The past few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and researching about pit bulls, mostly for my own self interest and also for two posts I wrote here and here.
I’ve been truly shocked by the amount of vitriolic hate that pit bulls get. These dogs are hated so much and it’s sad.
A lot of the arguments that pit bull haters use to support their opinions are based on poor information and bad science. A lot of the arguments rest on fallacies that are easily addressed. I thought I should write a post pointing out the fallacies in some of the most common arguments for banning pit bulls or otherwise restricting the breed.
- 1 Pit Bulls Are Responsible for the Most Dog Attacks and Fatalities in the USA
- 2 Pit Bulls Were Bred to Kill and Have are Predisposed to Attacks
- 3 “Just Look At All The News Stories About Dangerous Pit Bulls!”
- 4 Pit Bulls Are Unique When They Attack/ They Don’t Let Go Of Their Victim/ They Have a Locking Jaw/ They Have The Strongest Bite Force
Pit Bulls Are Responsible for the Most Dog Attacks and Fatalities in the USA
So this is true. But, like anything else, the devil is in the details.
Usually the article will repeat this claim without the full context of the statistics, which is that of all the dogs in the USA pit bulls and pit bull type breeds represent up to 12% of the dog population, whereas no other breed accounts for more than 6%.
So while the largest aggregate number of bites and attacks are perpetrated by pit bull type dogs, they also represent the largest proportion of dogs by far.
A more accurate statistical analysis would take into account the difference in population size and provide a rate of attacks (this is how the FBI calculates crime rates).
For example, it wouldn’t be fair to compare the total number of violent crimes in New York City to that of Salem, Massachusetts. New York City has a much larger population; of course the number of violent crimes will be higher. It’s much more accurate to compare the rate of violent crimes in the two cities per 100k residents (or some other population size) to properly gauge how likely a crime is to occur.
When the risk rates are calculated this way, pit bulls end up behind breeds such as malamutes, chows, rottweilers and great danes in dog bite related fatalities.
Pit Bulls Were Bred to Kill and Have are Predisposed to Attacks
The pit bull breed was originally bred for dog fights from bull dogs that were used to attack bulls. This is true.
However, when selecting dogs for dog fighting, breeders would cull dogs that showed any aggression to their handlers. Owners would need to step in and separate dogs and couldn’t risk their dogs turning on them.
So, if it’s true that pit bulls are predisposed to attacks because of their breeding, it also must be true that pits are particularly gentle with human handlers.
The reality is that pits are especially attuned to their human handlers. This makes them particularly easy to train. (It also predisposes them to suffer from pretty significant separation anxiety. Check out my post here for the best crates for separation anxiety or here for our story dealing with separation anxiety.)
“Just Look At All The News Stories About Dangerous Pit Bulls!”
I find this argument to be particularly egregious.
For example, check out this article.
In the same article the pit bull type dog is mentioned by its breed as an attacker. The other dog breeds, mentioned later in the article as having attacked their handlers, are not mentioned at all.
This bias against pit bulls when reporting dog attacks is everywhere. A pit bull type dog involved in an attack will be called out by its breed; any other breed of dog won’t have its breed mentioned.
I think it’s also important to point out that the term “pit bull” has become a catchall to represent all kinds of mutts and mixes that range from labrador mixes, rottweiler mixes, bull dog mixes etc. If a dog so much as vaguely resembles what people expect a pit bull to look like its breed will be mentioned in the news story.
Pit Bulls Are Unique When They Attack/ They Don’t Let Go Of Their Victim/ They Have a Locking Jaw/ They Have The Strongest Bite Force
These claims simply aren’t true. They are complete inventions; myths.
2005 National Geographic study measured force of bite for several creatures as pounds of bite pressure. On average, dogs exhibited about 320 pounds of pressure, while humans came in at 120 pounds and great white sharks at 600. The study also included a simulated bite sleeve test with a German shepherd, a Rottweiler and an American pit bull terrier. The pit bull actually registered the least amount pressure among the group, despite rumors that bully breeds can clamp down with an alarming 1600 pounds of force.http://www.animalplanet.com/pets/3-bully-breeds-have-a-stronger-bite-than-any-other-dog
This study, courtesy of pitbullinfo.org, found that there is no difference between breeds with regards to medical treatment of a dog bite.
Additionally, the American Temperament Test Society regularly tests the temperaments of different breeds of dogs. You can see here that they have extensively tested a pit bull breed (the staffordshire bull terrier) and the results have been superb, with 130/143 dogs passing (90%). That is higher than designer breeds like Weimeraners, Schnauzers, Whippets and many others.
Finally, one thing that really must be mentioned is that of any breed, pit bulls are more likely to be backyard bred. When inexperienced breeders are producing dogs they will probably make mistakes- such as removing a pup from its mother too early, or breeding two cousins together. These mistakes can create dogs that are poorly socialized or mentally ill.
Anyway, I wanted to whip up a quick post refuting some of the poorer arguments I’ve seen against pit bulls. Hopefully you or someone you know can find some use in addressing these common arguments!