On Christmas day, 2014, it was recorded that a Pit Bull mauled and killed its owner. It was a shocking revelation considering that the Pit Bull was one of two owned by the family. The owners stated that the dog had exhibited aggressive behavior when eating or playing with its toys, but they still considered the dog to be a loving companion. The police had previously reported the dog to be violent and unpredictable. These facts would lead us to believe that the owner knew there was an issue with the dog but did nothing about it. We have to ask how the dog developed such an aggressive nature when the owner is claiming the dog was playful and obedient.
Pit Bulls are always under severe scrutiny when it comes to violence on a human being. When these incidents occur we should step back for a moment and ask ourselves the motivation for the behavior. Dogs just don’t attack their owners for no reason. Dogs are loyal companions. They don’t “bite the hand that feeds them”.
When Michael Vick’s Pit Bulls were examined and tested following their confiscation by the government, there was only one dog that had to be euthanized immediately out of 49 animals. The remaining dogs were sent to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary where most of them were rehabilitated and placed in new homes. Those that could not safely be rehabilitated were kept permanently at the sanctuary to live out their lives.
If this happened to 49 dogs who actually were trained to fight and yet were eventually healed from their aggressive tendencies, we have to ask why the breed has been given such a bad rap for so many years.
How Did It All Begin?
One theory about the Pit Bull is that it was originally called Molossus, a now extinct breed used by the Greeks for herding and as guard dogs. They even marched off to war with their owners and eventually became known in Britain as the Mastiff. For over 400 years they were treated as war dogs and cross bred over the European continent. The name of Pit Bull generated in about 1066 when butchers would use the large dogs for herding bulls. The large dog was trained to latch on to a bull’s nose until the animal was subdued. Thus the name of Bull Dog or Pit Bull was derived. Yet they still were not a specific breed they were again cross bred with Terriers in the 19th century and the underground dog fighting was brought to the forefront.
At the onset of the breed, they were perceived and admired as providing stamina and protection and even pictured on an Army recruitment poster and Our Gang Posters. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people discovered their prowess for fighting and turned them into killing machines. A once loving and protective animal was now feared by strangers it approached. Stories of mauling and attacks by the dogs ran rampant and soon breed specific laws were enacted in several states. Because the Pit Bull has the lock jaw quality it became feared for its fighting stance. Other breeds such as the Rottweiler also have this lock jaw quality and are tagged in certain communities and by insurance companies. Yet the name “Pit Bull” evokes fear and discrimination.
Mistake by Man
The Pit Bull was not recognized the American Kennel Club until 1936 when they were listed as the Staffordshire terrier.
Sadly, the American Pit Bull Terrier has been given a bum rap in most cases. The dogs are not born to be aggressive or mean spirited. The strong stature of the dogs makes them easily trainable as guard dogs. This quality can be used by man to cultivate an aggressive killer instinct in the dogs. There are no bad dogs; only bad people who train the innocent to become a killing machine.
It is slowly becoming evident that the dogs themselves are not the issue. Educating people as to why the dogs become killers and how to prevent this type of stigma from occurring is an ongoing process. Just when things seem to turn around there is an incident as the one described in the beginning of this article. We are very quick to jump to the conclusion that the mauling took place because the breed itself is violent. If we could do an in-depth study of the dog and the family that raised him, we would most likely discover that the dog was either trained improperly or abused in some fashion. A dog cannot choose its owner or its surroundings. They are the victim in many of these cases. Dogs have impeccable memories for both good and bad. Will they bite the hand that feeds them and loves them? Unless the dog is ill or injured the answer is an irrevocable – NO.
While it is true that the Pit Bull is less tolerant of other dog breeds they are listed by the ASPCA as follows: “A well-socialized and well-trained pit bull is one of the most delightful, intelligent, and gentle dogs imaginable.” Even so, great caution is advised when choosing to own the breed. This is because of breed laws, insurance classifications, and scrutiny of neighbors. Careful training of a Pit Bull can render the dog a real asset to the family and a beloved companion. If you take on this responsibility, be sure you train the dog circumspectly and appropriately to be a loving member of your family.