I ran into a friend at the park this morning. After greeting each other’s dogs, and then each other (the proper order, of course), we got to talking about—what else—dogs. Our conversation began with a mention of one of the regulars whose dog is known to be aggressive toward other dogs. The topic then turned to breed genetics, and my friend told me a story that floored me. A friend of his had gotten a dog years ago. It was a pure pit bull, and he’d purchased it from a breeder who bred a specific line that was known to be aggressive. At this point, I had to interrupt. Why, I asked, would anyone purposely breed aggressive pit bulls? “Because that’s what people want,” he answered. That floored me, and angered me on many levels, starting with the fact that as a breed, the last thing pits need is more bad PR.
The man who’d bought the dog believed that if he raised it with enough love and kindness, aggression would not be an issue. (Why he bought the dog from that “breeder” in the first place is a mystery.) Can you guess what happened? Despite doing lots of socialization and training, and giving the dog plenty of affection and attention, the dog mauled him, causing extensive damage to his arm. The dog ended up being euthanized.
Why is anyone purposely breeding aggressive pit bulls? And who is knowingly buying them? I suppose buyers include those who are looking to fight dogs (a group who deserve their own special circle of hell). Then there are those who want to use the dogs to guard drugs; here in L.A., we have what are referred to as “bandogs,” which are usually aggressive, territorial, pit-mastiff mixes used for this purpose. And then there are always young, wanna-be macho men with TMT (Too Much Testosterone). But beyond those groups, some people truly don’t understand the difference between “aggressive” and “protective.” It’s not uncommon for someone to want a dog that will be territorial of their home should someone try to break in, or to be protective if they’re threatened on the street. There are dogs that are trained and sold specifically for those purposes. But they’re called “protection dogs,” not “aggression dogs.” There’s a difference. A good protection dog is not aggressive; in fact, he has a solid temperament that allows the aggressive behavior to be turned on and off with voice commands and hand signals. These are good family dogs who would never attack their owners. A truly aggressive dog, on the other hand, might go after dogs or people in ways that can be unpredictable, and can cause damage both physically and emotionally, given the fallout.
I’ve been involved in the dog rescue community for many years and don’t know of a single rescue that wants to take in an aggressive dog. Why? Because there’s not a long line of people wanting to adopt one. Again, true aggression is not what any legitimate dog owner wants. If someone does happen to adopt a dog who displays aggressive behavior, hopefully they attempt to use behavior modification techniques to alter that behavior. In the meantime, here’s to “breeders” like the one mentioned here being shut down and never allowed to have dogs again, and to educating people about the difference between aggression and being protective.
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