Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Oh good grief.

A huge eye-rolling emoticon needs to be inserted right here. This ridiculous article was brought to our attention right after we posted a blog on how to pursue a career in dog training which included a bunch of caveats like the field being completely unregulated, with no licensing requirements, and anyone being able to call themselves a trainer with little or no real education. The WA state-based trainer Scott Bennett did a great job driving these points home.

By far, it seems most trainers are opposed to laws that discriminate against dogs of a certain appearance or breed. Those with an understanding of natural canine behavior and how organisms learn recognize that aggression is strongly environmentally influenced, dogs do not attack or kill for the fun of it, aggression is a fear or defense-based behavior, and improper socialization, management and training are prime contributing factors to dog bites - NOT breed. There is insignificant evidence supporting the notion that any breed posesses "genetically-based aggression" as a trait.

Every so often however some "expert" pops up out of no where with opinions that are based on a severe lack of knowledge and dubious sources. Mr. Bennett, for instance, quotes a debunked "report"supposedly proving Pit Bulls (as a breed) attack more than any other dogs.

Hyperbolic statements like "loves/likes/desires to kill" commonly blab out of the mouths of the ill-informed, but educated animal trainers stay away from such anthropomorphisms because they are unscientific and unrepresentative of what we know about the forces driving animal behavior. Fighting is not something Pit Bulls enjoy, fighting is defensive behavior that dogs engage in when they feel threatened. This is behavior dogs learn as an effective means of protecting their own butts. It works, they repeat it.

And the ol' battle cry of "Pit Bulls are bred to fight/kill/maim" becomes a little silly when you realize most Pit Bulls today have been bred to be companions and are far removed from their ancestors. Most breeds were created for tasks (including some requiring aggression) for which they are no longer used. Even Pit Bulls that have been used for dog fighting or are directly out of fighting stock have proven capable of existing peacefully with other dogs and with people (as demonstrated by the dogs from the Micheal Vick case, as well as from the MO500 and OH200 busts, for example).

The statements in the article made regarding the supposedly vastly superior physical ability of all Pit Bulls over other breeds demand proof: who says? what study? Guess what? There IS no study. These are comments coming from someone with merely an opinion, and nothing more. There is no proof to substantiate the claims made that Pit Bulls are stronger/faster/more athletic than any other breed.

Unfortunately, Pit Bulls are "the in thing". Not just amongst a so-called bad element, but also amongst dog people who have good intentions but little to no understanding of the breed, related issues, and dog behavior. Everyone likes to consider themselves an expert on something controversial and "hot". But before you listen to the words coming out of someone's mouth, take the time to consider their actual (not perceived) knowledge, their sources, and their possible motives.

While personally I have no idea how alienating a large potential client-base of Pit Bull parents could be good for Mr. Bennett's business, I do know that the statements made in his article are detrimental to a breed that RPB fights tooth and nail to protect. There are lots of silly comments made about Pit Bulls all across the 'Net daily, but this short article was so chock-full of the ridiculous that it was a good chance to address common nonsense in one shot.

Here's one more piece of reading material: last week I did a short interview which was also posted on Examiner.com. This one's on the fallacy of breed-based statistics.

As for Mr. Bennett and others of his ilk: pretending you know what you are talking about doesn't mean you actually do.


Catstina said...

Great Post, Mary!

Levi said...

What a GREAT post!!! Me and my pit bull friends applaud!