I don’t often agree with Peter Worthington, but I did with what he wrote (March 14, 2012) about Pit Bulls and Ontario’s Breed Specific Legislation. He calls BSL a “Ku Klux Klan law”, “akin to deciding guilt based on appearance, not behaviour.” Like him, I applaud Cons. Randy Hillier, NDP Cheri DiNova and Lib. Kim Craitor for bringing forward a private members’ bill to rescind it. No law should apply to a specific breed and dogs who look “substantially similar” to that breed.
Fashions of fear and image-making
A lot of dogs have been in fashion as “feared” dogs. German Shepherds had their time. Someone I know found his beautiful Shepherd poisoned, most likely by a neighbour who disliked “that German police dog”. Then came Doberman Pinschers as the “feared” breed. There is reason to be fearful of them and most dogs– if you’re not on the side of the fence you belong on, as I heard the owner of an auto wrecker business once say.
But I don’t remember Shepherds or Dobes being the fashion accessory for young men that Rottweilers and Pitties became in the past two decades. Now, it seems to me, Mastiffs and Cane Corsos have supplanted them.
These are all very powerful breeds used for herding and protecting. They are intelligent and strong-willed. You have to be their match in order for the relationship to work out well, and just wanting to be isn’t enough. I would never have a Rottie or Pit Bull. Dog trainers have told me that I don’t make myself the dog’s boss. “You’re more a litter mate than alpha dog,” one said.
These powerful breeds of fashion can scare me. But it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners. I don’t mean huge, tattooed drug dealers or nasty pimps. I mean teenagers who cannot have had much experience handling any dog except the family pet because they are just not old enough. The caution the Westminster dog show announcer gives about some breeds, “not for first-time dog owners”? Shep, who let you pull his ears when you were two, does not qualify you as an experienced dog owner.
I also have concerns for these dogs of youthful fashion: are they being fed right, exercised enough, socialized and trained properly? You might well be concerned about the same things for their owners. However, if either of them wig out, the owner won’t be sentenced to death but the dog will.
Myth-making and Pit Bulls
A well looked after, happy Pit Bull is a joy. A neglected or abused, frightened or aggressive one is not. Just like any other dog. The reality is that there have been vicious attacks by Pit Bulls that have killed and seriously maimed people and animals. But presuming therefore that Pit Bulls are all crazed killers is itself, well, crazy.
Lovers of the breed have tried to counteract the “fighting dog” label by pointing out the breed’s protector instincts. However, the “Nanny dog” image may be equally damaging to the poor Pittie. The photo at left has circulated the internet, and it’s lovely. And maybe back then, the Pit Bull was your first choice of baby minder. But there’s been a hundred years of selective breeding, good and bad, since then and that has an effect on all aspects of a creature.
Gross generalizations on either side are neither accurate nor fair to Pit Bulls. They deserve to be treated like other dogs without bearing the burden of vilification or sainthood. To paraphrase Tammy Wynette “after all, he’s just a dog.” So stand by him and be proud of him for what he is, not the angel or ogre you want him to be.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 22, 2012. 4 comments below.