I am a dog lover to the bottom of my heart, from my head to my feet. And regardless of what I read or hear about pit bull attacks, I don’t hold anything against the pit bull breeds. Maia, my black lab mix, is 1/4 pit bull and she is the most loving and sensitive dog I have ever had. I acquired her when she was 2 yrs old and she had obviously been raised properly with training and socialization. She has some of the characteristics of pit bulls such as the broad face and muscular body and the intense prey drive for small animals such as chickens and cats. However, she has totally accepted my cat and although she tries to get the cat to play and wants a good chase, the cat doesn’t oblige, holds her ground and Maia gives up. But any cat outside of my home is fair game. Therefore, she is never off leash around other cats.

But for the life of me, I cannot understand why, after all the media attention the pit bull breeds have received because of the attacks by these dogs on small children, families keep adopting them into their homes where young children are present, and then go away for even a few moments leaving them alone with the new dog. What are they thinking?

It’s one thing if the dog was raised by the family from a puppy with proper training and socialization and the dog understands and respects the fact that every member of the family is the pack leader and therefore the dog is not a threat. But these people who adopt a pit bull that they know nothing about, take it home to become a family member and then leave it alone with their 2 or 3 yr. old child have got to be out of their minds! Are they trying to prove something? Do they think if they just give the dog enough love it won’t hurt anyone?

These breeds were bred to fight bulls and bears. Once that was no longer an option they were bred to fight each other. Why do you suppose these breeds of American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are the main breeds used in illegal dog fighting arenas? Because that is what they have been bred to do for generations. They are extremely strong and when they bite down they will not let go until the other dog is defeated. For their size, I’m sure they are the strongest dogs of any of the breeds.

However, the fact that they were bred to fight other animals does not explain why they are attacking children. When they were originally bred to fight each other, the owners were in the rings with them, pulling them apart at intervals. Any dog that bit its owner or anyone else was culled out. They were not bred to attack people. Somewhere along the line something in their breeding has changed. The characteristic of aggression towards humans is not a normal characteristic of this breed. They are loving dogs but do need training, exercise, and socialization with many different people when they are puppies.

So why ARE they attacking small children? I realize there are other individual dogs within breeds such as Rottweilers who have also attacked small children in particular, but the ones we hear or read the most about are pit bulls. Is it that more people own pit bulls than other types of dogs? I know within my home town, I have seen more pit bull or pit bull mixes than any other breed. Naturally when you have a large population of anything, there are going to be problems within that population. But that still doesn’t really answer the question of why they are attacking children.

Dogs know the difference between humans and other dogs or animals. When they fight another dog, that dog fights back and they are “justified” in their actions, protecting themselves. But when they attack a small child who is in a baby chair or playing alone outside and the child can’t fight back, what is causing the dog to want to kill the child? Does it not know that the child is a human?

It could be a prey drive of a dog not socialized as a puppy to know that small humans actually are NOT prey. It may not have been raised around small children and sees them as something totally different than the grown versions. It could feel that it is protecting its possessions such as a toy that a child has picked up. It could be “protecting” itself from a child who is pulling its tail or ear. It could be many things, but what it comes down to is no one really knows for sure. We can make all sorts of assumptions and excuses, but without getting inside the psyche of each dog who attacks, we can’t say for sure.

If you are going to adopt a pit bull, understand that the dog will be your full responsibility, whether it is a wonderful safe dog or whether it bites or attacks a family member or someone else. It is your responsibility to keep your children safe. It is not the dog’s responsibility to be a good dog. You are its leader, provider, trainer and socializer. Never leave a pit bull terrier alone with another dog it does not know because many pit bulls are unpredictable with other dogs. And never leave a child alone with a pit bull. Be responsible as an owner of any dog.

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