Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Dogs and People are Often Unfit for Each Other

Back in 2009, in an article for Dog's Today, I wrote that:

We call them "Man's Best Friend," but if any other friend pissed and crapped in the house, yelled loudly early in the morning, stole our food, humped our leg, ate poop, and then tried to kiss us, we would brick them in the head in short order.

Of course, it's worse than that.

Not only are a lot of people very unhappy with their dogs, but a lot of dogs are unhappy with their people.

Every year, millions of dogs are acquired by folks who say they "love" them, but these same people turn around four, six, or nine months later and then abandon them.

These abandonments are not an accident -- they are the product of a generalized lie and a specific lie.

The generalized lie is that everyone (and certainly every family) needs a dog.   Not true.   The harsh truth is that in this jam-packed world, increasing numbers of people do not have the yard, schedule, time, finances, or temperament to live well with a dog.

The specific lie is that all breeds are the same. This is the lie that flows like water off of the lips of the Pit Bull community which chants "deed not breed" as if indoctrinated into a cult. The simple truth is that why NO dog is the right choice for a lot of people, a Pit Bull is the wrong choice for MOST people. It is not an accident or random chance that half of all the dogs abandoned to their death in this country are Pit Bulls. To put a number on it, that's nearly one million Pit Bulls a year; over 40 million pounds of dead dogs tossed into landfills and incinerators every year.

For the record, this video was made by the ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi for the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in the U.K.

I am not sure this video does exactly what they want, but maybe it does.

You see, at the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, about 1/3 of the dogs are put to sleep, and most of the healthy dogs that are put to sleep are Pit Bulls -- i.e. "Staffordshire Bull Terrier types."

So yes, maybe this ad does exactly what the Battersea Dog & Cats Home intended -- it makes people think about getting an over-large, prey-driven, guarding or herding dog that will make their life -- and their dog's life -- a living hell for the next 10 to 15 years.  Not bad then!


Kenya said...

I understand your views on pitbulls. I have a ten year old male and he is my best friend. With that being said PIT BULLS ARE NOT FOR EVERYBODY!!! It takes A TON of patience, effort, creativity, and intelligence to properly raise a pitbull, and yo be honest there are not too many people who own pitbulls that posess those traits. I live in an area where if it is not a pit bull it is not a dog to some people, and most do not need a dog that is pound for pound as strong as a gorilla LOL! most of these people assume that pitbulls are supposed to be aggessive,untrainable monsters that will eat home invaders. Funny thing is more pit bull puppies and adults) get stolen in my neighborhood than household items! Pit bulls were never bred to be guard dogs(there are few schutzhund trained pits I've met personally). They were bred from rat-catching terriers and bull-catching mastiff type dogs. Above all else they were bred to be HUMAN FRIENDLY!! So to say punish the deed not the breed is a cult mantra, for those of us who own and breed pitbulls AND ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS AND BEHAVIOR, I guess you could call us a cult LOL! I will chant that 'till the day I die!

PBurns said...

We agree on the fundamentals, but let me clarify about the history of Pit Bulls: these dogs have NOTHING to with ratting terriers or rat pits.

The confusion occurs because:

1) The term "terrier" was (and sometimes still is) tossed around to signal that a dog is game. In fact, rat pit dogs were SMALL dogs, almost all weighting less than 18 pounds and most weighting less than 12. A lot of dogs that are still said to be terriers are not terriers at all. There is no terrier in a Black Russian Terrier or a Tibetan Terrier, for example, while an Airedale is mostly Otterhound!

2) For a period of about 7 years in the late 19th Century, there was a TOY dog called an English White Terrier which was, in fact, a simple cross between a light-bodied smooth Jack Russell and a Chihuahua-type dog. The dog had NO work purpose and was unsuited as a lap dog as it was often deaf and had a molera (hole in the skull bone), like a Chihuahua. It disappeared after it found disfavor with the Kennel Club. Long before this dog appeared on the scene there had been ANOTHER DOG (entirely unrelated) also called an English White Terrier. It was a large dog -- over 50 pounds -- and was a molosser dog that resembled a white Pit Bull or a white Boxer. This dog was pure molosser and goes back to at least 1400.

Boxers, Pit Bulls, and Rotties all originated as "butcher's catch dogs" and are part of the same molosser gene pool as many (but not all) guarding dogs.

As for the notion that American Pit Bulls are not being bred to be guarding dogs, you are simply not familiar with the history of this breed in America. See >> http://terriermandotcom.blogspot.com/2006/05/what-hell-is-american-staffordshire.html for a short version detailing the split between Johnson- and Scott-type dogs.


Digger said...

I must say, Mr. Burns; that you're perhaps the only logical pit bull lover I've ever seen, and that is amazing. your entries on the breed are informative and damming. They show the true ignorance of most advocates and what seems to be a sad future for pit bulls and the human victims of this breed.

I do question though, what are some of these people so scared of? There seems to be so much fear over regulation, I do not understand it.

PBurns said...

Things are always complicated when it comes to regulation... Do you legislate assuming everyone is an idiot or do you legislate assuming everyone is an angel? Is the goal punishing bad behavior or enabling and encouraging good behavior?

What are the relative harms and risks and burdens associated with any course of action (or even a train of thought)?

The Pit Bull community correctly notes that the dogs are less likely to kill than a swimming pool, a bumble bee, or a parent. Of course, death is not the only standard of harm is it? What about maimings? And perhaps more important, what about those MILLION dead Pit Bulls that we toss on to the heap every year? A deafening silence there!

The "killer dog" frame that most folks want to fight about when it comes to Pits assumes that it's all about the humans. Screw the humans ... at least for a few seconds. What about the dogs? What about the fact that we are killing so many Pit Bulls, and so many others have prety bad lives because they are such a bad fit for so many people? Can we talk about that? Can we educate, legislate, or regulate around that FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE DOGS rather than to address the fear (rational or not) of the humans?

I think dogs in general need to be "unsold" or de-normalized a bit. We did this with cigarettes and other things that remain legal but are no longer seen as cool or socially required. We can do this with dogs too.

Consider this: In the U.S., we have twice as many dogs per capita as the British do. That "overage" of dogs is probably the "common sense and humanity gap" as it relates to dogs in this country... a rough index of how "over prescribed" we are with dogs.

HSUS and the ASPCA and the local shelters could run a pretty good "unselling" campaign for dogs if they tried, featuring people who own dogs and LOVE dogs talking about the time, financial and emotional costs of dogs.... that this is a hard choice and a real skill and discipline set every bit as serious and deserving of respect as owning a gun or driving a car.

** You can elevate dog owners even as you unsell dogs! **

What an idea!

And what a NON-CONTROVERSIAL success that would be.


Viatecio said...

I just can't let sleeping dogs lie...it gets me in a lot of trouble every time I mention it because no one wants to believe it. Others have said it before me, and it's their words I use, but you put it perfectly when you said

"Every year, millions of dogs are acquired by folks who say they "love" them, but these same people turn around four, six, or nine months later and then abandon them."

There is hardly such thing as an "overpopulation" problem in shelters. What we have is a permanence problem: there is no support system to keep pets in homes, no (or at least very little) willingness on the parts of some owners (NOT ALL) to take steps to keep pets in their homes, and frauds abound with methods that often draw in genuine seekers who can't afford to waste money in trying to keep their pet at home, but do so...and in the end, still might lose the pet.

And then there are some who are truthful in admitting that this was a bad idea, and whether the shelter is kill or not, the dog still ends up paying the price of the human's mistake.

I have never met another pit bull advocate such as you, Patrick, but rest assured that there needs to be more of this mindset before the "pit bull problem" is even close to being tackled.

Digger said...


With the pit bull community, it's sad to say but I do presume that a majority are either gullible to the point that the come off as idiot, or are inherently so. They're the only group of people who will think it is cute to watch a pit bull dangle from a spring pole for a few minutes violently shaking it. And the only people who insist in the hypocrisy of pits not being left with children, but then show their young children walking the pit bull or are otherwise surprised when their pibble has mauled or killed their child if and when that occurs.

In terms of what should be done for the benefit of society and the dog. Here's what I propose in some form or fashion.

1. Prohibit anyone with a criminal record from owning a pit bull.
(remove any pit bull from someone with a criminal record)

2. Prohibit the ownership of pit bulls in small child households.
(appropriate age 10-13)

3. Require sturdier leashes and collars as well as muzzles in public.

4. Require a certified 3 month puppy training course.

5. Require a breeding license.

Some of these may be overboard, but I do think they are necessary. Especially since these seem to be the most common of issues. And especially since the pit bull community seems adamant about removing any law they deem "hurting" their breed. just read the blog of Ledy Vankavage. She seems to be a major source as to why pit bulls continue to suffer.

Although, to be honest. I think everyone should take some basic courses and experience the pros and cons of dog ownership for at least three months, regardless of the breed.

Digger said...


Yes, pit bulls are not for everyone.

But no, some lines have been bred despite being human aggressive. Does the pit bull "Chinaman" ring a bell? Even some pro-pit sites mention the travesty of this dog's behavior. So while it may not be a prominent line type, it does exist to the best of my knowledge.

And yes, most of the pit bull community is very cult like for the very reasons you've mentioned.

Kenya said...

I will say in my neck of the woods,responsible pit bull owner are few and far between.

I just had to teach an eighteen year old with a pit at the park today how to get his dog to sit! I mean DAMN!! THAT INFURIATES ME TO NO END!! His response to me telling him to sit his dog was " I can't" and "he won't listen to me" Again if I didn't have my dog with me, I would have just taken his dog from him and left! How can you have a dog with so much of a negative stigma, and not even be willing to train it! that is a typical situation in my area.

Unsocialized,untrained, unchecked dogs. These kinds of people are the reason it is so hard on RESPONSIBLE pit bull owners. I may not be the absolute best dog owner in the entire world, but at least my dog is socialized, well behaved(just got his CGC recently) and not the menace to society that the mass media would have you believe his breed is. I would venture to say that he is an ambassador for the breed. I'm not sipping anybody's kool-aid, but pit bulls really worked out for me.

Kenya said...

And by the way, yes I've heard of chinaman, but I've tried to stay away from these so called "game bred" lines because of the tendency of idots and novices rubbing two pitbulls together to squirt out a litter of pups. They claim such things as " these are gatormouth pits" or "these dogs are several times Jeep, Redboy, Chinaman, Budweiser crusher,Etc. (ad nauseum)". As if anyone not into dog fighting or hog hunting needs a high drive, animal agressive dog that they have no intention of training or socializing. These dogs will more than likely end up spending his or her life as a lawn ornament for some wannabe gangsta(not gangster)
biker, or toughguy poser.

Digger said...


This is a sad truth for the pit bulls themselves and the human victims several acquire through irresponsible handlers. The pit bull community is its own worst enemy in this regard. It has no obvious interest in discerning who should own a pit bull and who shouldn't as a general whole. Why so many believe in "it's all in how you raise them" mantra is beyond me...

Yes, in many cases this works.
And no, this does not work on every dog.

So I personally see two problems here. The adopting out of temperamentally unsound dogs, and the adopting out to novice owners. Two things the pit bull community fails to address almost every time from what I've witnessed.

Then there's the problem of responsible pit bull owners speaking up. However, I do not blame why one would be hesitant to do so. There are many knuckleheads who will berate your intentions. And then there are the saps in the more "positive" pit bull community (think Ledy Vankavage or Bad Rap) who will scorn any belief that the problem with pit bulls is a dual one. One that goes back to ownership, and breeding temperaments of certain dogs.

If those two things alone were acknowledged for the problems they do exert then there would probably be a lot less mauling of pets and people, and the exploitation of pit bulls.

Why the pit bull community does not address this is far beyond me. And something that would require more research. It's almost as though they find it acceptable for people and pets to be mauled while their dogs are exploited. I really do not understand it.

Digger said...


I was wondering. Especially since you've published a book before on terriers. Why don't you publish a book about pit bulls?

You're very educated on the matter, and seem to be one of the few who's willing to call out the general BS and mythology of the "advocate" community.

I don't much will change about the situation until someone who's had a lot of canine experience, and who's willing to present unbiased facts mentions the main issue at hand. And seeing how there are books on pit bulls that are either too sympathetic or demonizing, I think you would be the right person for the job.

Have you ever took it into consideration?

PBurns said...

Digger, I am not the person to write a book on Pit Bulls. I agree something longer is needed, and it needs to be something more than what has been written now, but I am not the one to do it. I wrote a book on working terriers because I love the dogs and have some standing because of that(and that alone). Others in the working terrier world know more, have dug longer, etc. I simply had the discipline to write it down and to write a few things that were true and specific to working terriers. It is a *very* specific book.

The Pit Bull community is correct in one respect: Pit Bulls are like other dogs in almost every way. They are trained the same way, they do not have a different morphology when it comes to their jaw, other dogs also bite, etc.

My message about Pit Bulls is simply the same message I have about all dogs: 1) Breeds come with codes and very few are purely blank slates; 2) Dogs are a discipline and should not be entered into lightly (we need to unsell the idea that everyone needs a dog), and; 3) We have a duty to the dogs, and that duty is life-long. I am working on a book about dogs. Though it is a dog book for a general audience, it is NOT a clone of every other dog book out there on the shelf now. More to be revealed later -- getting things out is a process, not an event, and you do it for love of the dogs because God knows there's no money in it!


Kenya said...

I started out as a novice with the breed. My pit was the first purebred dog I've ever had. the difference between me and other novice pit bull owners is that I did research. Nearly a solid year of research before I got into the breed. Hell, I'm still doing research and finding new things nearly ten years later! the only thing I regret is not having a job for my pitbull to do when I got him. His obedience is good for a senior citizen dog, and he is still in my opinion a great dog. I know not all pit bulls are like mine (especially nowadays with these backyard breeders charging a house payment for garbage). So don't really judge someone by their lack of experience. Maybe they're a quick study. Or maybe they just are willing to educate themselves and make appropriate choices because after all, that's what being a responsible adult is all about.

Digger said...


I understand where you're coming from entirely. However, it is a general truth from my experience that many people are novice with dogs in general and honestly have no business owning a pit bull until they get more experience with dogs and take the time to study up on them.

I never said that education didn't prohibit experience in dog ownership. The main problem I see with this though is that many people simply do neither. They either train and confuse their dogs, or give up on them all together.

There are so many people who have powerful breeds that are decedents from guard, herding, and fighting lines. Only to come to pet store classes and seek training as to why their dog "is acting crazy" when most are doing what they were bred to do. A rottie aggressively barking at a stranger, a Shepard being to protective of certain people (generally owners), or a pit bull lunging at a smaller animal or canine.

People believe that training all breeds of dogs are exactly the same. This is mostly true. But some breeds need different exercises, stimuli, and purpose. A hound dog Ii knew did not stop becoming frustrated until he was given a "game" in which he had to seek out hidden object. After a few days, we no longer lunged at other animals, or pulled at the leash.

It's wonderful you took the time to research. And awesome that a pit bull was lucky to get an owner like you. But the sad reality is that most people do not seem willing to do what you've done.

jeff hays said...

My experience with pit bulls has shown them to be as advertised, a disaster waiting to happen.
I have seen,known and been around a few pits over the years, owned by idiots and great rescue folks, and would NEVER NEVER EVER totally trust them with kids or other dogs. I HAVE seen pits SNAP that were owned by great dog people and maul/kill other dogs. THANKFULLY never a child.
I had a fellow working for me that had a great pit bull ,played all day with my 40 lb spitz yet attacked and killed a beagle for no reason.