The American Pit Bull Terrier also called the Pit Bull or American Bull Terrier is a dog with quite a reputation for being aggressive. It often gets mixed up with the American Staffordshire Terrier but in fact while connected they are now two different dogs, which at least the UKC recognises.
There is more to this breed than its aggressive side, with the right owners it can be raised to be affectionate, protective, loyal and a very good family and companion dog. Their athleticism, tenacity and strength make them also successful in some dog sports like agility, weight pulling and obedience.
I have worked with rescued Pits and mixed breeds for years. What I have found is they are trainable, smart, clean, loyal and have some of the funniest most loveable dog personalities I have ever encountered. My aim is to help this breed and all the bad press they face by teaching people to understand them. I consider myself knowledgeable on bully breeds. I am a qualified Animal practitioner with over 20 years experience of working with rescue Pit Bull and Stafford’s
Pit bulls are inherently friendly, especially toward humans. Typically, aggression is directed at other dogs and people they perceive as a threat to their owners. A pit bull puppy will grow up to be an imposing, powerful adult weighing up to 78 lbs, therefore its essential to correct any aggressive tendencies in its infancy.
Its important to remember that only when behavioural inheritance is understood, beginning with basic biological concepts, can we have a clear and honest discussion about aggression in domestic dogs. Firstly we must understand the relationship between “physical conformation” and “behavioural conformation,” which are often seen as opposite sides of the same coin.
Selecting for aggression
Just as we cannot make a dog into something the dog has no genetic capacity to be, we cannot prevent a dog from being what the dog is genetically predisposed to be. Why? Because inherited postures and behaviours are a good mix for the body and brain which the dog was born with. They are internally motivated and internally rewarded. Hence, they feel good. Therefore, this means that inherited behavioural traits are practically impossible to extinguish by manipulating external environmental stimuli.
Can impulsive aggressive behaviour be bred out of fighting breeds?
For example , the American Staffordshire Terrier is a different dog from the Pit Bull, just because the breeding has been going on separately for several decades is just a fiction.
The Russian researcher Dmitry Kontanovich Beljaev reported that he had bred fear out of foxes in only eighteen generations, but impulsive aggression is a more complex response and much more dangerous to live with while you try to breed it out. Furthermore, Belyaevs foxes were bred under laboratory conditions, where there was absolute control over not having the wrong genes creep back in again.
Abnormal disinhibited behaviour is not functional, and its unpredictable. Although high arousal and sudden attack can be functional in certain environments. This behaviour is pathological in a safer environment, where a high level of arousal and aggressiveness are not necessary and only lead to unnecessary attacks and injuries.
Research implicates the frontal cortex, subcortical structures, and lowered activity of the Serotonergic system in impulsive aggression in both dogs and humans. Impulsive aggressive behaviour in dogs seems to have a different biological basis than appropriate aggressive behaviour.
The American Temperament Test Society
The American Temperament Test Society provides testing around the country for dog breeds and provides a passing score for the entire breed, based on the percentage of passed over failed within total number of that particular breed tested. As of March 2001, the American Pit Bull Terrier has a current passing rate of 82.3% which makes him one of the top 5 most stable breeds of dogs in the country.
Pit Bulls make wonderful, loving and very loyal companions. It is important however, to understand the breed’s nature, to provide a structured environment and to establish a positive leadership role. In order to do this, Pit Bull owners must understand the original purpose of the breed and respect its limits and potential.
Why breed-specific legislation is not the answer
Imagine you were told you weren’t allowed to live somewhere or do something because you had a specific “look” about you that some people didn’t like. Or maybe you look like someone who did something bad, even though you haven’t done anything bad yourself.
Now imagine someone who’s never met you decides that you’re a bad person and a danger to society. They won’t let you live in their neighbourhoods or walk in their parks or streets. Is that acceptable?
No, it’s not acceptable, but it’s happening to dogs in our country and around the world. Breed-specific legislation targets specific breeds of dogs that are thought to be dangerous and makes ownership of these dogs illegal.
The United Kingdom’s Dangerous Dog Act bans the American Pit Bull Terrier and three other breeds of dogs and their crossbreeds. However, reports from the U.K. indicate that dog bites requiring hospital treatment have not decreased. In fact, 4,328 dog bites were treated by U.K. hospitals in 1999, whereas in the year ending April 2011 there were 6,118 such treatments. This was an increase of 41% over ten years. Furthermore, the U.K. also continues to experience approximately four dog bite fatalities per year.
The media and several others have noted a sharp increase in the number of “status dogs” being obtained and ultimately abused. By Banning breeds, it inevitably makes them more desirable for the wrong kind of person.
Pit Bulls and Stafford crosses are now so common that people are inevitably moving on to another desirable breed; Huskies, Molosos, Presca Canarios.
It’s not possible to add every dog to a banned list. You need to look at why people are get these dogs.”The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has constantly observed the Dangerous Dog Act and note that it doesn’t address the ownership and management issues that lead to the creation of dangerous dogs.” I support this view and that this type of legislation might even mandate that rescue or stray dogs that fit a certain “look” maybe euthanised instead of placed in homes regardless of their background or temperament.
After a fatal attack in early 2013, a select group of MP’s formed a committee to review the Dangerous Dogs Act and the changes officials proposed in response to this incident.
The report noted that the banning of certain breeds in the UK is accepted as a failure in reducing bites by both targeted dogs and all others. A majority of officials and organisations agree that the Dangerous Dogs Act is not protecting the public, however, very few agree on exactly what should be done about it. Although its fair to say that the U.K. has been struggling for at least half a decade to decide how to deal with the continued problems with dangerous dogs.
Changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act didn’t go far enough even though irresponsible dog owners will not only face longer prison sentences, but will also be liable for prosecution regardless of where an attack takes place,
REMEMBER NEVER JUDGE A DOG BY ITS BREED.