Hypothetical on Pitbull Presence

Hypothetical situation: You are invited to a friend’s house for BBQ. You know that four or five other people that you aren’t acquainted with will be there. You arrive and everyone is sitting in somewhat of a circle near the grilling area. You pull up a chair. Everyone is pleasant and welcoming. It takes you a couple of minutes before you notice the pitbull that one of the guests has brought. It is not on a leash. It is not full grown. You cannot take your eyes off the pitbull the entire time you are there. You don’t dare walk back to your car alone and you don’t want to make a scene.

The question is this: Should your friend have warned you that the evening was going to include a pit bull? Assume he knew ahead of time.

Please don’t let this become a discussion about whether pit bulls are all that dangerous. Consider the reputation they have – deserved or not – when you answer the question.

Well, if I thought about it ( and I should ) I’d probably mention that so-and-so was bringing his dog, just in case somebody had an allergy or a dog phobia. Probably in the same breath as I mentioned what BBQ cuisine was being planned in case somebody won’t eat pork ribs.

But honestly I might not think about it ( it seems like a minor detail in an open-air space ) and the fact that it was a Pit Bull would generate no special mention in my mind. I like Pits.

Well, my own perception of them are as usually very people-friendly dogs and it genuinely wouldn’t occur to play to someone’s potential paranoia about the breed.

Hope that doesn’t seem snotty, by the way :). I know some people have fear of dogs - my step-mother does for example and said fears may not be rational. Which is why if I was being a thoughtful enough host I’d bring up a dog being around.

But no, Pit Bulls simply don’t register as special in my head, so I wouldn’t think to warn someone about them specifically.

I think its inconsiderate to bring an unleashed dog with that kind of reputation to a party with numerous strangers present.

But this can be a nightmare to negotiate in practise because ‘the dog is really nice/has never hurt anyone/you’ve just got a problem with dogs’ etc etc etc.


I don’t like dogs but I don’t see a problem with it that would be breed related. I think dogs should be leashed, especially at a party at a strange place with lots of people. It can make dogs excitable.

If your friend knew ahead of time that you have an irrational fear of pit bulls, then he absolutely should have warned you. Otherwise, I don’t think he’s done anything wrong in this situation.

The only reason I wouldn’t be able to take my eyes off a pitbull is because they’re so adorable, especially the puppies.

It’s not the breed (if pit bull can be called a breed), it’s the owner and how well he trained it or not. If a dog, no matter the breed, can’t behave in public, it shouldn’t be in public and I don’t care if it’s a collie or a doberman. Personally, I’d be more likely to be get worried about a chow than a pit bull. (I’ve heard that chows can be very very difficult and the one that I have dealt with, well, it couldn’t be let out of its room.)

Personally, I’m not a big fan of Pitties and if I saw one alone on the street unleashed would be quite nervous. Whether or not the breed is inherently unstable, I dunno. But I DO know that PitBulls are the fave breed for many marginalised young men who lack the money, skills and psychological stability themselves to look after such dogs adequately.

But at a social event like that, I would assume that the owners and the host know the dog well and would not have considered bringing it if it had any antisocial traits. IOW, no, the host needn’t have informed you, unless he knew you were canine-phobic or had some other weird condition that rendered you unable to remain calm in the dog’s company.

If I had my daughter with me I’d ask for the pooch to be put inside or tied up securely; otherwise I’d make my apologies and leave.

I don’t much like dogs but will put up with them, but my toddler is terrified of them, and although we are gradually getting her used to friendly dogs an agitated two-year-old around a strange dog does not bode well. For one thing it’s unfair on the dog to expect him/her to cope with an unhappy child.

Right… but in the OP’s example I have no idea how good the owner of the pit bull is, and no way of easily finding out (until I’m extracting said pooch’s teeth from my ankle).

Still, if the dog was curled up asleep under the owner’s chair and showed no interest in sniffing around I’d probably be OK with it… as soon as it approaches me without being asked it’d be a different story.

It would depend entirely on the dog’s behavior. If it was just sitting at its owner’s side looking friendly I wouldn’t be nervous at all.

Edit: Oh, the question is about whether I should’ve been warned. Well, the OP said that a guest brought the dog. I think it’s a bit rude to bring a dog to someone else’s party without clearing it up first. If the host knew about it then no, I don’t think the host had any special obligation to tell all his guests that a dog would be present.

Dogs are dogs. I wouldn’t have an issue at all.

Since I have dogs, it would never even occur to me to warn my guests that there might be another, different dog. The guest with the pit bull should have gotten permission to bring it, but a large number of people own dogs. To me, that makes them common enough that it would be like informing guests that there might be bread at a party, in case they have a gluten allergy. If a guest has a problem with something as common as a dog, the onus is on them to make it known. The specific breed in question doesn’t change this obligation; an irrational fear of something relatively commonplace is not something anyone should be expected to anticipate and cater to without being informed.

Why do you say it’s “irrational”?

Nearly 4000 people are treated in hospital for dog bites in the UK each year - that’s 70-80 incidents a week which require medical attention (so presumably doesn’t include more minor cases dealt with at home which would still be traumatic if you’re on the receiving end).

Seems entirely sensible to be wary of an unknown dog (the OP specified that the other guests are strangers), especially one that can cause so much damage.

I wouldn’t have said that the host had an obligation to warn other guests that one of the party was bringing an unleashed dog. That said, some people are very phobic of dogs (regardless of breed) and so if the host had happened to warn me then I’d think it was a thoughtful and considerate gesture, but not one they had a social duty to make to me.

I speak as a total dog lover but have known many people who were very, very frightened of dogs and I always felt bad for them.

I have dogs. My friends all have dogs. Wouldn’t think to mention it.

ETA: now kids would be a different thing. If someone called and said the babysitter fell through and they would have to bring the six year old son with them; maybe not a good thing. But dogs are cool.

I’m not sure how anyone can respond to your post using the rules you’ve outlined. The crux of the issue is the (perceived) danger level; putting discussion of it off the table muzzles anyone answering. The “reputation” they have depends on how much you know – almost all of the “bad” reputation they currently have is both relatively new (dating from the 1980s Sports Illustrated cover article) and largely a product of media hype; knowledgeable dog people understand that pit bulls have had a reputation for being people-loving, active dogs for around 200 years, and – I kid you not – they actually have a reputation for being submissive to humans and less likely to bite you than many other breeds. So which reputation are we allowed to consider here?

As a side issue, how do you know the dog is a pit bull? Does his or her family identify the breed? Not only are most people pretty bad at identifying pit bulls (there’s a famous online “spot the pit bull” test most people flunk) but some dogs are well-known for being misidentified as pit bulls (American Bulldogs, American Bullies, and Labrador/Boxer mixes particularly, for some examples). It would suck to spend the whole event afraid of a harmless American Bulldog instead of a harmless American Pit Bull Terrier.

Question: does the friend know the OP is afraid of…is it all dogs, or just pit bulls, by the way? If not, it’s hard to imagine that a specific warning would be necessary. Unless you’re Archie Bunker, it’s not like the friend should be expected to warn you that black people might be at the event, despite their reputation in the media.

Several issues conflated here. The majority of dog bites occur in specific situations (unattended children approaching a tethered dog is the absolute classic, and the hospital figure surely also includes home invaders and other bad guys), not usually at a relaxed party, so those 4000 people treated annually in hospitals mostly represent different situations. And is that really a large number in comparison to the UK’s population? The US loses 40,000 *killed *every year to auto accidents, and many times that injured, but everyone drove to the party, didn’t they?)

Additionally, the UK bans pit bulls, so those 4000 hospital cases mostly come from other breeds (although I am sure there are some illicit pit bulls in the UK).

Ontario’s breed ban, according to a recent study, has resulted in no measurable decrease in bites. It’s just other breeds doing the biting now.

Lastly, “especially one that can cause so much damage”: Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic did a bite-force study by breed and found that pit bulls typically have less bite force than Rottweilers and German Shepherd Dogs. He concluded (admittedly without testing all breeds; the Chihuahua could break the pattern here) that bite force seems to be a function solely of the size of the dog in question, not breed. “Pit bulls” is a term generally applied to three breeds, but the archetypal one and the one most people mean is the American Pit Bull Terrier, and the breed standard for the male (slightly heavier than the female) is 30-60 pounds (65 according to one registry), making the pit bull per se a medium-sized dog.

My lord - what were you doing outside? Why aren’t you curled up in a ball in a safe corner somewhere at home?

Your fear of dogs is real - I understand that. But your fear of dogs is also irrational.

All good points - my point was to challenge the claim that concerns about strange dogs are “irrational”. It’s “rational” to be aware of the risks associated with driving and to minimise them where possible; same applies to dogs: I might wear a seatbelt and leave safe distance between the next car, and likewise I might tether the dog and keep it a safe distance from other people (for

I think the issue of bite strength is a bit of a red herring too… the more powerful the breed is overall the more chance it has to knock a person down and get stuck in. A lap dog might bite me, but I have a sporting chance that a well placed kick will send it flying into next week; a great dane less so.

In a case just this week in the UK a girl was attacked by two Rottweilers and badly bitten. But it wasn’t just the force of the bites themselves, which initially weren’t too bad, it was the fact that every time the girl got back up these two large dogs simply knocked her back down and carried on mauling her. That would be less likely with a terrier.

Anyway, the OP posted in IMHO so obviously the results will vary from person to person, - as a non-dog person I would remove tend to avoid this type of situation, but I wouldn’t necessarily fall out with the host over it.

I would have spotted the dog immediately, and would have made a bee-line for the owner and asked if I could pet their dog. Then I would promptly ignore all other humans (clearly the person who brought the dog is ok) and spend my evening talking about dogs and petting this dog.

If I wasn’t allowed to pet the dog, I would wander away so as to not be tempted, but I would constantly watch it, thinking “man, I want to pet that dog!”. (Anyone remember Mitch Hedberg, and his Smacky (sp?) the Frog bit? That’s the voice I would use to think that!)

If I am known by my friends to have a phobia about dogs, sure. Otherwise, no.

Being wary of a strange or aggressive dog that is interested in you is perfectly rational, but that’s nto the situation outlined in the OP. Obsessively staring at and being terrified of a non-aggressive dog in a relaxed social situation is not rational, especially for a dog that’s sufficiently inert that it takes a couple of minutes for you to even notice that it’s there, which is the situation outlined in the OP.