Perhaps more than any other breed, the pit bull has been dogged by negative stereotypes. In truth, pit bulls are innately wonderful family pets, as capable of love and good deeds as any other type of dog. Setting the record straight, Ken Foster sings the praises of pit bulls in I’m a Good Dog, a gorgeously illustrated, tenderly written tribute to this most misunderstood of canines.
This is almost certainly false and even at best is entirely misleading. I’m a dog lover, the owner of three dogs of different breeds, and an avid reader on dog training, behavior, and care. I’m far from an expert. So I pose this post mostly in the form of a question, but I’m prepared, more or less, to call bullshit on this.
First, certain breeds of dog are physically capable of inflicting serious damage on humans and some are not. A normal, healthy toddler stands very little chance of suffering maiming or death from a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Even snippier small breeds bred for the purpose of killing small animals can’t inflict much harm on school age children. And while pit bulls aren’t the largest breed, they certainly aren’t small, they have powerful jaws and teeth.
Second, different breeds of dog have different dispositions. There is some wiggle room, of course, within breeds. And if you abuse even the dopiest, friendliest Golden Retriever, it will eventually turn savage. Conversely, a properly treated Akita or Pit Bull will be a good companion as well. There are people who own wolves and wolf-hybrids and successfully tame them as well. But the starting point does vary quite a bit by breed. Labrador Retrievers are much more difficult to lose control of than, say, a Doberman.
It seems to me that an apt comparison might between BB guns and assault rifles. Sure, if everyone who ever owned an AR-15 had 300 hours of training on it and was a sharpshooter, kept it properly locked away, etc. etc. things like Sandy Hook would never happen. Conversely, if someone has a pellet gun and shoots it point plank in a toddler’s eye, that kid could go blind or die.
The problem is the ease of turning an AR-15 into an instrument of mass killing and the difficulty of turning a BB gun into one of even serious harm.
Worse, it is exactly the killing potential of assault rifles that attracts them to the kinds of people that we don’t want to own guns, or, put another way, the kind of people who want to use them for their intended purpose. Similarly, it is the reputation of Pit Bulls as killer dogs meant for dog fights that attract them to the kind of dog owner that is likely to be least responsible with them; the fact that they also allegedly serve as great family pets doesn’t diminish this at all.
I’m not really saying there should be a pit bull “ban.” But don’t whine to me about their being “misunderstood.” Don’t complain when your insurance is higher because you own a dog that can inflict a lot of damage on someone.