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« Reforming Animal Control Webinar on Friday 5/20 | Main | How will history perceive you? »

May 17, 2011



Thank you.


Thanks Brent.

The crazies make up enough statistics on their reason for us to play that game.

Lori S.

I recently read that this "statistic" comes from a "study" by Animal People, which I am guessing is the same Animal People with which Merritt Clifton is associated. (And we all know how reliable his "statistics" are!)

Still looking for the "study" to confirm this (and to see how they worked the math).


THANK YOU! This one has been bugging me lately... I'm so glad to see you apply your analytical skills to exposing it.

BadRap took a crack at the b.s. about zillions of dogfighters, which is so stupid and hurtful. Next up for someone: the emergence of the "pit bull was called the nanny dog" nonsense.

Lori S.

Emily, I've seen some "hater" posts with the anti-nanny dog position, but wasn't sure how much of what they said was true and how much of it was fear of muscular, short-haired, blocky-headed dogs.


yes Lori, the pit bull haters use the nanny dog against us, because they know it's not true. It should be enough for us to say that pit bulls were beloved family pets (and at the same time they were commonly fighting dogs)... we have tons of photographic/written contemporary evidence for that, and we can throw that evidence in the haters' faces. When we exaggerate, we lose effectiveness... which is the point Brent is making as well.


Thanks, Brent. Believe it or not I had not heard that "statistic". thanks for the information.

There was another statistic we used to hear a lot, but I haven't heard it lately, and it was "only one in six dogs stays in its original home". We used to have instructors in puppy and beginner classes that would say, "Look around - only one dog in six will stay in its home".

I finally got people to stop saying that. First, the majority of our students have purebreds (although we certainly welcome mixes and have them in our classes) and if someone paid good money for a dog the odds of them keeping it automatically go up. If they got it from a rescue or shelter around here they also paid money for the dog and put some thought into their decision. The dogs most at risk are the ones that were "free" and the result of an accidental litter and were given to someone by an adult child, a neighbor, relative, or co-worker. They were almost always taken from the dam/litter way too soon, creating yet more problems. We are seeing fewer of them, though.

Second, if they are bothering to bring the dogs to an obedience class that also increases the odds of the dog staying in the home.

And third - where did this number come from? We can't sustantiate it so stop repeating it as "fact".

EmilyS, I'm with you on the "dogfighting" thing. Even when it was legal only about, what, 2% of the dogs were matched? That's why today's pedigrees all go back to the same dogs. It's the same for Border Collies, Labs, and any other working breed. A very small percentage of them were actually used for their original purpose and an even smaller percentage excelled at their job, and those were the ones that were bred. A friend of mine herds and he said if you take 100 BCs there might be one that's worth its salt for herding.

the pit bull a "nanny dog"? Wow, hadn't heard that!


As others have said, THANKS for doing the math and showing how this number can't possibly be true. I had not heard this urban legend either...

Hopefully this "stat" will start going the way of the 1 pair of cats can produce 420,000 cats in 7 years "stat" as well.

Anytime you see "news" or blogs that start a sentence containing a statistic with the phrase "It is said that..." or "People say that...", it's probably time for all us to step back and wonder who is really saying those things and where do the original numbers come from.

Thanks again Brent!


KMK: the "nanny dog" thing started about a year ago, as far as I can tell. THIS link is circulating around FaceBook and everyone is just going apesh** over it: Cause if it's on the Internet, it must be true...

Great photos, bogus commentary... (check out the kid with the dog in a Colby harness and chain leash...)

Ellen Weinstock

Whew! THANK YOU, Brent! I never spent the time crunching the numbers, but I've looked for a long time for the source of this & CAN'T find it. I've taken to asking people who use it where they got it from & they always cite some other website, never a study, etc. Recently, I saw someone up the number to 1 in 700! I've bookmarked this so that, the next time I see it, I can refer people to your simple but logical numbers.

The "nanny dogs" thing I'm not so concerned about, in that somebody somewhere probably did call them that - there ARE tons of photos of pits as beloved family pets. It's the use of a specific number that gives the imprimatur of fact & is therefore so harmful.


Thanks all. I always wonder how a math-heavy post will go over...

Emily -- I've heard the "nanny dog" thing for years. I know it's something that Ledy Van Kavage uses a lot in her presenations. In all honesty, in all the reading I've done, I've never found enough information to either confirm or deny it. As KMK points out, it seems that the majority of dogs of whatever look (or breed) are seldom used for their "designed" purpose. I always think of Standard Poodles...and can't imaging any of the ones I've met being worth a lick at bird hunding. It isn't unbelievable to me that someone somewhere used these dogs for that purpose -- but again, I can neither confirm nor deny the story.


well the diff. is that poodles WERE originally hunting dogs... they're just not used for that purpose in this country now. Whereas the APBT was NEVER termed a "nanny dog"... Americans of the class that evidently owned APBTs did NOT have "nannies" and that term was not common in this country. In fact I believe that term became common in this country only in recent decades (as families with 2 parents that worked outside the home hired young women to take care of the kids). Now, the SBT allegedly IS called the "nanny dog" in England but none of the SBT experts I have asked has ever found an historical reference to support the use of that term.. they speculate that it is was someone's promotional gimmick. And they hate the term for its implication that it's ok to leave your dog alone with the kids...

Lori S.

Emily ... I know that was the point ;o) I thought others who don't know that the "haters" use it against the dogs would be interested to hear that nanny dog "history" lessons might not be that effective and can actually be used against the dogs. I also generally find "my dog is so sweet" arguments incredibly weak.

I can assure those who use that as their sole defense for "pit bulls" that the councilperson they are trying to convince is probably not very afraid of YOUR dog (though one of my councilman DID tell me that it was only a matter off time until my dog turns on me :o). It's generally not your beloved family pet politicians are picturing when they are considering BSL. Sure, it can help to give them an alternate image to consider, but give them FACTS and effective, breed-neutral alternatives for preventing dog bites & attacks. THAT is how you win.


Yes, the Standard Poodle is actually a German breed (not French) originally used for hunting. The cut actually had a practical purpose - the hair left on the joints kept the joints warm. Of course it's become WAY overdone. but then back in the 60s Cockers (also a hunting breed) didn't have a coat that dragged the floor, either.

Lori S - you're right - the politicians always say, "Oh, we don't mean YOUR DOGS or PEOPLE LIKE YOU". I guess it's not PC to write into an ordinance, "No black or hispanic young males, gang-bangers, or residents that live in X,Y, and Z ZIP codes can own pit bulls". Because we all know that's what they're doing with BSL, I don't care what they say.

Thanks to everyone for the "nanny dog" explanation. years ago a TV reporter from Joplin in southern Missouri went to a friend's farm to interview them about their pit bulls. they invited a friend come over who was an AKC judge/obedience instructor and had just written a book about home manners for dogs. When the reporter asked this woman which breed was perfect for a family with small children, the woman replied "NONE of them", and then went on to explain how it's more about training, etc. than the individual breed.

And Brent, your post about how "Your city is broke" (also kind of a math post) was also unexpectedly popular. Maybe you have more sophisticated readers than you realized? :-)

Lindsay McCormick

Check this out I used it as a referance on my Pit Bull paper. Its about the "nanny" dog.

Laura Francis

Brent - I have a question about an assumption you made that I'd be curious to hear your opinion about. In your piece, you make the assumption that the percentage of owned dogs that were adopted (somewhere around 20-30%) will be the same as the percentage of owned pit bulls that were adopted. Given (1) attitudes towards pit bulls in general, (2) some of the demographics that own pit bulls, and (3) BSL and breed bans, do you think that those percentages are really similar? I think especially considering all the "backyard breeding" going on with this family of breeds, that the percentage of owned pit bulls (or pit-bull type dogs) that were adopted would be lower. Having sad that, I totally get that the original statistic you talk about is wrong. People like to say things and then repeat them as truth.


@Lindsay: that's just a website with some great pictures of dogs with kids, that's become viral right now. It shows some pit bulls as family dogs. It is not evidence that the pit bull was CALLED a "nanny dog" or even thought of as a babysitter. I have challenged many people to find me an historical reference to the use of this term, and no one has come up with anything. To be historical, you'd have to find it in a source from say, 1900-1930, the period of these wonderful photographs.

@Laura: to me the point is that there ARE NO national statistics that can justify any generalizations about how many pit bulls exist, how many are turned into shelters, and/or how many are killed. Brent makes some reasonable assumptions.. but they're just that (and as he notes, he can't make the figures produce that 1 in 600 thing however he adjusts them)

There just aren't any nationwide statistics about breeds in shelters. There are some LOCAL ones, that might say something about a local situation. But if the situation for pit bulls is dire in say, Detroit, it's not in my small town, where they are not by any means the dominant shelter dog (which would be Lab types). And of course, all the studies I have seen suggest that most shelter workers are no more able to identify dog breeds than the average citizen.

And there's something else that's funny about the way these stats are thrown around. They often appear on the same sites that tout the "no such thing as a pit bull" theme. Well, if there's no such thing as a pit bull... how can you make any assertions about the numbers of "pit bulls" being killed?

Bottom line: too many dogs being killed. Especially too many dogs being killed because someone thinks they might be "pit bulls" and automatically unadoptable.


While we're talking about numbers, there is a number I have been seeing quoted a little more than seldom. It is a number purportedly from the CDC that says "4.5 Million Americans are bitten dogs each year." This number seems really high to me, especially when we try to tout that dogs are safer that most other things.

I wonder where the CDC is getting this number. Hospital reports maybe?


800k bites that require hospitalization.. that's the only hard statistic.

That 4.5 million figure apparently comes from this study, whose methodology does not impress.

In other words, it's another WAG....


Going to make a few comments since I have been out of town for a few days.

Emily -- thanks for posting the CDC numbers - -and yes, that's the source. The 800k is fairly solid but the 4.5 is definitely a WAG based on a really small sample size. I also would like ot note that these numbers are pretty old - -and wouldn't reflect any significant changes that have resulted from better education and/or increases in dog ownership.

Laura, I thought a lot about the "are pit bulls' more likely to be purchased or gotten from a friend than adopted from a shelter question. And it's certainly a challenging one (and like Emily notes, no data for it). On the one hand, your are correct. It seems at least that with so many cities with BSL, so many shelter that simply refuse to adopt out pit bulls, and too many rescues who have such harsh standards for adopters that it is virtually impossible to adopt from them, that 'pit bulls' would likely have a lower percent adopted than other types of dogs. On the flip side, it would also logically makes sense that the majority of smaller breed dogs -- Spaniels, Toys, dachshunds, Lhapso Aspo, Brussels Griffons, etc -- plus some designer dogs like Labradoodles are likely very often bought (not adopted) because there just aren't that many of them in the shelters. Then, when you take into account some people putting importance on AKC papers -- which at least American Pit Bull Terriers can't even get because they aren't recognized -- you then have a huge number of breeds that seem like they'd have MUCH lower % adopted numbers than 'pit bulls'. So with these two opposite factors in play, I would doubt 'pit bulls' vary much from the average -- and because there are so many of them in shelters, might actually be more likely to be adopted than most other types of dogs.


The CDC, JAMA, and other "scientific journals" have been persistent in publishing what amounts to "junk science" when it comes to dog attacks and dog bites. I guess I shouldn't complain - look at that horrific junk science study on autism that came out of the UK on vaccinations and how that affected people vaccinating their children. My own sister (who did vaccinate her children)still wanted to argue with me about the validity of that study EVEN AFTER IT WAS FINALLY DEBUNKED.

Parents with autistic children are so desperate for an answer and help they are still trying to sue vaccine manufacturers based on that study. While I sympathize with their plight, I find it sad that everyone is so desperate they are willing to hang their hat on junk science.

I attended a meeting in a local city a few years ago and there was a discussion about one of those idiot studies. I forget which one. Brent might remember (it was in Lee's Summit) - it may have been the study about intact dogs being more dangerous. When I pointed out it was junk science a councilmember that's an attorney said, "Well, it's the only science we have". I replied "Okay, then it's JUNK PROPAGANDA, and please stop using it to justify your agenda and make your mayor happy!"

Kind of makes me sad to hold technical degrees.


Funniest quote from the "nanny dog" link provided:

"In temperance tests"

So, before being hired as 'nanny dogs', Pibbles had to prove they didn't drink? That's really good - no one likes a drunk nanny.

I'm from the UK, and I've always heard SBTs referred to as "nanny dogs".


SBT's were the breed that was referred to as the "nanny dog" for their gentleness with children.

Lori S

I have heard the "nanny dog" reference for at least the last 9 years, so it has been around awhile. It is part of the UKC description of the APBT (actually, part of the actual standard, as I read it) that these dogs were considered good with children. Specifically, it says, "...APBTs make excellent family companions and have always been noted for their love of children." I had thought that the AKC made similar statements in their descriptions of the AST and SBT, not as part of the official standard, but as part of their general breed descriptions, but I cannot find that on the AKC site, so either I made that up (not completely impossible) or they have changed it. At any rate, the term "nanny dog" may be new, but the idea of this is not. It has become one of these "things" that folks desperate to defend our breeds hold onto like a life raft.

I am recently involved in the fight to keep a nearby city (Saginaw, MI) from enacting BSL and one thing I have discovered is that for every good factual claim we make, they dig out competing garbage claims, often from the misunderstood CDC study or the horrid Clifton "study" - and since the BSL opposition (us) only has the opportunity to speak in little 3 minute segments at the city council meetings, which the city council members can "rebut" for nearly unlimited time, it becomes this odd game of dueling statistics. We are always on the defensive to refute their garbage stats, a very hard job to do in 3-minute bits. I am **very** grateful for these accurate examinations of the facts. I find that I have to try a different tactic, though, than to throw accurate stats at them, as they are not capable of evaluating good from bad stats and just fall back on whichever "data" they want to believe. But for us, this is absolutely invaluable. Thank you!

(PS - I am a differnt Lori S. than the one above; I signed in with Google and that is how I am signed in there.)


It is from "Off the Chain". A Pit Bull documentry mainly on dogfighting.

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