10.27.2012

Animal Experts and the Innate Aggressive Traits of Pit Bulldogs

No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study, and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, 1859
English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)






















Behaviorists/veterinarians

RANDALL LOCKWOOD, PhD

FRANKLIN LOEW, dean of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine  
HUGH WIRTH, veterinarian




GRAEME SMITH, veterinarian
My views about associating a breed with dangerous behaviours were challenged over time as I saw the impact of Pit Bull attacks. Talking to owners with dogs of this breed who have themselves been turned on, it became clear that these animals are unpredictable and when they attack they can cause serious injury or death. It is very hard to give Pit Bulls the benefit of the doubt.
If it looks like a Pit Bull, it is a Pit Bull.
What’s at stake is the safety of people and their own pets in the wider community, there is no room for gambling with an unpredictable animal. 


And that is so often the case. No one knows where these dogs are until they come out and cause some form of grief. My position is about protecting the public and other animals from these animals.



NICHOLAS DODMAN, BVMS, ACVB, ACVA

on the MA muzzling law
After a spate of attacks by pit bulls this summer, Massachusetts lawmakers passed legislation requiring the dogs to be muzzled in public. Some pit bull owners protested, but a Tufts expert says the law may be a good idea. Breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers, says animal behavior expert Nick Dodman, are hardwired for aggression.

“Some of these dogs are as dangerous as a loaded handgun,” Dodman– director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at TuftsSchool of Veterinary Medicine – said in an interview with The Boston Globe Magazine.

Genetics play a big role.

“No doubt about it, pit bulls are genetically predisposed toward aggression,” he told the magazine. “Justas certain breeds of dogs were bred to herd, certain were bred to hunt, certain to point, and others to swim.”

While most pet owners accept that their dogs have certain genetic behavioral characteristics, there is still resistance to the idea that some dogs are more dangerous than others.

“Everybody accepts [genetic behaviors like herding or hunting] until you throw in the word ‘aggression’ and things like a full, crushing bite, which some breeds were specifically bred for in the past.”

Statistics on dog attacks reinforce the link between certain dogs and dangerous behavior.

“It’s like a scene from “Casablanca” when they say, ‘Roundup the usual suspects,’” Dodman told the Globe.“It’s always German shepherds, chow, husky, pit bull.The numbers do the talking.”

He added that pit bulls and Rottweilers alone account for more than 50 percent of the fatal dog attacks every year. Despite the danger, the owners of these dogs often fail to take proper precautions.

“A lot of owners of aggressive breeds are suffering from denial and ignorance, because no one wants to be fingered as having that kind of dog,” Dodman said.


“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.”



KATHERINE HOUPT, VMD, PhD, DACVB



BONNIE V. BEAVER, BS, DVM, MS, DACVB, Professor and Chief of Medicine, Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University
Executive Director, American College of Veterinary Behaviorists



"It's very poor policy to allow any child around a pit bull, in my mind, let alone climb on a dog.


KATHRYN HAWKINS, DVM
After seeing another dog die from a pit bull attack, I feel compelled to write. The opinion that pit bulls are "mean because of the way they are raised" is often not the case. A Both of the dogs I took care of that died were attacked unprovoked by pit bulls that were in families that raised them responsibly. Just as a retriever is bred to hunt birds -- an instinct you can't stop -- many pit bulls have a genetic tendency to attack other animals. When they do, they are extremely powerful and don't quit. I have never been bitten or growled at by a pit bull -- they are very friendly. But when the instinct to attack another animal occurs, they cause serious damage, or death. They don't bite people any more often than other breeds but when they do, it's bad. The aggressiveness toward other animals and damage they do is not because of "the way they are raised" -- it is usually due to a genetic instinct not in the control of the owner.



ARTHUR HERM, veterinarian, animal control
He said he disagrees with those people who believe they can train aggressiveness out of dogs, and added he believes aggressiveness is “inherent” and “genetic” in all dogs while pit bulls “seem to have more of that.”



MICHAEL W. FOX, veterinarian, animal behaviorist



SHERYL BLAIR, Tufts Veterinary School symposium - Animal Aggression: Dog Bites and the Pit Bull Terrier
The injuries these dogs inflict are more serious than other breeds because they go for the deep musculature and don't release; they hold and shake.
GARY WILKES, animal behaviorist
No other breed in America is currently bred for fighting, in such great numbers as the American Pit Bull Terrier. No other breed has instinctive behaviors that are so consistently catastrophic when they occur, regardless of how rarely they happen. The reality is that every English Pointer has the ability to point a bird. Every Cattle Dog has the ability to bite the heel of a cow and every Beagle has the ability to make an obnoxious bugling noise when it scents a rabbit or sees a cat walking on the back fence. Realistically, if your English Pointer suddenly and unpredictably points at a bird in the park, nobody cares. If my Heeler nips your ankle, I’m going to take care of your injuries and probably be fined for the incident. If your Beagle bugles too much, you’ll get a ticket for a noise violation. If your Pit Bull does what it’s bred to do...well, you fill in the blank.



ALEXANDRA SEMYONOVA, animal behaviorist



JOHN FAUL, animal behaviorist




Jørn Våge, Tina B Bønsdorff, Ellen Arnet, Aage Tverdal and Frode Lingaas, Differential gene expression in brain tissues of aggressive and non-aggressive dogs
The domestic dog (Canis familiaris), with its more than 400 recognised breeds [1], displays great variation in behaviour phenotypes. Favourable behaviour is important for well-being and negative traits such as aggression may ruin the owner-dog relationship and lead to relinquishment to shelters or even euthanasia of otherwise healthy dogs [2,3]. Behavioural traits result from an interaction of both genetic and environmental factors. Breed specific behavioural traits such as hunting, herding and calmness/aggression are, however, evidence of a large genetic component and specific behaviours show high heritabilities [4-8].


ALAN BECK, Sc.D


MERRITT CLIFTON, journalist, Animal People editor
There are very few people, if any, who have written more on behalf of dogs over the past 40-odd years than I have, or spent more time down the back alleys of the developing world observing dogs in the habitats in which normal dogs came to co-evolve with humans. But appreciation of the ecological roles of street dogs & coyotes, exposing dog-eating and puppy mills, opposition to indiscriminate lethal animal control, introduction of high-volume low-cost spay/neuter and anti-rabies vaccination, introduction of online adoption promotion, encouraging the formation of thousands of new humane societies worldwide, etc., are not to be confused with pit bull advocacy. Pit bull advocacy is not defending dogs; it is defending the serial killers of the dog world, who kill, injure, and give bad reputations to all the rest. Indeed, pit bull advocacy, because it erodes public trust in dogs and people who care about dogs, stands a good chance of superseding rabies as the single greatest threat to the health, well-being, and human appreciation of all dogs worldwide.



STANLEY COREN, PhD
"A dog's breed tells us a lot about that dog's genetic heritage and makeup. Genetics is a strong determinant of personality. In the absence of any other information, we can make a reasonable prediction about how the dog will behave based upon its breed." p 84

"When we crossbreed, we lose some of that predictability, since which genes will be passed on by each parent and how they will combine is a matter of chance. Fortunately, there is some data to suggest that we can still make predispositions without knowing much about its parentage. John Paul Scott and John L Fuller carried out a series of selective breeding experiments at the Jackson Laboratories in Bar Harbor, Maine. By happy chance, their results revealed a simple rule that seems to work. Their general conclusion was that a mixed breed dog is most likely to act like the breed that it most looks like." p 77




Dog trainers/animal control, Pit Bull breeders, owners, fanciers, experts

TARYN BLYTH, Dog Trainer
  1. No one is saying that a lot of Pit Bulls can’t be “successfully” socialised with other dogs. Many socialised from puppyhood are very friendly and outgoing with other dogs. The problem arises if and when fighting behaviour is triggered. Even if the Pit Bull does not start the fight, getting into conflict with another animal will often trigger their “grab, shake and kill” response.
  2. “Normal” dogs engage in “ritualised” forms of aggression when they come into conflict. This involves lots of noise, but no real damage. However, when Pit Bulls fight they engage the shake-bite/kill-bite part of the predatory sequence with often fatal or near fatal results. There is seldom time to intervene to rescue the other dog before serious damage is done.
  3. When Pit Bulls engage in a fight, far from this inducing an aversive state of mind (most dogs are in a defensive, survival mode during fights), opioids and dopamine are released in their brains making them feel really good - this feeling is so pleasurable that they will often seek out this behaviour again. In the same way that a border collie is built to feel really good when herding sheep, Pit Bulls are built to feel really good when fighting.
  4. Due to the opioid release during fights, Pit Bulls do not feel pain and so fight on regardless of injury - trying to stop a fight is incredibly difficult.
  5. When “normal” dogs fight, they usually respond to appeasement behaviour from their “opponent” i.e. as fighting is not designed to kill, but to resolve conflict without serious harm, one dog may “give in” and display behaviour which will cause the other dog to back off. Pit Bulls do not respond to appeasement behaviour during fights as this would have been counterproductive in the fighting pits and has been bred out of them.
  6. In my experience Pit Bulls have a very low reactivity threshold - this means that stimuli at low intensities which would be ignored by other dogs are often triggers for aggressive behaviour in the breed. They also have very high arousal levels - they become physiologically aroused very quickly and to extreme levels.

TRISH KING, Director, Behavior & Training Dept. Marin Humane Society

The fourth undesirable characteristic - arousal or excitement - is actually the most problematic. Many bully dogs cannot seem to calm themselves down once they get excited. And once they get excited all their behaviors are exacerbated. Thus, if a dog is over-confident and has a tendency to body slam or mount, he or she will really crash into the other dog or person when he's aroused, sometimes inadvertently causing injury. He may begin to play-bite, and then bite harder and harder and harder. When you try to stop the behavior, the dog often becomes even more "aggressive." In this way, play can turn into aggression fairly quickly. Research on the brain has shown that excited play has exactly the same chemistry as extreme anger. This allows a play behavior to switch quickly into aggression. And, once the dog has become aggressive a few times, the switch is much easier.



DIANE JESSUP, pit bull expert, breeder, former ACO
"Jessup, the animal control officer in Olympia, uses two pit bulls to train police and animal control officers on surviving dogs attacks.
Unlike dogs who are nippers and rippers, her pit bulls are typically "grippers" who bite down and hang onto their victims."


Jessup believes that much of dog behavior comes from their genes. “I truly believe that a dog is about 90% genetics,” says Jessup.
on protection sports
This difference in “sheepdog versus bulldog” mentality in a trainer is best understood when training the "out!” or release command. It is common practice for those training shepherds and sheepdog types to use force such as hard leash corrections or electric shock to get the dog to release the sleeve. Sadly, I had one young man come to me because a club trainer was slugging his little Am Staff bitch in the nose, till she bled, trying to get her to release the sleeve. She would not! And of course she would not! She was a good little bulldog, hanging on for dear life, just as her bull and bear baiting ancestors of old did. She was a super little gripping dog, who took the pain she experienced as just “part of the job” once her owner set her upon the sleeve. And this is the response from well bred pit bulldogs—to ignore pain while gripping. It is, after all, what they are bred for! Give me a bulldog like her, rather than one which will allow itself to be yanked off the sleeve due to pain.



MARK KUMPF, Montgomery County, Ohio Dog Warden 
on the cost of dog fighting “We had to go back and re-engineer our housing because the dogs were able to literally pull apart the cages.”



MICHAEL BURNS, Los Angeles Animal Control Lt.
You have a dog that has aggressive tendencies enhanced through constant and incestuous breeding. If there are some recessive genes on the aggressive or psychotic side, they will make themselves manifest.

They are different. There's an absence of the normal sounds a dog makes when it attacks. It's almost a workmanlike way they hold on in an attack. It's a persistence I haven't seen in any other breed.




KURT LAPHAM, a field investigator for the West Coast Regional office of the Humane Society
Most breeds do not multiple-bite. A pit bull attack is like a shark attack: He keeps coming back.



DAVID GENDREGSKE, Clare County MI Animal Control Director
“In my opinion they appeal to the most irresponsible pet owners and to younger people,” he said. “The younger people have no jobs to support the animal, or they have to move where animals aren’t allowed and (the dogs) end up here.” Certain people like pit bulls because they are intimidating, he said. “They want to scare people. It’s an intimidation thing. They’re number one with those being incarcerated. If there’s a dog left behind (when someone is sentenced to jail or prison), it’s always a pit bull,” he said. He cited the time a pit bull got out of a car and attacked a horse. He was pulled off, but he went back and grabbed the throat. He was pulled off again and again and went back after different parts of the horse. “What kind of a dog but a pit bull would do that?” he asked. “All dogs can bite but not with that ferocity. “ Some people will say that how a pit bull acts and reacts is dependent upon how the dog is raised, he said. “But he was raised to kill for centuries,” he said. “You can’t breed it out in one generation.” If the popularity of pit bulls is a fad, it’s a long term one, he said. “I keep seeing more and more pit bulls,” he said. “It’s getting worse.” Pit bulls, he said, are not good as a working dog, except for perhaps wild boar hunting. “And they’re not one of the smarter breeds,” he said, despite other’s beliefs that they are intelligent.



KEVIN COUTTS, Head Dog Ranger, Rotorua, New Zealand
There was concern among dog authorities about American pitbulls being allowed into New Zealand as they were dangerous, unpredictable animals, Mr Coutts said.

"A lot of people in this town get them because they are a staunch dog and they will fight. They are perceived as vicious ... It's frustrating they were ever allowed in the country ... we can't go back now though," Mr Coutts said.


COUTTS' comment on a pit car mauling
This sort of thing happens when people own this breed of dog and then don't look after them.



VICTORIA STILWELL, celebrity dog trainer
Presas are not to be fooled with, they're dangerous. You've got a fighting breed here. You've got a dog that was bred for fighting. You've got one of the most difficult breeds to handle.



CESAR MILAN, celebrity dog trainer
"Yeah, but this is a different breed...the power that comes behind bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed - They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don't feel the pain anymore. He is using the bulldog in him, which is way too powerful, so we have to 'make him dog' (I guess as in a "regular" dog) so we can actually create the limits. So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it's not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender.". If you add pain, it only infuriates them..to them pain is that adrenaline rush, they are looking forward to that, they are addicted to it... That's why they are such great fighters." Cesar goes on to say..."Especially with fighting breeds, you're going to have these explosions over and over because there's no limits in their brain."



GARRETT RUSSO, dog trainer
I estimate Medical & Veterinary bills related to injuries caused by pit bulls in the Tompkins Square dog run in 2011, $140,000.00. Estimated Medical (human) & Veterinary (canine) bills from all other breeds and mixed breeds combined during the same period, $5,000.00. (Estimate gathered from reports to by owners to the dog park association.)



STEVE DUNO, dog trainer, pit bull owner
"The dogs that participated in these attacks weren't Pekingese. You don't have herds of Pekingese roaming the city attacking people. When someone says all breeds are created equal, well then they're denying the definition of what a breed is. Breed serves a particular purpose."

"I like them. They're eager. They're athletic. They're aesthetically pleasing. But even if they're bred perfectly, they can be problematic, particularly with other dogs."

"When you combine the breed specific behaviors ... with owners who either don't give a rip, or with owners who (have) too much dog, you have a problem."



JEAN DONALDSON, dog trainer




KATHY CLAYTON, chairwoman of the Animal Behavior Consultants of South Africa
Pit bulls where genetically bred to attack and be vicious.



ARLENE STERLING, Newaygo County, MI Chief Animal Control Officer






JIM CROSBY, pit bull hired gun



DIANE JESSUP, Washington pit bull owner and expert



JOHN ROCKHOLT, South Carolina dogman



MARK PAULHUS, HSUS southeast regional coordinator


KATE RINDY, co-author Pit Bulls Are Different, former HSUS employee and assistant to Randall Lockwood, former executive director of Santa Fe Animal Shelter & Humane Society




PEGGY E. WARFLE, Manager Wake Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animal Shelters, Raleigh, NC.
"All Pit Bulls should be spayed and neutered" ..."That way we could do away with the breed, couldn't we? It wouldn't be a great loss to dogdom."




Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right. 
MARTIN LUTHER KING
 

11 comments:

DubV said...

Mill is a bad ass of history, a true genius. Great quote that I haven't read before.

dawn james said...

it is a great quote. i was re-reading (more like skimming) on liberty and thought i would use it. the quote was supposed to be the beginning of a blog post but i accidentally hit publish instead of save. i thought about deleting it but decided to just let it stand on its own.

DubV said...

I just heard a great quote from a youtube guy named C0nc0rdance:

"People should give themselves, as a gift to themselves, a chance to hear the opposing viewpoint."

snack sized dog said...

Glad you've published this fantastic compendium here. It needs to get out there!

I agree the Mill quote is fantastic. With especially Dodman in mind, I'd add to the King quote "Avarice asks the question, 'Is it profitable?'"

snack sized dog said...

DubV, that is a great quote, too. But with the caveat that once you've heard it and disposed of it, no need to hear it ad nauseum...thinking of nutters....

Responsiblek9 said...

If wild coyotes or wolves were attacking killing and maiming as many children and adults as the pit bull is doing. There would be a powerful public hue and cry to the Government demanding they eliminate such dangerous wildlife or seriously reduce their numbers.

And the majority wont look at the issue of these gladiator breeds have outlived their usefulness with no place in a modern society.

april 29 said...

The most common quote regarding pit bulls comes from pretty much every pit bull victim. A reporter will shove a microphone in front of our dirty, bloody faces and ask for a comment. The comment is always the same "nobody should have to go through this." In that instant another public safety advocate is born.

Amanda Claire Richards said...

Rotorua, New Zealand (not Rotura) :)

dawn james said...

thank you.

Ted said...

The dogs are no strangers to ordinances. A pit bull ban was passed in London in the 1400s.

This is an excellent example of the rampant, rubbish propaganda you champion! The breed did not exist in the 1400s! Not for another four centuries! So how could this be?
You accuse everyone who has any real personal experience of Pitbulls of being fanatics and any info on the breed that is not detrimental you call propaganda.
Take a look at yourselves is what I say! You repeat the same propaganda over and over, without any real evidence to back any of it up! A quote from someone you have proclaimed as an "expert" is not evidence. It is like claiming that a religious zealot knows more about evolution than a scientist. Believers vs "Knowers".

dawn james said...

ted, i agree. the AMERICAN PIT BULL TERRIER did not exist in the 1400's. the AMERICAN PIT BULL TERRIER did not exist during Thomas Jefferson's life time but that doesn't stop nutters from including him on the list of famous APBT owners.

my complaint is not just with the AMERICAN PIT BULL TERRIER. my complaint is with gripping dogs.

you do realize that the APBT is a descendant of the bull baiter, right? you do realize that the bull baiter is a very old dog, right?