The Pit Bull Aggression Debate: is it nature, nurture, or myth? The Pit Bull debate is very polarizing. Both sides of this argument are certain that they are right. There have been numerous legislation passed by several states that are aimed solely at Pit Bulls. Some say that this is unfair and others state that it is still not enough.
The Truth May Lie Somewhere Between Facts and Opinions
Speaking from a scientific perspective, a dog’s personality is influenced by several factors or variables. The science of the matter states it as the following: a dog’s personality is derived from a combination of genetics, treatment, training, and socialization. However, if you examine the totality of the make-up, what is the percentage of each influencing factor. In other words, what percentage is genetics? It bears consideration that if genetics was a larger determining factor and it was pro aggression, wouldn’t that make a dog more aggressive? It is those subtle tweaks in the proverbial formula that can make the difference.
There are many horror stories of dog bites involving Pit Bulls and they typically sound like the following.
“Around 7 p.m. on June 17, 2007, Colleen Lynn was making her way through her Beacon Hill neighborhood in Seattle on a final training run for an upcoming half-marathon. Ahead, a woman walking a dog on a leash stepped off the sidewalk and onto the parking strip with the dog so Lynn could pass. But, as Lynn neared, the dog it suddenly turned and sprang at her, striking her in the chest and knocking her to the sidewalk. Confused, she instinctively shielded her face with her right arm, which the dog seized, shaking it and dragging Lynn down the sidewalk. The other woman jerked the leash hard, causing the dog to release Lynn, who fled down the street screaming for help.”
Can Science Debunk This Perceived Truth or is it as it Seems?
Attacks like this shine even more light on the aggressiveness of Pit Bulls. For decades, the Pit Bull has been the center of the dangerous dog debate.
The factors that feed into the expression of behavior are so inextricably intertwined that it’s usually impossible to point to any one specific influence. This is why there is such variation in behavior between individual dogs. Because of the impact of experience, the pit bull specifically bred for generations to be aggressive may not fight with dogs and the Labrador retriever bred to be a service dog may be aggressive toward people.
There has been such a debate on this subject and even the scientific community cannot agree.
We May Have to Agree to Disagree
Case in point, one study of aggression done by a specialist in Australia. They concluded that the pit bull terrier attacked humans at a higher level than any other breed. German Shepherds and crosses were a close second.
However, for nearly 35 years, a Missouri-based group has conducted its own research on canine aggressiveness. The American Temperament Test Society conducts a 10-step exam and has checked out nearly 31,000 dogs, according to its website. The test includes seeing how the dog reacts to strangers, to strangers trying to pet it, and how it reacts to loud noises or a menacing human.
The two types of pit bulls they studied, had lower aggression scores than six other breeds. They are in the same range as the German Shepherd and golden retriever. Labrador retrievers scored better than pit bulls.
“On an even playing field, a pit bull is no more dangerous than a collie,” said Sallyann Comstock, the society’s chief tester and director of operations.
The reality is any dog can bite. I believe that it is the responsibility of the owner to properly socialize, train and control their Pit Bull. Because despite our collective efforts, there will always be dogs of various breeds too dangerous to live in society.