Britain has experienced a huge rise in dog attacks
Great piece, and spot on. My wife did census in 2000 and again in 2010, I often went with her. You can tell the neighborhood you are in by the dogs, pit bull in trailer parks, anything poodle mix (cockapoo, golden doodle) an upscale suburb, chiweenies in apartment buildings. A recently deceased friend of mine was a plastic surgeon. Normally a calm and gentle man he would become apoplectic at the mention of pit bulls. Seems he had spent hours stitching up the faces of young children mauled by pit bulls. Of course its the breed. PS I have an English setter, a sweet gentle dog, we think he's brilliant. Totally adapted to our house, and yard, we spend hours together walking fence rows in the fall. He never shows aggression toward other dogs or people, but he's obsessed with birds of all kinds. The first time we came upon a quail he was about 8 months old, he suddenly locked on point, never having seen one before. Blank slate? I don't think so.
Thanks for another great (and brave) piece on a topic many people are afraid to talk honestly about. I was attacked at age 12 by a crazy German Shepherd. It was brutal and terrifying. The dog was as big as I was and had the owner not managed to see what was happening and then rushed over to intervene, I would have been in a fight for my life. The dog tore off my pants and began trying to rip apart my right leg. As the owner had just lost his wife, who had committed suicide in a post-partum depression, I felt sorry for him. He came to our house crying and begged me not to report the dog. I agreed. But the dog then bit my stepmother and several other neighbors and had to be put down. Had I not been sentimental and felt sorry for the owner, this would not have happened. Many years later I spent time taking care of my friend John Zmirak's beagles. One day, I was walking them in a Queens dog park, and one was viciously attacked and bitten. The culprit: a huge pit bull. Some stereotypes arise with good reason, I'm afraid.
Bulldogs and Staffordshire Bull terriers have the same roots and are part of the gene pool for the pit Bull and the “bully”. If you base your policy on old genetics and original breed purpose you will make a lot of dog owners unhappy.
I would never own one of these breeds (nor any terrier- they are bred to kill things and be territorial- too barkey and bitey for me).
I would also never own a guarding/protection breed.
Obviously I have known sweet examples of these breeds, and in the US I have worked at animal shelters that are awash in pit bulls (and chihuahuas). Most pit bulls I have met can be sweet and loving. However they are very hard to train (requires patience, persistence, absolute consistency) and are highly reactive. One literally must be “on” at all times with these dogs to anticipate potential reactions from the dog (and teach them that you will decide what to react to). If you aren’t paying attention then they will.
The problem is that when their owner is not there or they are off the lead, they revert to their instincts and can react to noises or perceived threats. They always should be on a lead outdoors and never left alone with children or the elderly or anyone who cannot control the dog.
In other words, they are a dog that can be well managed by perhaps 1 percent of all owners. Staffordshires can also be challenging, as can mastiffs, alsatians, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Kuvasz, etc. only a very small percentage of owners (probably less than 10 pct) can manage and train these dogs properly, and most owners I have met who think they are wonderful trainers of these potentially dangerous breeds are not very capable at all and get way too complacent. These dogs are a responsibility and a job (more like having a horse) rather than assuming them to be a trusted member of the family one can always turn their back on.
Nicely stated, Ed. I consider American ownership of dangerous and exotic animals (from pit bulls to pythons) an example of the excess of American Liberalism. "More guns, more animals, more genders! Nobody can tell me to restrain my desires, so sell me that Anaconda!"
We have instinct. On sight, we know an XL Bully is likely: (a) capable of great harm; and (b) more aggressive than an average dog. But we live in a world where instinctual reactions stand to be reality tested. And so we suppress our instinctual reaction in order to do just that. This is all good. It’s pretty much the foundation of our civilisation. In the case of the XL Bully, we discover our instinctual sense is more or less correct, allowing us to react according and to do so on a generalised basis.
At that point, people in favour of the XL Bully weigh in with the "not all or most argument". Not all/even most XL Bullys are actually dangerous. This argument is straw man. The initial conclusion was never that all or most XL Bullys are dangerous, only that, on average, XL Bullys are much more dangerous than the average dog. In other words, the point is completely irrelevant - unless we are saying that XL Bullys should only be banned when all or most of them attack or maim. Virtually no-one would think that. Also, the actual pro XL Bully argument, to extent there is one, is that XL Bullys may kill and main at a much higher rate than average, but we should tolerate them nevertheless. However, as there is no pro social upside to the XL Bully (other than the sentimentality of the owner and the freedom to own dangerous animals) the argument is weak. And so to avoid losing, the pro XL Bully interlocutor will seek to claim a sacred status for the XL Bully. This is achieved by claiming that those attacking the XL Bully seek to demonise it. The XL Bully is a lovable pet, only dangerous in the wrong hands (utter nonsense), but, look here, my opponent seeks that they are banned out of existence- and in that attempted act the real evil lies.
Great piece Ed. Also something has to be done about people using "mortified" to mean something like "shocked" or "horrified" (not you, was referring to someone quoted herein).
I suspect the "blank slate" theory of dogs rose in popularity in parallel with the "blank slate" theory of humans, which has been elite Scripture for at least 100 years. Everything from eugenics to education policy to criminal justice to drug laws is all based on this assumption
It would be hard to hold that man is an infinitely malleable, smart ape, but dogs temperaments are largely fixed by breeding.
God damn the "blank slate": one of the worst ideas we've come up with.
I owned a Pitbull. My ex wife bought it in Lima. From an obvious drug dealer. Who was quite pleased to sell to a normal family. I was annoyed ex wife had chosen a pitbull. The dog wss very energetic constantly trying to dominate other dogs I had to get up early to walk him. I was the only one capable of controlling him.
Equally the dog killed rats. also pigeons. As is custom in Lima we kept him on the roof. On a bad night I would bring him in. The dog did deter people- bluntly in the event of a home invasion - not an impossibility.The dog would have been realise-d buying time for people to flee -as my father in law- ex Civil Guard officer - got his legally owned gun.
The problem was that my autistic daughter became fascinated with the dog : Especially his eyes.
By that point ine of my nephew's was old enough to take care if the dog. As he was living in his father property. Essentially managing it- he took the dog with him.
Pitbulls are a sign of weak policing. If you cannot carry a gun. Then get a big dog- As apparently happens in N.I When the local alphabet soup makes it presence known. You will observe a bunch of scottish football fans out dig walking.
Banning bullies is a great idea. It is the start of a process. The streets must be taken control of
‘In 2022, of a total of ten fatal dog attacks in the UK, six fatalities listed the American Bully as the breed responsible, with victims ranging in ages from 17 months to 62 years old.’
Added to which, it’s ugly.
Hmm interesting, have been aware of genetics being extremely important as a pre determinimg factor to behavior for some years now.
Something as an aside Ed I came across a research paper a few months back about how humans may have been found to able to shift their pre-determined genetic behavior by themselves as a sort of epigenetic process.
One might say the soul does exsist. Though I don't believe it is the same for dogs.
I unfortunately don't recall the paper or the link to it, what I do recall is that it was a joint paper done by Israelies and Egyptians.
It seems obvious to me why absurd, obviously untrue statements about 'owners not breeds' are made by well-meaning people; they think that by acknowledging this it will open the door to scientific racism, because of the obvious similarities to claims that some racial groups are more violent or prone to aggression than others. In fact I'm surprised you didn't touch on this! The link seems so clear.
Funny how dogs bring out the sentimental stupid in people. Personally I don’t give a d$$m what a good boy your pitbull or rott is. Keep him far away from me!
I agree with the general principle that genetics are a strong determinant for dog behavior and the pit bull has been bred to give it a far greater tendency to bite and attack humans compared to most other breeds.
However, I am unsure what principles around risk are being applied in the situation. Based on the stats from the ONS, it looks like dog attacks are responsible for about 10 deaths in a year. As a percentage of the UK population that's less than .0001 percent of all deaths. Which is to say that dog attacks that result in death are incredibly rare but when they do happen a pit bull is statistically likely to be the cause.
I struggled to find statistical breakdowns on non-fatal injuries and compare them to non-fatal dog bites but from what little i found it is comparatively speaking still a rare occurrence compared to all other ways one can die. It seems to me that dog attacks like shark attacks are sensational way to be hurt or died in a way that car accidents isn't. And people are reacting emotionally to that.
But let's say for sake of argument that dog attacks are common and mostly committed by pit bulls, how does this account for breeding? In other words, what humans bred into dogs we can breed out and how does one model this for mutts? So let's say a dog is 25% pit, 25% rott weiler, and 25% golden retriever. If the dog bites someone is it because of the pit? How would we know? What if the dog is 3% pit? Is the pit still responsible for the bite?
If it's not the breed, why have we banned pitbulls? Is the RSPCA campaigning to overturn that ban?