Friday, May 05, 2006

What the Hell is an American Staffordshire Terrier?

If there was ever a stranger group than young bulldog afficionado's, I have not met them. They are a truely odd bunch of people that lurk at the periphery of the working terrier world.

On the one hand, you have the dog fighters and wanna-be dog fighters. These numbskulls range from preening fakes and short-tooled fools to sick sadists. Any way you cut it, they are a sad case with even sadder dogs.

Then you have a few romantics -- those with rich fantasy lives who imagine their cherry-eyed genetic wrecks with undershot jaws are descended from the iron-tough catch dogs of the 18th Century. They glory in leading around over-large dogs with massive heads, bowed legs, and dysplastic hips. Most of these dogs could not catch a cold, much less a pig running flat out in Texas Hill Country.

And then you have the Kennel Club enthusiasts, and their "American Staffordshire Terriers," "Bull Terriers," "Staffordshire Bull Terriers," and English Bulldogs.

Kennel Club owners of these dogs will tell you they have worked hard to breed all aggression and prey drive out of their charges. And no doubt many have. What a comical thing that is, of course -- a bit like an auto club bragging that their sport cars have no engines.

The only thing is .... it's not always true. "Bad breeding" and "poor socialization" are often blamed when dogs descended from pit and catch dogs attack small children, but ... could it be .... perhaps ... that a small bit of genetic code remains unbraided as well? It is certainly in the realm of possibility, is it not?

In fact, molosser breeds can make fine pets in the right hands, but many of these dogs demand much more time, energy, and commitment than their young owners realize.

A large dog in the hands of a young man with shifting interests and an unstable housing situation (i.e. most young men) is a recipie that too often leads to dead dogs at the County shelter.

There has always been a ready market for intimidating dogs, and it seems a new breed of "ancient bulldog" is created every few years. Pick up any dog magazine and there they are advertised in the back, all of them with massive bully heads: the "Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog" and the "Olde English Bulldogge" and the "American Bulldog," sandwiched between the English, Neopolitan, and Bull Mastiffs, Rottweilers, Dogue de Bordeaux, Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileriro and, of course, the English Bulldog. Plocked down in between are other bully-headed prey-driven defensive breeds -- Rottweilers, Akitas, Tosas, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Thai Ridgebacks, and the like.

There have always been men with a need to display power. While the world frowns on a man cleaning an unloaded gun in a public square, it's OK for that same man to tow an enormous dog from corner to corner and park to park -- the canine equivalent of a Harley owner with straight pipes blasting through the neighborhood for the sole purpose of intimidation. If asked, the wanna-be-tough man will explain that his breed was designed to (please pick one): kill escaping slaves, hunt jaguars, fight bears and bulls in the pits, fight other dogs, or catch semi-wild pigs and cows so they can be altered or slaughtered. You are supposed to feel fear, and you are supposed to feel respect for a man in control of such a powerful animal with such an ancient history.

In fact, I generally feel a little amused.

The famed English Bulldog, for example, is mostly Chinese pug -- a show ring creation with legs so deformed it can barely walk, a jaw so undershot it cannot grab a frisbee, and with a face so bracycephalic it cannot breathe. Add to these problems a deformed intestinal system (a by-product of achondroplasia or dwarfism) which makes the dog constantly fart, and a pig tail prone to infection, and you have a dog that considers its own death a blessed relief.




Other molosser breeds are not as wrecked as the English Bulldog, to be sure, but they too are largely the product of the show ring and have little or nothing to do with honest catch dogs or hunting dogs.

A little history is useful here. In England, catch dogs began to disappear with the rise of the Enclosure Movement of the 18th Century. As the Enclosure Movement pushed people off the land and into squalid cities and towns, boredom set in and (in the absence of television, movies, video games, and real theatre), spectacles pitting dogs against bulls, pigs, bears and even monkeys were created for entertainment, much as the Romans had done centuries before.




The dogs used for pit work were different than the catch dogs used a century or two earlier. Pit dogs were quite variable in size, and the goal was to match the dog with its opponent (dog or beast) by weight or sense of threat. While catch dogs had to be fast to catch running stock, and tended to weigh 50-80 pounds (large enough to turn a bull or stop it, but not so large as to be slow), pit dogs weighed anywhere from 10 pounds, in the case of a small ratting terrier, to as much as 140 pounds or more in the case of bear-fighting dogs. Encounters were brief, and no nose at all was required.

Other than rat pits and cock fights, animal baiting spectacles were never common, and were banned altogether by 1835. Though secret underground dog fighting and badger baiting contests continued, they were rare, episodic, and genetically maladaptive. When police raided dog fights, the dogs were killed. When participants went to jail for other reasons, dogs disappeared. And in the era prior to antibiotics, "successful" fighting dogs often died from wounds inflicted in the ring.

In 1859, the first dog show was held. Breeds that had lost their original purpose -- catch dogs, cart dogs, pit dogs, and turnspit dogs -- soon found a new rationale for existence -- rosettes.

In the decades that followed, all manner of dogs were created, proclaimed, and endowed with invented romantic histories. That trend continues to this day.

Far from show ring fantasy and hard-dog poseurs, working catch dogs still exist. At a smaller level we have the whippet and the greyhound -- dogs designed to catch a rabbit or hare at speed. At a larger size we have the long-legged fox hounds favored by the French -- dogs that can run well and chop a fox on the fly. Added to their ranks are various sizes of cross-bred lurchers. And of course, you have the border collie -- a dog that will grip, if it has to, in order to impress upon a semi-wild hill sheep that it means business.

The penultimate cach dogs, of course, are those that work wild pig and cattle. Whether these dogs are found in Hawaii or Texas, the Everglades or Australia, the marshes of Spain, or the river banks of Central America, these dogs tend to be cross-bred dogs that, for a variety of reasons, tend to look suspiciously like rangey pit bulls.

Why is this?

The answer is at least partly morphological. While a small terrier or heeler may be able to move domestic cattle or pig, and may even be able to bust them out of brush, it takes a larger and heavier dog to travel great distances and still have the weight and stamina to initimidate, and even hold, large and truely wild animals in place.

Long coated dogs, and dogs with short muzzles are simply ill-equiped to handle long runs in hot weather. Wild pigs (feral, Russian or javelina) and cattle are generally found in locations that are hot most of the year -- Florida, Georgia, Texas, Australia, Southern Spain, and Hawaii.

When a dog is running 20-40 miles a day after an animal that does not want to be caught, and which may bust in several directions at once if in a group, stopping for a drink of water or a bit of rest in the shade is not an option.

Since dogs do not sweat except through the pads on their feet, the only way a dog has of moderating its temperature is to expel heat through its mouth and sinuses. A short snout, therefore, is maladaptive for honest catch work.

A short muzzle not only makes for a dog that overheats quickly, but also for a weaker bite. In the world of predators, where consistent failure means starvation, neither the wolf nor the tiger, the hyena nor the panther, has a short face with an undershot jaw.

A short bracyophalic maxilla is also poorly designed for scent work. Whether looking for wayward cattle and pigs, or hunting jaquar or mountain lion, most catch dogs have a bit of hound crossed into them, such is the desire for nose, which almost always comes attached to a decent muzzle.

The balance point on a good catch dog changes from area to area, depending on the lay of the land, the temperature, the stock being worked, and each individual dog and owner's technique. In some areas, lighter more greyhound-like dogs may be prefered, while in others greater hound influence is the norm. Dogs may be a little smaller in thick brush, and quite a bit larger in more open country.

And yet, again and again, across the planet, the result tends to be a variation on a unifying theme -- the cross-bred pit bull.

The American Pit Bull is descended from the cross-bred stock-working dogs of the 18th and 19th Century. To the extent they have been altered, it is that modern dogs are often heavier than those found working 200 or even 100 years ago -- a direct function of the fact that most pit bulls are now found on a leash. Today the breeding of pit bulls is heavily influenced by the show ring and the picture book. As a consequence heavier, more impressive-looking animals, are favored over the smaller, faster, and more utilitarian working dogs of the past.

From the beginning, the pit bull has had a stormy career in the U.S.

When it was created in 1878, the American Kennel Club refused to register pit bulls, seeing them as dogs kept by people of low breeding. The Kennel Club was interested in dignified dogs, not working dogs, and especially not dogs that acted as the canine equivalent of a barbed-wire and locust-post fence.

In frustration, pit bull owner Chauncey Bennet created his own registry -- the United Kennel Club -- in order to to register his own dog. Today, the UKC is the second largest all-breed registry in the U.S., and it remains a for-profit, privately-held operation.

When the "Little Rascal" movies of the 1930s popularized a pit bull by the name of "Petey," the American Kennel Club decided that the smell of cash money beat out sniffing social theories, and so they changed their de facto position on the pit bull, while maintaining a de jure ban on the dog.

How did they do this? Simple: they renamed the Pit Bull the "Staffordshire Terrier," and admitted it to the Kennel Club as a terrier. In 1972, the Kennel Club changed the name of the dog again, making it the "American Staffordshire Terrier," to distinguish it from the smaller and thicker-bodied dog of the U.K.

In fact the American Staffordshire Terrier is not a terrier in any way, shape or form. It is a Pit Bull, plain and simple.

Pit Bulls masquerading as American Stafforshire Terriers is how things more-or-less rested until the fantastic growth of dog shows and hobby breeders began in the 1960s and 70s. Suddenly a new interest in all manner of dogs was fostered, and many "old" breeds were invented almost over night.

For example, in 1970, John D. Johnson and Alan Scott registered their cross-bred pit bulls with the newly created for-profit "National Kennel Club". The name they invented: "American Bulldogs". Their goal, they said, was to get away from the "pit bull" name, which was already taking on negative connotations.

Johnson's line of dogs quickly grew thicker in the head and heavier too, as he realized that the "manly man" pet market favored intimidating dogs that could be paraded around the neighborhood or chained up in the back of a shop to scare kids away from petty pilfering. Never mind that heavy dogs with short faces could not go the distance with cattle and pigs -- these dogs were designed to sell, and what was selling was intimidation.

Alan Scott's dogs remained lighter and did not deviate too much from their working-class origins. Weighing in at around 80 pounds (often 40 pounds lighter than Johnson's) Scott's dogs also had longer muzzles and better bites. Scott and Johnson's dogs began to deviate from each other markedly, and in the end they ended up as distinct breeds with Scott breeding "Standard American Bulldogs" and Johnson a "bully" breed with huge heads that he evenually advertised as "Johnson Bulldogs".

Other bull breeds have followed suit, and other for-profit dog registries have followed on as well. Today, along with the AKC, the UKC, and the National Kennel Club, we have a host of other for-profit registries including the Continental Kennel Club, the American Canine Association, the American Hybrid Canine Club, the American Dog Breeders Association, the American Canine Registry, the American Purebred Association, American's Pet Registry Inc., the World Kennel Club, the Animal Research Foundation, the Universal Kennel Club International, the North American Purebred Dog Registry, the Dog Registry of America, the American Purebred Registry, the United All Breed Registry, the American Canine Association, the World Wide Kennel Club, the Federation of International Canines, and Animal Registry Unlimited -- to offer up only a partial list.

Among the newly minted molosser breeds are the Old English Bulldog, the Original English Bulldogge, Olde Bulldogge, the Campeiro Bulldog, Leavitt Bulldog, the Catahoula Bulldog, the Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, the Aussie Bulldog, the Victorian Bulldog, the Valley Bulldog, the Olde Boston Bulldogge, the Dorset Old Tyme Bulldog, the Ca de Bou, the Banter Bulldog, and the Johnson Bulldog, to say nothing of the Alana Espanol, Cane Corso, Bully Kutta, and the recreated "Alaunt."

No doubt there are many others.

Adding to the confusion, in 1972, the AKC recognized the smaller thick-bodied Staffordshire Bull Terrier as a separate breed from the American Staffordshire Terrier, while in 1936 the Bull Terrier (still another breed) was split into two colors (white and non-white), and in 1991 into two sizes (miniature and standard).

None of these machinations have anything to do with working dogs, of course.

In the scrub country of Texas and Australia, the water hummocks of Louisiana, Spain and Florida, and the steep green volcanic mountains of Hawaii, working pig and cattle dogs look pretty much like they always have for the last 250 years. These dogs are fast, have good scissor bites, fully developed muzzles, and straight agile legs.

In the world of honest stock-working catch dogs, no one spends too much time dreaming up fanciful histories and contrived names. Whatever the dog -- pure bred or cross -- the goal is to avoid the heavy-bodied ponderous dogs so popular among the bridge-and-tunnel set, and create a dog capable to going a full day in rough country.

No one who works their terriers to ground, or uses catch dogs to chase semi-wild stock, has any confusion about what kind of dog they need to do their respective jobs, or the differences between them.

By definition, a terrier must be small enough in the chest to go to ground in a natural earth.

By definition, a catch dog has to be fast enough to catch, and large enough to hold an animal that has escape and mayhem on its mind.

Neither dog can do the job if it looks like a "keg on legs" -- an apt description of many of the molosser breeds sold in the back of pet magazines today.

The story then is an old one. In the world of true working dogs, form follows function. In the world of rosettes and puppy peddlers, form always follows fantasy. As ironic as it sounds, the blue-blazer rosette chaser and the young wanna-be bull dog man have that much in common.

.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved this article and I enjoy everything you write. Your ideas are a breath of fresh air. Like you I love dogs and hate dog shows, love nature, hate animal rights activists and hypocrits...however, you are much more articulate than I. :O)

Jess said...

Brilliant stuff. You captured in words all the inarticulate frustration I've been feeling for years, in particular with respect to the English Bulldog....poor suffering mutant that it is.

Caveat said...

The Cane Corso is the last of the coursing mastiffs and is not a 'new' breed in Italy, where it's from.

An American Staffordshire terrier is the AKC version of the American Pit Bull terrier - they used to be cross-registered but that was quite awhile ago. The AmStaff has been bred as a pet since the 1920s and separated from the APBT in the 30s.

The Staffordshire Bull has always been a separate breed and is the only English terrier in the oft-maligned trio and has been bred as a pet for over 100 years now.

The APBTs came with settlers from the UK and were then (and are now) an all-round utility breed and a famous pet for children and the elderly.

The average APBT is 35 - 50 lbs. The big lumpy ones, which I call 'pig bulls' are a relatively new development and an unfortunate one in my opinion. AmStaffs run about 45 - 60 lbs, SBTs top out at 34 lbs.

Aggression is a behaviour and is learned, not heritable. While it's possible to inherit qualities such as quickness to react, a heightened prey drive, etc - you know, the same basic instincts all dogs have to a greater or lesser degree - you cannot breed dogs to be 'aggressive' and especially selectively aggressive. This is why all these idiots on rescue sites, etc, who yap on about how 'pit bulls' (which aren't a breed) were 'bred to be dog-aggressive, not people-aggressive' are talking through their hats.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback doesn't have an especially large head but it is a hound anyway, not a bull and terrier type.

As for the mastiff types, etc, well, I realized a long time ago that just because I'm not keen on a breed doesn't mean others shouldn't like it. Who cares what kinds of dogs people like, as long as they are looking after them.

PBurns said...

The Cane Corso is, in fact, not an old breed, having been "created" as a breed club in Italy in the mid 1970s out of heavy pitbull-type Italian farm dogs by Prof. Giovanni Bonatti and Dr. Paolo Breber. To say these are ancient dogs is to stretch the definition of the term; yes heavy pitbull-type dogs are as old as rock, but they were not "Cane Corsos" -- they were heavy pitbull-type dogs whose antecedents and predecessors include most molosser breeds.

As for the Rhodesian Ridgeback, no one knows how to classify it. Is it a sighthound? The Americans have said so, but I think it is nonsense. Is it a scent hound? One could argue that, but it is not the best of scenthounds either. The dog used to be classified as a gun dog. In fact the Rhodesian Ridgeback is a cock up of dozens of breeds and types, including mastiffs and Great Danes. The fact that the AKC has shoved it into the hound group is notable, but not determinant, as the breadth of morphology within this breed of dog is still quite large, with some individuals lookling like pointers, and some looking like pitbulls with dangling ears. When push comes to shove, I think a Rhodesian Ridgeback is best described as a hound-pit cross with a bit of spina bifida thrown in to create the ridge. In fact, the ridge is just about the only requirement of the breed.

As to the notion that there is a
"Bull and Terrier" type, it is pure nonsense. The Pit people know a pit dog, the Terrier people know their earth dogs, and the Running Dog people know their types as well. The use of the term "terrier" has been tossed around without meaning by dog dealers who have used it for more than 150 years to tack on to the name of whatever they are selling at the moment, if they think it will help result in a sale.

And so, we have the "Tibetan Terrier" which is in fact a type of Spaniel, and we have the "Aierdale Terrier" which is nothing more than a long-haired Otter Hound, and we have the "Russian Terrier" which is not a lot more than a Giant Schnauzer crossed with a Rottweiler.

The addition of the word "terrier" to molosser breeds such as the Pit Bull was added to suggest a bit of true gameness was actually present in the dog being sold -- perhaps an early "tell" that after 200 years of being bred as a farm dog after the close of the pits and bull-baiting rings, there was not much gameness left in most of the dogs being sold.

A true terrier (i.e. a working terrier that goes to ground) is an animal that routinely faces game head-on and with teeth out. The quarry in the hole generally weighs as much as it does, or even more. A working terrier may enter that ring to do battle (or potential battle) a half dozen times in a day, and yet it comes away with a tale to tell and often not much worse for wear. That seems impressive to most folks, and so the addition of the word "terrier" has been added to a lot of breeds by dog dealers eager to sell their dogs as both brave and/or shaggy.

The addition of a word does mean it is true, however. An Aierdale is still a hound, and a Russian Terrier cannot fit down a hole unless you first toss it into a Warring Blender.

As to the notion that agression is a learned behavior and not heritable, that is nonsense. Perhaps it is convenient nonsense for the pitbull crowd (I am very sympathetic to what is happening to the breed in kill shelters), but we have a hundred thousand Jack Russell and Patterdale terriers on death row right now because people repeat nonsense like that and are then SHOCKED to discover that they have a dog that is not a poodle, but a true hunting dog that will kill their cat.

Nurture is a good thing, but it does not sweep away nature. I have two adopted children raised in the same house by the same parents since the age of zero, and they are very different from each other, and most of that is nature.

The same is true for every breed of dogs, as everyone knows. A greyhound is a couch potato, a sheltie will not let your friends enter the house or leave it later, etc. One can be opposed to breed bans without drinking the Koolaid that all lines (and yes, even all breeds) are the same as all others, and that some breeds are not more agressive than others.

After more than 200 years as a farm dog, however, the pit bull may not be one of those breeds.

That said, let's not start to suggest that agression is not innate in some dogs and some breeds, eh?

Let us "own the dog" in all its manifest variation, and let us try to work harder to tell the TRUE story about the breed, which BENEFITS the dog. The bottom line (if there is one) is that not every dog is equal and not all breeds should be owned by all people. Put some breeds in the wrong hands, and it's like giving a shot gun to a chimpanzee; he may not know what the thing is or even how it works, but give him time and see if he doesn't fire it off anyway!

Patrick

Caveat said...

Well, the thing is, all dogs are mutts - all mixtures of various shapes so whether a dog has Otter Hound in its background (as does the Airedale) or mastiff and terrier (as do the bulldog types) isn't really relevant.

The groups are just for the convenience of the beauty pageant set - there are hounds that won't hunt, terriers like Dachshunds in the hound group, catch-all groups such as Toy and Nonsporting, etc. It doesn't mean diddley to the dogs, or define what they really are.

It really depends on how you define 'aggression'. I call it anti-social aggression for convenience because that makes sense to humans. You cannot breed a dog that will attack humans and you cannot breed a dog that will attack its own species - in other words you can't breed for selective aggression, you can only train for it.

What you can breed for is prey drive, nose, reactivity, etc. These qualities can then be enhanced through training for the desired job.

An obvious exception to this would be deliberately breeding dogs that are disordered, ie, exhibit a psychopathology or neurological disease. This would not only be difficult but ultimately pointless since it's not necessary.

Much like humans, all dogs are virtually identical genetically with a few blips here and there relating to physical characteristics.

There is more variation among individual dogs within a breed than there is among breeds themselves. That's why I know JRTs who are calm and quiet, Labs that won't play fetch, GSDs who are timid and Beagles who will bite.

The 'pit bull' type you reference is a mastiff - one of the most primitive types of dogs. So yes, bull and terrier is apt, since bulldogs were originally mastiffs as well.

There is no breed of dog called 'pit bull'. That's a media term used to attract readers. Most of these so-called 'pit bulls' are nothing more than short-haired mutts. likely Boxer x Lab types (especially here in Canada where the purebreds are so rare most people have never seen them). The purebred APBTs I've seen (and I've seen a lot of them) are stable, alert, confident, trainable dogs that are a nice size, require little grooming and are very hardy.

Many RRs, incidentally, are born without ridges and are 'culled' by the breeders. Rottweilers are often born solid red so while the casual home breeders may keep them the show people won't. They used to cull the brown Labs as being the wrong colour.

So, I'm with you on the fancy and its foibles but tend to have a more tolerant view of that. I've said for many years that these people really aren't doing dogs a favour, let's put it that way.

The question was 'what is an AmStaff?'. I was trying to explain that, since I travel with those dope dealing, gang banging, gun-totin' middle aged ladies these days. :>)

Caveat said...

PS I fully agree about owners knowing their limitations.

If you're nervous and fearful, don't get a big, pushy, hard-headed dog - they need relaxed, confident (ie experienced) owners. If you hate grooming, don't get a dog whose hair grows continuously or one with a thick, short double coat - both will drive you nuts. If you don't like noise, don't get a bossy little dog who thinks he owns just about everything - the barking will put you over the edge.

There's a dog for everybody but not every dog is for everybody.

Especially those sissies who worry about hair - they should stick with fish :>)

Angela said...

I agree with Caveat.

One could also ask, under this type of scrutiny, what are: Wheaten Terriers, Airdale Terriers, Kerry Blue Terriers? Some of the larger terriers, including AmStaffs, while they share some of the same origins as go to ground smaller terriers, were bred for different, more multi purpose work on farms. Hence the difference in size.

One can certainly say that some breeds typically have more drive or more energy, are more tenacious or more pushy, but those really are generalizations. After years of working with dogs of all breeds, I can confidently say that there are huge differences between individuals in any given breed. Dogs are dogs, and what is extremely important is matching individual dogs to individual owners based on drive and personality type, as well as encouraging training and socialization and responsible dog ownership for ALL dogs of all breeds and mixes. Nothing is more sad than seeing a dog who would be a happy, stable dog with a different owner, such as a Border Collie I worked with yesterday.

After suffering many bites over the years, it is also evident to me that aggression really is not breed specific but owner specific. I have met extremely aggressive Golden Retrievers and Collies, Shih Tzus and Lhasa Apsos that have done serious damage to people and dogs. I have met extremely docile AmStaffs, APBTs and Rotties. Go figure.

PBurns said...

Wheaten Terriers and Kerry Blue Terriers are not true terriers either.

Note that they are both Irish dogs bred from dogs exported from the UK because they were too large to go to ground. Over large terriers like Wheaten and Kerry blues (and Glens I would also add) are the product of over large working dogs slagged off to become turnspit dogs and fighting dogs and cart guard dogs.

The word TERRIER means to go to ground. If we start calling hulking monsters terriers, we might as well start calling dachshunds coursing dogs.

And yes, there is a lot of variation in dog temerament, but a working terrier is a generally more game and naturally aggressive dog than a pug. Dogs that have had their prey drive honed (and that includes herding dogs) are generally able to pull it up and use it. This is instinct in harness. Its not fear, and it's not anger, and it's not bad handling by the owner; it's genetic code that bubbles up from the base. And yes, it's canine aggression built into the genetic code of the dog. Call it something else if you want, but a ram facing a border collie that will grip (even when its owner does not want it to) knows it has an aggressive dog and one that will not be overruled by anything with wool.

I think the average pit is descended from dogs that have basically been farm dogs for more than 200 years; in short they have drifted pretty farm from their roots. They may have as much game in them as a West Highland White terrier, which is pretty close to zero. But is that a good thing? I suppose it is in the modern world. For sure, folks like their West Highland White terriers and their Cairns. I always recommend those breeds for folks who have small children because they have less aggression. It is not a coincidence that they are also rarely (if ever) found in the field.

P

dana said...

please note- the american pit bull terrier, amstaff, and staffy bull aren't, and never were molossers.
molossers are dogs historically bred to catch people. apbt's and their family were never bred for that. they were bred to catch vermin and to fight other dogs (and bull baiting, hence the name)
biting people by these breeds was STRICTLY not allowed by their original breeders, because the people who used these dogs to fight needed to be able to pull them out of the pit at a momemt's notice.
however, thanks to so many people owning these dogs, and breeding any dog with muscle mass to any other dog with a poor temperament, that is how we end up with man biters. not because they are prey driven (they are, but prey drive and human aggression are not the same) but because they are poorly bred, unstable dogs with totally incorrect temperaments.

i breed bandogs (APBT/mastiff, they are a molosser) and if one of my dogs bit someone outside the schutzhund field or pp practice, i'd put it down. there's NO excuses for people to be breeding these dogs with such poor temperaments that they will hurt people. the APBT was never intended to be a guard dog or molosser, and never should have been used as such.

PBurns said...

COMPLETE NONSENSE Dana. All the Molossers are STOCK working dogs, either used to guard or to catch. The American Pitbull (Am Staff) is firmly in that camp, as is the Boxer, Bulldog, American Bulldog, St. Bernard, etc. See something as obvious as >> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molosser

And PLEASE do not breed dogs; if you do not know these very minimal basics, then you really do not know enough to do it right.

P.

Jot Nirinjan Kaur said...

Very interesting ideas, and most make a lot of sense to me, more so than the fabulous stories invented about Ridgebacks hunting lions and whatnot. Though I would bring up is the unmistakable similarities between working "pit bulls" and old paintings of bull baiting dogs (or are you in agreement that they were originally catch dogs, as many are today, but have mostly been used as farm dogs since then?)

As well as really questioning why you would write a very long post debunking what wikipedia has to say about breeds, only to reference it as a source of reliable information in a comment?

I think that you and Caveat are actually in agreement as far as aggression goes, it's just a matter of using different language, and aggression being too broad a term. John Paul Scott proved in his research with mice that aggression in the sense of an unprovoked attack simply cannot be bred for, though you can raise and lower the threshold of stimulation. And I completely agree that prey drive and gameness is absolutely something you can breed for, but not aggression in the term of senseless animosity.

And I couldn't agree more with Caveat that there is far more variation between individuals than between breeds. I think this fact really needs to be stressed to anyone looking to get a dog, because so many people go out looking to get a dog because they've read the breed standard and think that every specimen is exactly that way, but especially with most dogs being bred for looks, it's simply not true. The breed influences the dog, but the individuals' unique disposition overrides all else. Though I do agree that there are dispositions more prevalent in each breed, I have to wonder how much of our ideas of this are influenced by our looking for it and mentally dismissing the dogs that don't fit into our idea of the breed.

Jot Nirinjan Kaur said...

One more note - American Staffordshire Terriers and American Pit Bull Terriers are still commonly cross registered.

PBurns said...

I think maybe something got lost in translation here..."debunking what wikipedia has to say about breeds?" Eh? What link is that? The text on Wikipedia, of course, changes by the day, so coming in FOUR AND A HALF YEARS LATER may be an issue ;)

P

Jot Nirinjan Kaur said...

I meant "what wikipedia has to say about breeds" in terms of their fantastic invented histories of what a breed was created for, such as Rhodesian Ridgebacks being lion hunting dogs, a general comment, not specific to any one page.

crystal said...

In response to whether a dog can be bred for aggression, they CAN. personality traits are often genetic, therefore, if one were to breed two temperamental dogs, the likelihood of getting a temperamental puppy would be much higher than if one were to get a puppy from two balanced dogs. I suffer from clinical depression, which makes me irritable. My father has clinical depression, as does his mother. To say that aggression can not be bred into a dog is denying genetics.

That said, pit bulls were not allowed to be people aggressive, when the breed was being created. Human aggressive dogs were culled on the spot. Much of the aggression in pits can be curbed by carefully selected, well balanced dogs.

BECAUSE they are a powerful dog though, they are not the right breed for everyone. Not every dog fits its breed standard. A well bred dog, however, will typically fit that standard.

Also, ANY breed can go rouge. But when a pit bull type dog does, it can cause more damage than any other type of dog, because most of its head is made of jaw muscles. If a chihuahua is aggressive (I've met many that are) it could cause nowhere near the damage that a pit bull type dog could.

Kenya said...

@crystal. You say he chihuahua cannot do a much damage as a pitbull? Tell that to the parents of infants that have been killed by them or other small dogs. It is all a matter of perspective. A 6'4 250 lbs. man may not be fatally wounded by a chihuahua, but he certainly could be crippled by one. There are cases of small dogs severing achilles tendons or removing fingers in viscious attacks. Yes pitbulls do considerable damage when they do attack, but the media exagerrates the frequency of pitbull attacks. Often dalmatians with patches, short coated labs with big heads and even boston terriers have been mistaken for pitbulls. I'm not defending dumb knuckleheads who keep pitbulls as a status symbol, but as a man who has spent his entire adult life around them, I can honestly say they can be the best dogs for a RESPONSIBLE family, couple or single owner.