The "Pit Bull" Myth

Responding in the appropriate forum, so as to avoid continuing a MPSIMS thread hijack:

Okay, lovely. First, some follow-up questions:
-What do you define as “tendencies for aggression toward other animals”?
-What breeds carry these tendencies? A handful of examples, or a general type is fine, I’m not necessarily asking for an encyclopedic listing, though the more specific you are the more helpful that will be in understanding your thoughts on the topic.

When I posed the question it was in response to an insinuation that a pit dog’s propensity for violence extends to any living thing, cat, dog, human, ponies, whatever. You said “if a dog is both large and prone to attack” but it seems you’re not quite willing to tell us exactly what that means. Is a 30lb pit dog “large”? Do the traits which make a dog prone to attack another dog have any connection to the traits which make a dog prone to attack a wolf, a fox, a hog, a rabbit, a rat, or a human being? What does “prone to attack” mean?
Do you know anything about the traits that make a dog prone to attack another dog? There are several of them, and they all function a little differently. Do you know what causes most of these traits?
Hint: it’s not genetics.

To answer your question, of course I don’t dispute that pit dogs have historically, and in some cases are currently, bred for dog-aggression, and for pit fighting. That’s… what “pit dog” means. To elaborate on what I assume you’re getting at: this of course means that dog-aggression is a significant concern in the care and handling of pit-type dogs, and that such traits must be addressed with specific and extensive socialization and continuous “proof-training” throughout the dog’s life, starting at birth. Does that answer your question?

Yes, it does very much matter. This is the whole basis for the urban legend, the mythology which drives breed-specific legislation efforts, and to which some not-insignificant percentage of the hundreds of thousands of dog bites perpetrated by non-bull-type breeds are in many ways directly attributable.

Dog aggression may be what you “came in [to that thread] about”, but you’re certainly happy to continue conflating dog-aggressive traits with human-aggressive traits. Would you now have us believe that you’re changing your tone, and that you no longer wish to assert that pit dogs are more potentially dangerous to human beings than any other breed?

Along the same lines, in the other thread you mention two other breeds which you refuse to board your dogs in the company of: Rottweilers and German Shepherd Dogs. What leads you to believe these two breeds are more particularly dangerous to your pets than any other breed? Above you (rightfully) assert that a pit dog’s fighting background raises concerns. Neither of these two breeds are dogs with pit-fighting histories. What makes them more inherently dangerous in a boarding situation where your expressed concern is dog-aggression?

As a small aside, how do you feel about Dobies? They’re the only one of the “four dogs of the apocalypse” which you missed. That you lump these three breeds together as “aggressive” without distinction suggests to me that you fall into the category of folks who “just know these dogs are dangerous… everyone says so, duh” without much further thought than that.
This is the idea I’m trying like hell to get you to explore: what makes you think a GSD is a bigger threat to your pet than, say, a Shar-Pei? Or a mutt of indeterminate phenotype? It’s the flip side of the pit/human aggression question.

Did you actually miss the multiple times I asserted (and linked to AVMA and CDC reports justifying) that no breed of dog is more potentially dangerous than any other? And that the only consistent factor in severe dog attacks is not breed or type, but mishandling?
If not, if you read and comprehended those posts, then… where did you get the idea I was arguing that one breed is more dangerous than another, and that these other “more dangerous” breeds lessened the potential risks with dogs of pit-blood background?

The question I posed comes in response to the repeated assertion (not just by you, but several other folks in the thread) that pits are “OMG SRSLY the most dangerous dogs EVAR”. That “there has never been a dog like a pit”, and so on.

If pit bulls are alleged to be the OMG WORST DOGS EVER, then I’d really, really love to know: what do people suppose makes them so? A game-type pit dog, with a serious, concentrated lineal history for pit fighting is a 35-45lb dog bred to fight other dogs… what makes this animal so absolutely demonic, way over and above a host of other breeds? Why do some people point to pit dogs as murder-minded hellspawn, savagely bent on destruction and willing to rend their owners limb-from-limb with no warning and no provocation whatsoever?
The reason I bring up various guardian breeds is not to suggest that these dogs are more dangerous [thus you shouldn’t worry about pit dogs], it’s to highlight the ill-logic of drawing a parallel between pit-fighting dogs and people-biting dogs.

As it appears you’re now backing out of this characterization, I’m posing the question as a general one, to any poster who wants to seriously contend that pit bulls truly are inherently human-aggressive dogs. You appear to be hinting toward that in the other thread, but I understand now that you’re backing down from that characterization.

That’s not actually enough. Your posts waffle all over the place, though I see upon further review that you’re very careful to never quite come out and say it. You refer to pit dogs as responsible for “carnage” and as having a “terrible rep [for attacking humans]”, you refer to those of us citing reliable research showing no breed to be inherently more dangerous than any other as “apologists”, and you conflate dog-aggression with human-aggression by casually “mentioning” such things side-by-side. You don’t quite get so far as to come right out and say that pit dogs are more likely to harm a human than another breed of dog. You sure as hell tippity-toe all around it, though.

So, direct answer time: do you believe pit dogs to be inherently more dangerous to human beings, or not? Do you conflate a history of breeding for dog-aggression with an increased potential for violence toward other species of animals, including human beings?

You’ll need to help me out here. Why is it silly?
And lastly, though I’ve said this… many times, many ways…

…the main factor in dog attacks (whether it’s violence against another dog, a cat, a human, a pony, or any other living thing) is not genetic, but owner-error.

Oh, and for sake of completion, a link to the other, most recent surfacing of the same urban legend, and discussion thereof.

It is worse. That’s… what we’ve all been trying to show you, with little effect. For the sake of expediency, I’m copying this text directly out of the last discussion (with a corrected typo and a better photo link):
The concept of random-source mixed-breed dogs being generally unidentifiable doesn’t mean you can never tell two breeds of dogs apart, or that a pit bull mixed with a boxer is suddenly, magically, going to turn out puppies that look like poodles.

Mixed-breed dogs are rarely the accidental and random product of two known and excellent examples of intentionally-produced pedigreed dogs. They’re often many generations into random breeding when they show up at the shelter. The generic form that’s come to be known as “pit bull type” is kinda the distillation that happens when you have a random population of random-type dogs breeding randomly, with a healthy push in the direction of “bulldog type” caused by a population boom in pit-type dogs after the early HSUS/media frenzy.

Without the “bulldog” influence, what you get looks something like this.

It’s not hard to see what happens if you toss a glut of bulldog-type blood into the mix a few generations back, and how we’ve come to label just about every generic pound puppy a “pit bull type”.

In any case, the product of two different purebreds doesn’t always look anything like either parent, either. An F1 generation cross between a lab and a poodle does not give you a consistent “labradoodle”. Complicating the issue is that the general public can’t identify more than a dozen or couple dozen common breeds at most. Even in the professional dog world where presumably people have a better eye, people get away with all kinds of stupid things… like falsifying pedigrees and passing off one breed as another, or a mix as a purebred. Even a very practiced eye would likely have difficulty differentiating these two dogs as separate breeds. Neither one is a pit bull, by the way.

One reason “pit bulls” show up so often in the roster of severe dog attacks is because the “pit bull type” is pretty much our default generic dog phenotype. Everything looks vaguely like a pit bull, a couple generations down the road, and everyone thinks they know what a pit bull looks like.

As been repeatedly noted in such threads as this any dog can be “mean” and Pit Bull type dogs are not especially mean and in fact rank better temperament-wise than many other breeds not considered to be especially dangerous.

As with many things it is the owner that makes most of the difference. A well trained, well socialized AmStaff (for example) is a very pleasant dog and a good family dog.

Problem is the sorts of people who want to look “tough” and want a badass dog are not likely to socialize their dog well and perhaps encourage its more aggressive instincts. More, especially if they want a dog for dog fights, the Pit Bull types of dog are a favorite because they excel at the task better than most other breeds. Also, if a Pit Bull type dog attacks they as a breed tend to be more tenacious. Thus stopping the attack can be more problematic.

These add up to giving those breeds a bad rap which is unfortunate.

I’ll bite . . .

Not sure why it matters, in the context of this debate, that I define tendencies toward aggression or list breeds with such tendencies when you concede

Are you just trying to test me? I am aware that many non-genetic factors go into a dogs propensity for aggression, but for the purposes of this debate I was referring to the bred-for quality of dog aggression that you concede. Fighting pit dogs have these tendencies.

I am not here to argue whether pits are more dangerous to humans than Cane Corsos. Again, my chief complaint with pits is their tendency toward dog aggression. My cites to pit-human attacks in the other thread were in response to Munch.

What a misrepresentation of your sources! That is not what your cites say at all. The AVMA paper concluded that based on dog bite reports it was impossible to make a breed by breed conclusion. It did not make the unqualified statement that “no breed of dog is more potentially dangerous than any other” as that is patently absurd. Likewise, the CDC paper (that you appeared to be referencing) stated that “There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.” Again, this is not the same as “no breed of dog is more potentially dangerous than any other.”

Finally, I have never said (in txt-speak or otherwise) that pits are the most dangerous. I said I am glad that they aren’t in my local shelters to be adopted by any old chump with a hankering for a mean looking dog.

The misrepresentations continue. I don’t waffle and maybe you should have conducted your “further review” before making that claim. In my first post in that thread and repeatedly thereafter, I noted that my issue with pits relates to their dog-aggression. I only entered the pit-human attack fray to: 1. question the extreme “everything from polar bear to wildcat attacks get blamed on pits” claim; and 2,. to respond to Munch’s request for a cite to a pit-human attack.

Quite honestly, I have no opinion as to whether a pit is more likely to attack a human. I do think they are more likely, as a breed, to harbor dog-aggression. That makes me not like them. That has been my consistent position.

I’m taking this out of order to save it for the end

I’ve saved this for last because it’s a good question and an example of just a bias (score one for you). I’ve been bitten by a Rott (not her fault, but it was a pretty severe bite) and charged by a German Shepherd dog. OTOH I’ve been full on attacked, along with my dogs, by a pit-mix - sire was pure bred AmStaff. My bias does nothing to make pits less dog-aggressive.

Something I missed. The whole reason I waded into that last thread was because I felt someone was minimizing dog aggression. Now, Naja Nivea, I don’t know if your intent is to do so with your accusation that I’ve conflated dog-dog attacks to dog-human attacks by mentioning them side-by-side, but if it is, let me be clear. I get overwhelmingly angry when I consider that many who dismiss dog aggression are those with dog aggressive dogs. I consider those people less than human. I look down on them in every way possible and am certain of their emotional and intellectual inferiority.

It matters because throughout the three pages of that thread you continually post vague assertions that aggression of one type is linked to or tied-in with aggression of other types.
I am “conceding” nothing–if by using that word you’re deliberately attempting to suggest that I at any point ever suggested dog aggression was not a concern with dogs of pit-fighting ancestry. I have never said or suggested otherwise. My quibble is with the suggestion that such traits lead toward greater propensity for violence in any other context.

Did you… um… miss the entire crux of the thing… which is that the single, overwhelmingly present factor in all cases is mishandling on the part of the owner?

Uh huh. So you’re happy to see them banned from shelters and summarily euthanized, even knowing that DNA evidence indicates that mixed-breed dogs are largely unidentifiable by phenotype? How do you propose the shelters enforce this rule for maximum safety? Should they just kill all medium-sized dogs with short coats and broad skulls, to be safe, like, say, [PDF]these dogs? What about all the mixed breed dogs with some amount between one drop and 49% of pit blood, which you assert are just as potentially lethal, how are we to identify and kill those dogs when they may look nothing at all like the breed standard? What about all those dogs which don’t look like pit bulls, but which carry predominantly pit-history blood? Can you find the “pit bull” in this roster? [PDF]
It’s grossly illogical to use phenotype to decide which dogs get to live and be adopted and loved and which ones end up in a pile of corpses. On the “merely sad” side, countless perfectly wonderful dogs are killed annually because they happen to have the wrong shape of ears or too-broad a snout. On the “stupid, and potentially lethal” side, such a policy means a shelter is likely adopting out potentially much more dangerous dogs, because they think a cute, fluffy, prick-eared “shepherd type” is de facto “safe”. If they’re relying on phenotype to determine a dog’s relative safety, they’re focusing on the absolute least important cause for concern in the prevention of dog bite incidents.

Whatever backpedaling you’re doing now, you did enter the fray, and throughout you used the sideways comments I quoted above to indicate very strongly your distaste for dogs you perceive as “pit-type”, and to use your words carefully at every opportunity to hint around about how carnage follows in their wake. You were careful not to make any directly refutable statements, but you very definitely did choose your insinuations… or else you’re mighty naive.

Sure, but it ought to illustrate to you how your biases affect your views of dogs which fit the “canine racial profile”, and why those of us who lack such breed biases might just have a modicum of logic on our side.

Emphasis mine.
I can certainly see why you might have gotten that idea, seeing as how I’ve repeatedly said that dog aggression is a serious issue which needs to be addressed early and often, and that dog owners who by virtue of neglect or ignorance allow their dog to develop inappropriate aggression issues against any living thing are directly and personally culpable for their dogs’ actions… and in fact that dog owners themselves are entirely to blame in nearly all cases of inappropriate aggression, no matter what the target species. Yeah, I can definitely see why you’d get that impression, and why you’d feel the need to spew the above in my general direction.

Maybe I should have started this in the pit.

Does the SDMB need to set up a forum specifically for pit bull discussions? I’m to the point of wanting all the damned mutts be put down, along with their owners.

Yeah, imagine how sick of it those of us on the side of logic and reason are, having to fight the continual tide of ignorance spewed on this stupid topic. You’d think this would be the one place were urban legends go to die.

This is incomprehensible. You concede “that pit dogs have historically, and in some cases are currently, bred for dog-aggression.” It’s at the top of the damn page, man. That’s the only point that concerns me. You conceded it (by the very definition of the word concede - you might want to look it up right after you look up apologist).

There is no reason why culling the pit-mix population would necessitate ignoring the dangers posed by other breeds or poor socialization. None. As to pit euthanizations, let’s be honest. Most of the shelter dogs are getting the gas anyway. If you want to rehabilitate the breed, do it through responsible breeders, not the pound.

In other words, you didn’t say it but you were thinking it. Listen, cite me as saying pits are “more” dangerous to humans or move on. I’m not interested in an argument you want to have with a statement I didn’t make. No backpedalling necessary.

True or False: pit dogs have historically, and in some cases are currently, bred for dog-aggression and as a result dog-aggression is a significant concern in the care and handling of pit-type dogs

True or False: pit dogs have historically, and in some cases are currently, bred for dog-aggression and as a result dog-aggression is a significant concern in the care and handling of pit-type dogs

Are you serious? You are the most bizarre semantics-lover I have ever encountered.
Okay fine, I concede the point with the definition “to accept as true”–a point which I have never wavered on. My quibble with your use of the term is the implication that I’m somehow yielding a point to you, which would have required me to have denied pit dogs’ breeding history in the first place. Your weird semantics games aside…

Of course it does. “Pit mixes” cannot be identified reliably by phenotype, so anyone killing shelter dogs on the basis of the shape of their ears or muzzle is demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what causes a dog to be dangerous… and by granting life to a fluffy, prick-eared cutie pie because it looks safer, they are absolutely ignoring the indisputable fact that phenotype cannot be used to judge a dog’s relative safety. A fluffy, prick-eared cutie pie is no less potentially dangerous to a child than a semi-prick-eared dog with a brindle coat, simply because it’s cute… just like a Fox Terrier is no less potentially dangerous to a child because it’s never been hoisted up on the “dangerous dogs” pike. A shelter killing dogs they perceive as “pit type” on the argument that they’re creating a safer environment is demonstrating just as deep and profound an ignorance as a hypothetical town that enacts laws keeping people of certain skin colors out for the same reason. Neither act of profiling addresses the issue of public safety in any remotely useful manner.

So… by this logic, why don’t we kill all shelter dogs of all phenotype across the board? Why is genocide of one “canine racial profile” a logical choice?

Right, 'cause clearly I’m the only one who read dripping insinuation with your every comment. You flat refused to answer any specific requests for clarification until cornered, and now you’re trying to play some game where you think you’re gotcha-ya’ing me over dog-aggression? Funny. Find some instance of me downplaying concerns of dog-aggression, or move on. I’m not interested in an argument you want to have with a statement I didn’t make. No concession necessary.

Semantics? You’re killing me. To suggest that concede=admit is a semantics game is too much. You didn’t really know what the word meant, that’s cool.

You’ve played very fast and loose with your cites. In the previous thread, I pointed to my issues with the paper on phenotype identification. Namely that

I received no substantive response, only some nonsense about a “one drop” rule. I have no propblem targetting for euthanization in the shelter context a breed that has historically, and in some cases is currently, bred for dog-aggression. I see only upside.

It might surprise you to find this out, but I go for days at a time without looking at this website. I assumed you would be able to glean the answer to your questions from my subsequent responses. When it became clear to me you could not, I answered your questions. Sheesh, attention starved?

Seriously did you carefully read the very resposne that set you off?

Yet more weird semantics games. You spend the whole thread talking about how dangerous, aggressive, and generally loathsome pits are, then say “the connotation is not loathsome, unless it’s paired with…” oh, wait.

Nice. Thanks for the clarification!

I’ve never asked you to concede that you downplayed dog-aggression. So, even though it’s cute that you gave this a try (rephrasing my post) it still failed for multiple reasons: 1. I didn’t accuse you; 2. I didn’t ask you to concede it. Man explaining a joke ruins it.

Are you conceding pits are loathesome? Like it or not, the very act of opening this thread by definition is an act of apologetics. What you term semantics games others call communication. I cannot help your misunderstanding that derive from ignorance.

You did receive a substantiative response, which you ignored save for the “one drop rule” phrase. You’ve received at least one other on the same topic in this thread, which I see below you’re continuing to dodge.

Here’s the dodge.

Maybe it’s easier to keep your attention span in one place if I just copy/paste? It took one guy in last month’s thread about eight repetitions to get him to acknowledge that he’d seen and comprehended a point. Maybe you’re a sharper cheddar on the cheese rack and it’ll only take two or three tries.

…Except that one could not be expected to glean any answers, when you did not provide them, at any time, in any way, until directly pressed.

Seriously, have you read anything I’ve said?
At no point did I ever say anything that would lead any reasonable person to such a conclusion. That you pull it out of your ass and then stick “I don’t know if this is what you meant, but…” at the beginning before spewing a bunch of crap forth is again, either disingenuous in the extreme or very conveniently naive.

Are you conceding that you’re working awfully hard to avoid the topic at hand?

Breeds Most Likely To Kill

Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks
in the United States between 1979 and 1998

Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada September 1982 to November 13, 2006

While I understand the point that certain human social groups/subcultures may be more inclined to own certain types of dogs, and raise/train them to be aggressive for some perceived “coolness” factor, I find it difficult to ascribe these numbers solely to human activity.