Are Pitbulls Dangerous:Scientific Guide to Understanding Aggressionsive Behaviour in Pitbulls

Last Updated on: 9th May 2023, 01:42 am

Are pitbull dangerous?

If you are curious about this and want to understand the real reasons behind the sterotype and aggressions in some pitbulls, then buckle your belt.

We will take a look at understanding pitbulls behaviour from a genetic and environmental point of view.

At the end of the piece, you will be able to decide if Pitbulls are really, really, really dangerous or not?

A fighting dog with bulldog and terrier heritage that was developed in 19th-century England, Scotland, and Ireland for hunting, specifically for capturing and restraint of semi-feral livestock, is known as a pit bull, also known as an American Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull Terrier.

The name has historically been used to describe a number of canine breeds, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, bull terrier, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier. The American Kennel Club, however, does not classify it as a unique breed.

The United Kennel Club designated pit bulls as a separate breed for the first time in 1898. The dog was known as an American Pit Bull Terrier.

The main goal of the American Dog Breeders Association (ADBA) is to promote the advantages of the American Pit Bull Terrier, including its loyalty, dedication, and athleticism—also recognizes the breed.

Pit bulls are among the friendliest, most devoted pets there are. There are many misunderstandings regarding pit bulls, which are caused by a variety of circumstances.

Pit bulls are stereotyped as having harsh personalities and acting aggressively. These misunderstandings are partially caused by the pit bull’s ancestry.

These canines are frequently offspring of a bull-baiting breed that people later bred to fight one another.

Today’s Pit bulls make affectionate pets that fit in well with families and frequently get along famously with kids.

A Pit bull can gain the self-assurance to deal with any circumstance, including those involving other people, other dogs, and strangers, through early socialization and training.

History of the Pitbull

Since at least the early 20th century, the term “pit bull” has been in use. It is thought that the British bull and terrier are the ancestors of dogs that are today categorized as pit bulls.

In the 1870s, these dogs were brought to North America for the first time.

A canine breed known as the bull-and-terrier was created in the early 19th century in the United Kingdom for the blood sports of dog fighting and rat baiting.

They were developed by mating fierce, heavily muscled Old English Bulldogs with nimble, lithe, and tenacious Black Terriers. In sanctioned dog fights, the English Bulldogs, which were developed for use in bear and bull baiting, were sometimes matched against other English Bulldogs.

But the organizers discovered that faster, lighter dogs were more appropriate for dogfighting than the much heavier Bulldog.

In other to produce lighter, faster more agile dogs that retained the courage and tenacity of the Bulldog, outcrosses were tried from local terriers, and ultimately found to be successful.

As it was in the United Kingdom, dog fighting became a popular pastime in 19th century America. Bull dogs and terriers were imported for blood sport. Meanwhile in the United States, organised dog fights have been progressively outlawed in various states since 1874, culminating in federal legislation criminalising animal fighting in 2007.

Breeders of American pit bull-type dogs attempted to have their dogs recognised by the American Kennel Club in the 1890s.

However, because of the type’s association with dogfighting, the club rejected their request. Following this rejection, in 1898 breeders of American Pit Bull Terriers established a rival kennel club – the United Kennel Club not just to be a registry but also a regulatory bod for dog fights.

Soon, the American Kennel Club became faced with a dilemma. Despite the fact that they specifically rejected dogfighting, there was a desire to recognise a uniquely American dog breed for which over 30 years of breed records existed. 

The solution was to recognise Pit Bull Terriers under a different name and prohibit these dogs from being used in organised fights and in 1935 the American Kennel Club recognised Pit Bull Terriers as Staffordshire Terriers.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier was first used in Britain in 1930 as the name for bull-and-terrier-type dogs. Organised dog fighting had been effectively eliminated in the United Kingdom by the Protection of Animals Act 1911.

However, fanatics of the bull-and-terrier type continued to breed these dogs, predominantly in England’s Black Country. 

Throughout the early 1930s attempts were made in England to gain recognition for these dogs with The Kennel Club, these efforts became successful in 1935. 

In order to avoid confusion with the British breed, in 1972 the American Kennel Club changed the name of their American breed to the American Staffordshire Terrier.

Pitbulls and Aggressions

Aggression is the willingness to attack or confront any individual or group in response to sentiments of rage or aversion that manifest as hostile or violent behavior.

It may be done with the intention of preventing the disagreement from escalating further, as a means of displacing another person or group, or with the purpose of causing another person physical or emotional harm.

The majority of dog aggression takes the form of threat-inducing body language, such as a hard look, growling, barking, snarling, lunging, snapping, and/or biting. Although showing aggression toward a person or another animal is frowned upon, aggression in dogs may be a normal form of communication.

Numerous dog attacks are psychologically or affectively motivated. It’s interesting to note that the brain’s hunger center drives predatory aggression. When an animal exhibits predatory aggressiveness, it does it without fear or anxiety with the aim of closing the gap and capturing, killing, and consuming prey.

The Role of Genetics in Dog Behaviour

Karlsson and Morrill discovered that modern breed classification had only a minor impact on the results, but that behavioral traits were influenced by a variety of variables, including environment and individual genetics.

The team discovered that just 9 percent of behavior was contributed by breed when they examined owner-reported breeds and genetically identified breed ancestries.

Age was a better predictor of behavior for several behavioral aspects, such as toy-directed motor patterns (a dog’s interest in and engagement with toys): younger dogs were more likely to score higher in this category.

The best predictor of behavior for specific survey items, including “lifts leg to urinate,” was a dog’s sex. More than five times as many physical characteristics, such as coat color, could be predicted by breed as behavioral characteristics.

Furthermore, no breed-specific behaviors were discovered by the investigators. Even though Labrador retrievers had the lowest howling propensity, 8% of owners said their Labradors occasionally howled.

Similarly, three owners of greyhounds claimed that their dogs frequently bury their toys, despite 90% of greyhound owners claiming that their dogs never do so.

Misconceptions About Pit Bull Aggression

Pit bulls are among the most erroneously portrayed canine breeds in the world, and it can be challenging to distinguish between fact and fiction when there is so much misinformation floating around about them. Some of the common misunderstandings regarding pit bulls include the following:

1: Pit Bulls are mean and vicious: It is reported on temperament tests conducted by the American Temperament Test Society that pit bulls had a passing rate of 82% or better — compared to only 77% of the general dog population. These temperament tests consist of putting a dog through a series of unexpected situations, some involving strangers. Any signs of unprovoked aggression or panic in these situations result in failure of the test. The achievement of pit bulls in this study disproves that they are inherently aggressive to people.

2: Aggression towards other animals means people are next: Animal aggression and human aggression are not linked in the canine brain, in contrast to how it is with humans. Science informs us that someone who is abusive to animals is also prone to be abusive to humans. A dog that is hostile to one animal may or may not be hostile to another animal; the aggression does not extend to other species; rather, each animal is unique to itself.

For canines of the pit bull breed, aggression toward people is quite abnormal. They are neither intrinsically or innately hostile to people. Numerous factors, including the environment and development during crucial stages, but most importantly, human behavior shaping, contribute to aggression.

Although they have been taught to attack other dogs or bulls for centuries, they have never all been bred to be human-aggressive, which is very different from animal aggression in dogs. Additionally, breeding any two dogs, whether pit bull terriers or other breeds, that exhibit genuine animal or human aggression is now frowned upon in the responsible breeding community.

3: If a Pit Bull was never trained to fight, it will be safe with other dog: Pit bulls get along well with other animals and canine companions. The pit bull, meanwhile, was historically bred to kill big creatures. A pit bull can become more tolerant of other animals with early and ongoing socialization. However, a dog’s reaction to other dogs and animals is greatly influenced by genetics.

Pit bull breeds of dogs have a high pain threshold and a strong work ethic. Even though each dog is an individual with a distinct set of traits and qualities, understanding why they were specifically bred can help us recognize patterns in their behavior.

Any dog can experience enough discomfort for their fight/flight/freeze system to activate. Given their breeding, pit bulls may frequently (but most definitely not always) have their fight system active. Dog fights can be avoided with careful socialization, supporting the requirements of puppies as they develop, good nourishment, and responsible ownership.

All dog fights may be avoided. Slowly introduce any dog, pit bull or otherwise, to new dogs.As is the case for any dog, a pit bull that was dog friendly at 7 months of age may suddenly show signs of intolerance of unfamiliar dogs around two years old given that is around the time of the last inset of maturity.

Factors That Contribute to Aggressive Behaviour in Pitbulls

The Role Of Genetics In Dog Behaviour:
Many people think that genetics are not just a factor in the development of an aggressive Pit bull, but also the primary cause of it. A breeder will select parents who share the features when a dog is selectively bred for particular behavioural or physical characteristics.

Pit bulls were primarily bred for blood sports, notably bull-baiting, when they were first developed. a performance in which bulls and dogs would spar with one another.

Due to their purpose, breeders would aim for high strength and aggression when selectively breeding them.

This breed of Pitbull is still used for dogfighting today, and it reproduces by having litters with other compatible dogs. Although it is illegal, it is still very prominent, unfortunately.

According to a 2009 study, genetics account for between 60 and 70 percent of hostility toward strangers who are human.

Given that genetics is the primary reason why different breeds exist, behavioral traits will primarily be influenced by genetics.

These breeds were carefully bred to include these characteristics. As a result of their past, Pit Bulls’ inherent hostility toward other animals and strangers may be inherited.

1: Environment and socialization
In order to prevent aggression, it is essential that your dog develops in the appropriate environment and engages in appropriate socialization with family members, guests, other dogs, and strangers.

According to Charles Davis, dogs are a true reflection of their surroundings. They will be aggressive and end up becoming like the stereotype if they are raised in circumstances where aggressive behavior is the norm.

A Pit bull will return your love throughout its entire life if you raise it properly and show it affection. Fear can often be the root cause of an aggressive act.

Your dog will lose that dread when you introduce them to new individuals, enabling them to act joyfully and playfully in these circumstances.

However, it is difficult to stop your dog from being aggressive without proper puppy socialization.

If you have a puppy, you can start gradually socializing them until they feel at ease around various social groupings.

When it comes to an elderly rescue dog, the circumstances are different. It is much more challenging for those who have previously passed their vulnerable times to socialize with new things, but it is absolutely not impossible!

Adult dogs should be socialized slowly and with tolerance. Your dog will need some time to feel secure around people or other dogs. In order to guarantee that you are doing it safely and correctly, you need also speak with a dog behaviorist.

2: Training And Handling
Untrained dogs are too unruly and are more likely to encounter events that can make them fearful or aggressive.

These undesirable events can be avoided by exerting strong control over your dog. The best method to execute it is with a little bit of training every so often. Training your dog has the extra benefit of strengthening your relationship with them.

To avoid overwhelming or confusing your new puppy, try training them for a short period of time each day at first. Training them to not be leash-reactive is equally as important as teaching them commands like come and stay.

The approach we advise most is using positive reinforcement because it is efficient, easy, and fun for you and your dog!

3: Health And Medical Issues

In some situations, medical issues can be the cause of aggressive behaviour in dogs. An unexpected, unprovoked aggressive attack may appear to a dog owner to be an indication of a significant behavioral issue, but it may actually be the result of the dog feeling physical pain.

Before contacting a behaviorist or taking the dog to a dog trainer, it is essential to have the dog examined by a veterinarian.

In fact, before visiting the dog, professional dog behaviorists should request documentation of a medical exam.

A dog acting violently due to an underlying medical condition cannot be properly treated by a dog behaviorist. Dogs are known to act aggressively under the following circumstances:

  1. Chronic pain
  2. Hypothyroidism
  3. Seizures
  4. Brain conditions
  5. Low calcium levels in lactating dogs

The Importance of Responsible Ownership

All dogs deserve and need responsible ownership; but, in order to ensure everyone’s comfort and safety, strong breeds and mixes need careful ownership.

The majority of serious dog-bite-related accidents are the consequence of one or more aspects of responsible ownership going wrong. The principles of responsible ownership are covered in a wide variety of publications, and this is a subject that may be covered in great length.

The Role Of Responsible Ownership In Preventing Dog Bites And Attacks
Dogs can bite, especially when they are frightened, anxious, or while they are feeding, playing, or defending their puppies.

Additionally, they might bite if they don’t feel well and want to be left alone. Dog bites can be avoided by practicing responsible pet care, which includes socializing your dog, refraining from rough play, and walking your dog on a leash in public.

Additionally, teaching kids how to properly interact with dogs and keeping an eye on them around dogs, even familiar pets, can help prevent dog aggression.

Legal Responsibilities of Dog Owners
Every dog owner needs to be aware of the rules governing dogs in order to protect themselves, their pets, and others around them.

Please find the following outline of dog owners’ legal obligations in the United States and the United Kingdom:

Animal Welfare Act: This Act states that animals must be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease. Training methods used are hugely relevant to this Act – A dog owner must ensure that all methods as well as equipment used in the handling of the dogs cause no pain or emotional imbalance as this may lead to prosecution. Please note that a Dog’s emotional state is as important as its physical state.

Control of Dogs Order: Dogs in a public place are required to wear an external tag or collar with the name and address of the owner on. Any dog without an ID tag may be seized and treated as a stray dog.

Dog Control Orders/Public Spaces Protection Orders: The following are regarded as offences: –

  • Not picking up faeces after your dog
  • Not keeping your dog on a lead
  • Not putting your dog on a lead when asked to by an authorised person
  • Taking dogs onto land from which they are excluded
  • Walking more than a specified number of dogs (6)

In areas specified by district and parish councils. If there are signs telling you to keep your dog on a lead, respect this. Dogs may be banned from areas altogether if faeces are not removed and owners persistently ignore ‘on-lead’ rules.

Protection of Livestock Act: Your dog must not ‘worry’ cows, sheep, goats, pigs, horses or poultry. An offence is committed by person in charge of a dog and the owner if it attacks or chases livestock on agricultural land, or is not on a lead or under “close control” when in a field containing sheep. Farmers have a right to shoot your dog.

Environmental Protection Act: If your dog’s barking causes a ‘serious nuisance’ to neighbours, a noise abatement notice can be served requiring you to take steps to resolve the problem. If the barking continues, you may be prosecuted. Factors that may be considered include the volume, duration of the barking and the time of day it happens. It is important to seek advise to understand why your dog(s) may bark to avoid/prevent complaints from your neighbours.

Dangerous Dogs Act: This Act applies to every single dog owner, whether your pet is a Chihuahua, Cockerpoo or Rottweiler.

It states that it is a criminal offence for the dog to be ‘dangerously out of control,’ both on private property (including your own house and garden) and in a public place.

If the dog gives a person ground to feel that the dog may injure them or their assistance dog, the law applies. 

A dog doesn’t have to bite to be deemed dangerous in the eyes of the law. Something as simple as your dog chasing, barking at or jumping up at a person could lead to a complaint, even if the injury is an inadvertent result of the dog being over-friendly.

If your dog does actually injure a person or assistance dog (knocking them over, scratching them, bruising them, biting them etc), it may be seized and the penalty may include a prison sentence, unlimited fine and/or a ban on keeping dogs.

There is also an automatic presumption that your dog will be destroyed (unless you can persuade the court that it is not a danger to the public, in which case it may be subject to Contingent Destruction Order).

A court could also decide that your dog is dangerously out of control if the owner of an animal thinks they could be injured if they tried to stop your dog attacking their animal.

If you don’t have a reliable recall or your dog exhibits any form of aggression towards people or animals, keep them muzzled, on a lead or a longline.

The offence is deemed to have been committed by whoever is in charge of the dog at the time of the offence, and possibly also by the owner of the dog even if they were not present at the time of the incident.

Dogs Act: This Act states that, a dog can be deemed to be dangerous in its general behaviour (i.e., its behaviour towards other dogs and animals), not just its behaviour towards a person. Proceedings can only be brought against the owner (not the person in control of the dog at the time of any incidents). This Act is relevant to incidents between dogs.

The Road Traffic Act: It is an offence to have a dog on a designated road without it being on a lead. Dogs travelling in vehicles should not be a nuisance or in any way distract you during a journey, and should be suitably restrained so as to avoid injury to you if you stop quickly. In other words, a loose dog jumping around the car is an offence.

Damages/third party liability claims: If you do not have third party insurance cover and you face a claim for damages caused by your dog (injury to a person or damage to property), then you may be liable if the incident was due to your negligence (i.e. you did something you should not have done or you failed to do something that you should have done), or your dog has behaved in a similar manner on a previous occasion and you were aware of it. The Dogs Trust in the United Kingdom provides third party cover for just £25 per year.

Strict Liability Doctrine: Many states such as California have strict liability statutes. This means that the owner of the dog shall be held liable in all kinds of dog-inflicted injuries, not just bites regardless of whether they were without fault or negligent. Thus, an injured party is not required to prove that the dog owner was at fault or negligent, it is only required to be established that just it was his dog that caused the injury.

One Bite Rule: Unlike the former, the complainant would have to prove that the owner knew his dog was dangerous in order to impose legal liability on the pet owner. Thus, the owner can only be held responsible for the injury caused by his pet if he knew his dog is a danger to others but failed to take responsibility for the control of his pet (etc. failed to leash, fence in, etc).

Proper Training And Socialization

Pets that have been trained and socialized tend to be more self-assured, happier, and less dangerous to both themselves and other people. Pets who have been trained and socialized can interact with their human family members in a greater variety of ways, which not only makes them happier but can also strengthen the link between them.

One of the biggest categories of animals that are turned over to shelters each year is untrained and badly socialized pets. Pet socialization and training helps keep animals where they belong—at home.

Obedience training, when carried out correctly and morally, can assist to stop undesirable behaviors like jumping, digging, chewing, barking, and house soiling in addition to teaching your pet the fundamental commands required to take part in daily activities.

A gentle and expert training program can also help older pets. It might be just what your pet needs to get some exercise and spend some quality time with you—a little obedience training!

The “sensitive period,” which for pups is between 3 and 14 weeks of age, is the ideal time to start socializing a pet. Even when a pet is much older, socialization is nevertheless feasible at any age.

Related Posts