Tuesday April 15, 2014





Rothenburger: 10 things about pit bulls and dog parks

I had a friend who had a chihuahua. That little so-and-so had it in for me. At each visit, he’d go straight for my ankles, and he was very accurate. But I survived every attack.

I’ve been contemplating dogs, and the opinions of people who are clear on what they think of me when it comes to dogs, over the past week. Here are some observations.

1. I can find no instances of people going for a walk and being maimed or killed by
chihuahuas. At the least, I’d say it’s rare. There was one case in which a man in California supposedly committed suicide after being ridiculed for being afraid of them, but it turned out to be a hoax.

2. The science is limited, but there’s no question the pit bull is way up there on the strength meter. Studies on jaw strength are confusing when they get into bite force and so on, but comparisons are helpful. A few other breeds do have stronger jaws, though crunching power is influenced by the size and breadth of the head. In addition, pit bulls are highly tenacious — when they want to hold onto something, they won’t let go no matter what pain is inflicted on them.

3. We humans breed dogs for all kinds of things — herding, retrieving and tracking, for example. We created the pit bull for fighting. It is still the favourite breed for pit-dog fighting. Michael Vick didn’t go to jail for running fights with golden retrievers or chihuahuas.

4. Whenever pit bulls get in trouble, there are plenty of owners and pit-bull advocacy groups to defend them. They say you can’t prove it was a pit bull. The “pittie” has never caused any problem until the first time.  It was provoked. Other dog breeds are just as bad. Punish the deed, not the breed. Studies are inaccurate. Or, “it’s the owner, not the dog.”

5. If it’s all on the owners, does it make sense to assume that even the most responsible owner can guarantee that a dog whose breed has been genetically engineered to attack will never, at some point, attack? Is that logical?

6. OK, pit bulls can’t help how they look. We made them that way. Chihuahuas are no hell in the looks department, either.

7. Not all golden retrievers are nice. We used to live down the road from one that was just plain mean. Every breed has bad apples. Given the numbers, though, I’m sticking with goldens.

8. There are lots of studies on dog attacks, and they overwhelmingly point to pit bulls inflicting a disproportionate amount of suffering and death on humans, never mind other dogs. These studies have mainly been done in the U.S. but one that stands out included Canada and found that pit bulls and pitbull mixes were responsible for 57 per cent of attacks. If some cities conclude from such reports that banning or restricting the breed would reduce harm, forgive them.

9. But last week’s Armchair Mayor wasn’t about banning the breed. It was about pit bulls in dog parks. The City of Guelph allows pit bulls in dog parks, as long as they are sterilized, muzzled and kept on leash. Maybe that’s a reasonable compromise.

10. Sometimes dogs signal their intentions. Sometimes they don’t. Am I sorry I didn’t take a chance with my beloved canine companion and a strange pit bull? Not on his life.

mrothenburger@gmail.com


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