Monday, 14 May 2007

Dog or killer?


Thomas, a five year old boy, was attacked by an American Staffordshire Bullterrier over the week end. On the social estate in the south of Brussels where he lived dogs are not allowed but they are “tolerated”. The boy was walking in a narrow alleyway with his grand parents when the dog jumped on him from behind and bit him in the neck and on his head. The dog would not let go. Its owner had to physically open the dogs mouth to release the boy’s head. Thomas is in a coma as a result. The dog has been put down.
It is of course terrible when such things happen but we have to ask ourselves why. Why is it that these dangerous breeds often fall into the wrong hands and are owned by irresponsible people who do not train them properly? Or train them wrongly?
These type of dogs have existed for millennia and were used in battle and for guarding, but they also served utilitarian purposes, such as farm work. Specifically, these dogs accompanied farmers into the fields to assist with bringing in bulls for breeding or slaughter. They were known as cattledogs or bulldogs. They helped the farmer by subdueing the bull if it attempted to gore him. Typically a dog would do this by biting the bull on the nose and holding on until the bull submitted. Because of the nature of their job, bulldogs were bred to have powerful, muscular bodies, and the resolve to hold onto a violently-struggling bull, even when injured.
Eventually these dogs' purpose inspired the widespread practice of the bloody sports of bull baiting and bear baiting. They were also bred to be intelligent and level-headed during fights and remain non-aggressive toward their handlers. As a result, Victorian fighting dogs generally had stable temperaments and were commonly kept in the home by the gambling men who owned them. After immigration to America, the dogs were bred to be even stronger to work as much as farm dogs in the West and fighting dogs in the big cities. In addition to the "locking jaw" ( the dog does not let go ) myth, it is widely believed that "pit bulls don't feel pain". However, pit bulls have the same nervous system of any other breed, and they can and do feel pain. Historically, those dogs that would tolerate or ignore discomfort and pain and finish the task they were required to perform were the dogs that were bred and the sort of dogs breeders strove to produce. Interestingly enough, pit bulls or dogs that appear to be pit bulls are the most commonly found dogs in dog pounds and they are often destroyed due to the stigma associated with the breed.When aggression becomes a problem the reasons can often be traced to such things as improper handling, lack of socialization or training, a misreading of dog behaviour by the owner, lack of discipline, or even disease. When an owner is startled by a sudden, aggressive outburst, it is generally because he has been unaware of problems that were brewing. Dogs involved in attacks overwhelmingly have a known history of aggression, even though many dog owners deny or minimize this fact. Here in Belgium pit bulls are sometimes used for dog fighting, due to their strength, courage, dog-aggressive tendencies and widespread availability. Although dog fighting is illegal, it is still clandestinally practiced. Often authorities are incapable of stopping this. In England pit bull terriers are regulated under the Dangerous Dogs Act, administered by the government agency DEFRA. There is no proper legislation about dangerous breeds in Belgium but from what I have read, it would seem that the various political parties which have studied this issue have not come up with a realistic proposal that could lead to an enforcable law.

12 comments:

Winchester whisperer said...

Is there any evidence of differing levels of aggression between male and female pit bulls?

Eurodog said...

Good question. Logically there should be no difference.

Duxbury Ramblers said...

Thank you for your kind comments on the Duxbury Ramblers - I have also put a link in to your blog - I have read some of your blogs and found them very interesting will be back to read the rest.


Duxbury Ramblers

jmb said...

This is a terrible tragedy. And once again giving the breed a bad name. We have friends who had an American staffordshire for 16 years and it was a pussycat.
Would you say this was just a badly bred one and that they always show signs of aggression and that you should be able to predict the possibility unprovoked attacks in advance?

Eurodog said...

Every breed has an instinct. Herding or guarding or retrieving and so on. In some the instinct is stronger than in others. Pit bulls need firm handling and most owners of this breed do not do that. A dog, any dog, needs an alpha male or female to guide it and without the dog takes over and takes decisions which it believes to be correct. Like attacking when to us humans there is no reason to do so.

mutleythedog said...

The real Mutley is smallish jack Russel/Staffie cross and has wildly aggressive instincts - but I have had him for 11 years with no major problems - the odd bite now and then - nor more than six people in this time and about the same number of dogs..

Anonymous said...

A very good article. Yes dogs do have instincts but I feel that it is more us humans who have built these traits into the dogs, like with guard dogs, it is us who train the dogs to guard the house and attack strangers. I dont really approve of killing them, because isnt it like people who have attacked or murdered others? does that mean we should kill them too?

Eurodog said...

Thank you for your comment.
A dog is conditioned by its environment and by the way it is handled. Certain breeds are more difficult than others. Of course rottweiler or
bull terriers are in the limelight but to me all dogs are potentially dangerous. Border collies for instance do no make good pets and yet they are the typical example of the docile pet. They herd, they do agility and flyball. They instantly respond to their owners command. But they are sensitive,nervous,highly strung and neurotic and yes they nip, yes they bear their teeth.
The first dog which bit me was a labrador.
It is difficult to generalise.

Anonymous said...

That is very true. I have never been bitten by a dog but I have had experience. My next door neighbours cat was killed by two greyhounds, namely beacuse it was their instinct. I have a friend who was bitten by a dog and was left with a scar, but they still loves dogs. I just dont see why these dogs should be killed. What if they were innocent or were provoked by the person?

Eurodog said...

Yes I agree but we have to be aware that we live in an era where we have to have a PC attitude. We cannot be surrounded by dangerous dogs which are a liability to our society. I know for a fact that the owners of potentially dangerous dogs or dogs which have an aggressive streak are irresponsable owners. They are incapable of understanding how a dog acts, reacts and thinks. And they perpetuate wrong behaviour and the dog takes over more and more. Often they do not want to listen to sound advice from a vet or dog tgrainer. I have experienced this many times at my dog club. I repeat what I said before dogs are not cuddly toys or baby humans.

Anonymous said...

Again very true. You must have researched a lot into this. You obviously know your stuff and I salute you for that. Dogs are living beings, and we should treat them with respect and kindness. Those people who destroy the minds of their dogs do not deserve them for that makes them harmful to others.

Eurodog said...

Yes, anonymous. What can I say? How do you make people responsable? Another one of my pet (sic) subjects is leaving dogs in cars. So many dogs die because they are left in hot cars. In fact I shall write a post about this sometime soon. Again how do you make people think? How do you make them aware of certain issues? I do not want to go on about this but so many people have no idea. Sometimes in my classes I will tell people about this. "Remember your car might be in the shade but the sun turns". Some people look at me as if I have just arrived from Mars.