It is widely believed that the Pit Bull is the most dangerous dog breed due to its strength and its reputation for aggressive and vicious behavior.
However, a breed is not born vicious, and studies have shown that the environment a dog is raised in plays a significant part in the development of their personality. It has also been proven that the owners of Pit Bulls are considered ‘high risk’ people. Therefore, an owner that is hot tempered and aggressive themselves will most likely raise a Pit Bull with a similar temperament than an owner who has raised their Pit Bull in a loving and gentle manner.
However, though Pit Bulls now have a reputation for being the most dangerous breed, this was not always the case. In the 1900’s and particularly throughout World War I Pit Bulls were used on army recruitment posters as mascots for the American military. They were chosen to represent America because of their strength, bravery and loyalty.
The Pit Bull breed was so respected and loved by the soldiers in the American army that they promoted a Pit Bull to the position of Sergeant due to its participation in the war. This war dog was named Sergeant Stubby, and he was the most decorated war dog to have served in the U.S military. Sergent Stubby was used to warn soldiers of incoming attacks from the enemy and to warn of gas attacks. Most importantly he was used for keeping morale up in camp. Therefore, in the 1900’s Pit Bulls were loved for their strength and bravery, so why did their reputation change in later years? did this breed become dangerous?
Gaining a bad reputation:
Pit Bulls continued to be loved throughout the twentieth century and did not garner a bad reputation until around the 1980’s, and this is due in large part to the fault of humans. Dog fighting became legal again in the 1980’s, and the dog of choice was the Pit Bull due to its size and strength. Pit bulls usually weigh between 16kg to 30kg so they are very strong dogs. The Pit Bulls temperament also makes them good fighting dogs as they are very determined and tenacious, and some will fight to the death in these matches. It is also well known that Pit Bulls do not like other dogs, and it is usually recommended that they are the only dog in a household.
Therefore, once people began to realize that Pit Bulls were being used for illegal blood sport, many began to see them in a negative light as the Pit Bull would sometimes kill its opponent in these fights, leading people to believe they were a dangerous breed. However, in these cases, it is important to take into account the fact that the Pit Bull has been put in a ring with another aggressive animal and has reacted the only way it knows how. Pit Bulls are also incredibly loyal toward their owners and have a need to please them, and this trait is used against them in the ring.
Furthermore, there is also the misconception that all Pit Bulls are aggressive towards humans. However, if this were the case, many Pit Bull owners who participate in these matches would also be attacked. The owners have to break up the fights eventually so for their own safety they have to ensure that the riled and aggressive Pit Bull does not turn their aggression on them when they intervene.
Are Owners to Blame?
Pit Bulls also developed a bad reputation throughout the 1980’s when they became the go-to dog for many criminals and gangs. As the Pit Bull had slowly begun to gain the reputation for being the most dangerous dog breed due to dog fighting many criminals and gangs chose this dog solely for this reason which only sullied the Pit Bull name even more. It is also believed that the owners of Pit Bulls are higher risk owners and this belief was proved in 2006 by a study from the Journal of Interpersonal Violence which stated that vicious dogs were more likely to have owners that had been convicted of a crime from aggressive crimes to minor convictions involving drugs and alcohol.
Again in 2012, a study was carried out in regards to vicious dogs and their owners. This time, the study was undertaken by the Journal of Forensic Sciences and this study stated that “vicious dog owners reported significantly higher criminal thinking, entitlement, sentimentality and super-optimism tendencies. Vicious dog owners were arrested, engaged in physical fights, and used marijuana”. (M. Schenk, Allison. L. Ragatz, Laurie. William J. Fremouw.)
Another contributor to the Pit Bull’s bad reputation is the misidentification of the breed. Pit Bull is a broad term given to three different types of dogs the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, the Bulldog and the American Staffordshire Terrier. Many dogs are misidentified as Pit Bulls as people label any dogs with blocky heads, muscular bodies and pointed triangular ears as Pit Bulls. Therefore when any of these dogs bite or attack, the media will immediately point the finger at Pit Bulls when in fact it was a different breed that caused the damage. This is also a prominent reason as to why the breed have gained such a bad reputation.
There is also the myth that the Pit Bull breed has jaws that lock once they bite and also that they have the most powerful jaws of all dog breeds. These statements are untrue. The jaws of a Pit Bull have no distinct difference than any other breed. Nor are their jaws stronger than any other large dog breed. This myth most likely stemmed from the fact that Pit Bulls were bred to catch and hold down wild animals such as boar and wild cattle until their owners arrived. However, when this was put to the test against other large breeds including the Rottweiler, the German Shepherd and the American Pit Bull Terrier the Pit Bulls bite had the least amount of pressure.
Finally, Pit Bulls are loving and friendly dogs when they are treated right. If they are raised and trained by an inexperienced owner that has purchased a Pit Bull because they have bought into the myth that this breed is aggressive and vicious than they will, unfortunately, raise the dog to fit this description. It is important to remember that this breed did not always have the reputation of being the most dangerous breed they were once trusted and loyal army dogs for a reason. Many statements made about Pit Bulls are myths stemming from their participation in dog fights and the growing demand for them by criminals and gangs.
- Schenk, Allison. L. Ragatz, Laurie. William J. Fremouw. “Vicious Dogs Part 2: Criminal Thinking, Callousness, and Personality Styles of Their Owners”. Journal of Forensic Sciences 57.1 (2012) Wiley online Library. Web. 29 September 2016.