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Fact or fiction...Pitbulls

16567 Views 64 Replies 24 Participants Last post by  SpicyBulldog
I have spent quite a few days this last week researching Pit Bulls and everything related, including what dogs fall into the mix.
After sifting through thousands of articles and social media attempts at trying to convince one way or the other, I have become deafened by both sides of the debate by senseless, shortsighted, and closed minded information.
I am on the fence if it is at all possible to have an objective and informative resource to get to the bottom of the hysteria regarding all things Pit bull, and I think if it can be achieved, this may be the place.

I ask that all participants keep an open mind and stick to documented facts from "reliable" sources.
Personal experiences can alter the objectiveness I am hoping for but welcome these experiences if the breed is not generalized by this experience.
Pitbulls are not bad, my kid plays with ours everyday and has never been bitten.
Pitbulls should be banned because my family member was attacked!

I would like to get to the bottom of the hype. What is true and what is fiction.
In regards to questions, it would be great to have answers backed up with a source so that the source can be verified or challenged as fact or fiction by a source.

Is this a last resort or is it a case of enough is enough?

Off leash/on leash/muzzle
Restriction of breed, look, character, or does it matter?

Pit bull to dog bite
Crazy/untrained Pit bull or defensive attributes?

Got a question? Ask.
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I've met pitbulls whom I found quite nice and pitbulls I wouldn't go near. In both cases, my reaction was based on behavior, not breed. Having had one knock over an older, small dog of mine repeatedly as we walked our regular walk route a couple of years ago (after slamming into me so hard that I ended up with a slightly injured wrist on his way to get to my dog), I am definitely more cautious around them when with my leashed twenty pound dog. To be perfectly fair, the same week, I was walking the exact same small dog and another pit bull came out of nowhere, just as the first hand, and I put myself between that dog and my dog and told it, in no uncertain terms, to stay away from us, and it immediately hit the ground and looked as if it might cry. I apologized and it wagged its tail and looked relieved, but it did stay back and away from us when I insisted upon it. Even if it was a friendly dog, the size differential worried me, as its idea of play could have become too much for my smaller older dog, and for me, as I was recovering from shoulder surgery and had only recently gotten out of my sling.

I think the problem for pitbulls is complex. Part of it is that there are simply too many of them because they are, at the moment, a popular and profitable breed, leading to too many of them being poorly bred. Their numbers are far greater than the number of appropriate homes/owners available for them. The controversy surrounding them also leads to the two worst types of owners they could possibly have getting their hands on them: those who want them to portray a "tough" image and/or fight them and those who want to prove how unfair their reputation is but who are completely unprepared and/or ill-equipped to handle a big, strong dog with a prey drive appropriately. I was in a class with a couple who fit into the last category and their Angel (the dog's name--I'm not being sarcastic) may have been the "good dog" they kept describing her as at home, but she was not a good candidate for therapy dog training because she was definitely dog reactive. She went after everything from a toy poodle to a sizable labradoodle for no other reason than that she apparently felt they were uncomfortably close to her. They weren't any closer to her than would be normal in a training class, but it was too much for her, and her owners couldn't handle her when she got aggressive because one had a bad knee and the other a bad hip. Why they thought a big, strong, young dog was a good fit for their situation, I have no idea, and it also irked me that they kept going on about how people were so quick to misjudge pitbull behavior, when their dog kept reinforcing all the stereotypes they wanted to destroy because they couldn't handle her and didn't understand--or want to admit--that she just wasn't going to be able to pass the TDI test, as she wanted nothing to do with other dogs being within ten feet of her, and the more they kept denying that, the more miserable and reactive she was going to be. Maybe with a lot of training with an appropriate owner, she would have gotten better, but as it was, it wasn't going to work, and all they were doing was upsetting their dog and everyone else in the class, who, quite logically, didn't want their dogs near that pitbull because of its behavior, not its breed. If it had been a snarling, snapping cocker spaniel who went after other dogs, I wouldn't have wanted my dog near it either.

Honestly, for everyone's sake, including the various breeds that make up the group commonly referred to as pitbulls, I wish their popularity would start fading because if it did, dogs and people would probably be better off as then there would be fewer poorly bred pitties out there and fewer dogs in the wrong hands/homes.
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There is another problem with the insurance issues--and with the issue of mutts. I've always had mixed breeds that have been terrier mixes of some sort (or at least they have been listed as such--I've never done the DNA testing). One was about forty-five pounds but the rest were right around twenty to twenty-four pounds. None of them could have been remotely identified as being even part pitbull (see my avatar for reference). But because the local humane society lists all its pitbull and pittie mixes as "terrier mixes" so that people who rent can identify them as such to avoid the problems people with pitbulls can have renting (and a humane society representative admitted they do exactly that in an article in a local dog publication), anybody with a terrier mix can end up having trouble renting or getting insurance, even if what they own is part Westie and obviously not a bully breed. Fortunately, my insurance agent is more understanding and I own my own home and thus do not deal with landlords, but it bothers me that if my circumstances were different, the issues caused by people who breed/own pitbulls who shouldn't could be affecting me and my dogs as well.

And with regard to the XL Pits, I ran into what was probably a pitbull/Mastiff mix at a local park--or rather, I avoided running into him. My dog and I were about four city blocks away when I parked the car and let my leashed dog out so that we could walk the greenway. The XL Pit and his owner--who was extremely out of shape and obviously not capable of going after his dog if it had gotten away from him--were in the playground area. His dog saw mine at that extreme distance, leapt to its feet, and made it very clear that if it could get to us, it would destroy my dog and perhaps me as well. What did his owner do? He laughed, as I went a literal mile in the opposite direction to catch the greenway at a different juncture so that we wouldn't get any closer to that dog. Meanwhile his owner obviously thought it was funny that he could keep every other dog out of that area of the park because his dog was so "tough." I shudder to think what would have happened if the dog had been irritated by any of the couple of dozen children or their parents who were in that playground area. I seriously doubt the owner could have controlled that dog even if he had wanted to bother to do so.
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Just because bullies are often dog aggressive to some extent - that dog is not any more likely than another mutt or dog of a background you don't know to start attacking humans. I mean sure, an untrained large dog with an irresponsible owner is a nuisance at best and a danger at worst, but I hope you didn't shudder because of the dog being a "mastiff/bully" of some kind. Although perhaps the sheer size was intimidating if the dog was mastiff-like.
I have a friend with both a mastiff and a Newfoundland who are lovely dogs. I've been around other giant breeds and have no problem with them. I had a problem with this dog because he was clearly out of control and the guy who had the dog thought it was amusing that his dog was causing such a scene about my dog being a good four blocks away that I couldn't go out for a walk on a public greenway (where, again, my leashed dog would have been at least a block away from him) without going way out of my way for safety's sake. My concern was that if someone irritated the dog--and I did specifically mention the word"irritated"--that the dog might decide he didn't care for that person either and that his owner was not likely to be able to handle that much dog even if he were inclined to do so. It's also not like it was entirely unlikely that he and his dog weren't going to see another dog on a beautiful weekend spring afternoon at a large and popular city park attached to the greenway that follows the river through my city. He was either setting his dog up to fail or he just didn't care that everyone else was going to have to work around his inability to control his dog or just his plain lack of interest in doing so because it amused him that his big, tough dog would force anyone else with a dog to avoid the area he had staked out as his--an area that it was pretty much necessary to cross if you were coming into the park from the parking lot and wanted access to the prettiest, most popular part of the greenway river walk. He was also not walking his dog or giving it any exercise at all. He was just sitting there on a park bench while his dog snarled and leapt to the end of the leash at any dog that crossed his line of vision--which was certainly not doing much for some of the kids who were playing on the nearby playground either, as the dog sounded and looked scary even to someone like me, who's used to being around all sizes and shapes of dogs, even if the ones I own tend to be around twenty pounds or so.

As I've said in earlier posts, I've met some great and some not-so-great bully breed dogs, and ninety percent (or more) of the time, the problems I've seen with individual dogs have been owner-based because the dogs have either been handled by someone who thought their poor behavior was "cool" or because they've been handled by someone who just isn't capable of handling a breed of that size. The guy I saw in the park, sadly, seemed to land in both categories, and if that dog had decided to lunge at a dog foolish enough to get near him, I doubt he could have controlled him even if he'd tried. Given his temperament and his owner's lackadaisical attitude about that temperament, I was concerned that it was possible--possible, not inevitable--that the dog could be upset by a human approaching him in a way he found distasteful and that something bad would happen as a result.
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Although to redact my previous statement a bit... yeah I'd be more leery of a guardian breed like a mastiff than a smaller, non-guardian breed dog. But I don't see how that's related to "pit bulls" at all. Why do all scary looking short haired dogs get lumped into one category? I fail to see the similarity between a 100+ lb guardian breed and my 50 lb bully mutt.

The only dog I've ever been truly afraid of was a Briard. A clueless family I used to babysit for owned this huge fluffy dog, and my first night of babysitting he cornered me in a room while holding their baby and gave me a warning bite (snap? I don't know, he made light contact) to the arm. I made them crate for a while after, and never trusted him. He never became friendly towards me. But he gets dragged around the city without a blink of anyone's eyes because he's not reminiscent of a "pit bull" or some other "scary" dog breed.
It's related to pit bulls because a poster upthread mentioned that he/she knew of people who were attempting to breed super-sized pitbulls much larger than the standard pitbull. My comment was that I thought I'd seen something that would fall into that category, though I have no idea if the dog I saw was a purposeful cross or just an accidental one. He was enormous, however, and I've been around standard-sized mastiffs, so I suspect something of that size was in the mix there, though the shape of the head was more bully breed than mastiff. Again, as was mentioned upthread, it's scary enough when standard sized pitties end up with people who have no idea what they should be doing with them (or any dog, for that matter), so the idea of a super-sized version in the wrong hands was even scarier--and I added the specific example of seeing a similar situation that was indeed not good. The discussion was really about why that kind of breeding is not a good idea for anyone, including, if not especially, the dogs themselves because very few people would probably be the right owners for a dog that big and strong and, unfortunately, some of the people who would want one would probably be exactly the worst people to own one. And besides, it's already hard enough to find appropriate homes for all the standard sized homeless bully breeds out there. Adding extra large ones to the mix is just needlessly complicating the problem.

And just to be clear, there are some small, ill-tempered individual dogs I wouldn't let my dog near either. But if he had to, he could probably fend for himself against an irate toy poodle. Even a big dog who was just playing could accidentally hurt him--in fact, he accidentally collided with a neighbor's golden retriever when they were chasing each other around the yard, and he got knocked straight off his feet. Now when he plays with that golden, he's careful to keep a little more distance between them. So, if there's a large dog who's clearly dog reactive--a bully/mastiff cross, a St. Bernard, an Irish wolfhound, it makes no difference--I'm going to keep my dog out of the line of fire, so to speak. That's especially true if the dog is being handled by someone who's clueless or just doesn't care.
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The term American Pit Bull Terrier is specific. However, even pit bull rescues like Bad Rap indicate on their sites that the generic term "pit bull" popularly refers to a variety of dogs, quite often mixes, just like other terms that refer to larger groups of dogs such as terriers, spaniels, retrievers etc. as opposed to a specific breed. So, it seems to me, that some posters might interpret the term that way too, so that someone's foolish attempt to breed a huge pit bull by crossing a typical bully breed with a mastiff would be fair game to bring up in a post about pit bulls, and it wouldn't be inappropriate for someone else to respond to that post. No one's endorsing the idea of such a breeding attempt or blaming all pit bull owners, much less pit bulls, for it. All the posts I've read are generally blaming the perception of pit bulls as "dangerous" or "bad" on situations where the dogs were owned or bred (or both) by the wrong people. The same can be true of any breed if it becomes too popular or profitable. It just happens to be occurring with the pit bull right now. If all the posts discussing irresponsible breeding or ownership were eliminated from the thread, the thread certainly wouldn't be five pages long at this point, and really, isn't irresponsible breeding and/or ownership at the heart of the perception problems the American Pit Bull terrier is having? Also, the original poster did say it was okay to bring up personal experience stories as long as they weren't used to "prove" that all pit bulls were bad or good, and so far as I can tell, no one has done that, including myself. We've spoken about specific situations that illustrated why some people really shouldn't be handling/owning/breeding pit bulls and how their behavior reflects badly on pit bulls, however specifically or generically someone might be using that term.

I have nothing against the American Pit Bull Terrier as a breed or against the larger group of dogs commonly referred to as pit bulls. I think the current number of the those commonly referred to as pit bulls is problematic because there aren't enough appropriate homes for them and inappropriate homes cause problems for everyone, including the dogs. And, unfortunately, I don't have an answer as to how to best fix that situation and am not certain anyone really does.
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