Tuesday, March 9, 2010

'Breed profiling' & pit bulls

It used to be Dobermans, then Rottweilers and/or German Shepherds – dog breeds that could make people anxious or outright scared. These days, the dog to distrust, to look at askance, to expect the worst of is the pit bull.

Last week in Trenton, an 80-pound un-neutered pit bull mauled a woman, doing severe damage to her arm before the police arrived. The dog was shot dead. The woman he attacked was hospitalized. The owner, at least in the first telling of the story, was silent.

The victim was eating ribs with her friend when the dog reportedly tried to get some, and the woman slapped him. After he attacked her, the owner poured cold water on him, trying to get him to stop. When he turned on her, she managed to get out and phone 911.

Inevitably, this will happen again, and people will have still more reason to expect the worst of these dogs, talk them down and maybe even propose outlawing them. Such an assuming-the-worst pattern toward some dog breeds has been compared with racial profiling among humans; both are wrong.

But it’s not the dogs who should be blamed -- it’s the humans responsible for them.

Pit bulls are reportedly highly motivated to please their people, their “masters.” Trained by humans, these dogs – and any dog -- can behave in positive or negative ways to win their people’s approval.

An animal advocate in the area who is now fostering a pit bull says pit bulls have been bred to be aggressive for humans’ benefit and financial gain. She describes them as “high energy” dogs, needing a lot of exercise and firm discipline. Their energy needs to be properly channeled by an experienced and dominant person.

All dogs should be trained to sit quietly while people eat, without begging or being fed from the table, which can cause them to become pushy, she notes. And no animal should ever be hit, which is a violation to them and only escalates aggression – especially with pits. Not all dogs are for everyone, she adds, and right now, this is true of pit bulls.
(Elda Hubbard photo)

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