Sweet portraits of pitbulls: 'Flower Power,' Sophie Gamand



Saw these on io9 yesterday. Didn’t take the trolls long to take over the comments section. Pits sure get a bad rap.

My wife and I are trying to adopt a child but have found that most adoption agencies will reject you outright if you own a pit bull. I’m working on getting my dog certified as a Canine Good Citizen and hoping I can reach someone reasonable and convince them to make an exception (or, better yet, add some sanity to their policies) – does anyone have any other recommendations? I’m in the Phoenix area.

It is a long shot but first I would get a breed DNA test done, and look into registering your pooch as a service dog (not easy).http://www.petpartners.org/ServiceAnimalFAQs#MakeMine

Of course they are very loyal dogs. That might be part of the problem. I am a dog lover, but I am also a realist. The American Veterinarian Medical Association cites data that 7% of U.S. dogs are pit bull breeds and rottweilers, but these dogs are responsible for 67% of fatal attacks. I double checked on the CDC website, and their numbers are pretty close to that. Of course I know plenty of people who love pit bulls. Without exception, they believe that their dog is different, that they have a special bond with and understanding of the animal, and that their dog would never hurt a fly. But the truth is dogs are not people. Your understanding of their thought processes can only go so far. When a neighbor’s toddler runs up to pet the doggy, maybe for one second your devoted pit bull sees a threat to you. The next thing you know, you are explaining to the police how gentle your dog has always been, and how you never could have imagined that your pet would tear a child’s face off. Of course if you want to keep pit bulls, or Bengal tigers or whatever, that is your right. Just exercise a bit of caution, and don’t delude yourself.

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Argh, just no. Taken as absolute numbers there are higher occirances, but that is because there are more! Screenshots from the CDC report you mentioned.

First, read the conclusions.

Family dogs are rarely involved.

And by breed it isn’t even close compared.to population.

This PDF describes dog breed percentages, but there are several flaws. First, the population distribution is based on ‘dog for sale ads’ and in the case of multiple dogs involved in an attack all the animals are.counted.(one attack occurred with 27/animals.vs one human). And to the best I can tell the breeds are self reported.

Seems like I can’t upload a PDF. So more ages.

I see what you did there. clever. The first page looks like a footnote to the CDC page that just indicates that few dogs are pure bred, so certainty of breed is a variable with the data. it looks like you got the other two pages from a document that sources the NCRC, which is a pit bull advocacy group. I suggest everyone read the CDC documents in full, as well as information on the American Veterinarian Medical Association website. Or look at the Canadian data, which is also available. I have nothing personal against Pit Bulls. I have never owned one, and my kids have never been attacked by one. I have nothing against Tigers either. I only mention tigers because I have heard big cat owners speak in the same terms about their cats as do pit bull owners. just exercise reasonable care, and don’t delude yourself.

I want to correct an error I made. There was a report issued by the CDC in 2000, which I think is what you are referencing. The five authors of the report were strong pit bull advocates. I was looking at newer data from 2013, which comes to different conclusions, and contradicts the 2000 study.

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Stop conflating pit bulls with tigers. I would post the PDFs, but upload only accepts images. There isn’t any cherry picking of data, and I pulled the conclusion from the study you cited!

All animals should be treated with respect, and especially children need to be taught how to interact with animals. But breed specific guidelines are bunk. One study I saw recorded Rhodesian ridgeback as nearly non-lethal–but if you know one then you also know it is because they are exceedingly rare (bread to hunt lions, and superficially look like many pit variants)

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The problem I have with Pit Bulls isn’t that they are more or less likely to attack, its that when they do they have the strength and power to do some serious damage and they tend to latch on and not let go, vs bite and run off.

So, yeah, just keep control of your potentially dangerous dog and everything should be fine.


Pit bulls have less powerful bites than many other dogs.http://www.pbrc.net/mediacenter/mediaqa.html

“As a whole, Pit Bulls temperments were rated higher (more tolerant) than all of these dogs, EXCEPT…
Correct Answer: Boxer
Pit Bulls received an 82% tolerance rating – which is higher than the average dog which received only 77%. They actually received a rating similar to popular breeds such as Australian Shepherd, Dalmation, Italian Greyhound, and Yorkshire Terriers.”

Lets look at some numbers, just for this year. I just pulled these from wikipedia, but also checked the local news pages for the attacks for accuracy. It is wikipedia, so there may be some slight error. I think it gives us a rough idea of what the truth is.

18 fatal attacks this year.
12 of the attacks were by pit bulls or pit bull mixes. Often more than one dog involved
3 attacks by mastiffs, including one Cane Corso
1 attack by 3 rottweilers
1 attack by a Catahoula cur
1 attack by a “possible white shepherd mix”

Just from reading the articles, I could only find two of these attacks where the dogs were not family pets.

5,000,000 pit bulls, 900,000 rotts, 800,000/German shepherds, and on and on. And this conflates with pit bulls being as life threatening as… Slipping on a banana peel while being struck by lightning while listening to the Best Of Rush?

Of course dog fatalities are rare. Probably you can own pit bulls all your life and never have a child seriously injured, much less killed. All I am saying is to take reasonable care. These attacks do happen, and the owners are always shocked, and had no idea that their loving pet could do such a thing. If you are not blind to the potential risks, you are already halfway to preventing a tragedy.

All animals are risks. And honestly any animal over 40lbs can be life threatening. I wouldn’t dispute that for a second. Luckily I only have scars from my kittehs :smiley:


Without exception, they believe that their dog is different, that they have a special bond with and understanding of the animal, and that their dog would never hurt a fly.

No, not if we’re responsible pitbull owners we don’t, and this is the double-edged problem of a lot of pitbull advocacy that I see.

I have a pitbull, and he is exceptionally sweet, friendly, and well-behaved towards people. He is young, and so he also still loves other dogs, but as I know from really studying the breed and its tendencies, his tolerance of other dogs may change.

And flies, well, he would gladly hurt them, along with the deer he sees in our yard, squirrels, rabbits, etc. Part of pitbull’s background is terrier, and they tend to be aggressive towards other critters. It’s part of their genetic makeup, just like running is in a greyhound, or herding in a border collie.

I’m all for promoting them in ways that counter their man-eating, child-attacking reputation; it’s understood in knowledgable circles that dog aggression and human aggression are NOT the same. Pitbulls tend to be less likely to attack people than many other dogs, and this does make them better pets than most of the public would think, but they are not for everyone.

They are very high energy, intelligent, and willful dogs, and they need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to be balanced and well-behaved. And they are likely to want to attack other animals, especially other dogs. We need to be honest about this, and careful about promoting them as always-sweet, completely docile creatures that anyone can handle.

I’m not saying they are dangerous or should all be killed in shelters at the rate they are now- but as with any breed carrying strong genetic tendencies, we shouldn’t sugar coat it and promote them as the perfect dog for anyone. Adopting them out to people who see them that way tends to lead to problems and hurts the breed even more.


The way I see it there are 4 different kinds of Pibble owners:

1)    Dogmen. These are people who raise them to fight. They breed them to fight, use treadmills, jennies, and other equipment to insure good muscle tone, feed them special diets, and train them to fight. Their methods may be cruel, both to the dog and the “bait” animals they use as the dog’s prey, but they by and large, keep the animal under lock and key, do not keep them in domestic situations, and the best of them train their dogs to obey their owner.Besides, you don't let $35 thousand dollars worth of Grand Champion breeding stock run loose in the neighborhood.. So, despite the legal and moral problems these owners create, their dogs generally do not generate problems on their own. 
2)    “Bad-boy” dog fans. To certain parts of the urban underclass, “bad-boy” dogs are just as much of the culture as kerchiefs, guns and visible boxer shorts. In addition, the idea that this kind of dog can fight leads to the idea that this might be good for a vaguely defined “protection”, being smaller and more “American South” than the traditional German breeds (Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans). Unfortunately, many prospective urban owners haven’t the time or energy to properly walk, exercise or train an effective guard dog, and don’t have the money to build a good run or doghouse, and in many cases, can’t adequately feed such a dog. So, they rely on the vague assumption that “dogs protect their people” without much of an idea of who “their people” might be: certainly the members of the house, but they don’t trust their downstairs neighbor, certainly their families, but have only a tenuous family structure, and certainly they don’t want drug addicts burglarizing their place, but the also like having people over and smoking a little chronic now and then. Signs of animal aggression are considered good, if only because it shows the dog “cares”, instead of being construed as signs of being confused, angry, or frightened. Expect them to cry and act clueless when their poor little dog-gie , who never hurt no one, bites the arm off a neighbor’s toddler.
3)    Animal “fluffs”. Their attitude can be summed up in two words: Pity Bulls. They’re convinced that they’re ideal Pitty owners, since they love, love, LOVE their cute ’n’ cuddly dogs, which they would have you know, have never had so much as a voice raised against them and nothing less than organically grown chilled dog chow. Unfortunately, some of these have much the same problems as #2, since they’ve never really had to deal with dogs, that need collars and leashes and walks (“it’s so, I dunno, like he was my slave, and I wouldn’t like to project human hangups on him”) and discipline, rather than vague love objects (“I just like looking in his eyes. He’s got like, aura”) that will probably do all right on a chain out back. Which they will, until the dog eats the neighbor’s cat. Messily. 
4)Responsible owners. They’re not the kind of person who relies on a six-session obedience course at Adult Ed. They’re probably teaching it. They have a good sized yard, a run and a dog house, and spend at least an hour every day concentrated on the dog’s needs for care and companionship, on top of paying for spay/neutering, shots, toys, treats, boarding during vacations, and so forth. Such dogs almost never get into the news unless to be profiled in the “Meet my Dog” column in the local paper.

Of the four, #1 and #4 are likely not to have problems with the dogs, and #4 with the law. Number 3 has some chance that they’ll succeed, despite the lack of discipline, and #2’s a recipe for disaster. The only problem is the comparative lack of #4’s and the number of #3’s, #2’s and even #1’s that will swear up and down that they’re doing it right. Number 2’s get conflated with #1’s (and cry “prejudice” and “animal racism” when it happens) , #3’s cry incessantly that “it’s not the dog, it’s the owner” despite the fact that aggressive animals do exist, and that temperament can be bred into animals. Unfortunatly, #2’s and #3’s comprise the majority of Pit owners nowadays, because they’re the canine version of a tattoo: a sign of toughness for some, a sign of hipster solidarity with the downtrodden for others, and wildly fashionable for both. And #4’s just confuse everything!

Such is my analysis. Take it for what it is.


Wow, this is a really great analysis of the motivations people fall into with these dogs.

I’ll freely admit, I probably started out closer to #3 than I should have been, I have had dogs and am willing to treat them like dogs, but I do also find my pit pretty appealing in a squishy-faced lovey way, he’s emotionally pretty soft. Which, at first, gave me a bit of pause, since he’s also a (large) terrier at heart, and he needs lots of structure, work, and effort to keep him well-behaved, lest he make his own fun (read: chaos).

I was a little gobsmacked by his needs about a month into having him, but I was already really attached to him by then, so I gave myself a little “suck it up, buttercup” speech and committed to giving him what he needs to be his best. His approach to life is is “all in, all the time”, and that’s what he needs from me, too.

As for this:

at least an hour every day concentrated on the dog’s needs for care and companionship

I look forward to my days getting that easy! It’s more like 3 hours a day now, between the exercise, training, socialization we do, and everything else I need to teach him on his journey to the awesome dog I know he can be. I hope to be solidly into owner #4 as we go forward.

For anyone interested in bully types, working with one and trying to bring out their best, I love Jane Killion’s book, When Pigs Fly. It made a huge difference in my understanding of my pitbull, his needs, and the best way to work with him.

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Good luck with your CGC! I hope it goes great and helps with your adoption efforts. I intend to start CGC with my pit once he’s a bit older and calmer, it’s a great program of what a dog need to be trained in for life with humans, we’re using it as our template and plan already, working with our local trainer.

Anybody else as put off as I am by these portrayals of the (surely not racialized) ‘urban underclass’?