Ignorance Kills

I recently heard a story I can’t get out of my mind. A woman who owns a sweet, friendly pit bull had her son and his wife over to visit. The couple brought their two small dogs along. One of the dogs kept taunting the pit bull until he’d finally had enough. He nipped the small dog on the ear. There was a dramatic amount of blood, as there is wont to be from a torn ear. The “attack” consisted of one quick bite and release. The son is now convinced that the pit bull is aggressive, and will no longer bring the grandkids to visit. He wants his mother to get rid of the dog. The woman loves her dog very much, and is understandably distraught. She doesn’t want to give up the dog, and yet she wants her grandkids to be able to visit.

The friend who told me about this situation and I discussed it. My friend is an experienced dog person who understands, as I do, that even if the pit bull had been truly aggressive toward the small dog (in which case the bite would have been elsewhere on the body and the dog would be dead, or at least badly injured), dog-dog aggression has nothing to do with aggression toward people! The dog has been wonderful with small children, and has always good-naturedly put up with the pulling, tugging, and other things kids do to dogs. In fact, many pit bulls are extremely tolerant in that regard. Besides, breed aside, the dog in question didn’t act aggressively in this situation to begin with—he acted defensively. He responded with as little force as would get his message across, and then, once delivered, he backed off. That sounds like a wonderful dog to me.

 There’s no way to get around the fact that the pit bull stigma is alive and well, and is at work in this particular scenario. A trainer is being called in to temperament test the dog in hopes that the son will accept a professional assessment that the dog is safe around kids. I understand the man’s concern, but also know there’s no need for it. I hope the situation resolves in a positive way, not only for the sake of the family, but for the dog’s sake, because there’s not many places for a “biting pit bull” to go. Open ears and minds allow for misconceptions to be cleared up. Aggression is dangerous, but ignorance kills.

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12 Responses to Ignorance Kills

  1. “Aggression is dangerous, but ignorance kills.” I am TAKING that and using it in a Dog Body Language class I am doing for a local shelter. Will give you full credit, of course. As to the story, sad to say that it is oh, so, typical. Sad, that ignorance thing. . .

  2. Yes I had the same with my Rottweiler – I have people judging the kind of character I am just because I have one. As a Vet Nurse, cleints will ask me what kind of animals I have and inevitably I say a Rottweiler, you can see them take a step back and passing judgement. One client even said to me “oh so you like those nasty biting agressive types” – I replied “No that’s why I got a Rotty, because they are NOT nasty bitey or aggressive” She was shocked to hear me say that and stated she had “read in the papers and heard in other media outlets they were”…………
    But it isnt just with breed issues; clients children might end up with ringworm or something and usually it is the household pet (cat or dog) that gets the blame. One poor lady was also given an ultimatum after her grandshildren came down with ringworm supposedly after a visit – “get rid of the cat or we dont come visit”. We did ringworm testing on this cat and it was clear…………..usually the kids pick up the ringworm infection from school – either from school guinea pigs etc or other children!

  3. Jim Crosby says:

    Excellent post and analysis! The Pittie showed great restraint and bite inhibition. Without other flags I would agree that there is no reason to be concerned about the kids and the Pittie. The small tormentor, on the other hand…

    • Yes you are so correct Nicole & Jim – most people simply do not recognise the part their adorable “little white fluffy” as we like to call them in the trade, play in so called “unprovoked attacks” . Nor do they see as in this case the incredible restraint showed by the larger dog (I refuse to state the breed because I feel it is not relevant – this applies to so many other dogs) in not causing greater harm or death of it’s tormentor……………people with these little dogs (or any dog that torments) just think their dog is being cute or it’s just “being friendly” – so sad that this sort of ignorance not only ends lives through poor judgment on a particular dogs temperament but also cuases injury and or death to the tormentor because it’s owner has not taught it manners

  4. Jerry I says:

    I think there is something to breed. That doesn’t mean it is any excuse for poor rearing of a dog. It doesn’t mean any breed can’t be a great friend to children and other dogs. Lets be honest, if a pitbull and a Border Collie get into a fight, the pit bulls odds are about 99-1. Pitbulls and the like were breed to hold bulls at bay, hunt boar, bear and things of the like. They have tenacity in a fight like very few other breeds. Aren’t we lucky Chihuahuas don’t get that big.

    I know dogs are what we raise them to be, but if dogs did not have naturally bred traits, we would have someone other than a Border Collie winning at herding trials. As it is Kelpies are your next best shot. Your not going to compete at a gun trial with a border collie either, you better have yourself a pointer of some sort. So, there is something to be said about breed.

    There is a lot more to be said about how they are raised and a particular breeding selection. I have a local lady that in-line breeds red border collies for cattle herding. If you know anything about high end herding dog breeding, you know these dogs come out of the womb herding and are so focused you can hardly call them a dog. They do not belong in the hands of the public.

    This story is one of the saddest stories I’ve read in a long time. I have people who will not leave their dogs at my day care because I allow pitbulls. I’ve seen three dogs in my life that scared the heebee geebees out of me; a lab, a chessepeak and I think the other was one of those bear dogs. They were all three confident and intolerant.

    Personally, no one should hold anything over my head. I’ll tell them what they don’t want to hear.

    • Jerry I says:

      I feel compelled to include what I just found. During the Canadian All Breed Herding Championships Final Standings
      For all trials held 09/01/10 – 8/15/11: A boxer is 5th in over all points in the advanced competition. Most of the dogs are Australian Cattle Dogs.

  5. Steve Shaffer says:

    It’s ironic, but ask just about any veterinarian (I’m married to one) and they will put Chihuahuas at the top of the apt to bite aggressively list. A trainer we knew liked to get different breeds to train for the experience. Having heard pitties were difficult she went to the pound and picked one out. All of her normal training rewards seemed to not interest the pittie. Out of sheer frustration or briliance she took her fist and, pummeled would be the best word, the dog. He loved it. Training proceeded without any problems. So yeah, they are usually pretty tolerant.

  6. Racism is alive and well in regard to how people judge dogs by the breed. This is the basis of breed specific legislation and has for so long now proved to be rubbish. For every dog I train or groom of a particular breed I find many individual differences. Sadly the general public has a very poor understanding of canines.

  7. ADK-Bob says:

    Sounds to me like the son should also have his dogs tested for “temperment”, or maybe “litle dog syndrome”!

  8. diana says:

    sticking with the problem of human ignorance, obviously this likely never would have happened had the humans in these dogs’ lives taken action by implementing a bit of management and separating the dogs long before the pit bull’s tolerance reached it’s limit. what is it about our species that makes us think all dogs should tolerate all things all the time?

    • Matthew says:

      I think it’s less a “species” (human) problem and more a ignorance/education problem.

      Food for thought…K9 good citizen tests feed this misconception and misinformation that dogs must tolerate all things at all time to be a “good citizen”. An unintended side affect to be sure, but I believe it’s there non the less.

  9. Kim says:

    Sadly, anyone with a bull breed could have told you that. The prejudice that surrounds these dogs is heart breaking. As a bull breed owner, I can honestly say that I’ve always held them to a higher standard. I have to, because things that nobody would think twice about if my Aussie did them (barking at a stanger who approaches my car windows comes to mind) will be looked upon as the actions of a dangerous dog if my bull did the same thing.

    It’s pretty sad.

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