Pit Bull Terriers: Friend Or Foe?

By Allie Smith

Everyone has heard of Michael Vick, the football player who pleaded guilty in April 2007 for his involvement in an illegal dog fighting ring. Ever since news broke about Vick, pit bulls have been a hot topic in the news and everyone has something to say, sometimes good and sometimes bad. What is the truth about pit bulls? According to dogsbite.org, a website dedicated to reducing dog attacks, one of the most deadly breeds of dogs is pit bull terriers. Research from Animal People, an animal protection newspaper, shows that from 2005 to 2011, pit bulls accounted for 215 of the total 466 recorded fatal attacks in America.

On the other hand, research must be backed up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics come from counting newspaper reports of attacks claiming the attacking dogs were “pit bull-type” dogs. With claims come inaccuracies. If no DNA tests are performed, breed-specific legislation does not address the fact that a dog of any breed can become dangerous when bred or trained to be aggressive. According to pitbulls.org, a website on pit bull information, the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Association do not recommend discriminating based on breed. Pitbulls.org claims that, “the frenzy against Pit Bulls is nothing but blind fear fueled by the human need to find a scapegoat. There is not a single shred of proof that the American Pit Bull Terrier is a vicious, dangerous breed.”

The American Temperament Test Society, a non-profit breed testing organization, regularly performs an interesting test called a temperament test on popular breeds or dogs. The test simulates a casual walk through the park where everyday life situations are encountered. During the walk, the dog experiences auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli. Friendly, neutral, and threatening situations are encountered which test the dog’s ability to distinguish between non-threatening situations and those that call for protective reactions. The dog fails the test if it shows strong avoidance, panic without recovery, and unprovoked aggression. In 2008, American pit bull terriers passed the test at a rate of 85.3%. What is more interesting is that Collies and Golden Retrievers, dogs typically considered to be family friendly, tested at a rate of around 77%.

While it’s true that pit bull are not born vicious, they may be born dangerous. It’s in the genetics of a pit bull to bite, clamp, hold, and shake but there’s no question that environment can play a role in how a dog reacts to situations. According to the Pit Bull Rescue Central website, it is important to have pit bulls socialize with other dogs and animals to prevent attacks. When learning of pit bull attacks, one must consider how the dog was kept and treated. Often times, the owners of pit bulls are at fault for the way their dogs act due to poor treatment and even abuse.

Animal control officers across the country have told the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals that when they alert the media to a dog attack, news outlets respond that they have no interest in reporting on dog attacks unless they involve pit bulls. A trend of reporting dog attacks has recently emerged: most short-haired, stocky dogs are called pit bulls. When a dangerous dog’s breed is unknown, the media often assumes the dog involved is a pit bull. In the rush to publish news coverage, many dog attacks are reported to be by pit bulls but then are later corrected, but the damage is already done and forms an impression on the public.

Are pit bull terriers dangerous? Yes and no. The bottom line is that pit bulls are genetically able to fatally injury but they are not born vicious, they are often a product of their owner.

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6 responses to “Pit Bull Terriers: Friend Or Foe?

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  2. Thank you for writing about pitbulls as fairly as you can. I would like to add my own comments based on personal experiences.

    First off, I have nothing against the APBT breed per se. I agree with most of your comments. Yes, the media is having a field day reporting only pit bull related attacks. Yes any dog can bite.

    However, I do not agree with using the American temperament test as a means by which to say the Pitbull is of better temperament than, say, a Labrador. Look deeper into exactly what’s being tested. I don’t know if anyone who quotes this actually goes online and researches what’s being tested.

    The dogs are mainly being tested to show an “appropriate” reaction to various stimuli. For example, they are testing whether a dog reacts to things like a stranger approaching with a huge coat on in a threatening manner and a person nearby who acts in a crazy way. The dog is supposed to react to the stimuli in a protective/aggressive manner.

    So I’m not entirely sure that quoting that pitbulls score highly here is supposed to prove they have better temperaments than Labradors?

    Secondly, I do agree that any dog that has been abused or mistreated has the potential of turning on their owners or other people/animals.

    However, I will not subscribe to the pitbull-brigade excuses that every single pitbull attack was provoked or happened because the dog was mistreated or untrained. Believing that is dangerous. Its not responsible to go around spreading myths about the dog breed and giving people a false sense of security. Its simply not true that the hundreds of thousands of attacks around the world are all by dogs who have been mistreated. Is every Labrador who bites an abused dog? No! Is every poodle that bites another dog at the dog park an abused poodle? No! It sounds ludicrous even! So why does this apply to every pitbull who attacks? It’s not rational.

    The truth is that pitbulls are genetically wired to fight. Everything about them is designed to beat a competitor at fighting. They are man-made. They have distinct breed traits that make them better at fighting than any other breed out there.

    Does that mean that every pitbull will fight or attack? No. Does that mean every pitbull owner should be blind to what their dog is capable of if the circumstances were right? No.

    I’ve found most pitbull advocates are actually do more harm than good for the breed with sheer ignorance. I can’t tell you how many pitbull owners say things like ” oh mine is just a goofball. He would lick you to death if anything”. This is not responsible.

    Any good pitbull breeder will tell you the number one rule of owning a pitbull is to never assume your dog won’t bite. I wish pitbull owners would do more research on this breed before wowing one and fighting people online about them.

    They a bred to fight. Most pitbulls “turn on” at around the 2 year old mark, once they are mature. No pitbull breeder will deny this. Pitbull owners needs to know what this means and how to handle it. This is when their instincts kick in full swing. Their prey drive is in full gear. The level to which a pitbull will turn on is an individual thing. It’s going to happen no matter how well this dog is treated or trained. The extent of this is different with each dog. Some dogs barely show any signs. Some dogs go from happy go lucky love bugs into wanting to lunge at every passing dog or car.

    Most pitbulls are somewhere in between. But this is why there is a myth that pitbulls go crazy out of the blue or turn on their owners. Its not a sudden thing. It’s them maturing. There are signs. It’s all about what you need to start doing as an owner to make sure nobody gets hurt.

    The bottom line is that most people who own or advocate pitbulls simply don’t know enough about the breed.

    When walking my bulldog, I’ve had many dogs growl or snap at him, particularly the small breeds. (my pet hate). But so far in my experience, the most unpredictable breed has been the APBT.

    I’m all for people being able to own whatever breed they want. But pitbulls come its extra responsibility that I’m just not seeing in most pitbull owners. Letting the, run off lead with other dogs is just asking for trouble. Especially once eye have turned on. You can’t leave your pit alone with a baby or another animal or dog. You can’t have invisible fences for a pit.

    The list goes on. My opinion? Pit owners need to educate themselves better.

  3. Im going to put my input in this just because you felt the need to as well. Pit bulls can be trusted alone with babies, and other dogs. Ive had 6 pit bulls and none of them have ever attacked my nephew or my little brother. Also i have 3 other dogs and my pit hasnt hurt any of them. the most many pit bulls will do is lick you to death. So unless YOU know about the breed, you should probably keep your comments to yourself or get more educated about them. (: k thanks

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  5. I totally agree with lakes unless you have had pit bulls and raised them and have been around them for years…. You can’t really even begin to understand the breed.

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