DEAR DIDI: Why haven’t Pit Bulls been outlawed yet? – 13-year-old in Stockton
DEAR STOCKTONIAN: I think I could write an entire book on the complexities of your question even though it seems simple enough. You might be able to ask your grandparents about German Shepherd dogs in the 1970s. People were terrified of them and believed they were ALL dangerous killers. Yet, now German Shepherds are loved and valued as good pets.
Think of things in terms of humans for a little bit. On the news channel one night, it is reported that a very bad man hurt many people, broke a lot of laws, burned homes down, and was difficult to find and arrest. They show his picture several times. Should we now be afraid and never trust any man, ever again? Yes, all men are capable of hurting people. That doesn’t mean that they WILL and an awful lot comes down to how those men were raised. Can we trust all women then, because we haven’t seen them on TV hurting people? The obvious answer is, no. It depends on the individual woman and/or man.
Human brains understand the world better by naturally classifying information into groups and generalizing. Sometimes we generalize too much, too quickly, though.
The news on television likes to report stories that are shocking. Stories of dogs attacking a person are exactly that. Shocking. Our human brains then classify the information into a grouping and when we see another such story, it is added to the group. Pretty soon, it is easy to say, “Pit bulls are dangerous.” Dangerous things should be outlawed or done away with … right? Remember that a 30-minute news channel has no interest, time or motivation to report about the tens of thousands of Pit Bull type dogs that are peaceful, disciplined and valuable family members. Pit Bull is not a breed of dog unto itself. When raised properly, these types of dogs are as capable of being gentle, loving and super loyal family members as any other breed of dog. It is terribly unfortunate that part of what we like about them is their muscles and body shape. Some human criminals choose these types of dogs to be part of criminal activities like drug deals and dog fighting rings. It is because they are naturally strong, intimidating looking, and have powerful jaws that they were singled out for these activities. Any living thing that is raised in a bad environment with lots of violence and illegal activities can grow up to be violent and mean themselves because they don’t know any differently.
There is a government agency that tracks dog bites across the United States. They keep information about the amount of damage done and what type of dog was involved. They project that 80 percent of dog bites in the United States are actually done by small breed dogs. The only difference is that a Chihuahua, for example, probably can’t put you in the hospital if it bites you. You are more likely to be bitten by a small dog, however, than a larger type of dog without even getting into specific breeds. Each and every dog is an individual animal with its own set of experiences, intelligence level, fears, training or lack thereof, and abilities. Just like in humans, there are bad ones, good ones, and everywhere in between. For your protection, you should learn how to read the signs and body language in a dog to know which ones can be trusted and which ones should be avoided.
Dierdra McElroy is a graduate of Texas A&M University and is an Animal Behaviorist specializing in canines. If you have questions or concerns about the pets in your house, you can get them answered through a future column of Didi’s Dogs. For a free consultation with Dierdra or to ask your dog behavior question, email www.CaliforniaCanineUnleashed.com.