Canine Behavior/pit bulls

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Question
Hi,

We live in the suburbs. Our next door neighbor tells us he is getting a pit bull to replace a dog that died. Our small grand children visit us and play in the yard. We are extremely concerned because of reports of attacks and killings by this breed. What is your take. Thanks.

Mike

Answer
Hello, and thank you for contacting All Experts.

My take is that most of the reports of attacks and killing by this "breed" aren't accurate enough to be deemed reliable. Here's a brief explanation. First of all, the term pit bull is very misleading.To the general public, the term pit bull is an umbrella term to depict dogs that share similar physical characteristics rather than depicting an actual breed. So when journalists report a pit bull has injured or even killed children, they are in reality depicting a tragedy that has been carried out by any dog that has a bulky body and a square-shaped head. This means that many mutts and dogs of various breeds are being categorized as "pit bulls" by journalists who have no idea of what kind of dog they are really talking about and since news reports using the term "pit bull" cause sensationalism it's the default term they use to depict any dogs with blocky heads. So when you hear these reports, it's not surprising that they sound overwhelming, making the "pit bull" appear as some type of monster, when in reality what you're really looking at are various mixes and other dog breeds! Here is a good place to get an idea of how many dogs are often mistakenly exchanged for pit bulls.

http://web.archive.org/web/20130810055544/http:/www.pitbullsontheweb.com/petbull

All this faulty misinformation about "pit bulls" released by the media, has therefore spurred the release of breed specific legislation, basically the banning of any "pit bull" looking dogs from certain communities. Did this work? Certainly not, mostly because breed specific legislation is based on the faulty assumptions that certain breeds sharing certain looks are inherently dangerous, and that such dogs and their mixes can be identified by observation, which as we have seen is quite complicated, even by so called "experts."

So I will be quoting the results of study conducted by the Veterinary Journal as I find their answer to your question the most comprehensive.

"Since injuries from dogs have not decreased following bans on particular breeds, public safety is better served by focusing on recognition and mitigation of risk factors for dog bites, such as supervising children, recognizing canine body language, avoiding approaching an unfamiliar dog in its territory, neutering dogs, and providing adequate socialization and companionship for dogs and identification and management of individual dangerous dogs and reckless dog owners."

So more than fearing a specific dog, one should be fearful of reckless dog owners and putting dogs and children in situations that could generate a bite. Dogs and children should never be left alone. If there is an unknown dog, management is the safest option meaning that the dog is kept in a securely fenced area that children cannot get to. This should be something to consider with any type of dog regardless of breed and looks. The safety of any breed of dog, with children, is determined solely by parental guidance and proper management. One should commit to never leave an infant, toddler or child alone with the family dog or a friend's dog, even if the dog "loves children." This applies regardless whether the the dog is large or small and regardless of breed.

Here is the study as a reference and some articles for further reading.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S109002331500310X

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/experts-say-pit-bulls-dont-exist/2012/08/28/b0c410b8-f14c-11e1-b74c-84ed55e0300b_story.html#comments

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arin-greenwood/pit-bull-myths_b_5623555.html  

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Adrienne Janet Farricelli CPDT-KA

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I can answer questions pertaining dog psychology and general dog behavior. Why is my dog doing this? And what can I do about it? are common questions I am asked. I will not answer questions concerning health problems as this is out of my spectrum, but I can recommend a vet visit if there are chances behavioral problems may stem from a possible underlying medical problem.

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I am a certified dog trainer (CPDT-KA) that has attended seminars on dog behavior. I am acquainted with behavior modification programs and have read several books from reputable authors such as Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugaas, Nicholas Dodman and Bruce Fogle to name a few. I have rehabilitated dogs affected by moderate to severe behavioral problems.

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