's generally enough additional information to tell me that a dog was never socialized, or integrated into a pack, or otherwise properly cared for. Or there was some other issue.

This is not a story that I'm proud of, but it might be important. Growing up, we had 2 dogs (not at the same time. 1 for his lifetime, and then another for his lifetime)

I cannot identify either dogs' 'predominant' breed, but can guaruntee neither was any part pit.

Neither of these dogs were 'inside dogs', because we never succeeded at housebreaking them. (yes, they were kept on a porch or a room in severe weather). Neither dog was ever socialized or trained in any way. Tho they might accompany one of us on a walk, neither was ever properly leash walked, or integrated into a 'pack'.

Luke was extremely animal aggressive. I hated for him to tag along on a walk because every single time we saw another dog, he got into a fight. (yes, he started it) He went after every single cat, until a cat whooped him.

Bo was also very dog aggressive. Now and then we'd try to introduce him to another dog, but he went nuts -- he tried to killed it. He once bit the postman, one of my mother's dear friends, even my younger sister. No telling who else -- we should have been sued. (yep, we let him roam the neighborhood and my Dad refused to neuter him.)

So to Emily's 'I can only see it HURTING if naive owners allow their dogs to get into situations where there can be trouble', I would have to say that this statement is ONLY attributable to EVERY breed.

Somewhere along the line, a lot of people forgot that the APBT was not SOLEY 'bred to fight'. This was a popular breed from the start, was it not? Wasn't this dog bred for companionship and work, as well?

Regardless of how selective breeding led to the creation of this 'breed', it can't possibly be true that back in the day, ALL pits were 'bred to fight', because everybody did not participate in dog fighting.

Back 'in the day', would it not be true that the dogs 'bred for fighting' were never socialized with other dogs?

I am with Selma on this -- we need to drop this genetic BS stuff, unless, of course, someone has some real science to back it up. And, again in agreement, if there ever WAS, (ie; scientific proof) I will bet it is not unique to 'pit bull type dogs.'

At this time, I cannot accept the premise of 'genetic aggression' in pit bull type dogs, because I have never even seen it. Also because the few times I have witnessed true aggression in dogs, it had to do with a lot of other things than the breed of the dog.

To the rescuers of this 'breed', I agree that you have to be very careful how you place these dogs and I am glad that rescues take this so seriously. But the same must apply to every dog, ALL dogs, ALL breeds.

'Naive owners who allow their dogs to get into situations where there can be trouble,' are a problem, regardless of the breed.

My 'pit bull type dog' has been attacked several times at the dog park: by a JRT, a mini Yorki, and more than 1 lab. At the same park, I have seen many unneutered male pits who were not aggressive.

So I don't see how this can be a 'genetic tendency' in certain breeds of dogs. It's more like a 'genetic possibility' in all dogs. Afterall, they are predators, aren't they?

This was posted by Becky, I messed up signing in.....

Selma

I think owner expectation has a lot to do with it. If you think your dog is inherently aggressive, you will avoid socializing him with other dogs, etc. Dogs pick a lot up from the owners.

Of course there are dogs that are dog-aggressive. I saw an AmStaff like that who needed a new home. He'd never been anywhere, never met other dogs, the owner was a whackjob. He was pretty wild. Anyway, he got a home with a new owner and most of his problems disappeared.

How about Bedlingtons? Are they 'hot'? They were 'bred to fight'. Boston terriers, Boxers, Bulldogs - all 'bred' to fight which means trained to fight.

Barring a heritable disorder, there is no evidence to date that behaviour is heritable. What is heritable is molded by experience and handling.

I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm saying I can't find any evidence for it and if anything, the more I look, the more I find research indicating that maligned breeds have temperaments equivalent to other breeds.

Selma

Sorry, I forgot something.

I agree that people who sell or place the purebred or mixed breed 'pit bull' types do have to be very selective - but not because of the dogs.

It's because owners of bully types are held to a much higher standard than other owners and things that would be ignored if other dogs did them become a big deal if it's a bulldog.

It takes a tough, confident, experienced person to withstand that kind of scrutiny and survive. Well, it does around here these days.

Julie

Damn right Selma and Becky.

Dan

Donovan, your point above is well taken: "neither does the "it's all in how you raise'em" rhetoric, which also fails the cause".

About 200 years ago the German Great Dane was nearly uncontrollable. They were so aggressive that when a fight broke out at a breed show in the 1800's it was so horrific the dogs were banned from the show ring, and nearly lost from being able to enter this country. In just a few years breeding accomplished what behavior modification could not, and they were showing again, today being adopted out at Petsmart. So what, specifically, changed in the makeup of that dog? As well, the silver fox is the absolute definition of not tame, scared to death of human contact. A Russian psychologist named Belyaev within a few generations had tame foxes, devoted to humans . Other interesting changes in the coloring of the fox are thought to be the result of a decrease in the need for adrenalin, apparently disrupting and creating new responses from their genes. I think about the effect it had on their emotional state.

For many years now dogs such as those used for the WWI era posters and in the trenches, "Bud" who traveled acorss country and thousands of others have lived in homes where aggression or an excessive prey drive would be a liability. What happens with generations of bull and terrier breeds, APBT, others when they no longer need to produce so much adrenaline in response to man-created threats, in a home with someone who doesn't need a "mean dog" to augment their shallow personality? Maybe there is a physical change that creates a different dog? Maybe it's not just how we raise 'em, but in combination with whom, and where...

I hope one day this will help me figure out how to replace "Pit Bull Mauls Woman While Attacking Dog" with the headline from thousands of other stories:

"Loving Pit Bull Sleeps For Years In Owners Bed Without Incident, Except For Some Drool".
Film at 11.

We really have to get that name changed - there is just too much baggage

Selma

Yes, the name must go, so must the use of 'pit bull' by supporters, yet, to describe the APBT. Why did they pick 'pit bull' instead of American terrier, one wonders?

Because it sounds scary and unstoppable. Media guys love it.

I'm not denying that breeding plays a part, don't get me wrong. I'm not that dense :>)

All I'm saying is that there is evidence to support malarkey such as 'the fighting gene' or that a tendency to fight with one's own kind is heritable.

You can breed hard dogs, sure; however, some of the best dogs in terms of obedience and manners are those hard-headed, dominant, pushy dogs.

Everybody is born with different talents and abilities. Surrounding culture and early nurturing are what decide what becomes of those traits.

It is just plain silly to me to say that all 'pit bulls' - which in the minds of newsies and stupid legislators includes 3 - 5 breeds, a bunch of lookalike breeds and any mutt that looks vaguely like them - are all dominant, aggressive, hooligans - when the evidence overwhelmingly shows they are not.

In buying into the hype, people on the right side of this issue are as bad as those who want to kill all the 'pit bulls'.

You can't breed dogs to attack other dogs. You can't breed dogs to not attack humans. You can only condition and train a dog who has inherited the right qualities.

Since most purebred dogs these days are bred for looks, attributing working ability to them is weak to say the least. Most dogs are pets. That's why I always get a laugh when reading the kennel club descriptions of the breeds. That was then, this is now and by then, I mean before there was such a thing as a purebred dog,ie, before the 1850s.

Are there cruel, primitive people who are raising and conditioning/training dogs to fight? Yes, but it's not a common thing.

Most 'pit bulls', like all dogs, are good citizens and wonderful, kind animals.

Above all, they are domestic dogs, so are already well past the silver fox stage of tameness.

They're more like people than any other animal, imo - some are naughty, most are nice.

EmilyS

oh Selma come on: "they" didn't pick "pit bull". The people who standardized the fighting dog breed named it "American Pit Bull Terrier". They DID breed dogs to "attack" (your word, not theirs: what they did was breed dogs that would FIGHT other dogs in an organized "sport") other dogs. No other breed you can name.. including those horrific Great Danes.. was regularly used in the fighting pit and valued for that purpose.

And, BTW, you CAN breed a dog willing to attack a human being. Apparently you've never worked with a Malinois, have you? They are VERY willing to bite people.. they even bite their owners all the time, and that's why they are the most commonly used dogs in police work now. You don't see, say, St. Bernards (a once feared breed) used as K9's much, do you? Or pit bulls, for that matter.

And I certainly have never said that these behaviors cannot be trained so they are manageable, so please don't caricature my statements.

None of you has ever seen a pit bull seriously get it on, because all of you manage your dogs, and because you select for low-drive pit bulls. Very few rescues will adopt out a dog-aggressive pit bull.

No reputable breeder selects FOR that characteristic, but OTOH I don't know of any that deliberately selects FOR deadheads, either.


Julie

Attacking a human or a canine is a learned behavior, not a genetic trait. You cannot "breed" a dog to attack. Period.

And I certainly haven't ever seen a "pit bull" seriously get it on. How could I when they don't exist?

Brent

Emily,

"NO other breed you can name...was regularly used in the fighting pit and valued for that purpose".

Chinese Shar Pei?

And certainly, in spite of this history, the vast majority are no longer used for this purpose, no would they be particularly good at fighting any more.

Likewise, with the American Pit Bull Terrier. The vast majority have not been bred for, used for fighting in at least the past 80 years. So even if you COULD breed for attacking (which there is no evidence that this is true), that trait would be long gone after many canine generations of not selectively breeding for it -- at least in most circles.

So why would you insist that such a trait exists, even though there is a ton of evidence that it just isn't the case.

Besides, the idea that you can breed a dog to attack a person is just ridiculous. Certainly you can breed for certain characteristics that would make it more easily trained to attack someone, but you can't breed it to attack. If that were true, then the inverse would be true, that you could create a breed of dogs that would never, ever bite or attack a person...which would be quite handy...and yet doesn't exist.

Dan

Hey Emily - respectufully, you don't have enough knowledge of my background to state correctly that "None of you has ever seen a pit bull seriously get it on". We moved here from Oklahoma, and I have seen these dogs, bred by serious breeders for just that purpose,"get it on" as you say. Which, by the way, strongly understates what really happens. It is really incredible to see that level of unabridged violence, and then see one of these handlers walk in and pull the two dogs apart by the collar. It's horrific and amazing at the same time.

APBT's, and some similar dogs, discouraged from being animal aggressive, are some of the most loyal, confident, and trainable dogs I have ever had the pleasure to come across. The examples of dogs such as the St. Bernard, Great Dane, etc show us what can happen when people finally stop looking at them as killers and see them for the dogs they are. People from WWII still remember the vicious, killer Doberman of the German Army. Many of them are great pets today, though still encouraged to be aggressive in some circles as a working dog. You are correct that the Malinois is a great example of a dog used for protection and frequently as a working police dog - because breeders have breed for those traits. And as you so deftly pointed out a Malinois taught proper bite inhibition will not bite people, as the lady who trained them in the club I was in can attest to. And it also takes training to form them into the successfull guardians we use. But it is a trait that is bred, not a behavior.

Selma (and I am proudly in that camp) is not saying that "pit bull", SOLEY applied to APBT's is incorrect. What we are objecting to is the use of "PIT BULL" applied to nearly any dog that growls, moves toward someone, bites another dog or person, or, seemingly, has hair nor not, by reporters not interested in facts, but seeking to get their pap on page 1 or in the lead on the nightly news, and reprinted in as many other places as possible, many times regardless of the facts. We don't like it because it encourages ingnorance, pain, heartbreak, more preventable bites and attacks. In story after story it is clear that many people don't want to resolve the problem, and it plays into the hands of those who are quite willing to destroy you, me, and everyone else in their way to further their agenda of killing dogs. The short-hand slang of "pit bull" when used to describe some amorphous threat when clearly the author has no intention of ferreting out the real background of the dog is about as useful as saying women don't have the ability to run a business, or black-skin indicated the lack of ability to own property and vote. There have been times in our country (and local pockets still) where those statements would not have caused a second thought, because there seemed to be so much "evidence" around to support them. Today, we know better, that the situations were engineered, that we were clearly led down the wrong path.

The widespread hysterical and incorrect use of the term "pit bull" is no different.

Becky

I kinda like Yankee Terrier. If we could swing this, we could totally throw off a lot of breed bans.

Although I detest the media's use and misuse of the term 'pit bull', I personally have no problem with the name. The American Pit Bull Terrier is an icon that we used to be proud of, and not because of it's fighting origins, but because of it's positive qualities.

As always, it is the media who decides whose name is a negative connotation and whose is not. I choose to snub the media.

Further, that some of us have never seen 'pits' 'getting it on is not proof of anything. I have seen and met a lot of 'pit bulls' and I have never seen one that displayed any aggression.

So, perhaps I have only seen 'pits' owned by responsible rescues, etc -- well, you have to add the males w/ balls that I've met at the park, and who belong to guys that look 'macho'. None of these displayed any aggression.

So, if the aggressive pits are owned by the hoodlums, criminals and scum, and all the sweet ones belong to nice people, WHAT does THIS seem to prove?

It certainly does NOT prove that they have 'aggressive genes'.

It seems to prove that attacking, aggression, etc ARE conditioned in a dog and not inherited. Because we have been discussing all along that it's the irresponsible owners who have aggressive dogs.

Aggression cannot be a 'natural tendency' of this breed if I have seen about 100 pit bulls, but have not seen any aggression. Of course, it is a 'possibility', just as it is in every breed of dog.

And I maintain that we DO see a some 'tendency' for dog aggression in DOGS who were never socialized or properly cared for.

I think it's important to note, that to be denied socialization and integration into a 'pack' goes against almost every instinct in a dog. So I don't understand why we are so surprised when aggression is the result.

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