My Photo


follow us in feedly

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Best Of KC Dog Blog

Become a Fan

« Weekly Roundup - Week Ending 3/24/13 | Main | Failure of breed-specific policy in the UK »

March 28, 2013



"It seems the relevant experts might also include those that sew the human victims together again. I don't think you are recognizing the inherent bias of groups like the ASPCA or someone that makes their living off rehab'ing aggressive animals."

Of course it's easy to dismiss everyone that disagrees with you, you know, the people who work with dogs, handle dogs, and the the most experience with canine behavior, traits and breeding as "biased". That's very convenient. Keep in mind that many of the best veterinarians and animal behavior experts in the world work for the ASPCA.

I think we can also all agree that "the people who sew victims back together" attend 8-10 years of college and never once take a class on dog behavior. That pretty much rules them out of dog bite behavior expertise....


Behavior is complex. Genetics is complex. "Dominant selection pressure" of APBT's is one of those broad sweeping statements that can get us all into trouble. Pit bulls where? Bred where? Does that refer only to "pure-bred" APBT's (registered, say, through UKC) or any mixed breeds that look Pittish? In my area, the primary selection pressure on all dogs seems to be--not kidding--who has bad fencing or no fencing and which dogs live in the neighborhood: the pressure is purely proximity and all the dogs are breeding merrily like bunnies with no regard for behavioral genetics. Most local purpose-bred are hunting dogs and herding dogs... in my rural area (not to be confused with an inner city), Pits and Pit mixes are still used as working dogs on ranches, and one of the more popular mixes is a purpose bred McNab Shepherd/Pit cross for a little more heft working cattle. The other major selection pressure is a .22--anything that bites the kids, eats the chickens, doesn't listen or goes after the neighbor's livestock is summarily culled. So that's one population--likely not the only one--where the primary selection pressures have utterly nothing to do with dog fighting or dog-dog aggression. Some purpose-bred working ranch dogs may look exactly the same as some purpose-bred fighting line dogs and be behaviorally entirely different. In a wide-open gene pool, phenotype simply isn't a reliable predictor of genotype.


I agree with Jim Crosby - every time a child dies like this it needs to be treated like a crime scene.


Dodman– director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine

"Dr. Nicholas Dodman is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences. Dr. Dodman is one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists."

He is the director at the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University which is a prestigious school in Boston, MA.

I have no idea what influence where he was born has on this.

See how that works? An expert disagrees with you and you find a reason for his words to be discounted.


"I think we can also all agree that "the people who sew victims back together" attend 8-10 years of college and never once take a class on dog behavior."

I'm friends with a woman that got her DVM at what is the 1st or 2nd most prestigious vet school in the US, and also the world.

She is bothered that people ask her so much about training and dog behavior. She was not required to take a single class on the subject.


Dubv, FYI, Dr. Dodman is against BSL and has said in other sources that behind every serious incident is an irresponsible pet owner who hasn't properly cared for the dog. His take on Pits, breeding, etc. is far more complex and in line with the experts Brent is talking about than a few quotes to a newspaper. He appeared in a video "The Pit Bull Hoax" with Jean Donaldson, Ian Dunbar and Diane Jessup on the topic. Sometimes before we advocate for one expert or another, it's wise to do a little research on their body of work and current position to see what they have actually said... in today's media, getting quoted out of context or sound-bited is all too common.


Just as I can selectively quote Dodman, The Pit Bull Hoax can be selectively edited.

Also, you are mistaken that everyone that disagrees with you on this point is pro-BSL. So, Dodman being against BSL doesn't actually change his statements.

What one person sees as complex or subtle can be convoluted to another.

More Dodman

"But Dodman defends the practice. "The insurance companies have no ax to grind," he says. They base their decisions on actuarial statistics showing that certain breeds in certain homes are a recipe for trouble and the cause of lawsuits."


“Genetics does play a role and people who think it doesn’t are kidding themselves,” says Dodman. “The pit bull is notorious for a very hard bite. They are always No. 1 in the lethal dog bite parade. The dog was bred for pit fighting. It was bred to never give up, to bite and hang on.”

Jen Brighton

I have an idea, DubV, why don't you email Dr. Dodman directly and ask him to clarify his comments? As Emily stated, all of us can take an excerpt from an expert and use it to prove our point. Excerpts never give the big picture and are often taken out of context. In fact, why don't you interview an actual geneticist familiar with canines and pose your questions about heritability of traits and then get back to us.


And, DubV, when you finish interviewing an actual geneticist familiar with canines why don't you interview a licensed clinical social worker about all the factors that put a toddler at risk for death, sexual abuse, and injury when that toddler has a young, unmarried mother?

There is a whole lot wrong in this picture. What makes me angry is children end up in bad situations and when something goes wrong it's more difficult for me to keep MY dogs. I'm getting a little tired of this nonsense.



Thus far, you seem to be adept at a couple of things:

1) Posting really old articles. There has been so much research conducted, and many articles written over the past decade that have helped clarify the roles of breed and environment on attacks, and yet, 2 of the 3 articles you've posted on here are nearly a decade old.

2) You seem to be using quotes, without context, that support your point of view without acknowledging that the general consensus of 1/2 a dozen people interviewed in one of the articles was overwhelming opposed to your viewpoint, and the person whose quote you used is opposed to your viewpoint. And yet, you still use it for support. Odd.

3) Meanwhile, I can't help but laugh at your story about the DVM being frustrated because people ask her training advice. Of course she doesn't have training experience, but through the course of her every day work she likely handles a dozen or more dogs a day, 600 or more a year. Through that process she no doubt has a significant amount of insight into canine behavior. And yet, she's frustrated because she doesn't feel like she has the expertise. Fair enough, but your point was that you wanted MEDICAL DOCTORS to give their point of view, who no doubt have less dog handling experience and training. Again, odd.

This is why I have always proposed getting well-rounded information from a variety of different sources. When you do that, you may eventually realize how overwhelmingly the information is against your current viewpoint.


What are the comments being made by Mr Dodman? DogStarDaily is my favorite site for dog training. Here he is credited for helping end BSL in Ohio

and here is what he wrote about BSL in 2007:

Last week I was called to the Massachusetts State House to testify about “dangerous dogs.” I agreed to go because it was just an information gathering session and anyway, Representative Vincent Pedone, who invited me sounded like a reasonable guy on the phone.

When asked about breed bans I lead off with the statement that the breed bans were odious. I guess I should have used the word hateful because a lot of people misunderstood and sent me hate email (“How could a person in your position …”etc).


I just want to hop in and say, for those people that know me, that I am not the "Emily" posting here. But I could be! I agree with everything she's written.


"Fair enough, but your point was that you wanted MEDICAL DOCTORS to give their point of view, who no doubt have less dog handling experience and training."

Brent, you and others have experience in this area. However, experience and individual facts are not enough, you must be able to step back and incorporate them into a framing of the issue that is most legitimate. You, and others that you list off, are dog- or animal-centric. This causes you to not realize that the people that see the actual extent of injuries from various dog attacks might have useful information. A vet or behaviorist is not in the same position to describe or evaluate the level of damage of an attack. That you cannot budge on or see such a rudimentary point should give you pause to consider what other blind spots you are harboring to your consistently one-sided framing of this.


Hi EmilyS... I guess I should have used an initial, too, to keep us from getting confused; kudos to you to for your fine posts :)

Dubv, a veterinary behaviorist (Ian Dunbar, in point) wrote the standard, very objective, closely defined and scientifically reasoned bite scale used by just about every educated dog trainer taking a history in aggression cases. Regrettably, the medical profession hasn't adopted it uniformly, and so we haven't got nearly as good data as we should have on dog bites. Also, physicians only see dog bites that are severe enough to warrant medical attention; the vast majority of bites don't cause enough damage for a doctor to treat.

Lastly, and y'all please forgive me if I offend, but I'm in a multitude of positions as a trainer, shelter behavior professional, humane educator and human being. I get to handle difficult and potentially dangerous dogs. I get to hold people while they cry because their beloved dog was killed by another dog. I get to break up dog fights, cuddle cute puppies, and behaviorally evaluate 100s of dogs. I get to make careful and I hope accurate calls about which dogs are safe to place and which aren't. I get to attend professional conferences, read the latest research papers and lie awake at night trying to figure out how to best help people and pets in the community. And at the end of the road, so sorry, I get to hold the dog while he or she is put down because, in my very best professional opinion, the dog just isn't safe and I don't have the resources to fix it.

I like dogs a lot, Dubv, but I also adore people--my clients, my co-workers, the folks in my community. I don't do my job with blinders on. I couldn't be an effective trainer with blinders on. When I have 80 lbs. of upset stray mixed breed growling at me at the end of a leash, believe me, rose-colored glasses don't get the job done.


By the by, I just have to add, while I'm on a tear and in a mood :)... since I founded the behavior program at our itty-bitty semi-rural shelter 7 years ago, our live release rate (thanks thank God to lots of transports) has never been below 94%. Last year, we made it to 98%.

In that time, we have never had a large-breed dog adopted from our shelter returned for biting (a couple of toy breeds, yes.) Which isn't to say some of them haven't; but we have had 0% returns for human directed aggression in tested adult dogs. And we will take our dogs back, always.


"experience and individual facts are not enough, you must be able to step back and incorporate them into a framing of the issue that is most legitimate. "

This is the highest level of total b.s.
In John Ford's classic "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, " the reporter, not really lamenting the lie that makes Jimmy Stewart's character famous, notes: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

So for DubV, actual facts/statistics/social reality... all must be subsumed under his (pre=existing) "frame". Which is that pit bulls are different, they are more dangerous, blah blah.

In the real world in which people speak a common language of common sense, not linguistic mumbojumbo, there is no need to "frame" anything.

There is simply not a shred of factual evidence that any dog that could meaningfully be called a "pit bull" bites more, is more dangerous, displays behavior different from other dogs, etc etc.

The only "frame" under which DubV's world view is true is that in which ANY blocky headed shorthaired dog is a "pit bull"...

I think DubV probably understands the world "tautology"


Real, impartial data seems to be rarely referenced in any discussion of "pit bulls."

It would be great if some of the successful animal welfare groups provided specific details of their testing and placement procedures, and what percentage of those placements are successful for the long term.

This is how Kelly Gorman Dunbar responded after a fatality in the UK. It seems common sense:

"It may be an unpopular position, but I'm guessing that most, if not all of the dogs in the attack actually presented as sweet family pets most, if not all, of the time. That is probably why the girls were left alone with them in the first place.

I love bully breeds and I stand fully opposed to breed bans and BSL for many reasons several of which are stated here and here. However, I do believe that breed type/characteristics should indeed be taken into account when selecting a companion dog and raising/training/handling or even playing with any dog. All dogs are not created equally. They are not “just dogs”. We humans have spent hundreds of years purposefully specializing them for certain tasks and confirmation. They are one of the most diversified mammals on the planet! How can we turn a blind eye to breed-specific tendencies, conformation, and strength?

I am not an alarmist, but I do think we have to be aware of what dogs are, what they are capable of doing, and respect as a species that is different than us with different needs and impulses. When we don't is when these things happen. When we don't is when we humans get them into trouble and tragedy strikes."


"Brent, you and others have experience in this area. However, experience and individual facts are not enough, you must be able to step back and incorporate them into a framing of the issue that is most legitimate. You, and others that you list off, are dog- or animal-centric"

- Dub - I think facts and experience are extremely important - and it frustrates me to no end when they are ignored. I think it's very wrong to assume that I, and others are "animal-centric". I have a family. I have friends. I don't want people, or their pets, to be injured by a dog (seeing other pets killed by dogs would not be animal-centric). I very much would love to never write a story about a dog bite or attack. And this is why I think it's so important to focus on the REASON for the attack -- the factors that led up to it. It's not some charade to try to trick people -- IT'S THE ONLY WAY TO PREVENT THEM FROM HAPPENING AND TO EDUCATE PEOPLE ABOUT HOW TO PREVENT ATTACKS. In virtually every scenerio where a community has taken the approach to focus on "breed" instead of focusing on responsible pet ownership the results have been THE OPPOSITE of public safety. When bites go down, it's good for people, it's good for dogs. We all win. And this is what I (and others) want. This is why I focus on the actual circumstantial causes of dog bites and attacks, because that's the proven way to get to that goal.

Jen O

How do they know "7 of the 9 were involved" - were the 7 pits cackling evil laughs over her dead body while the other two "innocent" dogs were cowering in the corner? I doubt it. This whole story is shady. Pit bulls are dogs - just dogs. Mutts. Everyone stop the hysteria. If the media focused 1/10 of the energy it uses going on pit bull witch hunts to educate and encourage responsible pet ownership, maybe we wouldn't have to be constantly defending what are just dogs!


["experience and individual facts are not enough, you must be able to step back and incorporate them into a framing of the issue that is most legitimate. "

This is the highest level of total b.s.]

If experience were enough, then all people of the age of 60 would be wiser than all in their 30s. Therefore, it is obvious that someone can have tons of exposure to something, and yet still not be viewing things appropriately and in a way that best fits reality. I can't believe I have to actually make this point.


"["experience and individual facts are not enough, you must be able to step back and incorporate them into a framing of the issue that is most legitimate. "

This is the highest level of total b.s.]

If experience were enough, then all people of the age of 60 would be wiser than all in their 30s" (endquote)

gee, aside from the total nonlogical "conclusion", you left out your own "facts" part, DubV.'

Why am I totally not surprised?

You're really a disingenuous, dishonest debater like most of the "I'm smarter than you" anti-pit bull people we encounter. You have a pre-exsting notion about dogbites and try to make the facts fit it with your mumbojumbo obfuscations.

And you're not nearly as smart as you think you are. You're certainly not as smart, well informed or as analytically adept as any of the folks trying to discuss the issue with you.

But let's find out about your basic credentials.

Without resort to any notions about "framing": Tell us what is your definition of "pit bull". How do you know if a "pit bull" isn't a Lab mix or a Viszla mix or a Rottweiler? How many purebred APBTs or ASTs have you actually seen?

I eagerly await your explanation of how "tons of exposure" to actual dogs is irrelevant (since you evidently have none yourself).


Dubv, thanks for clarifying the point--which is exactly our point. There is a core difference between "exposure" and "experience," or, as I prefer to refer to it, expertise. The difference between being a passionate fan of baseball (exposure) and having a .300 batting average and being able to hit one out of the park (expertise.)

The experts we're referring to aren't folks with a lot of "exposure." They aren't dog "fans." They are, precisely, folks with tons of hard-core, serious, can show tangible, objective, measurable results expertise--home run hitters who can stand at the plate with real dogs and hit it out of the park.


Keep getting comments deleted ;)

Experience and expertise are not the same thing.

Also, pit bull or dog related deaths are not decreasing over time. So, I don't see where the tangible results of these experts or your ideology actually lay. Still a ton of pit bulls being euthanized also.



Not sure what your point is at this point, but 2 things:

#1) Experience and expertise are not the same thing. But it is virtually impossible to have expertise without experience. And when the largest percentage of the people who have both favor one side of an argument, it better take someone with extreme expertise, or evidence, to invalidate that. The "pit bulls are naturally aggressive" crowd has no one with experience, expertise, or real evidence -- which should tell you something.

#2) The number of people in this country is grwowing. The number of dogs in this country is growing. The number of deathsand major attacks is essentially increasing over time to match the growth in the other two categories. I firmly believe that if people with no expertise would shut up so people with actual expertise could get more air time and talk about the human behavioral elements that lead to attacks we could be making more headway. But sadly, as soon as there is an attack, the talk of "breed" by people without knowledge or expertise gets in the way of real education and conversation -- which is why you're again being put on a short leash - because you're just wasting everyone's time and distracting from the real issues. Looking at this case as anything more than irresponsible adults allowing a toddler to wander outside alone and tragically the toddler found her way into a bad situation, then they're dilusional. I'm glad the authorities are pressing charges -- and at least get that there were issues with the adult people in this equation, not the dogs.


Brent, people can lay out their experience and data on a topic. Someone with less experience or data can look at it and state "you are doing it wrong. basic logic would indicate you looking at the information and your experience a different way or collecting a different set of data. you are not forming conclusions correctly from this information and seem to have a blind spot." And then go on to explain why. When I do that you call foul. It is if anyone that disagrees with scientific claim A must have evidence for scientific claim B ready to submit. That isn't how things work.

Let me paraphrase the famous Ian Dunbar. He stated that judging dog breeds was like racism. That someone with his experience can utter something so vacuous, and that so many on your side agree with this, shows that many cannot be trusted to draw conclusions from their own experience or collect the appropriate information and analyze it correctly.

Test yourself, Brent, do you see why equating judging a dog breed to racism in humans is idiotic? If you can't easily see why, then a canary in a coal mine just hit the bottom of its cage, and you should take notice.

The comments to this entry are closed.