Police Shoot 2 of 3 Pit Bulls Dead After Dogs Attacked Man, Killed his Pet in Downtown L.A.

I saw it on the news, and I knew within moments the sensational headline would be blowing up my social media feed.

True to form, within a few short hours the line was drawn in the sand–with the advocates obliterating the anti-pit bull movement, and vice versa.

Hate was out in full force.

I scrolled the conversations for a moment before shutting down the computer and walking away. I couldn’t take it. And I didn’t want to get involved. It wouldn’t help anything.

You see, this is something I’m pretty passionate about.

If you didn’t know, my first dog, Koby, was a pit bull (listed as a boxer mix at the rescue where he came from). Most would be surprised to know that they remain one of my all-time favorite breeds, despite the fact that I don’t own one.

Now, I got Koby back in the Rainbows and Butterflies phase of my life, when I firmly believed I should never, “breed or buy while shelter pets die,” when I thought, “love was all I needed to save the world,” and when I would argue until the death that there are, “no bad dogs, only bad owners.”

Inevitably, my cause quickly became pit bulls. My goal: Get a puppy, and use him to show the world about all of the misconceptions and stereotypes surrounding the breed.

Together, we did the opposite.

You see, I happened to choose a little roly poly pit bull pup with drive – and lots of it. At just 10 weeks old, this little heathen walked into my life and completely turned it upside down.

For a while I blamed myself. There were no bad dogs, only bad owners after all. And as I gazed upon the labs, the border collies, and the hounds who behaved like superstars in our group classes, I felt inadequate. I felt like a bad owner, watching my dog’s eyes bugging out of his head, alligator rolling at the end of his leash, trying desperately to get at any dog he saw.

He was friendly and overzealous at first, completely overstimulated in any new environment. But as he matured, he developed some more serious behaviors including a pretty hefty dose of dog aggression.

I felt fully responsible. And no matter how much help I sought, I couldn’t get a handle on his behavior.

Now that time has passed and I’ve gained significant experience with dogs and working breeds, I can reflect and see the error of my ways. Hindsight is 20/20, right?

I know now that my pit bull was never destined to be an eager lab or a lazy hound. It had nothing to do with how I raised him. He was strong and powerful, drivey and intense. And that was his genetics. It was part of who he was. 

But no one was talking about that. 

Now before you go jumping to conclusions, no, I’m not about to tell you that pit bulls are bad dogs because of their genetics. I’m not here to tell you pit bulls can’t be therapy dogs, can’t snuggle with kids, and can’t go to dog parks. Remember, I absolutely adore the pit bull “breed.” And I certainly do not believe in breed specific legislation. I don’t want to see all pit bulls banned or put to death.

That said, I believe strongly that if we don’t dispel the propaganda designed to save the breed by pulling the wool over really great dog owners’ eyes, we are doing the breed as a whole a disservice.

Here are a few of the common arguments I see that are hurting this breed (and many others), rather than helping it.

Aggression Comes From Trauma – I hear it all the time. In fact, I just read it on a very well known pit bull advocacy website. Heck, I even believed it back when I had Koby. Dogs don’t become aggressive unless you abuse them. Or unless they’ve had a serious trauma. I mean, it makes sense, right? Why else would a perfectly lovable dog go bad?

Koby was my first lesson otherwise.

I had him since he was 10 weeks old, and prior to there was no trauma. We enrolled in only positive training schools, and he had never experienced so much as a raised tone in his entire life. He bit his first person when he was 9 months old, before we had even explored using aversives in our work. And he began displaying dog aggression when he turned a year old.

After much self-pity and blame fueled some serious education and experience, I now know that aggression can come from a number of factors, including over stimulation, excitement, and mismanagement. Not only that, but it can be genetically inherited. It isn’t just abuse or trauma that causes aggression to crop up.

The same holds true for any breed of dogs – this isn’t pit bull specific.

It’s All in How You Raise Them – Our dog’s genetics set the stage for their behavior. In fact, a good chunk of our dog’s behavior comes from who they are, their bloodlines, and their breed. Not how much they are loved in their home environment. Even with the best training, my Malinois, Shank, will never be a squishy lab  I can let kids crawl all over. It isn’t how he was raised. Being squishy isn’t in his genetic makeup.

I want to share a story that will drive the point home. I have three dogs. They are all brothers, all with the same parents, one who is 6 months older than the rest and came to me later in his life. I also personally know one of the other brothers; I’ve watched him grow up.

All of the dogs, except the two I raised together, were raised very differently, with different rules and home environments. All four developed resource guarding behaviors at a young age. All four are very vocal, all four can bark for days, and all four have a propensity for separation anxiety.

Now you could argue that puppyhood created these behaviors. Maybe it was something the breeder did. But I can assure you that is not the case, as I have raised and/or personally trained 10+ dogs from the same breeder. And these four are the only ones exhibiting those behaviors. Genetics play a MAJOR role in our dog’s behavior and development.

Pit bulls will always be pit bulls. Malinois will always be Malinois. Shepherds will always be Shepherds.

Are there lazy and uber sweet Malinois? Are there aggressive labradors? Are there pit bulls who are dog friendly? Absolutely. But is it wise to assume all of these dogs are this way when their breed characteristics say otherwise? Nope.

Genetics matter. More than anything, genetics matter. And genetics are something we cannot neglect.

I wish I would have known this all those years back when I looked upon the lazy labs nailing their sessions in group classes, while my dog foamed at the mouth.

Socialization is the Key – This one is one of my favorites. If you haven’t read my take on socialization, you can do so here. But the prevalent argument says something like, “if you socialize a dog early on with other dogs, they won’t develop aggression. And if you socialize them with people, the same holds true.”

Remember, genetics matter. And aggression doesn’t always come from fear or trauma.

I’ve trained predominantly aggressive dogs for over a decade. And in fact, over-socialization with other dogs in an uncontrolled setting, like the dog park or at doggy daycare, was the leading cause for dog aggression and reactivity, popping up in dogs who were predisposed to it. Perhaps it was a bad experience, perhaps it was too much of the wrong energy, perhaps it was pack mentality, perhaps it was creating too much desire to play, perhaps it was just a ticking time bomb waiting to go off. Whatever the cause, it was nearly always the dogs who frequented the dog park or daycare that came to me for help.

I’m going to tell you something that may not win me any fans. But here’s a bit of tough love. Dogs don’t need help learning how to be dogs. If they had any time with their littermates and mom, even if you don’t think it was enough, your dog doesn’t need to learn how to be a dog and how to interact with dogs. In fact, I hate to break it to you, but even if they don’t have much exposure, they know how to “speak dog” better than you do anyways.

Listen, the more you try to intervene and force the issue, the more structure you put into your dog’s communication with other dogs, the more you believe you know more about being a dog than your dog does, and the more you toss your dog into uncontrolled group settings, the more you are going to screw things up.

So getting them around a bunch of dogs in an effort to socialize them, unless you really know what you are doing, will likely only make them more “doggy” and distracted by their canine counterparts, while increasing your risk of something going awry. It doesn’t stop genetics. It isn’t going to prevent aggression. If your dog is genetically hardwired to be aggressive towards other dogs, they will be aggressive towards other dogs. All you can do is manage it. Be prepared for it. Train for it. But first, you have to get honest with yourself: this is something you may have to face with a strong breed, that you can’t love out of your dog, and that you need to be ready for.

Here’s the thing. Three pit bulls attacked and killed a small dog. The entire story is tragic and devastating. The owner did not have control of his dogs, and as a result they lost their lives, as did the small dog who was their victim.

This isn’t getting sensationalized because it was pit bulls. Had it been any other dog, the story still would have made headlines.

But the thing is, it wasn’t another breed.

Here’s the honest truth: A pack of basset hounds in the same situation likely wouldn’t have had a similar outcome. A pack of border collies would have handled things differently.

But it wasn’t a pack of either of those breeds. It was three pit bulls. Strong  dogs who are characteristically known for dog aggression.

If we want to save pit bulls, we have to get honest about genetics. We have to be completely up front in saying serious dog aggression is a risk you run in this breed. And we have to be honest in that these are strong and very powerful dogs – you can’t take owning them lightly.

We need to equip owners with the correct tools for preventing unwanted behaviors, and we need to educate them about the breed, about containment, and about environmental management. And we need to stop being so judgmental and nasty to dog owners who are trying their best, but who need our help. We have to stop painting them as monsters and painting dogs as saints.

The same goes for other strong breeds. We’ve got to get painfully honest about the good and bad in all dog breeds, so we can properly educate and prepare dog owners for what’s in store. So we don’t leave them feeling inadequate. And so we give them a safe place to come for help.

More than anything, we’ve got to stop mislabeling strong dogs in shelters to make them more adoptable. Pit bulls aren’t “Lab Mixes,” just like Malinois aren’t “Collie Mixes.” Pit bulls are spectacular dogs. We need to own their “breed.” We need to be proud of it. And we need to be honest with dog owners about what they are getting so that we set them up for success. That means sharing with them the good and the bad. Preparing them for potential pitfalls.

Are there absolutely spectacular pit bulls out there? Therapy dogs? Detection dogs? Family pets? Social butterflies? Yep. You bet. But before you run to the shelter to adopt the biggest, blockiest head dog you can find, get yourself fully prepared for the drive level, the sensitivity, the other animal aggression, and the packiness that is typical of the breed–and know that dog parks might not be in your future, despite your best efforts at socialization. And find someone with experience with the breed, who understands strong dogs with drive (if they don’t know what drive is, move on and find someone who does), that can help you get your dog off on the right foot. 

Until we face genetics head on, until we are really honest about who pit bulls are, and until we educate people about their strengths and weaknesses, people will adopt them thinking they can love the genetics out of them. That if they struggle, they are bad owners, and if they socialize them, they will never be aggressive with other dogs.

Our dogs, whether they be pit bulls, basset hounds, or border collies, are a direct result of their genetics. We don’t do anyone any favors when we ignore them.

Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    291 replies to "It’s All in How You Raise Him: Are we Really Saving Bully Breeds?"

    • Chris Turner

      So true. Shame more don’t research their breeds before buying.

      • Michelle

        Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your experiences!! I am a very experienced, life long animal owner and trainer of many types of animal and for more than 10years, I’ve lived in shame about the Registered ALL WHITE German Shepherd I got–yet ultimely (before you was 10 months old!) had to return him to the breeder. I’d heard the warnings about Shepherds and White ones, but hey, I believed all those points you made… I’ve handled all kinds of creatures! Nope. NOT THIS dog. He was showing crazy dominant behavior whe he was 12 weeks old–when I got him. He was Gorgeous–but his ‘personality’ was completely set at birth,/conception, I’m convinced.
        I “conviently” always ‘forget’ him when I list all the animals I’ve owned. I named him “Dragon”, and his genetics FAR over-ruled his environment!!

      • Ada Mason

        Here is a major Fact that should be made known. There is only ONE true pitbull. NOT all the ones that are called pitbull !!!!!!! American bulldog
        Staffordshire Terrier
        Bulldogs, the list goes on. Humane society, dog wardens, rescues, police, vets, SOCIETY AS A WHOLE call all these other breeds ” pitbull ” and they are not !!! NOBODY addresses this or brings awareness to this fact. A huge reason why sooooooooooo many are euthanized every single day. It’s sickening !!

        • Miss Cellany

          It’s addressed all the time by rescues, humane societies, pit bull advocates etc.

          The “pitbull” the author is talking about is the American Pit Bull Terrier (recognised by UKC) which is essentially the same breed as American Staffordshire Terrier (recognised by AKC) as they can be dual registered.

          Lots of breeds suffer from misidentification – its not an issue unique to bull breeds. Any black and white mix is called a “border collie mix” by shelters. GSD, malinois, Dutch shepherds are all collectively called shepherds. Aussies, McNabs and Welsh sheepdogs are called border collies. Merle border collies are called Aussies. Any roaned mix is called a heeler mix… etc. Happens all the time but people only complain when it happens to pit bulls. I wonder why?

          • Boss Hog

            First you need to know that the second oldest Registry for the APBT is the ADBA and for APBT purist this the authority and standard bearer. The problem is these other breeds of Bullies have their own Registry with their own unique names and they need to be used and generalized into one big category, if that’s the case then why have different registries? The reason is they aren’t the same breed/dog at all, the media, general public and L.E.O need to know the difference, until the AKC, the new Ambully Registry, with all these different mixes of different breeds there wasn’t any kind of problem, that’s because the APBT was selectively bred not to be human aggressive and kept as a pure working breed, however when you start breeding for looks and change the DNA of the dogs then you start to loose stability, game bred APBT registered with the ADBA have been keeping these experiments out of its Registry and DNA of its dog’s. Learn the difference and call it what it is

            • m bushey

              Breeding for money , back yard breeders , indecriminate breeding . it has all lead to a over population of these types of dogs. call them any name you want but the truth is that any moron can get one and breed it and make more. The point of the artical was that Genetics are passed down and thats what you end up with ,,,,has nothing to do with the name of the breed, APBT kept as a pure working breed? Give me a brake! Game dogs are for games!!!!!

        • Denise Malone

          I have an Amstaff. He is my heart. Never been abused. Never been traumatized. One of the sweetest, gentlest, pups ever. Two years old and 95 lbs. Head the size of a basketball. Loves people, children, my senior cat, my son’s dog, other dogs. I will never believe it’s destiny until someone actually raises any of these breeds from s pup with love, attention, praise and most importantly discipline and it viciously attacks a person or child. Blockheads are the only breed for me. Kai started learning from 9 weeks that the cat ran the joint. And over 2 years later, no issues. He sniffs her and keeps it moving.

        • June Ann Bradford

          You took the words right out of my mouth. The only pit bull is the APBT.

        • Dora

          American Bulldog Johnson and Scott types are larger than pitbull terrier they have the same inbred propensity as the smaller breeds. I was dismembered and nearly bled out from a 2 hour attack with a rehomed American Bulldog Johnson/Scott type. No warning. as he came behind in the yard.

          • Rose

            Dora, I’m so sorry that happened to you there are a few online supports for the victims of pit bull attacks because no matter what they call these dam dogs they’re all vicious and they are responsible for a human death every 7 days and 2 people needing reconstructive surgery every day so you’re definitely not alone! The bullies and their pit dogs are certainly destructive and it doesn’t stop when they get done mauling you, so I hope you can reach out and find the support you need to help heal from the psychological effects of being attacked like this! Here’s a good place to start if you need it. Know that I have nothing but admiration for your strength of surviving something as horrible as that! To make it through a few minutes of an attack is courageous but two hours you must have been devastated by the physical damage! I don’t even know how to wrap my head around something as ghastly as that!

        • Debbie Bell

          Thank you Meagan!

          Ada Mason:
          The suffering of hundreds of thousands of bully dogs starts with the bully dog owners who refuse to spay and neuter, even where it’s free.

          The pounds wouldn’t have any bully dogs to kill if the bully people who USE bully dogs/pit bulls (they do not LOVE them) would sterilize them.

          But bully people do not actually care about dog welfare or even bully dog welfare. They only care about self, ego, and their ability to breed, use and/or monger bully dogs.

          If they did actually care about bully dog welfare, they would endorse mandatory sterilization of bully dogs.

          But they don’t, so they won’t.

      • Tammy Epple

        Thank you! I love me sheperd, but no matter how you cut it, his size and strength are to be respected and not underestimated. He loves people and other dogs, but that doesn’t mean they love him.

    • Theresa

      Love all your articles but this one really touched home for me. Have had Rotties, Pit Bulls and German Shepherds, you are so right!! Thank you for this well thought out and articulate post!

    • EmilyS

      a puppy that is over-the-top dog aggressive at 10 weeks is not normal. And a dog that bites a person at 9 months old is dangerous. This has NOTHING to do with breed. Human aggression has historically never been sought after in the APBT anyway. And p.s. ANY breed or individual can be “aggressive” (whatever that means, anyway)

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks for your comment. Yes, any breed or individual can be aggressive. But the point is that genetics play a major role in paving the road for behavioral problems such as aggression towards other animals, which is common in the pit bull breed. I’m not sure where you are seeing dog aggressive puppies at 10 weeks old. But I’d agree, over-the-top dog aggression would be abnormal in a small puppy, although the warning signs can absolutely be present at a young age. And FYI, I didn’t attribute my dog’s human aggression to him being a pit bull. In fact, human aggression is uncharacteristic of the breed. My point in that portion was that aggression can come from a number of factors, not simply abuse or trauma as many believe.

        • Christopher

          You never did anything more than change your tone of voice? Pitbulls like every dog need an alpha, point blank. A little chihuahua that barks all day, is just as unacceptable and in need of an alpha as is any “aggressive” dog. Now I’m not saying implement any sort of physical abuse. But your dog is a dog, not a human. It shouldn’t be allowed to do human things, Like sleep with you, sit on the couch with you, eat with you, etc. Unless the dog is submissive and understands it’s place. Obviously all of this should be accompanied with love, but you are the owner, not the one to be owned.

          • Meagan Karnes

            We agree to disagree. Dominance theory has been debunked wholly, and behavior science has proven that dogs don’t need an “alpha”, nor do things like sitting on the couch, walking ahead of us through doors, or eating with us contribute to controversy over rank. But thanks so much for your comment!

            • Am

              I work with shelter dogs and you need to be more experienced in obidence training and to have structure in your home.. Plus you didnot provide enough socializing.. Im sorry to say you are not a good owner for the breed.. It sounds like the dog lead you and you didn’t become the leader (Alpha).. There are places that can help you understand dog psychology..

            • Meagan Karnes

              Dominance theory (becoming the alpha) has long been disproven by science. Traditional socialization has also come under major scrutiny. In fact, I’m quite well versed in dog behavior, dog psychology, and behavior science and I have successfully rehabilitated nearly 1,000 dogs, many that are pit bulls or mixes (I developed a specialization in the breed) from severe reactivity and aggression. You’re right. There are places where you can learn about dog psychology. The television isn’t one of them. Happy to point you in the direction of real behavior science literature if you’d like to learn more 🙂

            • Bernadette Graham

              ALL breeds need to have a ALPHA in their pack….I own 2 Pits, I AM the Alpha & they both know it & respect it….if I wasn’t they would both do exactly what they want….it takes a strong willed person to own any strong willed breed, just saying my opinion thanks

            • Meagan Karnes

              Thanks for sharing your opinion. While we must agree to disagree on this one, I do appreciate you taking the time to share 🙂

            • Cynthia Eliason

              “Dominance theory” aside, someone has to be in charge, and if the one in charge isn’t you, then the relationship is messed up. “Positive only” training, and rejecting the idea that dogs should be subordinate to people, ends up killing a lot of dogs. I don’t understand how anyone can reject the concept of dominance if they live in the real world. It exists in families, in the workplace, in school, and yes, in dog family groups. You can see it in horses, cattle, goats and in the chicken coop. Social rank exists, like it or not.
              I do agree with just about everything else you’ve said, but the “dominance theory has been debunked” idea is just as misguided as “it’s all in how you raise them.”

            • Meagan Karnes

              Rank is intraspecies. And the awesome thing about dogs is that they are smart enough to realize that humans are not dogs. Not only that, but simply existing with our dogs means we control every aspect of their life…when they eat, when they use the bathroom, when they go outside. So even if rank did exist interspecies, I’m pretty sure, by the nature of life with dogs, we’d have that one in the bag. The problem is, most people confuse rank with permissive dog ownership. And I believe most trainers, regardless of training ideology would agree that establishing boundaries is important and “spoiling” and being generally permissive with dogs results in unwanted behavioral problems. You can’t expect dogs to behave if you never show them how, regardless of how you choose to teach them 🙂

            • Christine


          • Mj moss

            Sad. You really don’t understand. Dominance is intraspecies. Concept of alpha is not appkucable here. Read wolf expert Mech. Not Milan

          • Andrea

            Thank You! And on that same note, even though I think it is very important to care for abandoned animals I would not suggest getting a breed of dog that has the ability to be aggressive any older than 8 weeks old. Dogs learn most of there behaviors from the ages of 3-12 weeks so if you adopt a dog after that time frame your no longer training it, you are re-training and hoping it turns out okay. My pit has been with us since he was a pup and he was socialized with all kinds of animals. He can play with my in-laws mini-pug and our chickens and our 5 yr old, he has never even growled or shown his teeth to a person or an animal. We have several friends with pit bulls and other so called aggressive dogs that are more calm and obedient than the chiwawas, pomeranians, jack rustles and labs I’ve met.

          • Denise Malone

            Amen!!! Exactly!!!! Discipline is key. I use that certain tone and my 95 lb Amstaff immediately responds. My son’s dog is am Amstaff/Shar Pei/ Parson Terrier mix. We all live together. Both dogs were raised the same and both dogs were 8-9 weeks when we got them. My Amstaff is a pure bred. Both dogs are from different rescues. The pure bred has no aggression. The mix is more like a typical dog. He does growl at certain people or if my dog gets too close to his food. They know I’m the pack leader and they are family. We share our beds, our couches and our food. When it’s bedtime and if I’m not in bed he comes looking for me and cries until I get in bed. It’s a lot of extra housework but the love o get from them is more than worth it.

          • Bailey

            I’ve rescued a former fighting pitbull who was 5 years old and the sweetest dog ever. I currently own 14 pitbulls. 6 live outside and eight live inside with me. I keep my girls inside to prevent unwanted puppies but I have one girl that has to live outside because she is very dog aggressive and will even kill a puppy. Her mother came from fighting and was never like this daughter of hers. The crazy thing about it is all of my dogs have the same parents and/or grandparents but all of them are not dog aggressive. Most of them aren’t. They are really individuals just like people. We all have sketchy family members even if most aren’t. I believe these dogs are the same way.

            • Sherry M PERRINE

              I hope you are not interbreeding these dogs

        • Joann

          And how can you just label all blocky headed dogs as “pit bulls”? You, of all people, as an experienced dog person knows that any number of breeds can make up a mixed breed dog found in a shelter. Instead you appear to be lumping all these breeds together based on their look while you talk about their genetics which can be so different than what your eye tells you. I agree with the other reader who said a young dog as aggressive as yours was at such a young age Should be a red flag. Did you ever have his dna tested to get some idea of the possible breeds involved or did you just assume what he was based on his behavior and his looks? Granted that the bully breeds are not for everyone but stop lumping them all together and adding to the stereotype.

          • Meagan Karnes

            I didn’t ever label all blocky headed dogs as pit bulls.

            • Ellen

              yes well but “pit bullls” really isn’t a breed but a label of Blocky headed dogs so which breed are you referring to in your article?

            • Meagan Karnes

              Actually, the APBT (American Pit Bull Terrier) is a breed recognized by the UKC and the American Dog Breeders Association. The “not a breed” is not a breed by AKC standards. And there are breeders breeding APBTs. The APBT has several strains (bloodlines), many which originated in dog fighting.

            • theresa

              I think you wrote an excellent and fair article. It takes a very special person with this breed. One who respects life and who has perception to truly understand the behavioral position and one who won’t take chances to see if the dog will be sociable. My old trainer told me if the dogs don’t live together,they don’t have to interact. That was my first dog a purebred Shepard. What great advice. Thanks for your article. It is in the genes! A cherry tree is not a thornbush although they both have branches and leaves but even thornbush have its purpose. They definitely require extra care and caution!

        • Darlene LaBelle

          Please stop calling “Pitbulls” a breed. There is no such thing. They are more correctly referred to as “Bully breeds” . The term pitbull is a description used for a “type” of dog which is a street bred mix of who knows what. These dogs are genetically mixed and often bred for fighting or so indiscriminately bred they’re genetics are horrific physically and mentally. There are however many pure breeds or pedigreed breeds ie: American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Bulldog, American Pitbull Terrier, Rottweiler, Mastiff breeds and even boxers, Etc… considered to be bully breeds. Purebred dogs or dogs with known pedigrees AKA bloodlines can have more predictable genetic behaviors and physical qualities then most of the dogs that cause issues today. That said I agree any dog can be aggressive at any time for any reason. As an owner i have a couple of the above breeds I’ve noticed when they are together they have a tendency to be more tenacious and I say it that way because my dogs have not been aggressive to anyone or anything. I also agree with the author’s article but the subjects mentioned and a dog’s upbringing play a big part of how it sees and reacts to its environment regardless of its genetics. A well-bred well pedigreed/bloodline dog can become aggressive due to the treatment upbringing socialization or trauma it endures in its life. I have also worked and trained rescue dogs for many years mostly boxers, pitbulls and American Bulldogs. I have seen abused neglected and abandoned animals go from being fearful aggressive to wonderful loving family pets given proper training , time patience and reassurance. Educating owners about these breeds and training them to maintain Alpha positions especially with dominant personality dogs. Placement in adoption of any dog especially one considered a bully breed should require a comprehensive evaluation of the family its members and its environment prior to placing the dog in the home. This is the best safeguard and the best way to achieve a positive outcome for not only the adopted family but especially for the dog.

          • Meagan Karnes

            Thank you for your thoughtful response. Although you make an assumption that people who use the term “Pit Bull” are referring to any blocky headed dog, which I do understand happens from time to time. The Pit Bull is in fact a recognized breed. (American Pit Bull Terrier).

        • John

          Except is it? When you consider the fact that John P. Colby’s nephew was mauled to death by his pit bull terriers in 1909 and the years of other deaths of humans attributed to the attacks of the bully breed? If you’re going to be painfully truthful about these dogs then you need to be honest that sometimes dogs kill people and they kill a person about every 10 days in the US and the percentage of people killed by the bully breeds is about 75% of people killed by dogs. They mostly kill children and elderly but also they kill their owners and if you have a dog that’s showing aggression towards your own MOM don’t bring it back home until you kill her!(just happened in Ventura Co CA) Don’t be a monster! I own a dog that has been listed as a dangerous breed by some & I understand why because it’s sister went to a person who had zero understanding of how to train and raise these dogs and it showed! You can walk my dog safely down the street but not hers! It lunged and pulled and acted like the alligator on the leash! I will promise you that when I owned a dog that killing things I wasn’t in denial about its temperament and the real possibility of human aggression! After he jumped though the closed window to kill the neighbors dog I became very vigilant about his movements. Especially when it’s a big powerful dog with a terrier’s drive on the body of a mac truck! My was a wolv huskie hybrid who was far easier to own in Alaska but when we moved to the states his behavior was much more difficult to control but he was controlled, and if he had started showing human aggression, a very real problem with the wolf hybrid, breeding huskies to a wolf is a travesty against the wolf and the pups! The great news is irresponsible people who are narcissistic sociopaths are going to prison now for allowing their dogs to get out and first kill their neighbors pets, and then work their way up to the neighbors! I was just reading a post some person looking for help because his pit bull terrier attacked his 7 year old daughter and when she got out of the hospital he was going to humanely euthanize the dog but decided that he’d just lock it in his yard to go crazy with loneliness and boredom until it gets out and kills someone elses child or his own! WTF that is what’s wrong with your pit bulls, PEOPLE, people who are increasingly unprepared for the breed, but can’t be responsible enough to do what’s best for everyone else in their family and community and euthanize the dog that has human aggression NO MATTER WHAT BREED! It’s not like it’s just pittys that can develop human aggression there’s even been a few labrador retrievers that had become dangerous for whatever reason (& it didn’t matter why!) They still killed people but there wasn’t a bunch of ignorant people trying to
          anthropomorphize those dogs and “save them”! There’s only so much that traning can do and honestly locking a social animal away from everyone because of its dangerous behavior isn’t “kind” it’s unbelievable cruel! Try spending 4 weeks in your bedroom no TV, no social contact, you may use your bathroom but your not allowed to interact with anyone or have any entertainment, then you can tell me how much better locking a dog into solitary confinement for life is over being humanely euthanized. If you’re going to own a breed of dog that has a history with aggression then you need to be an adult and if it’s not under control and starts showing human aggression then make sure that you don’t flake out and let everyone down especially your dog. Have him euthanized if he needs to be because of his behavior so someone doesn’t die, and he’s not euthanized after being traumatized in a shelter or kept as killer in solitary confinement!

      • Lisa

        Thank you. NOT normal. A puppy is a ball of sleepy, cuddly love. Mental illness in dogs & people & horses for that matter exists. That’s not the breed, but the animal. I’m 55 & have been bitten by chihuahuas, Shiztsus, dachshunds, but never a large breed dog.


          Lisa , I totally agree with you because I have all three of them , I have a purebred Chihuahua of 6 years old and I have it since she was 4 weeks old , together with my Shi-Tzu of also 6 years old and I have she since she was 1 year old (the Chihuahua its my father’s) and they both live with my 4 years
          old purebred American Pit Bull Terrier who I have since he was 3 weeks old ,… my father’s Chihuahua has bitten people on the ankle and my Shi-Tzu is friendly and lovely with other people only when she is with me , but my Pitbull TAZ , he is extremely friendly and he demands attention and to be petted even from strangers not known to him , just as same as his mother and his father who was a Champion with pedigree and his sisters and cousins ,……… what is the secret? , AVOIDED INCESTUOUS MIXING AMONG THE SAME BLOOD , that is how the fighting Pitbull was genetically corrupted in order to produce a mental unstable dog Aggressiveness comes from the mix of any breed that comes with strong character and stubbornness dogs , just as same as Rottweilers or Chihuahuas

      • StaceyLea

        It is normal for a game bred APBT

        • JoveMarie

          Yes. You are right. Many times the aggression is displayed in ways an unexperienced dog owner doesn’t recognize. Game dogs are just that, game.

      • Debbie Bell

        Thank you Meagan for your brave, much needed article.

        No person, group or business that has the welfare of all dogs as a priority would want to support dog fighters and their continued intentional breeding for unprovoked prolonged suicidal deadly dog aggression. Good put bulls are supposed to develop dog aggression.

        Those who do support the breeding of expert dog killing dogs have other priorities and are on the same team as dog fighters. Dog fighters hate BSL too!

        It’s cruel to all dogs to continue breeding dog killing dogs.

        • JoveMarie

          You are so right. Dog fighters support rescues, and rescues support dog fighters.

      • Berky Pod

        You are mistaken…as a horse breeder and horse and dog trainer for more than 30 years I can tell you that some dogs or horses or people are aggressive from a very young age. Neither my sister, nor I hit or acted aggressive as children towards others… but my brother was another story all together. He was physically abusive to me even as a child. And I’ve had horses from birth that were aggressive as well, having never been abused etc. I’ve met the occasional. Jack Russell terrier ( my favorite breed) that was a born scrapper or biter and others that were sweet as could be…same farm, same training, same food, lots of love etc.

    • Alex Harris

      One thing that is so annoying to me is when shelters purposefully mislabel Pit Bulls as another more desirable breed. I think this is setting dogs up for failure when they are adopted and don’t meet the expectations.

      • Maya

        Thank you for writing this. Breeding for temperament is basic knowledge. Different breeds have different genetic temperaments. Does it mean all animals of x breed are the same? No. It just means they will have a greater chance of inheriting the temperament traits they were bred for. This applies to all animals, including humans. Pretending it doesn’t apply to pitbull aggression causes a greater problem. I know it’s nice and easy to just turn the other cheek and pretend you can get rid of any aggression with enough love and training, but that’s not going to make the aggression go away. It’s just going to lead to a bunch of attacks that could have been avoided with more understanding. The aggression in this breed is not the fault of the dogs, nor the breed, nor the reputable breeders working to breed it out (pitbulls are not supposed to be human aggressive, this is a serious fault for the breed). I lived in a town where a bunch of guys were breeding and training pitbulls to be guard dogs. They were making dogs that wanted to bite and kill people, so that’s what they got. Pitbulls look scary and have a bad reputation, so this is common. A lot of shelter pitbulls come from people breeding them to be something they’re not (fighters, guard dogs, etc.). Instead of being clear about what these dogs need, people milabel them or come up with ‘love will fix anything’ ideology and guilt people into ignoring reality. Well, wake up call… reality doesn’t go away when you sweep it under the rug. Just like having a child with a mental illness, you can’t just pretend that it doesn’t exist. You will end up with a very frustrated child who is not being treated for their mental illness. Likewise, ignoring innate aggression in any dog may result in that dog not getting the proper care he/she needs to function. Then those dogs end up in the wrong homes, attacking animals and people, and being euthanized because society refuses to address the aggression as anything other than fear based with a ‘just needs more love’ solution and unrealistic prognosis. If we can instead address the genetic aggression that some dogs have, instead of just pretending it doesn’t exist, we can work with it and try to help these dogs and owners handle it better.

        • Shane

          Just one point on breed labeling of mixed breed dogs-it’s notoriously innaccurate. Lots of research has shown that mixed-breed dogs are difficult to label accurately in terms of breed, with labels inconsistent with DNA tests and also observer classifications inconsistent with each other. While I disagree with labeling a dog in a shelter one breed in order to hide another, I also think we need to be more honest in admitting what we don’t know. A lot of dogs out there labeled pit bulls are not and lost the chance for a new home because of being mislabeled.

          • mj dohe

            Courts have ruled any dog owner of normal intelligence can identify a pitbull. ohio v. anderson

      • Shay Fowler

        I’m really grateful for your post. It’s one of my pet peeves. I don’t want a small dog, but almost ALL of the medium or large dogs in our area are pit mixes. The shelters will have a block-headed pit labeled ‘lab mix’ or ‘labrador retriever’ and it’s hard to trust them. They’re so blatantly lying.

        I’ve got a granddaughter who’s just a toddler. I need an animal that I can trust around her. They’re setting people AND the dogs up for failure by doing this.

        • Hailey

          Shelter’s are not lying to anyone first of all breed DNA test cost hundreds of dollars so shelter’s list he most dominant breed with an educated guess, but regardless of breed tendencies you have to understand EVERY SINGLE ANIMAL HAS THERE OWN PERSONALITY and its articles like this that make it so hard to tell a family you know the perfect dog for them that will fit their lifestyle for them but they refuse because ‘pitbulls have a tendency for aggression’ and then opt for a puppy with an extreme bite tendencies during play and an inability to calm appropriately and quite frankly that’s bullshit , when dogs do show signs of needing extra work training the shelter WILL TELL YOU and its up to the adopters to listen and hear out what these people who know the dogs best are saying and listen ,it’s the people who continually say oh I’ve had dogs before I know what I’m doing who get overwhelmed and return.

          • JoveMarie

            Shelters ARE lying about the breed. I see it all the time. Pits labeled as Labs, Border Collies, Boxers, anything but what they are, and that’s a Pit Mix. When a family comes in and adopts one of your dogs that possesses a gripping bite, do you supply a break stick and show the new owners how to use it? You are endangering the public, and it is unfair to us who are in the neighborhoods where these dangerous dogs are brought in. Just because the rescuer decides to take home a rescue, the dog is not only their problem, but it becomes the neighborhood’s problem also. Our pet’s lives matter too.

            • Debbie

              You’re correct! Not only are shelters lying about breed but about bite history! They passed a law in California because of this problem and then the LA dog shelters lied sent a dog that had attacked a jogger and left his arm permanently damaged home with a father and his 14 yr old daughter. It attacked his mother, she lost both her arms to the American pitbull Terrier and they cost that nonprofit 6 million dollars. But the lying shelter in Florida that sent a pitbull with history of biting home to a little girl and cost her, her face ended up paying 12 million dollars for their lies! People really just don’t care if they are a charity that have the best interests of the dog at heart anymore I guess!

      • Tammy

        Agree, and I fell for it about 12 years ago. My “lab/boxer”, Jett, was a great puppy, did well with my 7 yr old shepherd mix, and loved children. But, for no apparent reason, he never seemed fond of teenage boys. Not aggressive, just not fond. One day, at only 10 months old, totally unprovoked, he attacked and bit one of my daughters teenage male friends, putting 100 stitches in his face.
        My vet had mentioned when I took him for his first checkup that he looked like he might be part pit. I shrugged it off. Never again. I LOVE so much about pitties and the great ones are REALLY great, but I will never own one myself again.

    • Bonita Cheek

      I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you when it comes to pit bulls. Pit Bulls are my favorite dogs. They weren’t bred to be aggressive. They were bred to take care of the people left behind when the soldiers went to war. The FIRST WAR DOG was a pit bull. He was decorated many times for his services during WWII. They were trained to be this way. To me : they are the most loyal, loving, best friend that you can have. Genetics plays a role, but not to the extent that you say. My Apollo is my companion and my best friend. He loves me as much as I love him. He calms me for my depression and anxiety. He just turned 7 yrs old. He is the love of my life. I’m sorry.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thank you for your comment! I’m so very happy that you have such a wonderful relationship with your dog. Pit bulls are one of my favorite breeds as well, having trained over one hundred in my career and running a pit bull specific rescue. I can tell you without a doubt that dog and animal aggression is prevalent in the breed. It doesn’t mean that all pit bulls are dog aggressive. It just means it is a characteristic of the breed that should not be ignored.

        • Anthony

          I’m sorry you have to deal with these peoples comments. You are trying to educate and alot of the comments are people not wanting to change there view. 100 percent the breed was bred to fight other dogs and which ment other animals also and had to be handled very closely in a fight by people not just its owner so people aggression was rare that was the American pit bull terrier .now days people have bred anything and everything to them so genetics are all over the place with strong drive. The number one thing every dog owner should now is how to choke a dog off the bite if a fight does happen and use of breadstick. This nanny dog thing needs to stop and bait dog mythos did more harm then good

          • Beth

            I firmly agree with what you’re saying. Sadly the Shelters and Rescues are the main causes for most of the “fear” etc surrounding them. First, the “No Kill” movement hasn’t helped at all! Pits/Pit Mixes are flooding Shelters not being adopted nor euthanised because they would Law their funding. Quite a few are dropped/dumped as “strays/surrenders” due to bite/attack of family pets and or people but not reported and owners can’t bear to have their own dog put down. So, they take the “easy way out “. Then, Shelters cover up breed/potential issues and dog goes home to later maul/kill pets/people in home/neighbourhood. Media gets involved and it’s NOT just once a year but last year 32 people were killed and over 38,000 pets/people mauled. Not including over 41,000 pets/livestock killed. It’s also due to owners NOT keeping them contained and or acknowledgment of their traits/genetics.

        • Marti

          I inherited my son’s year and half (now 2) American Pit Bull mix. In the six months Cody has gone from destructive (6 pair shoes) chewing anything in sight and playful mock biting to a calmer quiet indoor dog. As a puppy he was crated and left alone much of the day/night. I don’t crate. Treats are soup bones, cheese crackers, cereal okey chicken liver and lots of hugs. Sleeps inside. Gets tub baths if he been out running the streets. He wiggles off his collar leash then runs into drain ditches and smells sewer. Never bitten me my Chihuahuas or neighbors. Goes for shoes. He’s getting less aggressive on feet but will go there if a man comes into my space. It’s harder for me to walk him. He jumps 6 foot fence in back yard. Best dog I’ve had. Barks only if he sees strangers or go at night. At 77 years old he’s become too much dog. I can’t find anyone to take him. I want a great living care given who loves him like I do. He protects me as I live alone. Son went to jail.

        • Marti

          I inherited my son’s year and half (now 2) American Pit Bull mix. In the six months Cody has gone from destructive (6 pair shoes) chewing anything in sight and playful mock biting to a calmer quiet indoor dog. As a puppy he was created and left alone much of the day/night. I don’t create. Treats are soup bones, cheese crackers, chicken liver and lots of hugs. Sleeps inside. Gets tub baths if he been out running the streets. He wiggles off his collar leash then runs into drain ditches and smells sewer. Never bitten me my Chihuahuas or neighbors. Goes for shoes. He’s getting less aggressive on feet but will go there if a man comes into my space. It’s harder for me to walk him. He jumps 6 foot fence in back yard. Best dog I’ve had. Barks only if he sees strangers or go at night. At 77 years old he’s become too much dog. I can’t find anyone to take him. I want a loving care given who loves him like I do. He protects me as I live alone. Son went to jail.

        • MJ Moss

          Thank you, Megan Karnes, for this excellent article. As a trainer, breeder, owner for over 60 years, I appreciate your courage in telling the truth about a fraught subject. In my own breed, and our own home- bred stock, all raised the same, the differences in individuals from different outcrosses is obvious. Good breeders breed for temperament, health and longevity first!

      • Susan D.

        I do not think that your history is correct. I would love to see your source for this because I have sources that say the opposite.

        • Sabrina

          Of course you do. There are always sources of information to keep the money flowing from these dogs. There is ABSOLUTELY NO REASON for victims of these breeds to lie. (Many are their own owners and most breeds are positively identified by their owners.) The ONLY source you need is to research human and animal breeds severely injured and killed by canines. If you read the reports you can also verify them through the FOIA Freedom of Information Act. The information that you find, if you really care to calculate the numbers, will prove to you which breeds are responsible. Denial is not preventing victimization. Don’t you care about victims?

        • Sherri Dulong
      • Erin Walsh

        The point made in the article is that pit bulls are typically “dog aggressive” which means aggressive toward other dogs. Your experience with your pit bull is that it is not aggressive toward you. As the author of the article states in response to another comment “human aggression is uncharacteristic of the breed.”

        “Dog aggression” and “human aggression” are different things. Observe the distinction.

        My hound loves other dogs, and running with the pack is his greatest joy. But he has strong resource guarding behavior. Try to take his toy, or, God forbid, his bone, and he will defend it with his life.

        • kellyoc

          Yes! We have a pit mix and a coonhound mix, both rescues both great dogs. THe coonhound loves people and other dogs, the pit is indifferent to anybody but his canine and human family. Well-balanced, confident dogs, both. However, you can literally steal a bone from the jaws of the pit and he will willingly release it to you. Try doing that with the coonhound, even for a used napkin he grabs off the dinner table, and your hand will be bit. That’s the difference between them. It’s instinctual and natural for the coonhound to hold onto what’s his. Not so with the pit.

      • Holly

        Hmm, dogs were used in war/battle prior to WWII, and they weren’t pit bulls.

        • Alaina

          actually Sergeant Stubby was APBT and in world war 1. He is to date the most decorated dog veteran in history.

          • L Butcher

            Actually Sergeant Stubby was a Boston Terrier..

          • Julie Edwards-Matanga

            Have you ever seen a photo of Sergeant Stubby? Nobody knows what breed he is, more likely a Boston Terrier, or a mix. There is also no documented evidence of him being promoted as Sergeant.

      • Doug

        “here’s one example that happened to me, so you’re wrong”

      • Lisa

        I agree. I was waiting for her paragraph in agression in humans…There are some males, testosterone driven or not, who are more aggressive than others. Women too. I remember the girls who took pride in beating someone up after school. And we lived in a general middle class neighborhood in Queens. My Rotti/Pitt Bull mix was THE BEST Dog I ever had. They WERE CALLED NANNY DOGS FOR OVER A CENTURY FOR A REASON!

      • Shanna

        That is how they were once and should be bred but there are a lot of people breeding to breed a not breeding for temperment that are breeding in the genetics for the poor temperments we see so commonly today

      • Cynthia Eliason

        If “they weren’t bred to be aggressive” please tell me which breed it was that was bred for dog fighting, and where the “pit” in the breed name comes from. These dogs have historically been selected for a desire to do battle with other dogs. The whole point of the article, in case you missed it, is that denying that fact does them no favors.

    • trish

      a question. if, indeed, it is genetics, could breeders do a better job of who is bred to who??????/// Line breeding, in breeding, could that also lead to certain predispositions in the pup? . Thank you…………..

      • Meagan Karnes

        Yes. And responsible breeders do just that. They breed based on temperament and they screen homes to find owners that are capable. The problem is, many dogs don’t come from responsible breeders.

        • Carolyn

          Dog aggression was so strongly selected for in the foundation of any pit bull type breed that trying to breed away from it now is very hard and that is with a breeder who is trying their best to breed away from dog aggression. Most pit bulls, especially those up for adoption are from unknown backgrounds where likely no one made an effort to use dog friendly dogs or may have wanted to breed dog aggressive dogs. In addition, many pit bull breeders accept dog aggression as an integral part of the breed and do not try to breed away from it.

        • Gloria

          I hope that the “breeder” that your dogs came from immediately spayed and neutered that entire line to prevent more aggression from being passed on. The fact that one puppy was only 6 months older from the same parents is alarming in itself. No ethical breeder breeds dogs that often.

          • Meagan Karnes

            Working dogs are bred for different purposes, and different characteristics are selected for compared to dogs who will become family pets. The possession these lines showed is actually quite desirable, and, with experienced working dog trainers, aggression never developed. I fully support this breeder and the choices she makes and I will continue to do so as she consistently produces outstanding working dogs, she is always there to support her dogs throughout the duration of their lives, and she places a huge emphasis on quality of life for all of the dogs she places.

            • Jannine Fergusson

              I have a pit / staffy mix who is a loving mostly obedient dog (she’s almost 3) I’ve had her since she was 8 weeks old…she’s fine with adults but barks at kids I don’t know whether it’s because she’s not been around them much and it concerns me…btw…I NEVER leave her unsupervised with them…is this something I need to have professionally trained to fix the problem? I’ve had 2 previous pits.
              Thank for a great article

            • Meagan Karnes

              Absolutely. I’d recommend giving a local trainer a call so they can help 🙂

      • Gini Barrett

        Most of the people breeding pit bull type dogs are breeding primarily for the dog fighting industry and/or the “I want a tough, scary dog” niche. They really market the meanest pups and sell or give the sweeter ones to pet dog owners. But the dogs are from lines that have been selected for dog aggression in most cases. There are a few people breeding pit types for personality but those are not the dogs ending up in most neighborhoods.

      • Lynn

        Ah but here, we get into the spittle-flinging about how much BETTER it is to rescue than to acquire from a breeder, regardless of breeding ethics. One could find a breeder with the most rigorous set of standards in terms of health- and temperament-testing, dogs that are active in the community; work regularly with constructive outlets for their skills (e.g. weight pull, IPO, etc); a contract that protects the interests of the seller, the welfare of the puppy and protects the buyer against lemons; and will STILL be vilified because one is not “rescuing.” What I believe many people, especially first-time dog owners, really need IS a dog from a breeder with such practices and lifetime support.

        They are not prepared to tame/domesticate and then train up a feral from the streets, whether imported from Dixie, their own locale or an exotic international country.

        They are not prepared for the sudden upheaval when their dog turns out to have a chronic condition that requires such constant vigilance or maintenance, either through medical, nutritional or behavioral means. When I say “upheaval,” I mean financial, emotional and lifestyle. It is a serious quality-of-life factor for many people, and they don’t realize what a toll it takes until the examine WHY they got a dog, WHAT they are doing with it now and HOW their lives have been changed, usually for the worse–despite the “love” they feel for the dog and the companionship it provides simply by existing and living with them.

        They are not prepared for the guilt they feel when thoughts of rehoming, surrender or even euthanasia sneak into their head when “love” is not enough. After all, they took the high road and “rescued” a dog. That dog should have a “furever” home–except when it is truly the wrong home for that dog (AND OWNER’S) needs. Even after multiple bites, people still find excuses to keep their dogs alive, even if it means sequestering in a basement kenneled or literally padlocking a leash to the collar because the dog CANNOT be touched and that leash CANNOT come off (yes, I actually have seen this done–the dog’s canine teeth were pulled as well and not for the medical reasons).

        All this aside, we are still dealing with a breed that has been genetically selected in the past for drive in ways that are incompatible with many of today’s schedules and families. I KNOW there are dogs out there in the thousands that have it made for them, either through their stellar temperament/training/socialization skills or their families’ stellar abilities to keep them out of trouble through management/confinement. That is more than fine. I’m just saying that, when something happens, take not only the dog in consideration, but also the background: it is rarely the dogs from good breeders who do the biting.

        If I were someone looking to get a pit bull, especially as a first-time owner, THIS should be the source from whom to seek a future pet.

    • Ruth Hansell

      Megan, thanks for your very clear and well-written article. Mother Nature, in the form of genetics, always bats last. I’ve met some lovely pit bulls. I’ve met some Chihuahuas labs I wouldn’t get near. The difference is I might need to get a tiny little stitch from a Chi attack. I’d likely end up in an emergency room, at the very least, from a pit bull attack.
      I don’t argue with pit bull apologists. I’m not a professional trainer or any kind of expert. And in my experience, people who take passionate social positions very, very seldom change them.

    • Jamie

      I have two little bulls one female she is 2 1/2 she is the best dog anyone can ask for she is so loving and protective of her family she loves her human sister and will protect her to the end of time. She is a nanny dog we can take her to the park and she Dosent care about ducks or other dogs or any other animals she is up playing with the kids on the play ground. We were just at my nieces birthday party and we were at a park there were about 30 kids there she would go around and do a head count. There was a little girl about 15 months my dog Abby kept a extra eye on her. Her mom had gotten side tracked with other kids and the baby wondered off Abby went and really directed the little back to the party. While we have two pit bulls my male is different then my female he will let u know he is there and wants to greet everyone but because of his size and breed people are scared of him. He is alot of bark and no action. He out weighs my female by a good 30 pounds. She is no small fry at 65 pounds. My question if anyone can help me how do I get him to stop running off to greet the neahbor dog or to chase deer we live in the country. And how do I fix him chewing he will tear stuff up u find it or catch him and he knows he is in trouble how do I break him of such a nasty habit? Any advise would be welcomed.

      • Susan D.

        Pit bulls were never nanny dogs. That is a myth. Please don’t leave your children unattended with your pit bull.

        • Johnny

          Yes many pits appear to be wonderful dogs, but as we have seen in report after report, owners cannot believe it when their nice dogs suddenly attack another dog, child or adult. Maybe you will be one of the lucky ones and your dog will be be triggered to attack, but I would not play that game of Russian Roulette, and I don’t think it’s responsible for others to do so. BSL is the ONLY way we can ensure owners are responsible. Owners surely will not practice responsible practices on their own, we know this for a fact, as pitbull owners have a VERY bad reputation for not containing their dogs, for not controlling their dogs, for not stopping attacks by their dogs, and for leaving the scene of attacks and not reimbursing owners for damages!


          • Shane

            There’s very little scientific evidence to support any of your positions. Perhaps you could provide some actual data from scientific studies. Otherwise I have to assume you intentionally posted this to inflame and troll. Hi

            • Sabrina

              The data from our victims support group is all we need to understand the dangers. I have volunteered and personally worked with many of the severely injured and families of those killed by canines since 2012. Pit bulls, Staffys and am bulldogs are the majority of the dogs responsible. Well loved, family dogs. Dogs that were trusted until the day they snapped. You can deny the severely injured or the death toll as much as you like. You can give examples of good dogs from these breeds too, which we understand exist, but nothing replaces missing cheeks, jaws, eyes and limbs, and nothing is going to prevent the next attack except for legislating the capable and responsible breeds. Nothing. Our victims deserve So much more.

            • Craig Brown

              Pit bulls attacking and killing their owners isn’t science.

          • Melanie Strubble

            BSL IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE, PERIOD!!! BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) has led to the banning and destruction of many, many, many innocent dogs!! It is unrealistic and unfair to judge a WHOLE breed, based on the actions of some!! Lets not forget, it is humans meddling in “breeding” that has caused ALL the problems. LEAVE MOTHER NATURE ALONE!! Yes, bully breeds have specific needs and requirements; and, they’re not the right breed for everyone. But, that is no different than any other dog breed, other species of animal, the type of job you pick, vehicle you drive, place where you live, etc, etc, etc…they ALL have their OWN SPECIFICS!! People need to research, contemplate and then decide what BEST fits their knowledge and abilities…in EVERYTHING!! C’mon people, we can do this!! Lets be fair to ALL other life; give it a fair chance!!

        • Beth W.

          There is no such thing as nanny dogs – very young children should not be left alone with any dog. Dogs are dogs not humans, as the author points out “they know how to be dogs”, they do not know how to be humans. They have their own rules and older children should be taught what is acceptable behavior towards a dog before they are left alone with it – any breed. Many dog bites could be avoid with this approach alone.

        • Kate

          Susan, as a pit bull owner for over 60 years, I must disagree with you. Pit bulls were indeed at one time known as the nanny dog. They were deliberately bred by the old time “dog men” to be nonaggressive toward humans. The dog men were in the pit with their dogs as they were fighting, and any dog that bit a human was killed on the spot and never allowed to pass on that trait. The dogs would be fought on Saturday night and babysit the children the rest of the week. This is the true nature of the various breeds collectively known as pit bulls.

          They were originally bred to be an all purpose farm dog, strong enough to pull a cart, brave enough to deal with aggressive livestock, and gentle enough to be trusted around children. These are all qualities bred into them by the old time dog fighters.

          In the 1970’s, the criminal element was looking for a tough, fearless dog to guard their drugs. They chose the pit bull and deliberately bred for human aggression. Many times the dogs were psyched out on methamphetamine to create aggression and paranoia. The result is a dog with some lines tracing back to the original pit bull. It will be trustworthy around humans, accept any abuse from a child while doing nothing to harm the kid other than beating it to death with its tail. Other lines are the result of backyard breeders who want to make money, so they grab any two dogs that resemble a pit bull and breed it without regard to temperament. The dog is fine with their family, so the fact that it must be locked up whenever company comes only means that it is protecting them.

          Owning a pit bull today is a big responsibility. Centuries of dog aggression has been bred into all of them, but some dogs will never display it and happily spend their lives in multi animal homes. My own two live with a Rottweiler and three indoor only cats. Others will need to be kept as the only animal in the home.

        • Amy Gaddy

          Whatever I will only own pits they are the smartest dogs I have ever owned they were raised around babies and small children if I leave the room they will lay down right near the baby and watch over him if anyone walks in my house she will stay right near my baby and make sure no one ttys to hurt him if my nephews come over and wrestle around my dog will go right in between them and stop them from fighting she don’t like violence in any sort of way the babies can lay right on top of her and she would never do anything to harm any baby or child if a pit needs to go to a trainer that means the owner is too dumb to own one cause pits are the smartest and easiest to train breed I have ever owned they are like children u show them love and let them know what is right and what is wrong as pups and they will grow up to be great pets how would it be if u sent ur child to someone else to train them what a joke the parent is the one that should teach their dog right from wrong not some trainer if u can’t teach ur own pet then don’t own one if u teach a dog to bite its gonna bite if u show ur dog love and train it to be a loyal loving pet it will be dogs naturally wanna chew and bite as pups u show them that’s not gonna happen right from the start the dog will be a eat family member I will own a Pitt over any breed my dog’s are my family and I love them more than any other animal that I have ever owned I have 100 percent trust in my Pitts they are 8 and 5 years old and have never bitten a person child or other animal it’s all in how well u teach them and show them love just like u would a child if u raise a child wrong they grow up to be bad adults

          • Meagan Karnes

            Please always supervise your baby with dogs. Even the most well behaved dog can have an off day. I’m so happy your dogs are well behaved and trustworthy. But just a heads up, human aggression is not common in the breed – the predisposition is towards other animal aggression. And while there are APBTs that are fantastic with other dogs, other animal aggression has been selectively bred for for a significant part of the breed’s history.

          • Em

            You mean, if a person sent their child to someone else, like a teacher….at a school, to train them? You are right. How absurd.

      • Christopher Diel

        My suggestion is have him neutered. That stops a lot of that type of behaviour. I think that a lot of the pit bull problems could be slightly and I mean slightly minimized by having the dogs “fixed” as soon as it is age appropriate. This is the elephant in the room. Sadly, as mentioned before, it is a statement for a lot of people to own a pit bull because of the perceived status of owning one. Yet these are the same people that will not neuter their pets because of the idea that doing so will somehow make them less appealing from a status standpoint. Having said that, I am not a professional dog trainer but at 45 years of age, we and I have always owned at least one dog (currently I am watching three, our bassador and my parent’s two golden doodles. All fixed. Very sweet and non aggressive) BUT we did own a German Shepherd, neutered, and as he got older he gained a propensity for biting people which led to his early demise. Very sad. So neutering isn’t always a magic formula but it will help. And interestingly enough the only time I have ever been bit by a dog was when I was seven and bitten by a stray BEAGLE of all things. So go figure. But I will never trust a pit bull around any of my dogs. If people want to keep them that is none of my business. But I dont want them around any of my dogs. I am never concerned about pits attacking humans, statistically it is golden retrievers who bite humans the most (look it up) or at least are the most reported. Sadly though when a pit bull attacks it is far uglier for the victim than being attacked by any other breed. Also, statistics. So I will stick with my bassadors and whatever doodles and dachshunds and bassett hounds. But hey, if you like pit bulls go for it. Just know how powerful they can be. And to add one more thing, if I was single and living alone and knew there would never be children or other dogs in my house or on my fenced property, I would absolutely own a powerful dog like a German Shepherd or yes maybe even a pit bull. Because I understand the need to establish dominance as a pack alpha and would never be worried about being bitten by my own animals but intruder beware and thus I have demonstrated the notion of status or appeal in owning such breeds.
        I wish everyone well and please love your pets. They love you too.

        • ziggy

          Actually, neutering has no effect on this kind of genetic based aggression. In fact, neutering dogs who are already a little anxious or timid is very much NOT recommended, and often makes aggression worse. I can’t even begin to tell you how many dogs I know personally who changed after neutering to become dog aggressive, where they were not before.
          And studies back up the reality of this. Testosterone provides dogs with confidence. Take that away from an already unsure or ‘submissive’ type dog via neutering and you are likely to see an increase in fear based reactivity and aggression. With many, particularly in the USA, having this obsession with neutering anything that moves, and often very very young, waaaaay before the animal has finished maturing phyiscally or mentally, there is a lot of evidence this is actually contributing to aggression issues in our domestic dogs, not solving them. Neutering was never created as a way to curb aggression or calm dogs down, it was created purely to prevent unwanted litters and overpopulation.

          Over time, it started being touted as a ‘cure all’ for everything, from temperament issues to cancer to fear to boisterous behaviours, and the reality is ALL neutering does is render a dog unable to breed…….thats it. Thats what it was created for, thats why it came to be in the first place, and anything else that has been attributed to it since in an effort to push neutering on every dog in the world is nothing more than fantasy.

          My very high drive, working line euro dobermann was intact his entire life, he was 100% stable with dogs, cats, small furries, kids, old people, he had no temperament issues relating to having his balls left in place. My stafford mix bitch, however, is spayed and developed dog aggression afterwards.

          Dominance theory has also been debunked, and holds no validity at all in dog training. You are not an ‘alpha wolf’, and this is all too often used as an excuse for people with fragile egos to bully their dogs and think they’re ‘being the alpha’ when there is literally no science to back that up. My dogs have always slept in my bed, cuddled up to me, eaten before me, gone through doors before me, had the couch to themselves, hell, I’ll even sit on the floor sometimes so my dog doesn’t have to move off the couch. My dogs, without exception, have been obedient, loving, well behaved and impeccable in temperament around people of all ages; there is no need to kid yourself you are ‘an alpha canine’. Its just a bit…..sad, honestly. I do wish people would do more research on up to date science on both dog training and de-sexing.

          • Ellen

            Excellent post! Totally agree especially about the issue of neutering. My (very experienced with the ‘worst of the worst’) trainer of 20 years almost always found that when a neutered male and an intact male were near each other (my trainer always kept things safe) it was the neutered male that became aggressive. Because like you said, testosterone supports confidence.

    • Eileen

      Meaghan, your point isn’t wrong, breed does matter, but you also point out throughout the article that pitbull isn’t actually a “breed” and hat makes a difference – these dogs are mixes of so many breeds. I have an AmStaff/lab/Sheltie/Akita – yes, he has stereotypical pitbull tendencies like dog aggression in certain situations , but we also have a German shepherd and a mutt of some kind in our neighborhood who are much more leash aggressive than him and go out of their minds whenever they see our dog. I think you’re doing a major disservice to bully breeeds by making an article like this About Them – there are lots of breeds this article could talk about. People are adopting or buying labs and shepherds and chihuahuas without knowing a thing about dog behavior and that’s the problem – your point that pit bulls are strong and some are prey driven or have aggressive tendencies and people should be aware of that is valid, but it is NOT UNIQUE to their breed (whatever that is)–every dog is an individual, and they donhave the capacity to learn if owners invest the time and energy necessary.

      • Eileen

        DO have the capacity to learn.

    • Mary Schmid

      Your Wrong..on this…..

      Humans have changed Everything from the Start of time…..Everything Chained from the begining of the way things came about, with the domestication of dogs,..from wolves.

      It was the Natural Personalties of the these Wild animals, that came forth. That the process of human life forms, back then….were able to unite more easily. The Personalties. that more easily showed, a bit less fear of humans, ended up being domesticated,.,slowly but surely….
      More Amical to Humans and other wolfs..dogs like them and breeding..closer to..more of the same. On and on….. Those animals…dogs were honoured…for what they were and joined in with, …as members of those, back then society.

      The Change,, Needs to come from the beginning of What is needed…the ones who are Great Breeders who have the known . ways…..it was..is suppose to stay in place. No…not going back to the caveman period…. But what was learned from what is better better breeding. The way t is now……anyone blaming genetics…making it seem like, all this had to be…

      In dogs and humans….genetics have Only changed …is because what humans have done, after the fact….as time went on…. Harming the quality of life, of all concerned…humans and animals. Instead of going back to the knowledge learned, and what really is better…..excuses are made…such as what it seems to be said, in this article. Yes, excuses are made, Towards the opposite side of things, also.

      Humans …went on to make, their own idea, of what is okay. This is what has happened in all ways in our society…..destroying all the basics of life. And what they consider. …A Good Standard of living has…is , destroying so much. It’s greed, it’s a very sick, so called intelligence…of what is the right thing to do.

      The basics of Life..now… For Christ sake…our food, isn t even real food anymore. Our society …what is considered a good standard of living…is the farest thing from it. It allows us to kill our planet, killing us all, not even so slowly any more.

      I guess this, must be why, that the best for us all, is the lowered standards that are in place, as okay…makes sense to too many…

      I think it is sick… Stop rationlizing people….go back to, commonsense and logic…

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks for your comments. We agree to disagree on many points. Regardless of who created this problem, it is an epidemic now that we have to deal with. We cannot go back and “un-domesticate wolves”. So the point at this stage is moot. And since people are living now longer than ever, I’m not sure our standards of living are killing us. I do believe we could stand to treat the planet better. And I do believe that we will. I also believe we can always do better. Perhaps I have a more optimistic outlook on our world because I inherently believe life, and people are good.

      • Tom

        We don’t train pointers to point and we dont train retrievers to retrieve.

        • Bri

          Thank you for a common sense comment.
          You nailed it, short and sweet!

    • Susan D.

      First, get your facts straight. It is not the anti-pit bull movement. It is victim’s advocates who try to raise awareness of the dangers of owning a pit bull. The victim’s advocate are on the front line, dealing with the aftermath of pit bull attacks. They have seen the damage they inflict upon their victims and families, both physical and emotional. There would be no need for Victim’s advocates to raise such awareness if pit bulls would stop creating so many victims.

      • Meagan Karnes

        The anti-pit bull movement is an anti-pit bull movement, is it not? Victims or no, there is a movement to ban the pit bull breed. Am I wrong on this one?

        • Kris

          Thank you for your realistic post about the importance of genetics.

          Most victim’s advocates are for BSL, which is NOT banning.
          BSL requires spay and neuter, licences, adequate fencing, and and insurance. If the pit owners refuse to comply, then their pits would be taken away. BSL would prevent the deaths of literally millions of pit bulls, as every year over 1 million pit bulls (mostly young adults) are dumped at shelters, and approximately 900,000 are euthanized.
          Pet advocates are the greatest enemy of the breed because of their ignorance and denial of reality.

          • Meagan Karnes

            Thanks for your comment! Although I’ll still contend that there is an anti-pit bull movement as several breed bans have been enacted, many repealed. But I appreciate your insight and position on BSL as I’m sure there are many folks out there (although I don’t personally agree with the position) that are looking to explore BSL options to help the breed. And I 100% agree that many pet advocates are doing the breed more harm than good 🙂

          • L.Tucker

            In my province, Ontario, BSL is banning. Pit bull type dogs were banned in August 2005. Existing dogs were grandfathered with certain conditions but new dogs were not allowed to be brought in to the province or bred. You can not even visit my province with a banned breed.

          • Melanie Strubble

            Sorry, Chris; BSL IS about banning….and DESTRUCTION!! Maybe YOU need to do some more research. Look into Denver, CO; and, other practicing BSL areas. They will most definitely take peoples’ animals and destroy them. ALL of them, regardless of age, sex, temperament, etc….ONLY based on their breed, or SUPPOSED breed.

            • craig

              Without it, you are responsible for 1.2 million pit bulls being destroyed every year.

            • Julie Edwards-Matanga

              Better pit bulls be destroyed than a human life. The reason for BSL is the destruction. Apparently, after a good 20 years of advocacy, pit bull advocates can’t seem to stop them from enacting on their DNA.

        • Susan D.

          Yes, I am afraid you are. People are not anti-pit bull . If pit bulls were not creating victims every single day in this country, (and make no mistake, they are) there would be no reason to speak out against this particular breed type at all. Clearly, this issue is much more complicated. The need for breed specific legislation is not anti-pit bull. If other breeds were doing as much damage as pit bulls are, the victim’s advocates would be pushing for stronger controls on those breeds. Unfortunately, it is pit bulls that daily cause untold horrific damage to other animals and to humans. Since 2007, pit bull types have been responsible for the deaths of over 200 Americans, half of them children, and have been responsible for the mauling of thousands of humans and the tens of thousands of other pets and livestock. It is simply too easy to label those who fight to raise awareness as anti-pit bull. They are pro victim and their goal is to save another person from the same fate. That is more pro-human than it is anti-pit bull. And to pretend that there is not a need to discuss regulations on a breed that has caused so much human suffering is not reasonable.

          • Kevin

            “Pitbulls,” which could mean a variety of dogs and mixes kill on average around 22 people a year. You are 2-3 times more likely to be struck and killed by lightning. A child is 7 times more likely to be killed by a stray bullet. Stop acting like people walk out the door and are mauled to death.

            BSL typically turns into a capture and kill. It is not a viable solution. It also punishes people who could be responsible dog owners. What needs to be done is severely fine and punish backyard breeders, arrest people if necessary, use that money to fund failing shelters, and create a “vicious” dog law that punishes people and not a breed.

            I suggest you educate yourself more on these topics.

          • PirateFoxy

            Any statistics about the breed of dogs involved in an incident are highly suspect, as reviews of the data have found that frequently when police or medical professionals are writing up an incident, or a witness is describing an animal, the animal involved becomes whatever the bad breed of the day is (currently Pit Bulls, previously Rottweilers, GSDs, Dobermans, etc.) Even when the description does not match that breed or the dog’s breed is definitively known. Like in one case, a purebred cocker spaniel was recorded as being a pit bull.

            Banning or limiting a breed based on such poor data seems like a bad plan to me. Make the legislation about the behavior of the dogs and how responsible the owner is instead. (Like around here there are no teeth to laws about not letting your dogs wander around the neighborhood loose, so people let them, even if you report them.)

        • Gini Barrett

          A lot of the folks talking about the need to reduce the number of pit bulls are from the rescue movement and, like me, have rescued and rehomed and/or owned pit bulls or pit bull mixes. A lot of us know animal or human victims and have started paying attention to how the pit bull lobby is changing the relationship between people and dogs overall. I have not run across anyone that is concerned about pit bulls that is not from one or both of these groups – rescuer or victim. There is no money funding the movement to increase dog and human safety. There is a lot of money funding the pit lobby.

      • Christie

        Often times, the pit bulls that engage in violence were victims themselves, Susan. You should get your facts straight – evidence does not bear out your argument.

        • Dee Smith

          Agree that severe aggression at 10 weeks of age in a puppy isn’t normal, but it IS “good” bully dog behavior! Good bully dogs are supposed to mature to be Dennis Rader type psychopaths.

          Spend time on game dog forums, ask questions, listen to sporting dog yard videos, read the comments. Read books published before the bully dog as pets mongering began in the 1980s, books by Richard Stratton, Joseph Colby, George Armitage.

          Good bully dogs attack and kill dogs, on instinct alone.

          The true experts of unprovoked prolonged suicidal deadly dog aggression, the dog fighters, all use bully dogs.

          A puppy who begins attacking and working to kill littermates, and other available dogs, is a “good” game bred bully puppy that’s “on fire”. He “started” young.

          A breeder posts , bragging that his brood bitch suddenly wants to kill her litter at 7 weeks, so he’s keeping the entire litter. He has high hopes for all of them.

          Judge the morality of a nation by how the animals are treated.

          Compassionate sane moral nations do not support dog fighters and their intentional breeding FOR unprovoked prolonged suicidal deadly dog aggression.

          BSL? Remember, dog fighters hate BSL the most. Dog fighters appreciate the support of others who resist spay neuter BSL. You’re all on the same team.

          • Anonymous

            Your information is not correct!! American Bullies are a Newer Breed! No dog fighters EVER used Bully type dogs! Ever!

        • Anonymous

          That is 100% FALSE!

    • Celeste

      And we need to stop being so judgmental and nasty to dog owners who are trying their best, but who need our help. We have to stop painting them as monsters and painting dogs as saints.- Um, no. Who are we going to hold reasonable when dogs kill other animals and people? Their owners. Their owners who are “trying their best”. Tell them to someone who’s been mauled, or who’s dog has been slaughtered. Judgement is not always a bad thing,it can serve as a compass to right and wrong. Because these “gladiator dogs” as Cesar Milan loves to call them, are so powerful and so very potentially dangerous, they shouldn’t be bred, period. Every single day there is another pit bull casualty. When is enough, enough?

      • Meagan Karnes

        We agree to disagree. Thanks for your comment!

      • Kris

        Having rescued 751 dogs, including pit bulls for a heartbreaking, unfortunate time, I agree that pit bulls should go extinct. Dogs are pack animals, and sick humans developed pit bulls with the the drive to kill members of their own pack. Every reputable, knowledgeable pit organization states that you should NEVER trust pit bulls u supervised with other animals, although I know of pits that killed multiple housemates with their owners present. Many pit owners have to use the Crate and Rotate system to keep their pit bulls from killIng each other. Continuing to produce an inherently dog- aggressive breed isn’t fair to pits or their countless victims every year. Pits kill from 35,000 to 50,000 other pets every year, as well as an average of 30 Americans. Pits are wonderful, until they aren’t, and it usually takes lethal force once they start to act out their breeding. Very few pit owners, especially the naive “furmommies” , have the knowledge, strength, equipment ( ie break stick) or proper fencing to contain them. I used to be for BSL, but given the denial and ignorance of pit “advocates”, I am for banning the breed entirely.

        • Celeste

          I really respect Meagan for printing opposing views. The mark of a true professional which allows for equal dialogue.

        • Kendra

          This is an extremely harsh viewpoint. I agree with Meagan 100% that genetics play a huge role in who a dog becomes, but I have met plenty of “bully breed” mixes who are great with other dogs (and own a pit mix who lives with 4 Chihuahuas and I’m not too concerned about her “turning” on them). Advocating for the extinction of an entire breed is taking an argument to an EXTREME place – I think the better argument is Meagan’s, where she is advocating for education, responsible ownership, and better matching by rescue groups and other advocates. And while I’m not involved with breeders or breeding groups, yes, responsible breeding, too.

    • Jennifer

      Genetics play a HUGE roll in the dog’s personality. The dogs we see in shelters aren’t from responsible breeders that have sat going over generations of pedigrees, health testing and physical attributes before breeding a litter. They come from people that have a male and a female and think they can just throw them together and have puppies. I do breed specific rescue with boxers and all sizes of schnauzers. Boxers are not all fun, happy loving dogs. Over 75% of boxers in rescue have same sex aggression problems. My female boxer from a mill was HORRIBLE with dogs she didn’t know. Yet I can go to the boxer nationals and see males and females all hanging out together in a relaxed setting. Why…because their breeders researched the genetics of the dogs they bred. I can go hang out in a herd of giant schnauzers being examined by a stranger in a ring. The ones we get in rescue have to be screened carefully for bit liability. Why…their genetics wasn’t researched when they were bred. Just as in people…nature vs future. In dogs it is the same. You can love a child and give them all the best money has to offer but if they inherit a genetic mental illness…they will always have that mental illness.
      Thanks for pointing out the elephant in the room.

      • Jennifer

        Nature vs nuture, stupid autocorrect.

    • K

      No, no, and no. This is so incredibly ridiculous. You clearly need to have a chat with Cesar Millan.

      For starters, aggression in dogs is generally a sign of unhappiness. I.e., not enough exercise, too much energy, no consistency…. there can be a million triggers to aggression, but breed will NEVER be one of those. You’re correct that it’s not always a result of abuse or neglect, sometimes owners just don’t realize what their pets actually need. As Millan says, “What makes any dog aggressive is how that dog is treated by humans.”

      Secondly, your “genetics” argument is moot. Your example is merely a coincidence. My example? I have a blue nose female that came to me at 6 weeks old. My mother has her 2 sisters from the same litter. My dog never barks, is never territorial, and has literally been attacked and not defended herself. Her sisters, on the other hand, are the exact opposite–they have been the ones showing aggression towards my girl, sometimes because my girl gets a bit too excited or comes in to our family home (where her sisters live). Day and night. Because that’s how they were raised: the difference between black and white! (Which also addresses your claim that the way they are raised doesn’t determine their behavior) I raised my Bella based on Cesar Milan’s guidance and seriously, ask anyone who has ever met her, she is one of the most well behaved, obedient, loving, gentle dogs I’ve ever encountered. Her sisters? They can’t leave the house for fear of misbehavior/aggression.

      What you’re saying is exactly like saying that genetics will, in fact, result in an Asian person being smarter than another race, or that an African-American is more likely to be violent. These are racist stereotypes, and it’s exactly the same with dogs.

      Furthermore, while I agree with you on the concept that socialization is NOT the only key, I disagree with your reasoning. Dogs who show aggression in social settings often react because they sense their owners’ feelings–they sense hostility/anxiety in their owner and react to that

      One of the biggest reasons for the stigma surrounding pitties is that people decide they want to “look tough” or be “protected”, so they go straight for pits, because of their BS reputation. Millan said, “Pit bulls became popular with gang members and drug dealers for security, as well as with people staging illegal dog fights. Those dogs were trained to be vicious and aggressive, and now every pit bull is seen that way.” These same folks are the ones who neglect, give up on, and teach aggression to their dogs. And because dogs are so eager to please, they do whatever it is they think their owner wants them to do. Often, unfortunately, that ends up being aggressive behavior. And then the dog or breed is blamed. Another common situation is when an owner is so worried sick that their dog will fight, that the dog senses their owner’s nervousness and anxiety and feel the need to protect or defend, reacting to the emotions of their owners.

      This is a careless article, and all you are doing is setting the “anti-pit movement” back. Maybe you should do more research and come back with facts before you make bold statements that hurt the reputation of the fur babies that some of us hold so dear. Seeing people treat my sweet-hearted, gentle giant baby like a monster is so sad, because she is so loving and literally just wants to love everyone.

      I’ve seen it a million times on The Dog Whisperer–dogs that are aggressive for no apparent reason, and most of the time it ends up being behaviors of the owners that are causing it. But never has Cesar EVER considered breed to be a determining factor. NEVER.

      And while I’m not an expert, Millan IS. He KNOWS what he’s talking about (clearly), and he would run this argument into the ground. Seriously, this is just irresponsible.

      Please, educate yourself. Cesarsway.com would be a good place to start.

      Particularly, cesarsway.com/Cesar-Millan/cesars-blog/guilty-by-association/

      • Meagan Karnes

        You and I agree to disagree. I will not promote, support, follow or advocate Cesar Millan and his training. While I’m sure he is a wonderful person, I simply will never agree with his methods. Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment.

      • Roary

        Does this sound like a safe family pet to you?

        Cesar Millan speaking out about the dangers of pit bulls:
        “Yeah, but this is a different breed…the power that comes behind the bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed – They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don’t feel the pain anymore. … So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it’s not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender. If you add pain, it only infuriates them. To them, pain is that adrenaline rush. They are looking forward to that… they are addicted to it… That’s why they are such great fighters.”. He goes on to say: “Especially with fighting breeds, you’re going to have these explosions over and over because there’s no limits in their brain.”

        • Celeste

          No. It does not sound like a safe pet, period. Look on pet finder or go into any shelter, the vast majority of dogs are pits or pit mixes. We have an epidemic of inherently unsafe dogs out there with people and pets dying daily due to it. And I agree not to hold Cesar Milan up to some standard of excellence, I think he goes too far in this calm, submissive stuff. Unless you are a 200 lb alpha male you will never get a pit “in a mood” to be calm and submissive. Once they switch on, they’re on. Everyday, we see where the owners could not control the dog. My heart also breaks for the masses of these dogs who never asked to be born, who suffer and end up being euthanized, or worse. They are the pawns in this sick game people play. Any dog that is so very controversial, needs specialized owners and super vigilant training should not be bred. Any dog with so many owners who say “we never knew, we had him 5 years and he was a doll”. Yes, any dog can bite, some can kill, but the pit bull was bred to do so, you cannot “un train” instinct. How many pit owners can truly say they trust their dog with other dogs (that it won’t kill them?) or can have anyone over to the house without “putting the dog away” or having to watch it like a hawk? And repeat, can say HONESTLY.

      • TheGoodFight

        CESAR MILAN, celebrity dog trainer

        “Yeah, but this is a different breed…the power that comes behind bull dog, pit bull, presa canario, the fighting breed – They have an extra boost, they can go into a zone, they don’t feel the pain anymore. He is using the bulldog in him, which is way too powerful, so we have to ‘make him dog’ (I guess as in a “regular” dog) so we can actually create the limits.

        So if you are trying to create submission in a fighting breed, it’s not going to happen. They would rather die than surrender.”. If you add pain, it only infuriates them..to them pain is that adrenaline rush, they are looking forward to that, they are addicted to it…

        That’s why they are such great fighters.” Cesar goes on to say…”Especially with fighting breeds, you’re going to have these explosions over and over because there’s no limits in their brain.”

      • Tamandra

        Hi K. Personally, I think that you clearly need to expand your dog behavior and training knowledge a tad beyond Cesar’s “way”. Someone becoming a celebrity on what is a good amount of making it up as he went along, and creating a ‘brand’, does not, in fact, make them an authority, or expert. He is not a dog behaviorist in the least. You clearly have a limited amount of knowledge on what aggression is, or is not. It’s not a bad thing, and is exploited for good in many, many ways. (Police K9s..)

        You present anecdotal “evidence” based on one personal dog, which does not make it anywhere near a “fact”. Within a litter, there can be a whole myriad of personalities. Then take into account that it’s never a good idea to have two siblings for a pet person, and creates all kinds of issues itself. What on earth could a well meaning person actually do to create a dog that has strong propensities to fight with other dogs, and fights in such a way as to dispatch the foe? Why does a pit bull type do sooooo much damage, and is so hard to interrupt when they’re aggressing? GENETICS. There is zero a person can do to actually create that, by lack of training, or exercise or discipline….They are not reacting in such a strong way simply because they somehow sense nervousness in their owner. An owner need not even be present.

        Further, I’m surprised to hear the words “furbaby” and Cesar in the same post lol. That’s one of the very things he rails against, humanizing dogs. It’s anathema to what he preaches. Dogs are dogs, and it’s naive to think they are all altruistic, loving beings that are born like Lassie. Nor should that be the example of what all dogs should be. In the right hands, aggression is a useful thing. Dog aggression is something experienced knowledgable trainers can handle just fine. But dogs like that should not be foisted on the general public, and painted as some fur baby that’s just a loving saint. They are what they are, and to deny genetic influence is ridiculous. It has nothing to do with human races and behavior. We breed herding dogs to herd, and have the traits that enhance that. We have hounds that hunt, and point, with traits accentuated and bred for. Bully breeds have had dog aggression genetically. That’s reality. The reputation is there for a reason.
        Would you like links to real dog behavior sites? Honestly, this very blog is an excellent start…

      • F T G

        Best response on here and should’ve been the main article. The point of racism at the core is a great call. So many people on here playing the victim role and have never even pet a Pit before. I can imagine the majority of the supporters on here saying, “The Muslims have always been a violent. ….blah blah fake concern cloaked racism and ignorance. And I absolutely love how dismissive the author is. ..”we’ll just agree to disagree” which may appease her own arrogance but also exposes the holes in her argument.

        • Dee Smith

          I’m met several dear kids with fetal alcohol disease, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and Spina bifida, but we should never support the intentional consumption of etoh during pregnancy with the goal of producing a child with fetal alcohol spectrum disease. We should never support ready to cook meal subscription of foods intentionally low in folic acid, with the goal of creating kids with Spina bifida!

          Of course it’s not their fault. It would be the fault of those that create the birth defects and the fault of those who support the creators of the birth defects.

          Imagine a subscription to monthly delivery of hard liquor as a wedding present, to start when the new bride gets pregnant? Insane, right? And so is supporting dog fighters and their selective breeding for unprovoked prolonged suicidal deadly dog aggression.

          It’s not racism or discrimination to say “let’s not intentionally make kids with FAD/FASD, or kids with spina bifida.

          It’s not the pit bulls’ fault that the good ones mature to suddenly savagely attack and don’t stop. It’s cruel to support dog fighters and their intentional breeding for dog killing drive and ability.

      • MJ Moss

        Milan is the worst thing to hit dog behavior/ training almost ever. Diminance is NOT the issue interspecies, ALPHA us NOT what is possible/ needed.

    • Kris

      Boxers are descended from the same original bull-baiting dogs that pits are. Two years ago, not far from me, a Boxer and Boxer/ Pit ripped a man off his bicycle and killed him.

      • LH

        Boxers are descended from the small mastiff, the “Bullenbisser” but unlike the “bull and terriers” (the original pit bulls), Boxers do not have inherent, genetic aggression as they were never bred to fight, to the death or otherwise.

        • Dee Smith

          Never bred to fight?

          Bull dogs/pit dogs were used in the creation of boxers. It’s in the boxers’ ancestry.
          Photos of them side by side in the 1880s show very similar dogs.
          Biting and gripping and not stopping are good bully dog behaviors.

          They are all bully dogs, as are American (PIT) Bulldogs as well.

    • Danielle M

      This was an interesting read for me, as I have been desperately trying to figure out how to socialize my rescue American Bulldog with other larger dogs. He was rescued at 6 years old from Miami Dade Shelter and transported to me in Mississippi a year ago and was a well behaved dog when I got him who has been a spoiled house dog ever since. He lives with an ever changing assortment of foster dogs, but I have realized I can only foster small dogs, as he has major dog aggression toward large dogs. Loves the little yappy ones though and snuggles with my senior blind poodle and plays with my Jack Russell Terrorist like they are brothers. I guess I just have to accept that he only likes small dogs and cats. We had to leave the river this weekend because people’s loose dogs kept running up in his face (he was leashed and had a pinch collar) and while he listens to my commands fairly well, if he *really* wanted to go after any of those dogs I could not stop him. Its funny how good he is with the little ones nipping all over him but he is super defensive around other big dogs. I don’t know his history but given his manners and comfortableness in the house (And my bed! ha) i do not believe he was a fighting dog as he is generally a big marshmallow. But bring a large dog near him and he turns into Cujo. He loves humans though all around. Thanks for this article, it was very helpful.

    • Jonathan

      There is no need to invoke genetics to promote your own anecdotal experiences over the anecdotal experiences of others. The core of your message is to be conservative and not push your dog into social situations to prove a point. That’s good advice for any dog owner. Trying to add weight to your argument with unsubstantiated claims about “genetics” may be well-intentioned, but just encourages more irresponsible assumptions by others.

      It would be great if more organizations published scientific studies on dog genetics and behavior. I only know of two, and both rejected the link between breed and aggression, as do the major scientific and veterinary organizations.

      The dog you discussed is one you adopted as a puppy, which means you didn’t know what to expect. What bothers me most about your advice is that there are many great senior dogs that need homes. I worry that your advice would lead people to discard a common sense evaluation of their personality in favor of prejudice, because a trainer on the internet said they were genetically aggressive. You have no basis for this claim – or at least, you have an anecdotal one, not a scientific one as you’re suggesting. Please be more careful.

      • Elizabeth

        Jonathan, interesting outlook. I was excited about this article because it is a hunch I have always had: so often people say that it’s all in the way we raise them, but genetics must play a role, as they do in all of biology. However, I was hoping that the article would eventually move past simply acknowledging that genetics play a large role, and move into specifically *how* they play a role, and how to fix it. I would definitely have loved to be directed to some peer-reviewed scientific resources to learn more (although, unless one is part of a university, most people don’t have access to much of the science out there). Google Scholar is helpful, but many articles don’t show up or cannot be accessed without a description to the journal. Still, articles written by veterinarian researchers who do have access to those articles could certainly yield at least some citations that could be relayed. Anyway, Meagan, I was very interested in this article and I want to learn more. DNA is the blueprint for every biological characteristic – even behavior that has been learned after birth. Do you have resources that you could direct us to that go into this in more depth? Thanks!

        • Elizabeth

          Here are the results of a quick search in Google Scholar (I haven’t read any of the papers yet):


          • Elizabeth

            Ok sorry, last post! I skimmed one of the papers (Duffy et al. 2008), and here is an excerpt from the conclusion, which aligns well with what Meagan wrote in her article:

            “Differences between lines of distinct breeding stock indicate that the propensity toward aggressive behavior is at least partially rooted in genetics, although substantial within-breed variation suggests that other factors (developmental, environmental) play a major part in determining whether aggressive behavior is expressed in the phenotype. “

      • Dee Smith

        Read and ask questions on game dog forums, watch sporting dog yard videos, read the comments, google Tom Garner Chinaman game dog.

        Dog fighters know breeding matters most. That’s how they describe their supreme dog killer dogs, by bloodlines and fighting weights. They never say “it’s how you raise them”.

    • Georgine Burke

      First let me say that I respect your involvement with bully breeds and agree about the role of genetics. Unfortunately, articles such as this one feed BSL hysteria – one comment even suggests that BSL saves lives of pits! There are pit rescue organizations who carefully screen for adoptability and should be promoted. Their work is challenged by the common narrative that pit=aggression. Many good dogs are killed because of this prejudice.

      • Johnny
      • Dee Smith

        Before bully dogs infested our community and polluted the dog gene pool, dogs never severely injured or killed dogs on neutral ground. Never.

        Even when male dogs of all sizes gathered near to the home of a female dog in heat, the fights never ended in death. Never.
        Yes dogs fought but the fight ended the moment one submitted and was permitted to leave alive.

        The approach of a stray dog was never deadly. The old dog quarrel advice was “let the dogs work it out” , “don’t intervene” and nobody ever died.

        That’s changed since “bully dogs as pets nonsense” has spread throughout the land.

        Now there is no advice on how to keep a non bully dog alive when attacked by a gladiator dog. No bully mongering article or website even addresses the problem, as it’s not possible to have the welfare of all dogs as a priority and monger fighting dogs as pets. It cannot be done.

    • Gini Barrett

      Thank you, thank you. Wise words like this help to save lives. Bring sanity back to dog choices.

      • Gini Barrett

        One additional note, however. We should ALL support breed specific legislation. Most BSLs regulate the ownership of pit bull types dogs and are not bans. Most require licensing or special registration, mandatory spay-neuter and adequate containment (no chaining). Some require muzzling if taken off the owner’s property. Some require liability insurance. The communities that have bans OR regulated ownership are the only communities that have successfully reduced the abandonment of pit bull type dogs or the numbers of them who die in shelters. These laws cause dog owners to consider their choice when they first get their dog and help a lot of folks who are not up to the task consider a different choice. Spaying and neutering causes some of those who want to own them for the wrong reasons, such as breeding and/or having “tough” dogs, to reconsider or go elsewhere. It is important to support breed specific legislation because these public safety problems ARE breed specific.

        • Tamandra

          BSL actually mostly hurts good, responsible owners. There’s far to many pit bull looking dogs for it to be anywhere near fair. People will always find a way to do what they want. But I do think it should be hard for back yard breeding to persist. Speutering laws hurt responsible owners, too. Not very likely to be a deterrent.

          • Johnny

            False, responsible owners should want BSL, because they should have nothing to fear! It’s the backyard breeders, irresponsible owners, dogfighters and gangbangers who will be affeacted by BSL!!

    • Cat Sharp

      Susan- Tomato/tomahto- the “victim awareness” IS ANTI pit bull. These folks regularly post how to kill this breed, I have seen your peers discuss poisoning, stabbing, shooting and more of neighborhood pets. I have seen you all celebrate when an autistic child had her service dog taken away. Many of these nut jobs are proponents of walking around with weapons to “protect” yourselves. I have read NUMEROUS reports in detail about passing a “pit bull” on the street that looked at them “funny” (those are my favorites by you guys-8 paragraphs that can be summarized by this statement “nothing happened, but I hate pit bulls so I will pretend it was a ‘close call'”.)

      All of that is ridiculous, HOWEVER I call massive BS on the “victim advocate” claim. Specifically because of how you all attack and stalk ACTUAL victims when they refuse to drink the “all blocky headed dogs should die” kool-aid. You want anyone arrested and jailed over a tragedy yet forgive your own members who were directly involved (by their own negligence) in the death of a child. You attack people, name call, stalk, post false propaganda and slander folks regularly. However, when people get tired of your BS and call you out, you all fall back on the “victim” card.

      You have several prominent and active members who discuss “public safety/children safety” who have one or more DUIs on their records!!! Ooohh the irony, someone with a dui having the audacity to preach about the safety of children..

      So no Susan, you and your merry band of felons and misfits ARE NOT victim advocates. You are a group of dog hating sociopaths led by a psychic, a DJ and a pony tailed charlatan who have found an outlet for your vitriol and comfort in the company of other deviants.

    • Carol S.

      People have argued nature vs nurture back and forth.
      Genetics loads the gun…..environment pulls the trigger is a common saying in the research of things genetic and how they express themselves.

    • Meals on Wheels

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”
      Is the first thing that’s said,
      When someone is injured
      Or someone is dead.

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”,
      The rose-glass wearers say,
      “To carnage and death,
      Let us turn away.”

      “It’s all how you raise ’em
      We believe in redemption,
      We’re politically savvy,
      And we need attention.”

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”,
      Let’s print it in Red,
      Let’s hose off the streets
      Where the last victim bled.

      Don’t tell us your story,
      Just look at MY pup.
      “It’s all how you raise ’em
      So shut the f**k up.”

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”
      With deep piety,
      Chant the sanctimonious
      With their dog deity.

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”
      The more that it’s said,
      Equates to the increasing numbers
      Of injured and dead.

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”
      Until that grim day,
      When you too,
      Get caught in a pit bull melee.

      “It’s all how you raise ’em”
      That’s what you’ll say.
      It’s just a freak accident,
      Not D.N.A.

      “Don’t think bad of pit bulls”
      Is what Mom said instead,
      Oh how he love both those dogs.”
      Now he’s dead.
      “It’s all how you raise ’em”,
      ‘Till the mantra is broken.
      It’s one of the bloodiest phrases e’er spoken.


      People who favor BSL are not “pit bull haters”, they are likely victims. The numbers are talking, if pit bull advocates really wanted change, they need to change the mantras, half truths and all out lies they tell that set up well meaning people to fail with these dogs, and the dogs are suffering as well.

      • Bec

        I agree with you and appreciate the poem. When you are a victim, your view changes.

        You cannot solve a problem if you cannot define and use the known variables.

        Those like this author and terrierman are what the pit bull needs.

        I am for BSL, as stated, not necessarily banning, because from the comments here, there are those that still insist on the anecdotal evidence, or statistical cherry picking (deaths only, not permanent injury or animal deaths) to argue a dog is a dog irregardless of inheritable traits. The brute force method of making all owners good might be needed.

      • Amy gaddy

        That is the most prejudiced poem I have ever heard about a breed of animals pittbulls that are raised with love and discipline are the best pets I have ever saw just because some people raise them to be mean doesn’t mean all Pitts have to be killed are a terrible person if a black man shot ur family member does that mean all black people should be killed no it doesn’t one animal can’t speak for all animals small breed dogs are way meaner than any Pitt that I have ever met people like u need to go get some counseling or something maybe u need a trainer

    • CMP

      Why does anyone want to save a beast bred by people to kill? Pit bulls are not natural, endangered animals needing protection from people… people, pets and livestock need protection from pit bulls. With so many other breeds to choose from, why play Russian Roulette with innocent lives?

    • Linda Solano

      I loved this article..never understand why humans do not research their dogs background..the grouping of dogs also groups those dogs basic behavior tendencies. I think the term genetics is being used in two different contexts. Genetics within a breed and genetic or background tendency of the type of breed are different. I think breeders that love a breed look for those qualities within the breed to breed but if you do not accept that a whippet will likely chase and a malinois will likely guard you are setting yourself up for heartbreak. I love Kerry blue terriers but my personality is more easy going and I never wanted to own one. My whippet says “oh she let it slide today but she really means no”. The terrier says ” I win she said no one hundred times but she said yes today so I win and she never meant no”. I think the hardest are the mixes that no one knows the background and you have to be prepared to deal with what you get.
      Keep writing if only a few people listen you have saved a few dogs..

    • Christie

      While there maybe some important points in here where are your sources? This is all anecdotal and many trainers and behaviorists disagree with you.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks for your comment. Some disagree, some agree. It seems to be a very line in the sand topic. My blog, as most are, is centered on my direct experience, study, and opinion. And I don’t expect everyone to agree.

        • Christie

          Meagan, as you can see, You brought out a lot of BSL supporters and the anti-pitbull movement with this post and looking through your replies to them, it doesn’t seem you wanted to support BSL and anti-pit movements. It’s so disappointing to me when people who know and like “pit bull type” dogs and are educated in training and dog behavior aren’t careful in how they present their arguments. Because of the lack of thoughtfulness in your post, you have damaged your credibility with me and the rescues I work with. This is what I wrote where your post appeared elsewhere:

          “While I agree that dog breed should never be mislabeled to move them out of a facility (this only leads to more people rehoming and surrendering) and I agree that breed can predict and set the stage for some kinds of behavior I do not agree that:
          1. Pit bull is a breed. It’s not. And honestly, in this post, when she refers to physical characteristics of a dog as a proxy for breed it comes dangerously close to how BSL laws are implemented.
          2. That Staffordshire, Terrier, and bully-type breeds fit or even tend to fit the profile characterized in this post. And how could they? This author has discounted that most “pit bull type” (yes, I’m including scare quotes because it’s not a breed!) dogs are a mix of many breeds. Therefore, going back to “breed can set the stage for some behavior,” those dogs are going to be predisposed to lots of different behaviors because of their unique mix.
          3. Most of all – all that’s offered here are anecdotes and one-offs. No research.

          I’d be more inclined to consider how recognizing breed traits can help more dogs if the author had:
          * Not veered into language that sounds an awful lot like how BSLs target “pit bull type
          *had had a more nuanced account of how pit bull isn’t a breed and how mixes may then have lots of breed-type behaviors and predispositions
          *Had convinced us with real research
          *had offered up what she thinks CAN help “pit bull type” dogs image and outcomes.

          Since this does go against a lot of going wisdom from other trainers, behaviorists, and research, author needs to make a better case to get me to listen but until then, has damaged her credibility with me.”

          I appreciate that you have what you consider extensive direct experience but even training hundreds of dogs is not the same as the kinds of research that you’re ignoring. Someday perhaps we’ll meet and have tea and come to an understanding but as of today, you really let me down in how you presented this argument – sloppy writing and argumentation to rush to a point and stir things up. Very sad for me.

          • Meagan Karnes

            I apologize that you did not care for my argument. We agree to disagree on many points. I appreciate your thoughtful post and, while we disagree, I appreciate your perspective.

            • Christie

              It’s kind of offensive that “agree to disagree” is all over your replies – it speaks of “I’m wright and you’re wrong but I’ll let you be wrong.” It’s very condescending. I appreciate that you’ve brought out lots of advocates for the myriad different sides of this argument, which as you say, is a “line in the sand” topic (except, there aren’t two sides. There seem to be about a dozen just represented in your comments- pro-Cesar, anti-Cesar, pro BSL, anti BSL, ani-Pit bull, pro-breeding, anti-breeding, etc.) and are now trying to wade through that but if you really thought my perspective was valid or worthy of interest, you’d have a real conversation about it.

              In the meantime, please know you now appear to be either a misguided advocate or anti-pit. Worst of all, hastily writing about breed without carefully acknowledging what constitutes a real breed vs. a perceived one makes you seem ignorant instead of an informed source. This is why I say you really let me and other advocates down.

            • Meagan Karnes

              Sorry you feel that way. Agree to disagree is not meant to be “offensive” in any way. It’s meant to say, I appreciate your position, but I have a different one. It’s not meant to say one is “right” and the other is “wrong”. That’s reading between the lines.

            • Tamandra

              BSL people come out of the woodwork on ANYthing related to pit bull posts and stories. I have NEVER seen one that hasn’t gotten all kinds of opinions. It’s presumptuous to say the article was “hastily” written. There’s obviously many viewpoints on this, as you stated, and this is just one of them. So you’re sad because it doesn’t aline with yours?

            • Johnny

              IT’s not targeting a breed, it’s actually for the benefit of the breed! Nutters are only harming the breed, by not regulating the over breeding and irresponsible ownership!!

          • Johnny

            Rescues, the ASPCA, the Veterinary societies, they have no credibility they have sold out to the almighty dollar and pressure from the pit lobby!

            So no the authors credibility is not shaken at all!!

            ASPCA and Human Society not protecting us:

    • Crystal

      This is not something people talk about enough at any of the dog training stuff I’ve attended. I’ve seen it first hand too and totally agree! I do training at the kennel I got my GSD from. One of the guys there has a dog that can be very reactive towards other dogs. I know it’s genetics because his sister and brother have both been to the same class at some point in time, raised by completely different families, and they’ve all reacted the exact same way. When the dog is with his owner away from the rest of the dogs he’s great and completely focused. I know this guy works tirelessly on his dog, and he always talks about what he does at home to make progress.

      So great article! I definitely beat myself up a lot over my own dog’s training trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong, and it gets me thinking about how much his genetics factor into his progress.

      • Le

        Very measured article! Ty! Reactions tend toward the extreme, but the answer is a mix of breeding, genetics, training, and experiences. Respecting possible dog aggression is possibly saving ur pit’s life ultimately. One dog fight, even if ur dog doesn’t initiate, can have a devastating result if the other dog is injured or killed. I love my pit and hate when ppl demonize him, but still recognize that dog park play and off-leash lifestyles r never gonna b in his future (he was in a fight at 8 mos old, shocking me). I’d rather keep him safe and not set him up for failure than waste time trying to prove a point by thinking the right love and training will b a cure. I have seen wonderful pits at parks who r socially polite, but mine and many others just dont happen to b one. Doesn’t make my little big headed, grinning, butt shaking, ppl-loving clown “bad.” But dogs RELY on their owners to help keep them safe, even the ones who guard ur family. My lil pittie runt happens to b dog aggressive (when not cuddling with my cat), and i accept that, keep him leashed, avoid other/new dogs, train him DAILY, and love him!

    • Fred Hassen

      Good article!

    • Miranda

      Everything you wrote is spot on. GREAT article!

    • Kate G.

      Enjoyed your article and agreed with 99% of your points. I have had a number of shelter pit bulls, or pit mixes, mostly because the area in which I live sadly has, at all times, about 75% of available dogs with pit in their bloodlines. My current dog is a deaf pit bull, and she is definitely dog aggressive. It’s manageable but takes a lot of work, and yes, I have spent literally thousands of dollars on various dog trainers. She goes for frequent hikes, nightly walks, etc., but she is NEVER off leash, and it is rare that we formally introduce her to another dog; her first instinct is to always demonstrate dominance, particularly with female dogs. Her BFF, an elderly and placid male golden retriever (he was 10 when she came to us at 6 months old), died a few months ago at the ripe old age of 15 and a half, asleep in his favorite bed. He was perfectly happy being the submissive pack member and they played and lived together well. I have a question for you as well as a comment; firstly, do you think it’s possible to introduce a new golden retriever or goldendoodle male puppy to a dog aggressive female pit bull; and secondly, you are spot on about genetics playing a large part of the pit bull’s propensity for dog aggression. They are truly wonderful dogs; my pit’s sheer intelligence level is at Stephen Hawking level compared to our poor loveable sweet golden; and their loyalty and protectiveness are unparalleled. Pit bulls are well worth the effort!

    • Adriane

      Thank you for this article, my bf has a husky and he (the husky) is very driven. I think it’s because he’s genetically a working dog so doesn’t feel right unless he’s doing something. He pulls something awful during walks and is very vocal. He’s a very loving dog but can bite when excited. Because of this we’re really cautious with him around children and won’t let him near small dogs at all because his form of play could be very dangerous to them. He isn’t dog or people aggressive at all, he’s just big and rambunctious and doesn’t know himself all the time so it is our responsibility to know him and make sure we don’t put him in situations where harm could come to him or a smaller creature he wanted to play with. Its important that people really get to know their dogs and make sure that they care for them in a way that is safe for others.

    • Kim

      I can see both sides of this argument. I had Staffordshire terriers and worked in a show kennel for someone who was one of the long-time AmStaff breeders. His take? Pit bulls are not the same now as they used to be, and I agree with him. It used to be that in the dog-fighting ring, if a dog was human-aggressive, it was immediately put down, no questions asked. So you got dogs that were, in fact, family pets during the week and fighters on the nights and weekends that there were fights. When we lived in Oklahoma (back in the ’80’s), we knew one of these dogs. I laughed so hard at him one day hiding under the car from the kids who wanted to put a dress on him and pull him in their wagon. But he was obviously a fighting dog (digression: we didn’t report the owners because we had no proof that this dog was still fighting; in fact, they told us he was given to them as a retiree). Let’s not sugarcoat that any more, either: these dogs were fighters. They fought. They were bred to fight other dogs (and animals, back in the bad old days). In my experience, even if they were brought up with other dogs, they would get along with other dogs. Until one day, they didn’t.

      I’m not in the breed any more for a variety of reasons (most of which are because I’m old), but I still understand the need to be careful of your dog around other dogs. At that time, I also understood that I’d have to take my dog and stand away from everybody else at ringside while waiting for our class to be called. I understood that these dogs were not dogs to play in large groups after they grew out of being little puppies. Genetics do, in fact, play a very large part in their makeup.

      Also? For years, now, people haven’t bred these dogs carefully. The gangbangers got hold of them, and they liked the maximum aggression. So they encouraged it and now we have dogs that are human-and-animal aggressive. Cesar Millan didn’t do them any favors, either; you can’t tell me he hasn’t had fights at his place, no matter how much he denies it. If these dogs want to fight, they will. People need to come to grips with that. They need to learn what they’re getting into with this wonderful breed. Unfortunately, too many people don’t do the research and go into bully-breed ownership with stars in their eyes, thinking that they can change the doggie into something resembling the average lab’s temperament. Sorry, won’t happen.

    • Deirdre Doyle

      Why do people have such issues with breed specific behaviors and the idea behaviors are inherited? Do terriers dig? Do bloodhounds follow their noses? Do Retrievers fetch everything in sight? Do border collies stalk and stare? Yes, all dogs exhibit some of these behaviors to some extent, but the prevalence and intensity is breed or breed type specific. Pit bulls fight. Not all, but many, and often out of no where. As a breeder ( of golden retrievers) I pay strict attention to temperament, and select for the sweet, empathetic, mild nature that I believe is emblematic of my breed. After twenty-five years, I have seen that even quirky, “individual” behaviors are genetic in origin. You can manage behaviors and through conditioning and training maybe mask temperament, but you cannot change it.

      • Johnny

        But wait, I heard labs attack more than pitbulls, hahaha. At the park walking my poodle terrier mix, we met a golden and she lay down on all fours so to meet my dog and not scare it! My dog was still apprehensive and so did not sniff noses, but have you ever seen a pitbull do that? No, in a few cases I have come in contact with them, (pitbull or lab/pit mix) they charge toward your dog and start circling even after you pick up your dog. The lab/pit mix went straight around the back of my dog and banged his rear end. This is NOT normal dog behviour, but it seems normal in pits!! They do not greet normally, and are not afraid of an owner!!

    • Jami

      100 % Factual! I’ve been a professional dog trainer for decades. I’ve been saying the same thing for just about as long. It’s not popular, it’s not trendy, it’s not all hearts and flowers but it’s TRUE. Thank you for the article, I am sharing it far and wide.

      • Johnny

        Thank you for standing up to the irrational and immoral pit lobby! The ASPCA, shelters, and veterinary societies have all sold out to the almighty dollar and the pressure from the pit lobby! We have to speak up to ensure the safety of us all!

    • Ellen Querner

      Thank you for this article. Genetics can also be seen in other breeds. Herding dogs are genetically predisposed to herd other animals…even children. They are not taught to herd, they are taught to learn how to herd properly and listen to their owner. Bird dogs are instinctively bred to hunt. They are tested on their abilities as young puppies. Humans just take that ability and fine tune it. Some puppies from each litter are better at their genetic predisposition than others. So you can have a pup from a litter that will not herd well, or hunt well.

      The problem with the pit bull dogs (and there are so many variations to this type of dog) is that they were the dog of choice for dog fighters and for so many years, the only dogs that were bred were those that displayed the most aggression in the fighting ring. Those that didn’t, either lost the fight and died or were killed by the owners as they had no value. I have been around for some time and I will tell you that I have seen a difference in the pit bull dogs. I am seeing more gentle and not so aggressive dogs, but I always say that you don’t know what you have till sometimes too late. A cute sweet young dog can turn the minute it matures. I have been involved in prosecutions of dog fighters. I have help confiscate dogs from fighters. One case involved several people and over a hundred dogs. We took young pups into custody and placed them in foster homes while the cases went to court. The cases lasted about 8 months and during that time we saw changes in our young dogs. Dogs that were placed in shelters or homes changed as they matured. One shelter almost lost their mascot dog when one of the pups who was friendly all of a sudden turned on the mascot dog. That same shelter had two brothers that were housed side by side and regularly played together. One day they stopped being friendly with each other and were bound and determined to kill each other. One of the puppies was adopted by her foster mom, who was an animal control officer. She had two Chihuahuas that helped raise the puppy from about 8 weeks of age. I always told her to be careful as she might turn on the other dogs. My friend said that would never happen as Tyler loved them and was always submissive to them…….till the day 3 yrs later when she came home and Tyler had killed them both.

      I run a low cost spay/neuter clinic for low income households and we regularly see pits come in with fight wounds on them. The owners are concerned as all of the sudden they have started fighting and think that getting them altered will help. I tell them they need to choose the one they want to keep and find another home for the other…as it probably won’t stop.

      You have nailed it right on. Genetics does play a huge role in a dogs temperament. It is funny when people meet a shy dog, they assume it was mistreated by a person and that is why it is that way. Not necessarily so, if you look at a litter of pups you might see that shy dog from the very beginning, not because it was mistreated, but because it was born that way. You can help it overcome the shyness in many cases by teaching it to be “brave”, but many are not shy or afraid of men because they were treated badly by a man…just that it is their predisposition from birth.

      What I see as a crime is that pit bull rescues are so bound and determined that there is no such thing as a mean pit bull only bad owners that they take pits that are aggressive, give it training and hand them off to unsuspecting owners. A pit rescue should never take a pit that shows any aggression to another animal or a human, there are too many out there to save. Do the testing, put the energy and money into those that are docile and sweet, that above all will help. There have been rescues local to our area that have taken dogs in that later attacked other dogs or people. They will take the pit that will lunge aggressively at the front of the cage when a person walks by. they spend time feeding it treats, then show how friendly the dog is to them. They hide the nature of that dog and place them in unsuspecting homes when they say it has been trained and is a sweet heart now.

      Again, thank you for this article. I don’t think the pit rescues in our area would agree with it though.

      • Johnny

        Shelters and the pit bull lobby and dog organizations (ASPCA, Humane Society) are all in this for the money, they DON’T CARE ABOUT OUR SAFETY!

    • Daniell

      The problem with all of these posts and the article is that “pitbull” is a misnomer. What makes a pitbull? I have 3. All labeled pitbull. None over them look anything alike. Honestly none of them have more than 2 similar traits of any of the dogs in this articles photos. 25 years ago my dogs would have just been called “mutts”. The bulliest of my 3, Ellie, that I would say most closely resembles the typical pitbull weighs just 45lbs and is the most animal friendly of the bunch. I call her a dogs dog. She prefers the company of the other dogs over us humans. My dogs are calm, lazy and happy. I selected them because of their demeanor. They live with my 4th dog, a 10 lb mutt. Do I have any illusions about my dogs? No. Introduce a higher energy dog into the mix and their dynamic changes. We work with them on training. My yard is secure. I don’t leave them alone outside. They are secured inside when I leave my home. They wear collars. We do not go to dog parks. So what makes any of them a pitbull? It is simply a word that a 24 year old shelter worker with no breed knowledge slapped on to their intake notes. What makes them a concern for anyone? What about my dogs says they should be eliminated? This is the problem. No matter physical characteristics you pick to weed out this “breed”, a lot of good dogs that don’t portray any behavior issues get caught up in that.

      In another home might my dogs behave differently? Possibly.
      Should just anyone own a large and powerful dog? No.
      Should people be realistic about their lifestyle and what type of dog they are choosing? Absolutely.
      Should anyone be “breeding pitbulls”? NO
      Do genetics make for bad dogs sometimes? YES
      But we do need to stop with the generic misnomers. It’s dangerous and harmful to the majority which are decent family animals.

      The guy that was walking his 3, very bully, dogs that was referred to in this article is irresponsible. He clearly could not control those dogs. He did not adequately prepare himself and think about all the possible situations. He had no business walking those dogs together. That situation is avoidable and is his fault.

    • Jane Wentzell

      A thoughtful narrative. I cringe when ,in public places, the Pitt Bull is allowed off lead with not so much as a collar on, while other dogs are on lead. Seems some owners want to flaunt the genetic factor.
      it’s science.

    • Reason

      Great article, but when you have half of pit bull advocates lying about pit bulls claiming they’re nanny dogs good for children and not dog aggressive, and the other half denying pit bulls are pit bulls at all, instead calling them “terrier mix” or anything other than pit bull, I’m afraid banning is the only solution.

    • Julie

      Go online to any of the metro shelters and it’s mostly made up of pit bull type-dogs. Anyone who does not support mandatory sterilization with so many pit bulls being euthanized in shelters does not care about pit bulls, just their own selfish desire to own one. Pit bulls have a 20% spay/neuter rate — while the rest of dogs have a 70% rate. That is partly why mandatory pit bull sterilization laws are so needed. Free sterilization of pit bulls isn’t doing it either. A $1500 ” litter tax” per litter would stop the greediness.  

      The second illusion is the notion that shelters can adopt their way out of the pit bull influx — which didn’t work with any other breed, either, until spay/neuter drastically reduced the intakes.
      I will never understand why pit bull activists have a hard time with spay & neuter out of existence. The world does not need pit bulls, their primary purpose is a felony in all 50 states.  Dog breeds are man-made bred for certain genetic traits and characteristics for certain jobs to serve humans and considered property by law.   We can stop breeding whatever breed we want to. Many breeds go extinct https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_extinct_dog_breeds

      I was misled for many years about the many myths about pit bull type-dogs making safe family pets and it’s all how you raise pit bulls.

      I come from the animal rescue community. I have fostered many animals and a few pit bull type-dogs found as strays. All my pets have been rescued. I can’t in good conscience recommend any dog that resembles a pit bull type-dog to a family as a safe family pet because of unethical breeding practices, dangerous breed traits and genetics.

      Families absolutely should not adopt a dog that resembles a pit bull type-dog with an unknown breeding history and with unknowns about how the dog was raised. Shelter and rescue systems are asking people to play Russian Roulette with their pet choices.

      I have been following dangerous dog attacks for three years. I’m in a support group with some of these families. All these families were blind-sided by a horrific pit bull attack. All these killer pit bulls were house dogs and considered members of the family. None of these dogs were trained to fight. Pit type dogs are hardwired to maul and kill without warning, it is a part of the genetic code like border collies herd, labs swim, goldens retrieve, pointers point, and bloodhounds track.

      The light bulb really went off for me when I heard about all pit bull owners should own a break-stick. http://blog.dogsbite.org/2008/09/break-sticks-tool-used-to-pry-open-pit.html

      This person demonstrates how to use a break stick on a pit-bull: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfMVH4wY5Pg

      • Johnny

        YEs it’s all about making money, the veterinary societies, the ASPCA, Shelters, they are all putting everyone at risk by promoting pitbulls all for the almighty dollar!!

    • Suz

      I appreciate the honesty, even when one-sided. I always find it interesting how people can support inherently dangerous dog breeds and simply gloss over, or not even mention, the tens of thousands of victims and survivors of egregious maulings from them. I don’t believe having tens of thousands of forever dead or maimed people, pets, livestock and wildlife is worth the risk for a few decent, and even at that, still potentially dangerous, dogs. When does the risk and liability outweigh someone’s desire for a specific breed of dog? And, dear God, why would you want to bring that upon yourself? I had a pit mix, never ever again. Lesson learned. All set. With hundreds of breeds to choose from, I’ll take one I can enjoy and not be in constant high alert over. It’s just not worth the risk… smh…

    • Steve

      I have been preaching this message for many years as a “bulldog” fan from way back as well as a long time dogsport/ protection dog trainer. I appreciate your willingness to face the sometimes ridiculous and uninformed responses you get, you have far more patience than I, I applaud your ability to deal with them so tactfully, Thank you.
      —— Steve

    • Tommy

      I loved your article, that said I ended up with an almost all black w/ white on a couple of toes, and white chest, Amstaff mix, he was about five months old when we got him, the only history I had gotten about him was, he was found on the streets of the Bronx.
      Needless to say, he is a sweet boy always looking to please, and play. As soon as I could we were heading for the dog parks around my area, in Westchester Co. where he was very friendly and playful with most dogs, and not so keen on some other dogs, Huskies, and German Shepherds, in particular were not his favorite.
      As long as there was plenty of stimulus, and other dogs around, trouble was easily averted.
      I knew from my own research on his breed, and dogs in general that socialization could help with raising a dog with balanced behavior.
      But as he has gotten older, he still hates Huskies and bigger dogs, we have learned that the freewheeling runs at the dog parks, are not worth, the chance of a dog fight, and one on one meet and greets with the neighborhood dogs is the best socialization for my boy.
      His dog aggression is mostly toward other male dogs, but he will always behave well around an older female, and he loves small dogs, especially if they act stable, and assured.
      I used to let him off the leash in the woods near my house, until running into herds of deer crossing our path, where nothing happened except for the look of astonishment on my dog’s face, and his wanting to investigate closer, in which I knew would have been a bad idea.
      Thanks again for your positive insight, and I do believe these dogs need a strong positive pack leader, and that care should always be taken when other dogs are around.
      Just say’n

    • Tommy

      I think a big part of the problem is all the “experts”. The phrase “I’ve had dogs all my life.” Doesn’t certify people as dog experts. It makes them dog owners. I’ve had my body my entire life….. but I still have a doctor. I think dismissing professional advice is naive. Thank you for your article. Our dog is a mix lab and shepard (bless her poor confused heart). It would be easy to label her “bad” or “good” but the truth is she’s just her but those two conflicting breeds are sooooooo very evident.

    • Maria Cicero

      I agree with many of the ideas in this article except one, you’re basing this on genetics. I’m sorry but that’s just wrong. All terriers are bred with a prey drive, that’s not aggression. Aggression is an individual trait, you cannot generalize aggression as a breed trait. Every dog is an individual and therefore should be dealt with as such. You’re not doing pit bull type dogs a service by saying aggression was bred into them. It clouds the issue and promotes BSL, even though you may not mean to. I do believe that the physical strength bred into pit bull type dogs creates an unsafe situation for owners that do not understand or respect this strength.

      That being said, I completely agree with some of your solutions. Mainly, education for people who would like to own pit bull type dogs or mastiffs, Rottweilers, GSD, Dobermans, etc. It should be mandatory since it’s obvious that so many owners do not know how to handle their dogs. I don’t mean just training, I mean learning how to manage their strength so that you can maintain control and the safety of others. Only through education can we actually ensure public safety.

    • Jennifer

      Great article! I experienced this revelation (genetics being the biggest/a huge factor in a dog’s temperament) in 2001, when we received a 10 week old terrified of everything foster dog. No amount of love or positive training was going to “fix” his nature. Sure, we trained hard and he eventually participated in agility and herding trials, but underneath was always that fearful dog….

      When it comes to “pit bulls”, I liken them to Jack Russell Terriers…on steroids. While they may not be as hyper, they have that tenacious terrier drive…they can be fantastic to train as sport dogs, but they can also be a huge disaster for the average pet owner who doesn’t understand prey drive. It’s one thing to try and pull off a 17 pound dog from its quarry, it’s entirely different dealing with a 70 pound terrier in drive.

      We had a terrific pit bull who was amazing. Competed in several dog sports, and was one of the most friendly dogs you’d ever meet to people and other dogs…but, he was also extremely drivey, and killed more cats, chickens and rats/mice than most dogs see in a lifetime. He wasn’t a bad or mean or even aggressive dog. He was intensely prey driven. It was him down to his genetics…his DNA…

      Anyway, my favorite quote of the article: “like Malinois aren’t “Collie Mixes.” ” Made me laugh out loud. So using that in the future! 🙂 Totally going to tell my hubby I want a “collie mix”!

    • Kris

      It’s quite frankly crap that anyone is trying to act as though BSL isn’t banning, and that it doesn’t kill dogs. It kills dogs. It’s banning. Grandfathering certain dogs is all well and great, but that leaves thousands of perfectly well adjusted, non aggressive dogs in shelters to be euthanized. BSL won’t save ANY dogs, it will just kill the ones filtering into shelters as BSL stops their adoption.

      I am not delusional, I realize there *are* aggressive pit bulls. But I am tired of people not evaluating and considering every individual dog. My personal opinion is that, as much as it pains me, dogs who do not pass their temperament evaluations with flying colors at shelters should be euthanized. I’m saying that as an owner of two rescues – one is a non dog aggressive, non human aggressive bully type dog (probably mostly saffie) and a reactive, fear aggressive herding breed. I’m not using my two as an example that ALL pit bulls are good dogs, but it would be an absolute damn crime if a dog with the personality of mine did not make it out of a shelter due to his breed. As for commenters making the point that pet owners are always “shocked” that their “good” dogs suddenly “turn” on them, I have always had real sincere doubts that anyone in the situation had the wherewithal to see the warning signs that the dog was in fact reactive. BUT, someone in the chain of rescue most likely DID. There was a behaviorist of a clinic worker or a volunteer who had enough dog training knowledge to see that dog react to something, or have a small pattern of reaction, but, *and I understand the feelings to want to do this,* they brushed it off. Or gave him a little better score than they should of. Or just put “adults only” or “likes to be the only pet” in the description instead of admitting to themselves that this dog was a danger. It hurts me to even type that, but in order to save the THOUSANDS of rescue pit bulls that do nothing in their entire lives other than love everyone, we need to be more realistic with the outcomes of the dogs that don’t have a place in the average home. Sure, *some* of them could land in the very very controlled breed knowledgeable home they require as a strong reactive dog, but the ones that don’t unfortunately really can’t keep being brushed off as “likes a quiet home” or any of the other low key tells in rescue adds.

    • Sarah

      Another great article, Meaghan. Thank you for being brave enough to say it.

      I’ve felt for a long time that the Pittie’s worst enemy is a certain type of advocate. I think much of the problem is that they tend to be “rescue” people, and as such, many of them are anti-breeder and anti-breeding. Because of this, these advocates don’t take the time to learn about breeding. This is unfortunate because they then have no understanding of the genetics of behaviour and how this affects the breed they claim to love.

      Regardless of whether or not the AKC recognizes them, Pit Bulls are a breed by every definition. Yes, there are a lot of crosses around – there are a lot of crosses with every breed. That does not mean the purebreds do not exist and pass on their traits to the crossbred descendants.

      1) Pit Bull Terriers have a distinctive appearance and behaviours created through human selection for and against certain genetic traits, both physical and behavioural. The fact that the physical appearance has some variability is related to the fact that they are working, rather than show, animals, and working dog people tolerate greater variety in appearance. To say this variability means these dogs are not a breed is a misunderstanding. Also, it is even more difficult to select for behaviours than it is for physical characteristics. Working dog breeders will attest to the high number of “washouts” that do not meet their requirements. To say that since the behaviour is not present in all the dogs, the behaviour is not a characteristic of the breed, is also a misunderstanding of how things work.

      2) If you put two Pit Bulls together to make baby Pit Bulls, the puppies come true.

      3) They have been recognized as a breed with a breed standard by a perfectly respectable kennel club, the United Kennel Club, since 1898. The UKC is primarily a working dog registry and was founded by a gentleman who was annoyed that the AKC refused to recognize his dog’s breed: the Pit Bull Terrier.

      There is most definitely evidence that there is a genetic component to behaviour, and specifically aggression. Studies have been done on Malinois and have found an association between dopamine transporter genes and undesirable aggression (e.g. handler-directed aggression) in this breed:


      The studies listed at the bottom of the above page are open-access and you can read them in their entirety if you copy and paste the titles into Google.

      More advocates need to accept the dogs they claim to love for what they are. They are not “just like any other dog” any more or less than a Malinois is just like a Labrador or a Beagle is just like a Jack Russell Terrier. It is not “all how you raise them”, with Pitties or any other kind of dog. Genetics affect behaviour and they matter. I don’t believe you can “socialize” the predatory behaviour required for dog fighting out of a dog any more than you can “socialize” the predatory behaviour required for herding out of a sheepdog or for retrieving out of a Labrador. Advocates need to accept the dogs they love for what they are, a breed with both positive and problematic behaviours, and stop pushing propaganda that leads people into putting their dogs into dangerous situations in order to prove a flawed point.

    • Sarah

      Oops – I should have written “Meagan”. Apologies for the misspelling.

    • Paula

      Just my non expert opinion. From the point of view of the Pit Bull (or Bully breeds if you will) aggression is not a fault. It is at times part its survival package and at other times necessary for the work it does. A hog dog that can not safely hold a feral boar will get severely injured even killed. One that can not keep cattle moving risks getting kicked or even gored. By the way not all good dogs make good pets.

      This is not to discount the tragedy of attacks but to point out that these dogs are not aggressive because they are inherently evil. That view results in either calls for bans or perhaps even worse a naive belief that all it takes to change a dog’s behavior is the love of a pure owner. The romancing the Pit Bull theme.

    • Lisa

      Thank you for legitimizing what I have always said, genetics -do-play a big issue in behavior. I have two shepherds, a brother and sister, about six years old. They have never undergone any sort of training and have been going to our local dog park since they were a couple of months old. Since their very first day there they “herd” the other dogs. One takes one side, the other one takes the other and they work together to chase other dogs (kind of like Babe ). It’s not malicious at all and all the doggie parents call them the dog park personal trainers. When a breed of dog is bred for a specific purpose, whether herding or killing small animals, it is very hard to counteract that. At the very least, owners need to pull their heads out of their butts and take an honest look at what they are dealing with and find “coping mechanisms”.

    • Julie

      I was around a 4-month-old pit bull puppy at a family reunion that was going for the throats of other dog making them yelp. It was very distributing to watch. The owner considered it normal puppy play. I did not! I was trying to correct the puppy but it could not help itself attacking the other dogs’ throats and making them yelp.

      Please watch this video and let me know if you think this is normal puppy play?

      “What we found disturbing was the sounds of the guttorial growl / snarling. We’ve been around hundreds of puppies. Never in our experiences have we heard “full on” viscous sounds coming from puppies. Already, the genetically engineered fighting instincts are on display. No bit inhibition at all, the lack of pain response is a very disturbing revelation why pits that have been beat, punched whipped, and /or shot and they still carry on. We have seen puppies “fight” before, it lasts all of 1 to 4 nips and it is over. These pit bull puppies were in kill mode throughout the video”

    • Jincy Willett

      What happened with Koby? (Asking, because I had a dog–not a pit bull, not dangerously aggressive–whom I never understood and did not enjoy, but I kept her because I couldn’t place her with someone else and I was sure she’d just spend the rest of her days in a pound if she didn’t stay with me (I’d picked her out; she was my responsibility. She was jumpy, property-destructive, never played, didn’t see the point of other dogs…). She lived to be 16, and I still mourn her more than all my good dogs, just because I couldn’t help thinking that somewhere there would have been an owner who clicked with her. I’m guessing that you didn’t keep Koby. What should we do when a dog doesn’t work out?

      • Meagan Karnes

        I did keep Koby. He passed away when he was only 9 years old of Splenic Hemangiosarcoma. He was the best dog I’ve ever owned as he taught me so many valuable lessons about myself. He was single-handedly responsible for propelling me into a career training dogs and I have his name tattooed on me in his memory. Truth is, I don’t think I can tell anyone what to do when faced with the same situation. It’s something folks have to search themselves for. Only thing I will say to anyone with an aggressive dog is that I’ll never judge them for their choices. Was my life rainbows and butterflies with him? Not at all. It was hard and very stressful. And if anyone else was in the same boat, I wouldn’t fault them for making a different choice. But I’m eternally grateful for the experiences that he gave me.

    • Kirsten

      i think the fact that you speak very casually about the fact that your dog bit a human at 9 mos old, while talking about breed traits, is leading to confusion.

      DOG aggression is very common in the breed. HUMAN aggression is a severe fault… and historically human aggression to a _known_ human would have led to that dog being put down immediately.

      there are breeds were human aggression (to a strange human) is not a fault but a normal breed characteristic (i own one, the Caucasion Ovcharka, even if she is remarkably mellow for the breed.) Howevver human aggression is a severe fault in the Pit Bull (any of the three breeds typically labeled as such)

      They were the nanny dog, and the dog used in kids advertisements for a REASON. Modern abusive breeders trying to make a pittie into a guard dog have done a lot of harm to the breed, but if a pittie is HUMAN aggressive, there is a serious problem.

      • Meagan Karnes

        You are correct. These dogs are not typically human aggressive. In fact, it is very uncharacteristic of the breed, human aggression culled out early on in most game bred dogs. But my statement about Koby’s aggression was never tied to a breed trait. Dog aggression was. It was instead used to illustrate that aggression can come from a variety of sources – not simply “how they are raised”.

    • Mark Woolard

      As an owner of five pit bulls (in succession) from childhood until today, I believe the author of this piece has written an oversimplification of the key issue of dog aggression. I recommend the new book “Pit Bull, The Battle Over an American Icon” by Bronwen Dickey as a much better treatment of the topic. And as an aside, I suggest that from my experience a pit bull that has the proper amount of daily exercise is much less likely to cause a problem for either dog or man. If you wish to own this dog properly, you must commit to getting up off your dead ass and making a point of burning off canine energy. You will be fit, and your dog will be happy.

    • KaD

      The problem these dogs have is twofold: 1) the traits that were BRED into them to enhance their performance as PIT fighting dogs- explosive, disproportionate and unprovoked aggression, gameness, and their uniquely
      damaging hold and shake attack style- make them problematic as a PET animal; and 2) owners who are (usually willfully) ignorant of the breeds history and genetics as the foundation for behavior in ALL dogs. Nice to see an honest article for once.

    • KaD

      Part of being a responsible dog owner is accepting your dog’s genetic background and making provisions based on that. Border collies herd, Labradors retrieve, Boerboels guard, pit bulls fight. Does that mean that all will demonstrate this trait? Of course not. Just as not all the other mentioned breeds and mixes thereof will reliably fulfill the purpose they were bred for. But regardless, you have to expect it and plan for it. Different breeds require different considerations and pit bull-types are no exception. A pit bull IS different than other breeds. That’s the whole basis behind distinct breeds–because each is different. Being a responsible dog owner and owning a pit bull means accepting your dog’s genetics and keeping your dog safe from situations that cause headlines, which is why pit bull ‘therapy’ or ‘service’ dogs is such a bad idea- these dogs inbred motor pattern when startled is to attack. Accepting the fighting history is NOT detrimental, it’s responsible. Ignoring the fighting history and putting your dog in situations where these genetics could manifest themselves tragically is detrimental.
      No headline ever read “Pit bull owner does not frequent dog park so as to avoid fights”.

    • Sonja

      Great article, Meagan. My 20 years in shelter and rescue work, with a focus on pit bulls, has given me a perspective very closely matched to what you have written. I’ve seen it in my own dogs as well. I’m forever preaching to potential adopters to not over-stigmatize, but also to not over-minimize, the traits of whatever breed of dog they are interested in.
      I also commend you for having the patience of a saint in your responses to some of these comments. I wasn’t so calm sitting here reading them. : )

    • Kayle

      Meagan, thank you so much for both this post and your post about socializing puppies. I am feeling stuck in managing the drive and protectiveness traits that are emerging in my 2.5 yo cane corso that I have raised since a puppy. I feel particularly frustrated because of the lack of experienced trainers in my geographic location. And I also experience guilt over my perceived shortcomings. Knowing other people have experienced similar issues helps renew my sense of purpose. I feel my dog’s reluctance to except strangers was made worse by being over-socialized as an adolescent during times of nervousness. Although at the time, I was certain I was doing the right thing.

    • Julie

      Excellent blog and so very, very true. Thank you

    • JLove

      Thank you Meagan. I also want to say THANK YOU to all of the bully breed owners who know about your breed’s traits and commit yourselves to keeping all people and animals safe. If all bully owners were like this there would be no outcry for BSL. Think about it.

    • Misty

      Found this article even though it’s over a year old and I just wanted to thank you!

      This article outlined what I’ve realized in the past 10 years of owning different types of bully breeds. I felt the same way until I admitted to myself that the breeding and genetics of my animals made up who they were. I could advocate as much as I wanted for other pitbulls but I had to emphasize so much on educating people that pitbulls can be an extremely mixed breed with uncertain outcomes.

      My first pitbull was the sweetest – as the years went by I realized that she wasn’t a true pitbull – she was mixed and her demeanor pointed to staffy/pitbull mix. Maybe she was an anomaly! who knows. It is rare to have a staffy out here so I must not have recognized her mom as one when I picked her up.

      The 2nd one I adopted was truly one to manage – his genetics started to show more when he got older & ultimately when he got traumatized by a small dog, his prey drive was released and he wanted to destroy every little animal within his sight. He to me, was a true apbt – high focus and prey drive, energy for days, and a desire to please.

      the 3rd one we adopted from the pound and was listed as a pitbull but he must have been one of the first american bullies we encountered – demeanor, appearance, color pointed to that breed. block head, sweetest looking eyes but the agility of a pitbull.

      the 1st & 3rd I could trust off lead with no problems and have tested many times to prove to people that certain dogs can be blessed with good genetics, but the 2nd I would never put him in the position to fail like that as much as i would want to let hubris seep in – he would utterly and completely fail. Just like as many other people put in, pitbull is such a blanket that anyone who actually knew what a pitbull was would still misclassify what they are based on what they look like.

      True APBT’s have that drive and crackhead energy that many people should realize does not match them as owners – they need to be honest with themselves even when we feel so bad to leave them in the shelters. When I decided on the next breed of dog, I went with an american bully even knowing that people will continue to label her as a pitbull. i Disagree with that person’s comment that this is an oversimplification – honestly we live in the USA – people need it broken down to them in the simplest of terms. Unfortunately, they educate themselves too slowly or are not quick to be curious to find out themselves about why pitbulls are such a controversial topic.

    • Erik

      I could not disagree more. It is all about the owner structure obedience not being afraid to tell your dog no. Punishment Humane punishment for Behavior that’s dangerous to other dogs and two people this is the type of structure that dogs need they need strong leaders. Because the argument goes both ways you can look at all types of dogs that have problems with trainers thousands of dogs all types of breeds of dogs become aggressive food aggressive people aggressive dog aggressive no matter what the breed no matter how large or small the dog. Reed is not relevant now there could be something that happened to the dog that’s created a fear and anxiety in a dog maybe it was attacked by people abused by people attacked by a dog once in its life and it now suffers a Trauma from that that’s different but still that issue can we work through. but it’s alarming that this person has had for dogs or however many dogs and all of them have become food aggressive that just tells you right there that there is a structure problem in that household. I have three very different dogs from an American Bulldog to a Weimaraner to a small Terrier mutt none of them are aggressive none of them have food aggression problems they can all eat out of each other’s bowls and they all understand the word no. my first song I got when I was 18 years old was a Rottweiler and she was the best dog ever she did nothing wrong and you could probably make the same argument about Rottweilers and genetics as well it’s all in the owner. it’s in the owner of the dog has issues and the owner doesn’t work through them and get the proper training. if a dog has aggressive problems aggression problems you can’t use positive reinforcement training to solve them the dog has to understand that there’s a punishment for certain behaviors Humane punishment.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Thanks. We agree to disagree. If breed doesn’t matter, or affect behavior, why are very specific breeds chosen for work purposes? A vast majority of legitimate service dogs are labradors. A vast majority of dual purpose police dogs are german shepherds or belgian malinois. Why is this if breed doesn’t affect temperament? And I think you misread the post. The dogs with food aggression were brothers, all belonging to different people. I’ve never raised a dog with food aggression. The brothers I had showed tendencies towards resource guarding when they were young but we nipped it in the bud early…with positive reinforcement training…and we no longer have food aggression issues 🙂

    • Veronika

      Best & Most Realistic Article Regarding Bully Breeds I’ve Ever Read. My two, one a 7 yr old female APBT I’ve had since she was 2 months old & a 6 yr old American Bulldog I rescued 5 years ago can be the most kind, loving, gentle giants around other people, kids & animals & yet terrifyingly so, I’ve also experienced & seen them be aggresive and dangerous towards one another(they’ve always eaten, slept & played together) & other dogs. Thankfully in both instances we were able to intervene, stop them & no one has ever been harmed human or animal. Never underestimate their power & strength which they are genetically predisposed to no matter how their raised, the hours/years spent on training & socialization. When I take my dogs on a walk or to park they’re muzzled. As the leader of my pack, I’m not only protecting others but more importantly I’m protecting them from themselves. As responsible bully breed pet owners we mustn’t ever ignore or forget who they are, what they’re strengths are & who’ve they descended from. Thank you for this “Real” & authentic ode to my beloved bully breeds!! Thank you Meagan for keeping it 100!!

    • Domonik

      I whole heatedly disagree with this woman. While she may be an awesome dog owner. I don’t think she understands these animals read and feel our energy. Regardless of the breed as a pet owner you need to establish who the alpha is. You can read all the books in the world and many won’t tell you how to effectively communicate with your dog. The natives learned to tame these animals by watching and observing how the canine acted in it’s community (pack). So while it’s not the dogs fault and very much so the owner, the owner of this strong animal can’t be weak, in mind nor spirit.

    • D. Alonsen

      This article, although published over a year ago, is spot on. We have owned a pack of pits and one became my service dog when he began to alert to a medical condition I have. I was able to take my “American Pit Bull” service dog anywhere. He was well behaved, loving, and didnt start any fights with any other animals. We have a blue (nickname) who we were asked to rescue, and ended up keeping, at 7 weeks of age. His previous owners beat and kicked him, breaking his hip, pelvis, left leg, and spilling his guts out. Why my vet decided to fix him is beyond me, but we are grateful because he, too, is not aggressive, but he also does not put up with people or dogs pushing him past his “limit,” which typically means “I’m done playing, leave me alone.” My husband rescued a bully pit puppy who, for lack of a better term, is a shark. He defends his family with fierceness, biting me twice against another dog when another dog lunged and tried to bite me as I tried to break the two apart. No, I did not put him down. It is in his genetics. He is not human friendly, or “other dog” friendly beyond the dogs he is with in our home. When my daughter adopted a pit, he was aggressive at about 8 months, no matter how much training we did with him but we kept him, making certain provisions in our day to day life. We also rescued bloodhounds; one was docile and calm, loving, and a great trailer! Another was constantly skiddish. A third was the “grumpy old man” who would bite you. The fourth (and one still living as we have never had to give away nor put dogs down; they all live in our home until it comes their time) is a high strung, trouble making bloodhound that will start fights. We also had two Bassett mixes; a female that would bite everyone and one that would gladly lick you obsessively.

      If you have read this post so far, the genetics argument is quite credible. My family, both near and far, have owned a variety of dogs all of our lives and each one, no matter the environment or how we have raised them, have all turned out different, quite a bit which has depended on their breed characteristics. Did we raise any of our dogs differently from each other? No. All have gone through basic obedience while giving them lots of love, attention, and jobs. We have also taken their characteristics into consideration and planned appropriately. I described my service dog earlier. Our blue is laid back, playing in short spurts, and running for about a quarter of a mile at once (yeah, he runs, and his back legs twirl in a circle because of the injuries he sustained, but it doesn’t stop him from trying his best) and is very people friendly and can/does play well with “certain” other dogs- not all of them. The shark has a mile run in the morning, half a mile in the evening, and plays during the day with the other dogs in our home and toys that take longer than 10 minutes to destroy. The bloodhound is still a little stink and will likely be a stubborn dog that thinks he can fight the world if we let him. It is not the owner’s fault that they can’t change all dogs, but it is the inexperienced owner’s fault for not taking into consideration the characteristics these animals do have. Lastly, before I close, please take other animals into consideration; tigers, lions, wolves, moose, turkeys, amphibians, reptiles, etc. See how they act, typically proving their characteristics as per their species (see study in wolf pups that were raised in a family manner but behaved as per their species genetics). Yes, there are exceptions, but regardless of the environment or love, or anything that is done differently in raising these animals, the animals often return back to their genes. Before shooting everything down when it comes to pit bulls, please keep these things in mind. Genetics do matter. Also see human genetics. Lots of reading, but will also prove this point.

    • Loriann

      I appreciate this post a lot! My two pit mixes are very different. I have a staffie mix who is gentle, loving, and goofy. My pit mix is a lover at home but cannot seem to help getting aggressive around other dogs. We have tried different methods to help try to correct the behavior but at the end of the day I knew that the best thing for him is to stay on a leash and skip the dog oark. I am planning on training him with a muzzle not just to protect otger dogs he may come into contact with, but to protect him. Dogs that attack lose their lives and I wont let him be put in danger that way if I can do something proactive to help. Muzzles are life savers!

    • Lisa

      Thank you for your article. I rescued an American Staffordshire Terrier literally off the side of the road almost 6 years ago. Animal control said he had been used as a bait dog due to the puncture scars on his head. I didn’t even know he was a pitbull, nor was I prepared for the hatred from neighbors, one threatened to kill him. He is very protective of me and has a very strong prey drive. Once I became more aware of these things, I was more prepared. There is a part of me that would love to be able to take him to the dog park and let him run around but I wont risk it. Sometimes you have to let the dog just be a dog…like you said.

    • Donna Coles

      I believe genetics play a part in animals as do people. I have a shar pei mix & I never can take him to dog parks, he hates dogs. I believe that is the shar pei genetics in him. More loyal to me than wanting to be part of a pack. As a dog owner it is my responsibility to learn about the breed & make whatever arrangements necessary to keep public safe, other dogs safe, me safe & my dog safe

    • Tclloyd

      I’m sorry but you can’t base this off of one bad experience with a pitbull you adopted from a shelter. You have no idea if that puppy was abused before you got a hold of him. Second, you definitely went wrong with just using positive training. Pit bulls need the spankings and harsh voices sometimes when they make mistakes. People are too sensitive to that kind of training, but it works the best especially for pitbulls. I’ve had my share of pitbulls and sure they all have different personalities just like all dog breeds, but my dachsund is more aggressive than any pitbull I’ve ever trained. People are just weenies now days and can’t bare to spank a poor doggie. It’s not genetics in my opinion, you can have a puppy that came from mean, fighting pitbull parents and still have the sweetest dog ever. I don’t agree with that at all. Now I do think if you adopt a puppy that old (yes 10 weeks old is old when it comes to them learning other behaviors and being around abusive people) then it can become or stay aggressive. But that puppy needed more than a firm voice, sorry to say but that’s ridiculous. It’s the same with kids now people don’t spank them and they become brats. Oh well, what a world to live in.

      • Meagan Karnes

        We agree to disagree. Your theory and required use of “spankings” and a “firm voice” is a widely held misconception in modern dog training. It isn’t that positive training failed my dog. It’s that the trainer we used didn’t have a firm enough grasp of the ideology to prescribe it correctly. (I don’t train entirely with positive methodology but a bulk of my training resides there) And I’m not basing my opinion on a single anecdote (btw, my dog was not abused prior to my adopting him – of that I’m certain). In fact, I specialized in rehabilitating pits and bully breeds from severe aggression for many years, having helped hundreds find their way out of aggression and reactivity and my training has evolved to be more and more positive because plainly stated, it’s been more effective in the long run than a quick jump to punishment. Curious how many pit bulls you’ve trained to generalize that spankings are the decisively correct way to raise one?

    • Tricia

      Thank you for writing this. I have an 8 yr old red nosed pit that is great with all kids, cats and small puppies but dosnt like bigger dogs so i just dont take her around other dogs where as we had gotten a male pit puppy for her to play with a couple years ago but the older he got the more crazy he got. I ended up having to have him put down at only a year and a half after he attacked me. I tried to find him another home but my grandbabies were moving in with us and i couldnt have an aggressive dog around kids. I kept thinking that i had done something wrong but now after reading this i talked to my friend that i had gotten him from and it turns out that 5 out of the 8 in his litter were very aggressive! I guess it was just in his genetics. I will always feel bad that I had to put him down but atleast now I understand that I didnt do anything to make him the way he was. So again thank you.

    • scott A pahl

      Hi, I have a now 3 year old pit bull that we got at 8 weeks. She started her training at 10 weeks she passed every step with no issues. She received her service certificate just after her one year birthday. She is great around other dogs even if they are being very aggressive and great with kids as well. We take our dog everywhere we go know
      matter what and yes there has been many people that say things because she is pit but all I can say is shame on them. I’ve had a few breeds of dogs over the years and this pit is the best dog ever.i could say so much more but I do believe it’s mostly how there raised and loved

    • Sheri

      I’m afraid it’s not just the bigger dominant breeds. I’ve. Owned dogs all my life and have trained them. I bought my first mini golden doodle from a very reputable breeder. He was extremely smart, but started showing aggression at about 6 months. I’ve tried everything I know. He will be 2 in January, and I have to crate him when people visit. We have a holistic vet, and she broke down and gave me tranquilizers to use when she has to see him or go to the groomer. I’m broken hearted. He can’t be around other dogs at all. So, it’s not just the pits and larger breeds. Smaller dogs are effected too.

    • Anthony Martinez

      My name is anthony Martinez i just posted part of a response . wanted to send sum.pics but im zero tech savvy and can’t figure it lol. Anyway ive had a few pits and just about every other breed around at 1 time or another as home companions or at work ucdavis small animal vet tech and ars volunteer . the single most dangerous vicious dog iv ever encountered and ended up keeping as my personal work truck buddy for 15 years was a 60 lb stray border collie. Im those years I saw him bite everything from a pit bull to a police officer and he was just a traumatized strange stray . he loved me to death and would snuggle me amd kiss me every day . I currently have a 115 lb pit bull i rescued from an amazing officer in visalia ca . the dog was 6 months when officer Sherbrooke got a call.on him. Covered in mange no hair at all cropped bloody ears and a huge mass the size of an orange on his neck . hes now 5 years old 115 lbs gorgeous silvery blue pit cane corso mix . i spent over 1000 dollars at local.vet and he has become a legend around here . from a&w drive thru clerk fans wanting to feed him to packs of tiny children at the park wanting to pet him to stuffy old hoity toity grannys stopping me in the store isles horrified by him and they wind up on the floor kissing his face lol. Pit bulls are the single most misrepresented breed and literally the best breed as far as im concerned !!! Come meet my boy tank and you’ll become a believer I guarantee

    • catherine d doughty

      Great article. I have a pit and 3 lab pits. I believe genetics and a combo of love and patience with this type if dog is necessary. I would never for one minute think my dogs could not get aggresive. It is the breed you do have to be careful and be educated to own agressively natured dogs. 2 of my dogs ive had for 9 years the other 2 for 5. They have never hurt anyone. They do have their quirks and i oblige. I also educate people before they come to my house. Its the right thing to do. I love my dogs they are very inteligent. I also truly believe pitbulls have gotten a bum wrap because of human error.

    • kurt colvon

      Interesting read. I have a 10 year old pitbull that was attacked by 3 golden retrievers while on a walk and my dog never bit back or been aggressive with any dog During the same time Ive had my pit I got a labrador puppy that was an absolute terror. It was super aggressive and destructive to the point I had to give it up. I use to be a mailman and was never attacked by a bully breed but was attacked by a few labradors and some various other dogs. I think it’s just a mental thing with some people. Raccoons/possums are no more aggressive than a squirrel unless provoked but people are more fearful of them even though your more likely to get attacked by the squirrel.

    • Julia Zimmerman

      I enjoyed this article and learned a lot when I read it here a few months ago. Your recycling old articles.

      • Meagan Karnes

        We always re-share articles so that folks who missed them the first time around have a chance to read them. But we haven’t reposted this article in quite a long time. It was shared by someone else 🙂

    • Fran Logue

      My Bully (Lab/Pit/Dalmation) was 12 weeks when we got him.
      He is a shy and nervous guy. He loves other dogs, but I have to keep him away from kids. The high pitch and screeches of children turn him nippy.
      On the other hand, he is the only dog I have had that doesn’t freak out at fireworks and sitens… go figure.
      One has to know their individual pet and be responsible.

    • Andre Spann

      Thank You for being someone who understands, most people who dislike or hate them have never had or raised one, that’s like someone being a racist but has never seen or interacted with the race they dislike.

    • Laura Marusinec

      Thank you for being honest about genetics and the dog aggression in pit bulls. My biggest issue is, how on earth can they still be “spectacular” dogs as you call them?!

      There are so many other dog breeds that make wonderful pets and don’t pose this risk to every other dog and a lot of people around them. There’s nothing a pit bull brings to the table that another breed can do just as well or better without the other risks. It’s time to let these dogs go extinct.

      And if you truly understood BSL, it’s not always just about bans. It’s about having owners of these types of dangerous dogs follow certain regulations. Such as proper fencing, proper leashing, potentially muzzles when out and about. Having high insurance so that if they do attack, the victim doesn’t lose everything. . Is that so wrong? ! I sure don’t think so.

      • Meagan Karnes

        There is genetic predisposition for aggression in a number of dog breeds. It’s not exclusive to the pit bull. So where does this legislation stop? Do we eliminate all working breeds? Greyhounds for their predisposition to be highly predatory towards small animals? Jack Russell terriers for their predisposition to kill small animals? Working line shepherds and malinois for their predisposition towards reactivity? Where does it stop? Should all dogs be required to wear muzzles since all dogs have the ability to bite if provoked? I don’t think so. Our efforts instead should be focused on proper education, training and not convincing owners to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the genetic predisposition of their breed. Pitties ARE spectacular dogs, and with proper foundation and training, even the game bred dogs who have a strong predisposition towards animal aggression can be safe, loving companions and outstanding workers.

    • Freddie’s mom

      Thank you. Why do people readily accept that retrievers will retrieve, pointers will point at 8 weeks old, yet with pit bulls somehow it has nothing to do with genetics? It’s NOT all about how you raise them

    • Brian Cullen

      This article is full of so many mis truths and falsehoods it’s unreal .. let’s start with the dog in question isn’t a pit bull , there is no such breed , there is The American Pitt Bull Terrier , this dog is a mutt , the rest of the article fails from here and go es against all the science of today about breeds in general and aggression.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Interested to know how you know my dog was a mutt since you’ve never seen him (there are no photos of him in the article). The American Pit Bull Terrier is a breed, recognized by UKC and has a long history of dog aggression selectively bred into it’s bloodlines. Unfortunately, we will agree to disagree. I’m a biochemist by degree and well versed in common behavioral science theory. But thanks so much for your comment 🙂

    • Dee

      Thank you for this well thought out post. We have two mixed breed dogs each with their own behavioral issues.. Our ACD mix was found alone on a road at about 8 weeks and we adopted her 4 weeks later. She has profound behavioral issues including property guarding and aggression and the scenario of you being frustrated in group classes describes me to a T! I have studied, practiced, and learned much about dogs since living with her!

      More importantly, I am a long time pediatric nurse and have seen hundreds of dog bite injuries, the vast majority of them from Pit Bull and/or Bully mixes. I cannot agree with you more about the importance of understanding breed characteristics and breed genetics. Thank you for bravely going where more of us need to tread.

    • Allison Cassise

      I’ve never own a pit bull, but I have to admit that I have owned several dogs, and cats that seem too attack pit bulls. When ever a owner walks by my house with a Pit bull my animals go crazy trying to get at it. So I’m wondering do other animals tend to think they need to protect themselfs from pits?

    • Kym

      THANK YOU for this!! As a trainer/behavior consultant, I too often came across amazing owners with very challenging dogs who felt they had “failed” – I was one of them before I dedicated my life to this! Now, as the director of an animal shelter, I have the responsibility of trying to determine which animals are SAFE to adopt out to unknowing pet owners who all want to do the right thing – and make sure we are doing right by each and every animal that comes through our doors. I do consider myself an advocate for the “breed”, but would love to help advocate for making sure the breed is protected and safe from poor genetics which can present in any number of ways – behavioral as well as physical. It isn’t always easy, but it is so important to be educated and compassionate at the same time.

    • Kajsa Rigby

      This is the most brilliant piece i’ve read about breeds like this.
      You have a great talent for putting all the recent studies and science together so it makes sence.
      It’s a pitty though that many ppl still choses to stay in the dark and not even care about new discoveries. (If not for themselves but for the dogs sake)
      The only thing such ignorance leads to is empowering ppl who wants these breeds banned.
      We NEED to know what these breeds are capable of EVEN if we think they are our babies and wouldnt/couldnt hurt a soul.
      Ppl need to understand that when these dogs fight, they do it because its in their genes and they enjoy it. Its not aggression, its gameness. A will to fight.

      Keep up your work Meagan💪💪
      Greetings from Sweden

    • Kirby

      My first pit was a handful, with intense training and an outlet for energy via a Frisbee I was able to handle her. I loved that dog but had to keep tight control of her. Most people didn’t see this side of her because most inter-actions were in the park where she was catching a Frisbee and during that time her intense drive was so focused that anyone could come up and interact and get her to do her tricks. When that was not the case I had to have tight control of her. I know it wasn’t how she was treated as I had her as a pup and trained her well still…
      My second pit was a rescued from a very abusive home and she was such a sweetheart that I wound up giving her to my sister as she has a big family and she did so well with her kids.

    • Jeana

      I just personally don’t care for the Pit breed at all. Never owned one, however, I do own a Shepherd/Malanois mix that “flunked” out of K9 school because he shows ZERO aggression. That dog is considered dangerous & yes, people cross the street in avoidance when I am walking him. Little do they know, he’s scared of his own shadow. Why is he so submissive? No idea because his breed nature says that should not be the case. I suppose dogs personality traits can be as different as humans. However, I am extremely leary of Pits & do not allow those dogs on my property or around my dogs period! I witnessed one jump my 5′ tall goat fence & go directly for my Gelding. The dog was killed instantly with one hard kick to the head by the horse. They just have no fear & they are unpredictable. Did I feel bad when I informed the owner that their dog was killed by my horse? No, not one bit. I have seen horses severely damaged & even killed by these dogs. Yes, coyotes & wolves do the same to horses but I doubt those are kept as pets.

    • Nate Dogg

      I realize you didn’t say anything about how important it is being the Alpha or becoming the Alpha. Like you said, these Pits are a strong breed and not just physically but personality wise too.

    • Jo

      I have a boxer who is fully “socialized” and wouldn’t hurt a fly but because his energy is so wild and playful some dogs just don’t like him. They seem annoyed. It just shows you it don’t matter how trained either dog is. If they don’t get along, if they are having a bad day, bad stuff can happen.

    • KenE

      I have 3 pits. 1 Is the large pit (male) and the others 2 are pitbull mastiff (female). They are like are kids we love them and would move hell on earth for them. I drive semi so I’m gone allot. They protect my wife while I’m gone. You don’t want to come to my house uninvited. But once i get home all bets are off. They become little kids again. I just wish that we could stop all the dog fighting and the dog abuse i see on tv and the internet. Dogs are the greatest gift to mankind and we abuse it, just like everything else we touch. But people will see pits as aggressive because thats what they are told. Untill we stop the abuse and start loving any breed it will never stop.

    • Rebecca Villegas

      I have a question…is it dog aggression if the dog comes after yours first? Is it dog aggression if you have your child with you when that dog is coming?

    • Sabrina

      Thank you for your honesty. As a volunteer with the National Victims of Canine Attacks Support Network since 2012 I have worked with the victims of attacks by all breeds of canines. Most of the victims that we work with are those who have been severely injured or families of those who were killed by a dog. The majority of dogs who are responsible for these devastating attacks are large breed dogs. Every year there are a few GSDs, Huskies, Wolf dogs, Mastiffs and Rottweilers, but around 75% of the attacks we find come from APBTs, ASTs , ABs and their mixes. Genetics, size, tenacity, ownership and other factors all play a role in these attacks. Most of our attackers were well raised and loved family dogs and many of their attacks came without warning. Over half of the attacks were on the owners themselves.
      While you say that you don’t believe In Breed Specific Legislation I must disagree with you. Since we know the the breeds that are creating the most damage and the fatalities and we cannot control who owns these dogs or what situations they will be in, then the only way to protect innocent victims is to ask for laws that dictate the handling of certain breeds. A pack of bassets certainly are not going to kill a man so why legislate across the board and include them? Doing so only removes the focus from the real threats and takes away the ONLY protection that we can give to victims, the ability to know the potentially lethal breeds and avoid them. Denying their involvement only makes more people let their guards down and expose their children, elderly and other pets to dogs that could kill them. People need to understand that certain dogs CAN be deadly. Are all dogs from these breeds? No, thank goodness. But what is the litmus test? Until we find that, we must stop gambling. It’s not okay to do something AFTER the attack. We must be proactive. Without legislating the breeds that are responsible for the worst attacks we cannot compel respondible ownership and containment of the breeds, cannot compel rescues to properly label the dogs that they adopt out, cannot compel veterinarians to educate owners about the genetics these breeds have and how to manage them and prevent or break up an attack. Without legislation for the attacking breeds people will continue to mishandle, underestimate and mislead others about them. Innocent people and animal victims will continue to suffer in their jaws. Loss of lives, limbs and incomes will continue to go unchecked. Legislation would make it possible to limit ownership to people who have a home, are mentally stable, have the ability to properly handle and contain capable breeds. Legislation would force responsible adoptions, limit and control overbreeding, compel veterinarians to register, document and educate on these breeds. Legislation would heavily seek out and destroy dog fighting, the breeders and others involved in it. We see people training for strength, stamina and agility all of the time. These people must be reported and stopped. These things ARENT PROBLEMS for shitzhus or dachshunds or Goldens. To treat all dog breeds as equal is what is causing the increased numbers of severe and fatal attacks by certain breeds which, in our experience, are real and selfevident. The only way to stop the steady flow of suffering is to control it, control ALL potential owners, adopters and breeders . And the ONLY WAY to begin this control is legislation. But legislation alone will not solve the problem. Enforcement and harsh penalties for breaking the laws MUST be done. Legislation without enforcement does nothing. I appreciate the honesty of your article but we must do more. The victims deserve and cry out for more.

    • Deborah Stahl

      i love pit bulls they are great dogs we have a pit bully american bull dog we lost our min pin and cockapoo last year they were 16 and 15 and they got along nice with the pit bully anyway its how you raise them they are great dogs

    • Sue

      Thank you for your article. It totally explains why my usually loving, playful Amstaff turns aggressive toward a dog she lives with and plays with. I could never understand it before. (I DO still think it’s strange) but at least now I have an explanation. Thank you again.

    • Birdi

      For a worry free less stressful life next time get a Boston Terrier

    • Joy


      Thank you!

    • Eric Binnix

      I have a pit bull female that has been injured on 3 different occasions, once by a pure bred german shepherd, once by a labradoodle and once by a dalmation mix…all at the dog park…none of the time did she show any aggression and in fact she showed submission only to be attacked until the owner got their dogs under control…yet i have to deal with the bias of other dog owners and their nervousness when my dog goes anywhere…and this type of article just feeds that. My pit is the sweetest dog i have ever had by far and i have gotten similar feedback from many other pit owners which makes me question the veracity of the first hand experience you mention. There are ill behaved dogs of every breed and dogs of every breed when traveling in familiar numbers have a pack instinct and this appears to be that situation. They used to say all of these things about dobermans years ago.

    • Kelly Campbell

      I have owned pit bulls for the last 15 years. At the present I own 6. For the most part I have brung rescues into my home and slowly introduced them and nothing has ever happened. I have always noticed in any case German Shepard, Lab, etc anytime these larger dogs see another dog they bark and drag to meet and interact. Either aggressively or friendly. Pit bulls have gotten a bad name because they are such strong dogs they are powerful dogs. It is the owners 99% of the rime. They want to fight or have the meanest dog. Just like a Rooster. We use them for positive to help gain eggs with our hens but their are those ones that clock fight. I could go on and on and on. There are many many stories to tell. I have grandchildren and they play lay and sleep with any and every one one mine. Again I have 6 all weighing At least a 100 or more. People are always stopping me when I walk them. Ma’am how did you get them so big. My answer food and plenty of love.

    • Adam

      Thank you for this, such a spot-on article. One of the most important parts of raising and keeping any dog is SETTING THEM UP FOR SUCCESS, not failure. Taking your breed’s characteristic into account is an important part of determining what situations you dog can/should be placed in.

      I’m so tired of both ridiculously inaccurate, hyperbole-ridden sides of the ‘debate’ around “pit bulls”: they are vicious man-eating monsters with supernaturally strong jaws! They are ‘nanny dogs’ bred to be little four-legged butlers! *groan* A little dose of reality is needed.

      The fact remains, pit bulls and their ancestors were bred to have insane levels of drive. Whether that was used for it original purpose to turn them into the ultimate fighting dog in the pit, or repurposed to make them excel in other types of ‘work’ (protecting the farm, hunting, schutzhund, agility, weight-pulling, etc), a true working pit bull’s ability to completely focus on a task puts them “in the zone” in a way that other breeds can’t compare to. That type of intensity requires a an owner to be cognizant of what to expect, so they know what to look for and when the best option is to simply remove their dog from the situation.

      And sure, you might get a lazy, dog-loving bully — but the ‘terrier’ side of the equation makes that the exception, not the rule (if your dog is 100+ lbs it’s probably doesn’t have a lot of the original bull-and-terrier left in its gene pool, so that doesn’t really count).

      Meagan, I’m curious how old Koby was when he was fixed (if he ever was)? My pit bull was fixed at 2 years old (when we adopted him from the shelter) — by the time time we got him he was already quite DA, though only in response to ‘bad’ situations: resource guarding, non-submissive males, etc. I always wondered if he’d been neutered younger if that might have had some impact on his tolerance levels for other (especially large, male) dogs? A lot of his aggression issues seem to stem from fear & anxiety – he’s not comfortable in situations he can’t ‘control’ (could have something to do with being abandoned @ 2 years old and being left rotting in a no-kill shelter for months) — so maybe not. He has mellowed out a lot in his old age, at least (just turned 12!)… but he’ll never be a dog park kind-of-guy!

      • Meagan Karnes

        He was fixed as a puppy as he came to us as a rescue (the rescue neuters before placement). So he was very, very young when altered. Neutering young, in my case, made no difference.

    • john zolis

      Truly I’ve tried to read your tripe now twice and can’t stomach your utter bullshit –
      Genetics of breeds – Comparing 35K years of breeding hunting dogs to the 150 years of pit type dogs
      Here lies the rub lets begin with PIT BULL is NOT A breed you dullard – but four breeds grouped together by overzealous sensationalized news reporters to sell their rags of misinformation.

      Now, I got Koby back in the Rainbows and Butterflies phase of my life, when I firmly believed I should never, “breed or buy while shelter pets die,” when I thought, “love was all I needed to save the world,” and when I would argue until the death that there are, “no bad dogs, only bad owners.”
      Shame you failed with your dog as a trainer and a human being to which the result was to demonize the breeds for your utter failure

      “That said, I believe strongly that if we don’t dispel the propaganda designed to save the breed by pulling the wool over really great dog owners’ eyes, we are doing the breed as a whole a disservice.”
      The only propaganda is that which you are spewing and misleading the public as someone who actually has a multiple degrees in SCIENCE and GENETICS there is NO peer reviewed publication that supports any breed inherently dangerous or that genetics plays a role in the aggressive behavior ! The one and only one paper show that a gene not breed specific “may” play a role in aggression

      “Koby was my first lesson otherwise.” Anecdotal and about as factual as a TRUMP TWEET

      10 weeks old- Hmm so you bought him eh? what happened to saving shelter dogs? It’s ok I know what type of pathetic person you are !

      “a good chunk of our dog’s behavior comes from who they are, their bloodlines, and their breed.” WHAT UTTER TRIPE! Funny how 47 of the Vick dogs dogs who actually came from fighting dog bloodlines who were not only bred but trained to be animal aggressive dogs who actually killed in a fighting rings to survive till the next day when they had to do it all over again and yet these machines of death were rehabbed not only that they have lived in society with children and animals for over a decade garnering good canine awards and even becoming therapy dogs!

      “I want to share a story that will drive the point home. I have three dogs. They are all brothers, all with the same parents, ” So not only do you buy but you support breeders or shall I say morally void greeders — Yeah I think you never had a rainbow and butterfly stage — Just put in there for sympathetic emotional tugs …

      Pit bulls will always be pit bulls. Malinois will always be Malinois. Shepherds will always be Shepherds. BLAH BLAH BLAH
      I had a rescued purebred pointer never pointed I have five rescued pit type dogs nothing in their personality resembles the other – You inane comments are erroneous at best and utter lies at worse

      “Genetics matter.” – Blah blah blah rhetoric unsubstantiated rhetoric

      “I wish I would have known this all those years back when I looked upon the lazy labs nailing their sessions in group classes, while my dog foamed at the mouth.” Because you’re an inept guardian and trainer

      I’ve trained predominantly aggressive dogs for over a decade. Yeah right — I wouldn’t let you train a cockroach let alone dog

      TL:DR the rest I could only stomach so much drivel —

      • Meagan Karnes

        Originally, I’d not intended to approve this comment, because I don’t typically allow rude personal attacks, or profanity on my blog. I find it to be disrespectful to all of my readers. But since all of your attacks were directed at me, I thought I’d go ahead and allow it because, not only does your judgmental and inappropriate language speak volumes to your character, it also seriously discredits your arguments. In response, (1) Pit Bulls are a breed (American Pit Bull Terrier) classified by the UKC. (2) I rescued Koby when he was 10 weeks old. And I don’t base my statements on my experience with him entirely – I specialized in the breed and in pit bull type dogs for my entire career. (3) The Vick dog story is as anecdotal as any of the stories I used to make a point. Interesting how we use stories to explain our positions, isn’t it? (4) I absolutely, 100% do support the responsible and ethical breeding of dogs (5) I’m sure I was an inept trainer back then – we all have to learn somewhere and I was in over my head with my first dog – I’ll be the first to admit it. His temperament was too strong for my level of experience and lastly (6) While I appreciate that you wouldn’t let me train a cockroach, a statement which continues to expose your character and fails to make any proper point for discussion, I will say that I’d never work with a human who feels it’s okay to treat others with an utter lack of respect just because of a difference of opinion, and who fails to learn from others but rather remains stuck in their own closed minded views. I have thousands of clients who I’ve successfully helped with their dogs. But they are kind, open minded and willing to learn 🙂 Thanks so much for your very thoughtful comment. It seems you invested quite a bit of time in preparing this response, despite not being able to stomach my drivel.

      • MzJ Moss

        You expose yourself as unlettered/ unturored/unexperienced and unbearably rude with this response. I feel deeply sorry for your dogs.

    • Jamie Coughlin

      I can’t believe how many people don’t believe behavior and temperament are not rooted in genetics. Anyone who has ever (responsibly) bred any animal knows that disposition is one of your key traits. Be it horse, cow, dog, sheep, cat, whatever. Now it is much more important choice in a pit bull type than say a sheep but it should always be a vital sought after characteristic.

      Training or lack of it are indeed very important with any high prey drive dogs of course but you can’t make many basset hounds herd sheep for a living and why very few people can handle a malinois. Genetics is very important and unfortunately most of the “bad” dogs are the result of indiscriminate breeding or even breeding specifically to create aggressive dogs (human and animal).

      I spent a year working at a high kill animal shelter and we always had tons of puppies of every possible mix. They had some of the most vicious fights in the place! That is when puppies learn bite inhibition and socialization, by learning how to get along with each other, or not, as the case may be.

    • Sue Nunn

      Pit bulls are 6% of the US dog population. According to the past five years of national records, they are responsible for over 70% of human fatalities from dog attacks. Check out my city, Fort Pierce, Florida, where the local Humane Society recently had a human fatality of a volunteer worker killed by a pit bull. This is a no-brainer. This is dangerous type of animal; any sane society would ban them.

      • Todd Fiducci

        Genetics do play a big part in a dog’s behavior, and pit bulls in a group can probably show their aggressive side. With that said, I believe a majority of the issues today with pit bulls has to do with the dog fighters that raise and beat them. This wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the article. If any dog is aggressive, there are things that can be done to help curb it to a degree, but they will probably always be aggressive. If America wants to TRULY address the issue, which most people don’t, is that 1) serious restrictions need to be placed on all breeders, especially of pit bulls; and they need to be enforced with heavy fines and prison time. 2) Owners of any dog need to be held responsible for their pets, and held liable if they cause harm. Owning and caring for an animal is a serious undertaking, it’s not a toy. Society needs to look in the mirror and see who the real problem is. I have a pit bull mix that was abused; and slowly she has come out of her shell and is a very sweet dog. i also recognize she is part of the pit bull breed and I need to be cautious at all times with her regarding whatever environment she is in, as I do with all of my dogs.

        Leave a Reply

    • Richard Ussery

      I love my bully like a child. I raised her to be loving and playful also to protect me and my family.She knows the difference and is proven smarter than most humans.You shoot my dog im shooting you

    • Mj moss

      Sad. You really don’t understand. Dominance is intraspecies. Concept of alpha is not appkucable here. Read wolf expert Mech. Not Milan

    • Marlee m aldukhil

      My opinion is genetics have nothing to do with that because I have several dogs and most of them are small dogs and the smaller dogs can be just as aggressive as the bigger dogs my dogs were all raised together and they still growl at each other when they were younger that used to play with each other but sometimes they play and sometimes they want to fight now I also have a pitbull I raised her from 4 months old and I raised her she was fine with people she was fine with everybody until I move to a neighborhood where my neighbors didn’t like the fact that I had a pitbull so when I wasn’t here they would throw rocks at her tease her while she was outside in the fence so she got an attitude with people and I was wondering why she was acting that way and then when I found out I had to retrain her again and show her that there is nice people out there but she still kind of leery because of that trauma so I don’t think genetics has anything to do with it mind you all my dogs are different breeds I have 2 3 pawed pitbull terrier mixes one male one female mind you both of them are fixed and sometimes they get into it so are you saying that all my dogs are genetically Misfits I don’t think so I think dogs are just jealous when they get an owner they want all the attention and they don’t want the other dog to get the attention I even have a Yorkie that weighs 4 lb and any dog that comes near me she says growing at them my pitbull is a female and she does not like other females but she gets along with males.

    • […] It’s All in How You Raise Him: Are we Really Saving Bully Breeds? […]

    • Mary Pinkasiewicz

      I personally loved your article. I’ve been in Rescue for years and when people say “Its all in the way you raise them the hairs on my neck go up and I hope that person goes and gets a be able. I have personally found that most pit bulls love their people, not so much always other dogs. These are powerful and wonderful dogs, however I have seen very clearly that genetics matter. Just as with people, some dogs are broken. Also you can bet your last dollar dogs are better at being dogs than any training out there. Education is the key to owning, living with and loving these noble creatures.

    • Sam

      I think I’ll go ahead and listen to what 90% of animal care professionals and veterinarians say, which is that breed has nothing to do with aggression. Thanks though.

    • Amanda

      Some pits come off as “aggressive” when they’re not. I know when my dog is on a leash he SEEMS aggressive because of how he acts barking and pulling but he acts completely normal off leash around other dogs, with some slight aggression when it comes to his toys but if the dog has already taken the toy from him he leaves it alone. A lot of people don’t know how to read dog body language.

    • Craig Brown

      I wish any of this were true. I’m sure all the mothers who lost a child to their pit bull for believing it wish more…

      • Kelli Buckner

        I appreciate your love of the “breed” but feel the article is very contradictory. “Possible failures” are POSSIBLE in ANY breed. Ive seen cocker spaniels and frenchies way worse with children than any bully or terrier breed. A large part of this man made epidemic lends to lack of research, knowledge and just labeling dogs whatever will get them out of the shelters! But of course any random mixed breed that causes harm to a person or other animal is instantly labeled a pit bull! ABSURD! EDUCATE yourselves people instead of relying on someone elses stereotype! Weak.

        • Katie

          Show me the cocker spaniel or frenchie who is capable of ripping off arms or crushing a human skull. I will wait.

    • Josi

      I agree with you on a lot of this, as we, too, have 2 dogs from a litter where we know the other dogs and the families who have them. They are collie/aus. shepherd mix and all exhibit many of the same traits, although raised separately (and yes, in loving homes, except for one where they just leave that poor girl outside all the time). They are territory-aggressive, all bark A LOT, all sleep on their backs with legs stretched upward… Just many similar behaviors we know to be inborn rather than taught.

      I try to explain to people the pit (and what some might consider pit-types) isn’t a bad dog, per se…. in fact, statistically they bite far less often than other “breeds” or dog types. When they do bite though, it can be catastrophic – THAT is what makes headlines. And it’s not because they all had traumatic lives and horrible owners (do some research to see what happened to Vick’s dogs – where many found loving homes and they flourished DESPITE the upbringing they’d had). It’s because their genetics play a large role in what happens IF they do bite. So, bratty, little chihuahua’s bite often as a whole – not going to make the news though.

      People need to stop being apologizers for these dogs and start making people aware that these dogs are fine, but no – a loving home doesn’t change who a dog is at their essence, so be prepared. No matter how safe we try to make my sweet Barnum feel, and how much we love him, pet him, have him sleep with us, talk goo-goo to him – I OWN that he is to be guarded when people come and STILL I realize it may be too much for him one day. I haven’t tricked myself into thinking this dog is great just because he has been sheltered, loved and truly cared for. At the end of the day, he is a dog.

    • Joe Herz

      This article is biased toward hating the breed, My Pit Maggie got her as a shelter dog, The first day in her new home she not only bonded to but attached herself to all my kids slept with them every night, she bonded with the dogs I keep outside, aside from one, but she is a bitch to every dog. Your failures were your failure not your dogs breed, training comes with Love and Discipline, you cant take a shelter dog and make em champions in dog shows overnight. You failed your dog

      • Meagan Karnes

        How do you gather that? I literally said in the article that the pit bull breed is one of my favorite breeds out there. I may have struggled with my dog, but curious to know how I should have done better. I rescued a dog, and enrolled him in training from day one. In fact, we spent over $12,000 on dog trainers, and flew in nationally recognized dog trainers to help him. So what did I do wrong to “fail” my dog and what should I have done better?

    • Larry McIntosh

      A bully and a pitbull is not the same dog!!!…i had a bully (american standard)…they cant be trained to be mean…i tried…do ya research…..they are jus big ass gentle dogs til they feel there family is being threatin…they dont jus go hard for no reason..not in their nature..and cant train them to be fightin dogs…they are protectors….i researched bullies even after i got mine….constantly…so for all who dont know bullies and pitbulls are not!!!the same dog or breed

    • Tim Ferriss

      September 2, 2019 Journal of Neuroscience publication of “Significant neuroanatomical variation among domestic dog breeds,” by Harvard University evolutionary neuroscientist Erin Hecht.

      …Yet “Significant neuroanatomical variation among domestic dog breeds” suggests that the external shape of a dog’s head correlates at a very high rate of statistical significance with the dog’s behavior, and can be easily recognized by any person of ordinary intelligence…

      …If a dog inherits the brain anatomy specific to any breed historically developed for a particular purpose, the data amassed by Hecht et al indicates, the dog is likely to behave like the breed he or she most resembles….

      …“There are huge contradictions in some of the behavior we see in pit bulls, who often veer back and forth from affectionately ‘sweet’ and ‘goofy’ to inflicting mayhem, and yet these contradictions occur consistently in practically all pit bulls. We see in these dogs a lack of impulse control, hyper reactivity, fearfulness and anxiety, among their most basic and universal traits…

      …The findings of Hecht et al relative to the exaggerated size of the “fighting breed” brain region associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, specifically linked to fight-or-flight impulsive responses to fear, stress, and anxiety, including aggressive behavior, offer scientific support to Beth’s observations.

      Beth’s observations are, after all, essentially the observations of practically anyone familiar with pit bulls––except, of course, pit bull advocates defending their breed against the reality that pit bulls are 5.8% of the dogs in the U.S., responsible for 59% of the dog attack fatalities and 76% of the dog attack fatalities among humans, and well over 90% of the dog attack fatalities among other animals….

      You’ve heard the phrase “if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck” haven’t you?


    • Mel

      I had a golden retriever named Rufus as a child. I lived her to death but, this dog woukd wag her tail, do the happy dance, and the go for your throat. It can happen with any dog breed.

    • Todd Fiducci

      Genetics do play a big part in a dog’s behavior, and pit bulls in a group can probably show their aggressive side. With that said, I believe a majority of the issues today with pit bulls has to do with the dog fighters that raise and beat them. This wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the article. If any dog is aggressive, there are things that can be done to help curb it to a degree, but they will probably always be aggressive. If America wants to TRULY address the issue, which most people don’t, is that 1) serious restrictions need to be placed on all breeders, especially of pit bulls; and they need to be enforced with heavy fines and prison time. 2) Owners of any dog need to be held responsible for their pets, and held liable if they cause harm. Owning and caring for an animal is a serious undertaking, it’s not a toy. Society needs to look in the mirror and see who the real problem is. I have a pit bull mix that was abused; and slowly she has come out of her shell and is a very sweet dog. i also recognize she is part of the pit bull breed and I need to be cautious at all times with her regarding whatever environment she is in, as I do with all of my dogs.

      • Meagan Karnes

        I didn’t mention it in the article because I don’t believe it to be true. Beating a dog, although something I absolutely do not condone, has nothing to do with whether the dog will develop aggression. I can agree however, that irresponsible breeding – that done by those who fight these dogs, and those that don’t is a big contributing factor to the problem. However, even responsible breeders are breeding game dogs for work or purpose. And even with screening and contracts, even the best breeders get duped by potential puppy buyers.

    • Tina Pounds

      I can say that if you are attacked by a vicious dog while protecting a 5 year old boy, watch your throat and back of your neck. That’s where they try to go for the kill. If you are on your back with the dog trying to rip your throat out, grab its open mouth and keep it away from your throat. You can make fists and cram them in its mouth. Warning it hurts like hell but saved us. Also know that it may try to get back to its chosen prey, in our case a 5 year old boy. So be prepared to crawl after it and grab it again and again before it reaches or gets back to the child. If it gets the child it will be devastating. And DO NOT get involved in a tug of war. Grab that dog again and again and insert yourself into the battle. Make yourself its prey. Protect that child. How horrific do y’all think it is for me to be able to give such advice? #beentheredonethat #wontbackdown!

      Here’s the updated U.S. Dog Bite Fatality List for 2019. 2019 U. S. Dog Bite Fatality Victims:
      Pit bulls/mixes responsible for 28 of the 43 fatalities

      01/09/19 Diane Reves, 70, Grenada County, MS – Killed by neighbor’s mixed breed dogs in her yard
      01/16/19 Lana Bergman, 70, Joshua Tree, CA – Killed by 4 neighbor’s pit bulls in her yard
      01/21/19 Edward Stanley, 85, Amarillo, TX – Killed by pit bull-mix and GSD-mix in his driveway
      01/24/19 Patricia Henson, 8 months, Tucson, AZ – Killed by family dog in her home
      02/07/19 Ashton McGhee, 1, Guthrie, KY – Killed by family pit bull-mix in home
      02/08/19 Elaine Richman, 66, Houston, TX – Killed by family Doberman pinschers in backyard
      02/09/19 Angela Johnson, 54, Anza, CA – Killed by three pit bulls while hanging laundry in yard
      02/18/19 Brenda Hamilton, 77, Pantego, NC – Killed by canine hybrid (DNA) while walking
      02/21/19 Nancy Burgess-Dismuke, 52, Greenville, SC – Killed by her own boxer-mixes in her yard
      02/27/19 Bessie Peterson, 88, Pall Mall, TN – Killed by neighbor’s 6 mixed breed dogs
      02/27/19 Johnnie Mae Walker Garner, 88, Lubbock, TX – Killed by neighbor’s 6 pit bull-mixes
      03/05/19 Jacari Long, 6 months, Salisbury, NC – Killed by babysitter’s boxer/pit bull-mix
      03/08/19 Tanner Kinnamon, 2, High Springs, FL – Killed by 2 family pit bull-mixes in home
      03/13/19 Jimmy Grigg, 53, Santa Fe, TX – Killed by relative’s 3 cattle dog-mixes
      03/22/19 Jaysiah Chavez, 2, Fresno, CA – Killed by 2 stray Rottweilers in his front yard
      03/23/19 Johana Villafane, 33, Irving, TX – Killed by her 2 pit bulls that were in quarantine at shelter
      04/27/19 Kyna DeShane, 15 months, Henderson, NV – Killed by family friend’s Rottweiler
      05/02/18 Isaiah Geiling, 3, Louisville, KY – Killed by family pit bull in his home
      05/09/19 Christine Liquori, 52, Fort Pierce, FL – Killed by pit bull-mix at Humane Society shelter
      05/09/19 Ryan Hazel, 14, Dighton, MA – Killed by 4 Belgian Malinois and 1 Dutch shepherd
      05/31/19 R. Joseph Quick, 33, Fort Madison, IA – Killed by boxer-mix his family was watching in yard
      06/16/19 Crystal Pearigen, 36, Bakersfield, CA – Killed by 2 pit bulls, mixed breed in Costco parking lot
      06/27/19 Nicholas Farris, 2, Newman, CA – Killed by family pit bull/mastiff mix in backyard
      06/28/19 Maria Crawford, 54, Ventura, CA – Killed by her 2 family pit bulls in her home
      06/29/19 Brian Butler, 46, Gilbertsville, KY – Killed by 3 pit bulls on roadway
      07/04/19 Melvin Olds Jr., 45, Lake Placid, FL – Killed by pack of pit bull-mixes on trail
      07/09/19 Ruth Flores, 3 weeks old, Gainesville, GA – Killed by family husky in a bedroom
      07/11/19 Homer Utterback, 52, Uniontown, PA – Killed by his pet pit bull in home
      07/18/19 Mario Moore, 40, Memphis, TN – Killed by 8 dogs, including a pit bull-mix from across street
      08/10/19 Nelson Cabrera, 16, Irving, TX – Killed by 3 pit bulls in backyard of stranger’s home
      08/19/19 Emma Hernandez, 9, Detroit, MI – Killed by neighbor’s 3 pit bulls in alley behind her home
      08/30/19 Adrieanna O’Shea, 19, Columbia, TN – Killed by 5 dogs, including pit bull, in friend’s yard
      09/07/19 Arlene Renna, 67, Pleasant Valley, NY – Killed by family’s 2 coonhounds in home
      09/20/19 Baby “Doug” Doe, 13 months old, Granite Bay, CA – Killed by family pit bull in his home
      09/30/19 Allen Bruce, 56, Bennington, OK – Killed by acquaintance’s 2 pit bulls, 1 pit bull-mix
      09/30/19 Morgan Crayton, 31, Hampton, VA – Killed by her own pit bull in her backyard
      10/01/19 Steven Thornton III, 3, Louisville, KY – Killed by family’s 2 Rottweiler-mixes in his backyard
      10/08/19 Dustin Bryan, 21, Modesto, CA – Killed by family’s 2 pit bulls in relative’s home
      10/29/19 Benjamin Cobb, 4, Hazel Park, MI – Killed by pit bull his family was fostering
      11/01/19 Mary Mathews, 40s, Waynesville, OH – Killed by her two pet Great Danes in her home
      11/01/19 Brandy O’Dell, 41, Bay City, MI – Killed by one or both of her pet pit bulls in home
      11/07/19 Janet D’Aleo, 95, Suffield, CT – Killed by pit bull-mix in home she was visiting
      11/11/19 Lasaro Macedo, 38, Madera, CA – Killed by a pit bull in a dry riverbed

    • Rin

      Thank you I used to own a pit mix when I was 16 and naive, i loved him, gave him constant attention, treats, so many toys, constant walks, you name it he got it I even splurged on expensive food that didnt upset his tummy. But he was so agressive I couldnt keep him near other animals I could barely even sleep near him I had to pit bars around my bed to prevent him from randomly “attacking” me while I slept. My final straw was when he went after a cat, I was holding his leash and he was so desperate to get at the animal he tore into my leg and took after it. Luckily he wasnt very big at that point I was able to pry his jaws open I had to take him to the pound if I had been older I would have pushed for him to be put to sleep, he was so agressive I remember showing the lady working at the shelter all the bites, cuts, and bruises I had from his nightly game of “grab any exposed flesh, latch on, and shake”. I get told all the time that its not the breed when in reality it is the people who try to defend it and cover it up have either gotten lucky or just refuse to admit it. Genetics matter stop claiming they dont and act responsible for your pets, and stop lying to people about it that’s how people get killed by these dogs.

    • […] time, they end up with Pit-Bulls or mixes of that breed. And as such, they speak a lot about the malpractice of owners of the […]

    • Kathy Tobacco

      Why save the breed at all? Either a dog is bred for a purpose or it is bred for an aesthetic. Either you are “in love” with a killer or the look of a killer. If it is the aesthetic then it just isn’t worth the price to society, but it is more than that. It is a vanity item, and you know it. The Azid Ahmed was buried Thursday. He died a horrific death that I wouldn’t wish on a pedophile. He was only 3 years old. His mother was still in the hospital and couldn’t even bury her son. Why? So you can own a cool looking pet? You have no right to impose on others. Her children were playing in their own backyard for the first time. She wouldn’t allow them alone in the yard in their own backyard because of those dogs, but even with all her efforts she only managed to save her older children, but not her baby. Several children have died this month to pit attacks. Azid Ahmed was worth saving. Your dog is not.
      You say you are “proud?” Are you proud to be part of a culture that values a dog breed more than children, more than other dogs, more than other pets, livestock and wildlife? You think you have the right to force your neighbors to either submit to the fact that their children live or die based on the continued goodwill, health and judgment of your dog or change their lifestyle and keep the children inside 24/7. The later is the choice I made when my lowlife neighbor (lottery winner no less) bought a pack of bully dogs. I suppose you think I should have given those dogs the benefit of the doubt. But I only had two children so we abandoned the use and enjoyment of our property and every single day my children asked to play outside and every single day I said, “no.” I used to say she bought our property with the price of dog piss as her dogs escaped and marked my yard every single day. She had no right. You have no right. It is legal yes but you have no right to impose your will on others. You have no right to put others at risk. You take that liberty but you do not have that right. You talked about reading “hate” in comments on the pits killing another dog. Those that still have a heart and a head united in the same body will hate an animal that kills other dogs and kills infants, children, the elderly, young mothers, providers. Where is your hatred for this kind of decadent evil? It is clearly a lack of heart not an intellectual deficit. Not far from where I live is another young woman so much like you. She could be your sister. Her pits nearly killed a 14 year old girl. The pretty teenager now has thigh skin where her long blond hair used to grow. She was scalped and her will never grow back. Doctors put her in an induced coma several times to save her life. That horrible woman still owns a pit bull despite that 3 of her pits nearly killed this sweet child, and has ruined her life forever. I hate that woman. I do, and I hate you too Meagan Karnes. There is something wrong with you that you have this need to impose your power of life and death over others. It is power issue tied deeply to your sense of self worth and ego. You have found a legal way to oppress others, and you enjoy it. You can dress it up all sorts of different ways as pit apologist will do, but it is about power.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Lots of assumptions and rage here, and I’m not sure I can respond appropriately as I found your thoughts and points a bit hard to follow. Truthfully, I have no idea what it’s like to live with so much hate in my heart and I’m grateful for that. I wish you nothing but love, peace, and all the best.

      • Drm959

        You’re comments are so spot on! Trust me you’re not the only parent whose had to lock their children inside because of their neighbors pitty bull! The dog’s owner didn’t even have a fenced yard for it and god forbid anyone put a leash on it and walk it! Nope they just let it out to go piss and shit in someone else’s yard! They’d have it in the middle of the residential streets training it to attack so everyone could see! Then the problem escalated when another neighbor put her border collie outside and the pit bull attacked it. He grabbed the smaller dog by the throat and wouldn’t let go biting and shaking. Two big men tried to get the mauler off the dog but even when they were beating it and stabbing it with a shovel it wouldn’t let go. Someone finally put it hose down it throat and kept pushing it down until the dog was drowning and then he let go! Too late for the sweet tempered border collie though! Animal control was called and didn’t even take it away so the next morning when they threw it out to go maul some other victims someone just ran it over! Then animal control was concerned about it! They had a lot of nerve asking for information about the neighborhood hero though! Might I suggest if you’re tired of the dogs you just take matters into your own hands. I watched a YouTube video of a pit bull being let out the front door to roam the streets and then the neighbor who was clearly sick of it and ready for it took a giant can of pepper spray and spayed it down good! The dog ran home the owner ran to look for the “mean person” who sprayed his dog but they were back inside and watching the video doorbell of his neighbor look for him! If you’ve never had pepper spray on you it doesn’t just get on the person who was sprayed it kind of fills the whole house with the fumes and washing the dog off will transfer significant amounts to the asshole that won’t keep the dog home! Trust me if you go out there and spray it with pepper spray a few times it’s not coming into your yard anymore no matter if they do let it free! Just watch the video and then you’ll get it. In the meantime there’s actually scientific research studies that prove that dogs inherit aggression towards strangers, their owners and other animals! Guess how the bully breeds did!

    • […] The Collared Scholar, a dog training site, is the first place I’ve seen it openly mentioned as a problem. Yes, pit bulls are difficult to rehome. I understand that. But shelters also need to understand that there is a reason why pit bulls aren’t easy to find a home for – they are large, unpredictable dogs who need an experienced handler. They are not usually good in homes with small children, cats, and other small dogs or pets. […]

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