Last night Britton and I were taking our evening walk around Ramseier Farm Park and around our neighborhood as we do most nights. As we rounded the corner on the east side of the neighborhood this big, snarling dog bounded up at us and started to try and take Britton down. I could tell by the shape of its head that it was a pitbull. Britton managed to punch it in the head which dazed it, but not before it put a deep puncture bite into his calf and a smaller bite in his hand. It turned to try and attack me, but by then the owner had reached it and it just rolled over for her -nice as can be.
The owner was chasing it all over trying to reign it in and saw everything that had happened. She was profusely apologetic and said it had just escaped and had never bitten anyone before. We take walks a lot and have had a lot of dogs come up to us…some friendly and some not. We’ve even had little Chihuahuas try and bite at our ankles. But never have we had our fight or flight response turned on so high as when this Pitbull was going for the kill. It was literally trying to jump for Britton’s neck to take him down. Thankfully BK punched it and I don’t think the pit saw that coming.
Now I know a lot of people say that it’s not the dog’s fault. That any dog can or could bite. And that’s true. But the difference is that some dogs were bred this way -that is to say- are genetically different than other dogs when it comes to aggression and being dangerous. Pitbulls like Dobermans, Rottweilers and German Shepherds and others, were bred to be protectors and quick to attack. Other breeds were made to fetch things (retrievers), others have a heightened sense of smell (hounds), some are runners (greyhounds), or herd animals and others just lay around (like Schnoodle). If you want to see what the best breed of dog would be for your lifestyle check out this dog breed questionnaire.
According to these breed sites, it describes the Pitbull breeds in this way: “original purpose: dog fighting, bullbaiting”, characterized by “powerful jaws”, “aggressive disposition towards other animals”, “devoted breed”, “stubborn, tenacious, fearless”. For those of you who don’t know what bull baiting is, bull baiting was a blood sport that lasted through the 1800′s in which they would tie a bull cow in a ring or pit (hence the name pit bull terrier) often spraying it with hot pepper to enrage it and then they would set the dogs on the bull. The dogs would jump at the bull until they latched on with their teeth and shook and ripped at it until they brought the bull down dead. They were encouraged to jump at the bull’s snout and rip it off. Yah, the descendants of those are the dogs in our neighborhoods. Pretty gruesome. And we wonder why they attack?
These traits certainly can be reinforced and maybe slightly lessened through the owner’s actions, but they are as inherent as the dog’s need for food. Right now, the current dog du jour for people who want to look tough, feel protected and who like a dog that can last in a fight is the pitbull. But with a dog that is inherently more vicious than say -a Sheltie- the owner must be more -NOT LESS- careful with it and held accountable for their dogs’ actions. It’s what you take on when you have ANY animal under your care. But pitbulls are so dangerous, they probably shouldn’t even be in a neighborhood -especially with little children. They should be placed only where their inherent traits are needed and carefully watched -like maybe as a night junk yard dog. And I would only say maybe even there.
Now, what may come as a surprise to you as I say all of this is that I had a pitbull of my own when I was just a kid. His name was Beauregard and he was the best, most loyal dog I ever had.
He loved and protected me beyond measure for pitbulls were also bred to be fiercely loyal. But the key word is Fierce. While he never, ever hurt me, he did try to take down the mailman, the neighborhood kids, and when my brother was born, Beau bit at Justin in the face (but my mom said he didn’t get an actual bite in). Nevertheless, we had never trained him to bite. We had never encouraged this behavior. We had trained him to heel and stay. We had him neutered. But the urge to “protect” was so ingrained, this could not be broken even when it was on our own new family member -a newborn baby! That was when my parents knew they had to get rid of Beau. They took him to a place about 5 miles away. And he RAN all the way back to our house. I remember that he had bloody paws when he arrived from running so far. That is how loyal they are to their owners. Finally they were able to bring him to someone where he would not be able to get out.
Then fast forward. My brother when he was about 16 brought home a pitbull as well. And so now to this day my mom has to take care of his dog, Buddy. Same story. A sweet dog. Neutered. Trained. And yet this dog has killed my mom’s cats. Bitten off the leg of another of her dogs in the various dog fights they get into over food or whatever and cannot be left alone with other animals for fear of the next snap.
So it is not out of exaggerated fear that I say Pitbulls are vicious animals. They just are. And it’s not their fault. It’s not even the fault of the owners except that they choose to own such a dog with an obviously known bad reputation and this keeps the market demand for them up. But it’s really the fault of the breeders who make such a breed that is not really needed in this day and age. A breed that while fiercely loyal can also turn fiercely vicious on a dime. We’ve seen (in the terrible dog fights between Buddy and my mom’s other dogs) how they just will not let go once they have a bite hold -no matter what. Some call this a locked jaw but really it’s just a pure powerful will of the dog to not let go of the victim (because in a fight with a bull or a bear, letting go could mean being thrown off with force).
And yes, this could be many other guard dog breeds, but because Pitbulls are the current trendy macho fighting dog, that’s what we see the most. And it’s why when we get attacked by one on the street we call the police. So if you choose to have a Pitbull (or any other vicious breed) there is a much greater likelihood of liability on your part. Usually homeowner insurance is higher if you own a vicious dog. Often places will not rent to someone with a dangerous dog breed. Your children or their friends could be seriously injured or killed. And your neighbors will resent its presence. Overall it is just not a good idea. So when someone says it’s not the breed, I have to wholeheartedly disagree.
As for Britton and this bite. We called the Greeley police. The Greeley animal control officer said that this particular pitbull will be put in quarantine for 10 days to check for rabies and we will be notified either way of the outcome. Britton is going to watch the wound and may go to the doctor depending on how it heals. The dog and owner’s info will also be put into the system in case of any other attacks. We decided at this point to not press charges. We just hope the owner learns from this and that it never happens again (and hopefully removes this dog from our neighborhood!). This could have been a devastating incident if one of the many children in our neighborhood had been in Britton’s place. So we are thankful it was not any worse.