March 18, 2012

Animal Planet; no pit experts here!

I finally got through dissecting all the information regarding pit bulls on the 'Dogs 101 -American Pit Bull' video by Animal Planet.

I'm going to try really hard to hold my tongue and give short answers, the problem is, there's never a short simple answer. The history, the present-day misconceptions of the pit bull terrier; it is all so complex, including simply the temperament and behavior of any canine animal, that in order to truly understand you have to learn way beyond all that. But for now, let's just stick with this.

"Eager to please, loving, intelligent, sounds like a great dog, right? It was known as 'America's dog.'"

Just wanted to add here, not only were they widely and popularly known as the symbol for America (see link below,) another nickname for them was 'nanny dog,' as in, a nanny who looks after children. Why? Because of their famed reputation with children.

For over 100 years American knew what pit bulls represented -

"He was Petey in the little rascals..."

Again, only the best reputation with children. Here is my favorite quote regarding why Petey-- a pit bull-- was the dog chosen for the part:

"... you are a famous Hollywood director and you want to make a series of films about little scamps running about getting into all kinds of mischief. They need a dog to come along on their misadventures. You’re going to need a smart dog that learns tricks quickly. Time is money. You need a dog that no one is afraid of. You’re shooting comedies. Most of all you need an obedient dog that can work long hours in difficult conditions with a rotating cast of up to a dozen 5-9 year olds who will, as kids do, pull it’s tail, tug at it’s ears, and poke it in the eye at any given moment. What would be best is if you could find a dog that had an obvious identifying mark like a circle around it’s eye. That way you could use different dogs of the same breed by just painting the mark on any similar looking dog that’s available. You need a breed that will take all sorts of poking and prodding and not nip any of the nippers or your whole career could go right down the drain. The headline, “DIRECTOR OF CHILDREN LETS VICIOUS DOG ON SET” is haunting your dreams. What breed can you safely rely on?"

You guessed it; the pit bull.

For over 100 years America knew what it bulls did best, Part I -
For over 100 years America knew what it bulls did best, Part II -
For over 100 years America knew what it bulls did best, Part III -
The cruelest trick ever played on a breed of dog -

"... the RCA dog and the buster brown shoe dog. What dog are we talking about? The pit bull. The American Pit Bull Terrier definitely has a bad rap. They've been banned in Denver, and parts of Florida. Grounded on certain airlines. Over 500 cities have strict pit bull restrctions. And they are banned in the countries of Great Britain and New Zealand."

I really have to bite my tongue here so as to not go overboard. If only those of you reading this could understand just how bad this is and why; the merciless and unwarranted killing of thousands upon thousands of great family dogs is left out here. Right now here in Canada our biggest BSL (breed-specific legislation) issue is in the entire province of Ontario. Please see the link below and get a glimpse of what happened and is still happening in Ontario regarding animal control officers coming into to perfectly normal families lives and relieving them of their perfectly normal family dogs; the ignorance and fear runs so deep. These were children's dogs, folks. Could you imagine having your son or daughter's beloved animal companion taken away to be murdered based only on it's appearance? Could you think of a sensible explanation to make your child understand? Unless you're teaching your kids that it's okay to kill others based off of prejudice-- there isn't one.

Persecution, Ontario style -
When does a labrador become a pit bull? -

"It is the way they are raised that turns them out to be aggressive towards people. However, make no mistake, this dog can snap. And it has snapped, and that is why it is not the dog for everyone."

Wow. This line is very vague, but the impression it gives off is clear; pit bulls are unpredictable. First off, the most important fact about the entire domestic canine species I can give here, not only in defense but just so we're all of the same level of COMMON SENSE is that ANY dog can be prone to 'snap.' That is, to act out in a defensive (seen as 'aggressive') matter when surprised or scared, basically at those times seen by those who don't know any better as unexpectedly and/or unwarranted. Make no mistake to what I'm trying to say here, many dogs that I'm sure many of you can remember owning in your childhood would never do such a thing. And you're probably right, as those dog's never did. But letting the temperament of your one childhood dog represent your entire view on whichever breed they may have been is foolish. It works both ways. Did you know, that the first ever reported dog fatality involving a family dog was a Labrador Retriever? That's right-- those dogs can snap! Using this line specifically on the pit bull terriers information video is a poor excuse to explain why it is not the dog for everyone. Powerful, driven working breeds are ALL not for everyone. Do your research before looking at a breed to own, and don't fool yourself into thinking you can give the proper time and management to a dog when you cannot.

Here are the 2007 test results found by the ATTS (American Temperament Testing Society) that tests the stability and temperament of dogs (the percentage shoes the amount of dogs who passed the testing with no sign of reactivity/aggression:)

1. Old English Bull Dog 100.0%
2. Mini Bull Terrier 100.0%
3. Bull Terrier 92.1%
4. Labrador Retriever 91.8
5. Staff Bull Terrier 88.8%
6. Standard Poodle 85.3
7. Pit Bull Terrier 84.3%
8. Boxer 84.3
9. Golden Retriever 84.2%
10. American Bull dog 84.1%
11. German Shepherd 83.5%
12. Amstaff 83.4%
13. Rottweiler 82.6%
14. Jack Russell Terrier 82.1%
15. Dalmatian 81.8%
16. Beagle 80.3%
17. Collie 79.4%
18. Doberman Pinscher 77.1%
19. Mini Poodle 76.6%
20. Akita 74.0%
21. Chihuahua 70.3%
22. Dachshund (Stnd. Smooth) 70.2%
23. Chow Chow 70.0%
24. Scottish Terrier 63.6%
25. Tibetan Terrier 54.5%
26. Skye Terrier 37.5%

Now these are obviously not all of the dog breeds tested, but it shows a good summary from highest scoring to lowest. Before I continue on, it is important for you to know that although these breeds may have been equally tested, their NUMBERS were NOT all equal. The American Pit Bull Terrier and Amstaffs are the breeds MOST tested by the ATTS. This means that, at the time that this particular test was taken, there may very well have been 20 Old English Bulldogs tested to get a score of 100%, and 200 American Pit Bull Terriers tested for a score of 84.3%. With that in mind, when there is more of one breed of dog than other as the pit bull terrier is still a very popular breed to this day, it makes sense that there will be more incidents involving that breed of dog, if only due to the fact that there are more dogs than responsible owners in this world. It should also be known that breeds on this list, including the Old English Bulldog, Mini Bulls, Bull Terriers, Staffordsire Bulls, American Bulldogs and even sometimes Boxers and Rottweilers-- those 'pit bull' type blockey-headed breeds that are too often thrown into the mix when banning time comes along-- are among the HIGHEST ranking dogs.

"There are terrible incidents where people get seriously injured, maimed or even killed."

Who knows what he was going to go on to say, before it cuts out, but what I hope it would have been is something similar to 'by dogs.' Yes, your pit bull, rottweiler, GSD is a bigger and more powerful breed than your pomeranian, chihuahua, or teacup yorkie. It doesn't truly make any particular breed more dangerous by default, but what breeds do you think gang members, dog-fighters and other morons out there looking for 'status' would want to look menacing at there side? What are these kinds of people willing to do to an animal to make them that way?

"During the 19th century these dog were developed in England, Ireland and Scotland. They crossed bulldogs with terriers, an the result was a strong aggressive fighting dog."

"They actually took the dogs and put them in pits and started fighting the dogs, hence the name 'Pit Bull.'"

When she does those quotation symbols with her fingers it makes me want to chuck something. People! This is not how to pit bull gets it's name! The word 'bulldog' was and still is traditionally used today in the same way, for example, that the word 'sheepdog' is used. That is, where a 'sheepdog' describes a dog who works sheep, a 'bulldog' is a dog who, that's right-- works BULLS. Those short, squat, bow-legged flat-faced dogs have no better chances against a bull than your chihuahua or pomeranian. Furthermore, 'pitbull' is not a real word that describes an American Pit Bull Terrier. As it was traditionally known and the American Pit Bulldog, the 'pit' and 'bull' are completely separate.

"So if you take that kind of a dog, and you work with it and you create it to fight, then you're going to end up with a fighting dog. But they are not born like that they're actually very loving smart, loyal, sweet dogs."

Plus, pit bull dogs that have been created to fight generally have the amazing ability to bounce back and learn to be mentally sound again, though, not all of them ever learn to be friendly with other dogs. It IS in the nature of the pit bull to be naturally reactive. Dog reactivity is separate from dog aggression.

"It doesn't necessarily indicate aggression, but it can build and progress in that direction if not handled properly. Truly dog aggressive dogs are quiet. Reactive dogs are largely social dogs frustrated by the restraint or insecure dogs trying to intimidate and scare the other dog away. "
-Leah Gilmour, HugABull Rescue & Advocacy

There are many forms, and levels of reactivity, and it exists in many different breeds. You may even own a reactive dog, but just do not know to recognize it as such.

"With the American Pit Bull Terrier, socialization is the key."

Yes, but I must stress that again, some pit bull terriers will NOT get along naturally with other dogs. Oftentime when a pit bull reach maturity (between the ages of 2 and 3,) although they may have previously shown to be perfectly fine to meet and to interact with strange dogs before, they will begin to show signs of reactivity/aggression. DOG REACTIVITY IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. These dogs can STILL be properly socialized, with care and CONSISTENCY. Check out one training program as an example through the link below; one weekly class (dubbed 'The Breakfast Club' on Sunday mornings,) is specifically geared at training & socializing reactive dogs.

Sarah Dykes, Bad Dogs Gone Good -

"When you look at the pit bull, you first notice it's head. Well-chiseled, and brick-like. Typically they've got a large head, almost like a tadpole, and then the body tapers away. And they are built like steel towers, with amazingly strong muscles. They can sort of be like Popeye; they've got big strong muscles, but can be just as sweet as can be."

No arguments here, this breed is very powerful, and was bred to perform no doubt about that.

A guide to pit bull conformation -

"The one muscle that gets the bad press, is the pit bulls jaw muscle. The truth is this dog has short, strong, highly-developed temporalis muscles, that are located around the cheekbone. With the pit bull this muscle consumes most of it's head; more so than other dogs. And that is why they have amazing jaw strength."

Wrong, wrong and wrong. The only correct line in this entire paragraph is, it DOES get bad press; such as uneducated and ill informed articles like this one. This may possibly be the worst piece of false information detrimental to the breed in this entire video. I'm not going to delve much into this, as Ive already written a short article with as much information as you should need in the link below.

Quick myth/truth about the pit bulls 'locking jaws' -

"People talk about the fact that their jaw lock, well their jaws don't actually 'lock,' but they do tend to bite and hold with a full crushing bite."

At least the people watching this video believing in everything that these 'experts' say will finally see reason to this one. Again, please see the above article I've written that further explores the jaw-locking myth. PIT BULLS JAWS ARE BUILT NO DIFFERENTLY THAN THOSE OF ANY OTHER DOMESTIC BREED. Any dogs physique can be toned through training, but can you imagine how long it would take to actually grow the muscles in your head stronger? Has anyone reading this article ever tried to pry open the mouth of a chihuahua, or any other below 10 lb dog? I have, and believe me-- it's harder than it sounds! No wonder any opposing forces of 130-220 PSI would be deemed impossible to open (please see the link in the section above.)

"The next outstanding feature of the pit bull is their smooth, glossy, short coat, that comes in almost every color. Most often brindle & fawn."

The pit bulls were bred to be short-coated and tight skinned, especially in the areas of the muzzle and head (so, no droopy lips here, folks!) since in a dog fighting pit this would be a disadvantage, as it would make it easier for the opposing dog to grab hold. Since true pit bulls, like other breeds bred true to their work or sport were bred first and foremost for instinct and ability, thoughts regarding breeding for coat color were nonexistent, so this can vary quite a bit in pit bulls. However, a solid fawn or fawn & white color, often accompanied by a dark mask, is seen in a lot of the more traditional working pit bulls today, and the color 'blue' was never seen in traditional lines. In fact, generally as a rule of thumb, if your pit bull is 'blue' than it can hardly be an American Pit Bull Terrier at all!

The truth about 'rare' colored pit bulls -

"So where is the best place to live with a pit bull? Pit bulls need some space, however, as long as you give them plenty of exercise they would be fine in an apartment."

Anyone who's ever owned a pit bull will know about the breeds signature 'on and off switch.' These dogs can go from athlete, ready to hike, jog, play ball with you and just about anything else, to snuggly movie-watching couch-potato in a snap! Though, the pit bull is a very high energy breed that does need good long exercise sessions each day. A good quote to live by; a tired dog is happy dog! Too much pent up energy leads to frustration, which will often lead to misbehavior, including but not limited to chewing and other destructive acts around the house. Generally though, space is overrated; you don't need acres of property to leash up your dog yourself and give him his daily exercise/breaks to the bathroom!

"The pit bull is a dog that usually lives 12-14 years. The American Pit Bull Terrier is definitely prone to heart disease, allergies, and hip dysplasia."

Common in ALL breeds, big and small. The pit bull as a larger-medium sized dog enjoys a life expectancy higher than other averages in breeds the same size and smaller (although the size of a dog is NOT a concrete way to determining the life expectancy in a breed. The history and bloodlines of a dog a certain breed play a much more important role.)

"And while these dogs are average shedder, the grooming is very easy."

A curry comb or rubber glove is what I find works best. Also bristle and slicker brushes can be used safely on dogs with short coats.

"As far as training goes, start early, and expose the dogs to many different situations."

No objections here. The pit bull is highly intelligent, and as previously mentioned, extraordinarily eager to please, making them easily trained in the right hands.

"And if you want to rescue a pittie from a rough past, experts say they have the power to bounce back and become loving dogs. They can be abused in ways that you would not really want to think about, and yet they can come out of that situation and still be able to trust and love people."

A true mark of just what amazing, loyal dogs the American Pit Bull Terrier can be. Always consider adopting before going out to the breeders, and if you're unsure, or are a first-time owner, specialized pit bull adoption agencies exist and are a great source of information usually both before AND after adopting.

"In general the American Pit Bull Terrier can live in any home environment, but needs lots of exercise. They have a few health issues, but don't need to be groomed often, and are trainable with good owners that socialize them to become good pets."

In conclusion, the video made an attempt to put the pit bull in a good light. However, the extent of wrong information comes across too importantly for the people not so easily swayed, and in the end, when the 'experts' say so, this video may just do more bad than good to the pit bulls reputation.


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