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.