Are pit bulls dangerous?
June 25, 2008 1:16 PM   Subscribe

Should I adopt a pit bull?

I am thinking of adopting my friend's pit bull who is moving away and cannot take the dog. The dog was raised lovingly, is extremely well trained, and has never had any aggressive behavior in the past. I know most cases of pit bull attacks are from untrained dogs with bad backgrounds. But is there a chance that the dog could still be dangerous? I know this is a contentious issue, so I am looking for as objective advice as possible.

I have no experience with taking care of a dog before.
posted by roaring beast to Pets & Animals (49 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Without attack training, pit bulls can be as sweet and lovable as any other dog. Furthermore, poorly trained/cared for dogs of any breed can bite or otherwise attack.

This dog in particular sounds like a great candidate for adoption, and if you love it and care for it, you'll have a great friend.
posted by explosion at 1:26 PM on June 25, 2008


Any dog, of any breed, has the potential to be dangerous. They're animals.

That being said, a well trained, well raised pit bull is arguably no more likely than any other breed to be violent or dangerous.

The wikipedia article on Pit Bulls is actually pretty informative despite being labeled as having its neutrality under dispute...

If the dog has been well trained and nice for this long, I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by twiggy at 1:28 PM on June 25, 2008


The dog may have dominance issues that aren't present with it's current owner, but may be difficult for you to deal with. I wouldn't recommend any dog with such a stigma to someone who wasn't familiar with dogs.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 1:29 PM on June 25, 2008


i have only known really wonderful pit bulls and am staffs. they are sweet, loyal, playful and very loving. in fact, a friend of mine just adopted an am staff who had been used as the bait dog in dog fightings. he was found on wondering on the street weak and emaciated and was rehabilitated by a german shepherd rescue group. he is one of the sweetest, loving, playful dogs—a real testament to both the dog and the rescuers. my friend who adopted him was very leery about getting a pit bull/am staff at first because of the "reputation" but she absolutely adores him. while she had a dog in her family growing up, this is her first personal dog.

they can be a handful but as long as you have a loving but strong hand, things should be fine. get as much info on the breed as possible. i think it would be a good idea to do a test drive by having the dog with you for a few days to a week, if that's possible, to see how you both get along with each other and whether you feel you can handle the dog.
posted by violetk at 1:30 PM on June 25, 2008


Me n' my SO adopted our pit after we became smitten with him from the get go...we found him in the middle of the street as a little puppy.

He's the best dog I've ever had, he's well behaved and smart as a whip. He does, however, need A LOT of attention. Since my SO works from the house, he's able to tend to our dog all day.

While I recommend that any dog should have an all day companion, I would really stress that this breed needs attention more than most dogs. Also, they need exercise and they need to feel challenged on a daily basis. So a big backyard and a lot of toys should do it for a pit.

Good luck!
posted by dearest at 1:33 PM on June 25, 2008


Yes, there is a chance that the dog could still be dangerous. Like any dog. The difference, though, is that a pit bull is a lot stronger, especially in the jaws, than most dogs--they can do a lot more damage, and a lot more quickly, than most dogs. So if the dog turns out to be dangerous, well, a pit bull's going to be a lot more dangerous than a beagle.
posted by box at 1:38 PM on June 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pit bulls are usually very dominant and extremely strong willed dogs. Just because it's good for your friend does not mean it's good for you. You'll likely need the services of a professional trainer who specializes in large, dominant dogs. Even if it's perfectly well trained in the basics, an integral part of training is establishing a bond and "chain of command" (so to speak) between you and the dog. Higher-level training like agility training can help with that. Also, be sure you've really got the time....those dogs need LOTS of exercise (like jogging or fly ball) and attention every day. Think at least an hour of high-energy exercise daily.

But don't let that scare you...pit bulls are a generally very affectionate, a bundle of laughs, very playful, and they will LOOOOOOOVE you if you give them a good home. Just don't expect Lassie with no work on your part.
posted by moitz at 1:40 PM on June 25, 2008


I have no experience with taking care of a dog before.

I'd think that a Pit as your first dog would be like a Corvette as your first car.

Certainly doable, but you might not realize its potential until it is too late.
posted by gyusan at 1:42 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well, that breed was created specifically to fight other dogs. There is really a greater chance of it becoming dangerous than there is with other breeds. I read an account about the world of dog fighting that noted that once a pit bull gets a taste of fighting, there's little you can do to stop it from wanting to fight more dogs.

However, if he's never fought, and you have the time to make sure he's well-socialized and trained, he can be fine.

So, if you're ready to be devoted, take him.
posted by ignignokt at 1:44 PM on June 25, 2008


Regarding the stigma... Unfortunately, it has impacted insurance company policies. For instance, my home owners insurance does not cover certain breeds. I imagine I would have to pay extra or find a new agency if I adopted a pit bull. This is something I would investigate before committing to adopt the dog. (Which I'm certain would be fine, providing you beef up on some basic obedience training and be willing to accept more, if the occasion arises.)
posted by wg at 1:50 PM on June 25, 2008


Pit bulls are extremely sweet if they're raised well, which it sounds like this one is.

However, if I were you, I wouldn't be worried about the danger factor so much as the time and energy factor. You say you've never raised a dog before, so make sure you realize what you'd be getting into. Pit bulls have lots of energy. If you are not home during the day, do you have a place to keep him? It's not easy to keep them indoors unless they have their own room. My aunt had to do this with her pitbulls, and to be honest, we all (including her) felt sorry for them because that was not really enough room for them to run around. If you would keep the dog outside, check that your fences are high enough that they would not jump over them.

Furthermore, pit bulls are big, strong dogs. Even if they're only playing with you, they can accidentally hurt you. Nothing major there, but they might sometimes run into you, or jump up on you, and depending on how heavy the dog is and how much weight you can bear, this can be unpleasant.

Some of this can be mitigated depending on how well the dog is trained, of course. If the dog never jumps up on you, for example, then that's not an issue.

They are really zealous when they play, or when they're excited to see you. This is very sweet but it can also be overwhelming, just because of their size and energy.

Personally, I like to play with other people's pit bulls, but I would never get one myself. The pit bull owners I've known are worn out by them. That's exactly the kind of dog some people want, though. Just be sure you're that kind of person.
posted by Nattie at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2008


Also if you rent, it may be an issue. While many landlords, housing management companies (and even certain localities) allow pets, most still have bans on pitbulls because of their reputation. Finding a place in the city for me and my >100pd dog was hard enough. If he were a pitbull, it would have been nearly impossible.

If you own, go for it as long as you know, cujo or not, dogs are a lot of work and will definitely change your current lifestyle. i.e vacations, happy hours and allergic houseguests not to mention vet bills and grossness factor of a sick dog (i.e. gastroenteritis). When I think back after almost 10 years with my dog, my only regret is that I won't have another 10 years with him.
posted by skimides at 1:51 PM on June 25, 2008


Pit bulls also tend to have a lot of health complications, due to the breeding. Make sure you are able to meet some very very expensive vet bills in the future.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:52 PM on June 25, 2008


Another consideration that no one else has brought up yet is the dog's sex and breeding status. Almost all unprovoked dog-on-human attacks are done by "intact" males.
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:56 PM on June 25, 2008


There is really a greater chance of it becoming dangerous than there is with other breeds

not true.
posted by violetk at 1:59 PM on June 25, 2008


not true.

When was the last Chihuahua put down for an attack on a human? Get over it, as loving and sweet as pits can be they are still the dog of choice for dogfighters, thugs and douchebags of all stripes. Yes, there is a greater risk to the breed because of how the breed is currently used.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 2:09 PM on June 25, 2008


There is really a greater chance of it becoming dangerous than there is with other breeds

not true.


Yes, it is. This isn't a matter of opinion or experience -- statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm. You and those around you are simply at higher risk if you have one.
posted by j.edwards at 2:14 PM on June 25, 2008


violetk: I agree that pit bulls can be good, loving creatures when trained very well, but let's not forget: Pit bulls were bred to kill other animals. When a pit bull becomes pent-up and isolated (a technique used by dog fighters to get them in the right mindset for the fight), it will kill things. When a rat terrier goes through the same treatment, it might get antisocial and start defecating indoors and might even get nippy but won't necessarily be dangerous.
posted by ignignokt at 2:21 PM on June 25, 2008


When was the last Chihuahua put down for an attack on a human? Get over it, as loving and sweet as pits can be they are still the dog of choice for dogfighters, thugs and douchebags of all stripes. Yes, there is a greater risk to the breed because of how the breed is currently used.

Yes, it is. This isn't a matter of opinion or experience -- statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm.

the dog in question was NOT raised to be aggressive or fight other dogs. so i stand by my statement that this is not true. now, could it cause more harm were it to attack? yes, it will cause more harm than a chihuahah could. that i don't deny.
posted by violetk at 2:23 PM on June 25, 2008


When a rat terrier goes through the same treatment, it might get antisocial and start defecating indoors and might even get nippy but won't necessarily be dangerous.

Um, rat terriers were also bred to kill other animals (rats). The thing is, aggression isn't necessarily a good indicator of danger. Strictly speaking, toy breeds (including chihuahas) are much more likely to bite you than so-called "dangerous" breeds. The difference is that if a chihuaha bites you, unless you're an infant you're probably not in very much actual danger. If a pit-bull or rottweiler attacks you, you could be in real trouble.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2008


I think if the dog has been well trained by your friend and has good disposition and temperament, then you should not have a problem at all. Once you get him, you may need to address some of the issues like change of environment and introduction to new house and people. But once he gets adjusted, it should be ok. Once advantage you have is he is coming from a loving home to another loving/caring environment. So most of the psychological issues that come from a bad environment are avoided. Most of the dog behavior issues are product of their owners. So read up on being a caring owner and leadership and you should be golden.

If you are in a position to take him to classes either obedience or agility, it will also serve to bond you with your dog.

I think the dominance issues and strong will are sometimes overblown. If this is the case then you will not see any Pit bulls being adopted out of shelters. (I volunteer at a shelter and vast majority of dogs given up are pit bulls and pit bull mixes). I work with many Pit Bulls who are in shelter environment and are gentle as can be but I meet many on my walks outside who are out of control/aggressive.

True many people underestimate the work and commitment that is involved in keeping and taking care of a pet which gives rise to all these issues. You have already taken a step in the right direction by being aware and doing your research before taking this important step.
posted by shr1n1 at 2:34 PM on June 25, 2008


I have no experience with taking care of a dog before.

Then, no. I wouldn't recommend any terrier as Your First Dog Ever, much less a pit.

I would not necessarily worry about the dog being OMG PIT BULL DANGEROUS!! I would worry more about the dog being stubborn, and perhaps overly independent, and generally pugnacious, and digging to China, and having to be firm enough with the dog to be disheartening or unpleasant, and so on.

statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm

A problem with statistics like that is that victims routinely say "pit bull" when they mean "medium-large dog that bit me." You can take the ID-a-pit-bull test yourself.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:47 PM on June 25, 2008


Well, they're generally not aggressive towards humans. You say it's sweet and well-mannered, so let's assume it's not a danger to humans. It still might be aggressive with other animals--it's what they were bred for and it can come out in a split second.

Any time your dog gets in a fight with another dog, it will be a BIG DEAL. It will also be your dog's fault because you have the big, frightening dog.

Your dog will be able to inflict damage easily on another dog, or any human that gets in the way or tries to defend their animal.

You need to make your yard completely escape-proof. If your dog, or another dog, decides to make trouble and your dog flips out and escapes your yard, you are f***ed.

Introducing another animal into your home will be challenging.

I don't really think it's for beginners, honestly, and I think the dog would be safer with a more experienced owner.
posted by sondrialiac at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2008


Chiming in with those that say no, not dangerous, but a higher-maintenance breed that you should read up on before adopting.

Pits make awesome pets, if you're prepared to deal with high-energy dogs. They can be quite lovable -- a former coworker of mine takes hers to hospitals for pet therapy.
posted by middleclasstool at 2:56 PM on June 25, 2008


I think these are the questions you need to answer:

* Is the dog well-socialized? That is, does the dog have regular exposure to people and other dogs? Even well-trained dogs that are fine in the family home can freak out and become agressive when confronted with unfamiliar social situations.

* If the dog remains with you, can you continue its socialization and training? These need to be maintained, even if the dog was raised well. These are skills that you have to learn before you can help the dog (dog training is primarily people training), and because you are a novice this will take a significant amount of effort.

* Are you willing to learn how to deal with high-energy or high-strung dogs? Are you willing to adhere to the kind of strict rules and daily schedules this type of dog usually needs?

If you answer any of these questions with anything but a resounding "yes," this responsibility is not for you.
posted by zennie at 3:19 PM on June 25, 2008


exposure to people and other dogs

By this I mean unfamiliar people and animals in public.

Also, what sondialiac said regarding how incidents involving your pitt bull will go. Pitts do have more of a bad rep than they deserve, but they also have some awesomely powerful jaws.
posted by zennie at 3:26 PM on June 25, 2008


Pit Bulls USED to be THE all American dog. I'd argue they still are. They are loyal, friendly, and insanely in love with their owners. Most dominance and aggression issues are related to dog on dog. In fact, early pitbulls were bred with extreme bite inhibition towards humans - any dog that couldn't be pulled from a fight without turning on its handlers was culled.

The statistics about bites are misleading. So many people have trouble identifying a real pit bull from other bully breeds (and sometimes other non-bully breds) that those statistics are incorrectly skewed because of mistaken identity. I know someone who's black lab has been misidentified as a pit. If someone is afraid of a dog, they're going to think its a pit bull, unfortunately.

The question you need to ask is not whether this dog is dangerous (from your description, its not). The question is if you can keep up with it. Pit bulls are high drive, working dogs. If you're athletic and can keep up with the dog, it would be a great match. If you want a dog that sleeps all day, then no, its not a good match. They do tend to be giant couch potatoes when indoors - but only if sufficiently exercised.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:53 PM on June 25, 2008


My Pit Bull/Chow mix is no more high maintenance than any other dog I've met, and certainly less high maintenance than a lot of dogs I know. I say yes, take the dog, yay, because Pit Bulls are wonderful, excellent dogs who have a much harder time being adopted because of the stigma attached. If you can save her from having to languish in a shelter or possibly go to a less loving family, do it (please).
posted by mewithoutyou at 3:57 PM on June 25, 2008


I once owned a mix-breed pit that was a total sweetheart.

A well trained pit-bull is going to be a perfect pet, so long as you can keep up with him. They’re known as nanny-dogs, for pete’s sake, because of how well they get along with children. Honestly, if he is in fact well-trained, most of the work has already been done for you.

The most important thing is that you have no experience with dogs, so you’re going to have to learn dog psychology, how to talk in doggie language, and most importantly, how to be the Alpha dog.

Here’s what I would do: If you adopt this dog, you're going to need a veterinarian, so find a local vet and ask them to recommend someone who can evaluate the dog for you, as well as evaluate your level of control over the dog. They’ll be able to recommend a course of action for you, everything from obedience classes to specialized training (some of this might be for you more than for the dog.)

This sounds complicated. It’s not really. It’s just learning how to communicate with another species.

Best of luck, they're great dogs!!!
posted by chocolatepeanutbuttercup at 4:02 PM on June 25, 2008


I think the dominance issues and strong will are sometimes overblown. If this is the case then you will not see any Pit bulls being adopted out of shelters. (I volunteer at a shelter and vast majority of dogs given up are pit bulls and pit bull mixes).

Huh? Then why are so many being "given up"? I have met really good pit-bulls and really bad ones, but all of them were very high-strung. Just be prepared.
posted by Raichle at 4:41 PM on June 25, 2008


Can you take the dog for a week before your friend goes? Pit bulls can be quite stubborn, but like any dog, some are dominant and some aren't. Try it out and see how it goes - it may be the best dog you've ever owned.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 4:45 PM on June 25, 2008


I can't possibly offer an opinion without seeing some photos to judge his adorableness.

Owning a dog is a huge responsibility, but dogs are great. Do you have a yard? Do you own your own house? Renting can be difficult with a dog, especially a Pit Bull. And you realize some people will be afraid of him unfairly, right? Yell at you to cross the street around them when you walk him? Get that THING away from my child! Aren't you afraid it will TURN on you?!?

Speaking of, ...This isn't a matter of opinion or experience [becoming dangerous]-- statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm.

I'm sorry, but I've got to jump on the faulty logic of that. Let's say of all the dogs that have attacked someone, most could be Pit Bulls, but the great majority owned by people who want to own a mean, scary dog---and those people choose to own Pits, because these days that's the Pit Bull reputation. So a Pit Bull pup gets beaten and trained to attack, and guess what? It turns mean and reinforces the reputation. It's like if dangerous erratic drivers always chose to red cars because red cars look baddass. And when you're out driving it's always the red cars that are speeding and weaving around causing accidents---It doesn't follow that the red car itself is inherently dangerous for a safe driver to drive. Pit Bulls may or may not be inherently, genetically more dangerous, but being statistically connected to attacks doesn't prove it.

The only way to know if any dog breed is actually more dangerous is to raise and train them under the same conditions as other dogs, then test compare behavior. And the "pitbull" label is sometimes used as a slur to be applied to any squat dog with a narrow stub nose and a wide jaw (that is owned by people you don't like). Also, they're just the latest dog to be stigmatized this way--in the 40s-50s it was was German Shepherds, 70s Dobermans, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers. You know, like Good Dog Carl.
posted by tula at 4:48 PM on June 25, 2008


Any dog can be lethal. A really bad chihuahua could gnaw you to death if you were really slow, and I've seen a toy poodle take a much larger dog in a fight. The consideration you should make with this dog is the same as any large strong dog - you must work and train to make sure you can control them. And they are deceptively large - they tend to ride low and have substantial trunk mass, which means they are harder to control on a leash and, as terriers, have a certain tenacity when they've spotted prey. I tell everyone to use the Gentle Leader Easy Walk harness, but that advice is even more important on a thick-necked dog like that, because a collar slips over their head and ears quite easily, and while you can sometimes control a sighthound with a martingale collar, they've got spindly little legs and can only pull you so hard. He should only wear a collar (plus chip) for identification, not for control. Train and practice for control, and this dog is no more dangerous than any other.

They are a breed, generally, that needs to keep busier than some of your lazier varieties. Those big strong mouths are great for decimating your couch. The upside is that they are quite smart, and tend to enjoy training, tricks, agility, therapy work, or any other thing you can keep them occupied with. They are hard to wear out - our bully-mix takes longer to tire than either the boxer or the psychotic dober-beagle, and his first 9 months were characterized by lists of things he chewed up. We got the boxer to wear him out, because we couldn't do it. If you have the time and energy, go for it.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:23 PM on June 25, 2008


There is really a greater chance of it becoming dangerous than there is with other breeds

not true...the dog in question was NOT raised to be aggressive or fight other dogs.


Even the pit bull rescue people will tell you that pit bull-type dogs (which includes several variations that all have in common the fact they they have been bred for pit fighting) have been bred over the years to have aggressive, fighting traits. Even pits that weren't raised to be aggressive have these traits and have the potential to exhibit them, for example when provoked--and yes, more potential than breeds that weren't bred this way.

In addition to the landlord issues people have mentioned, also be prepared for people on the street and in the dog park to avoid you.

That said, I know a several very sweet pit bulls whose people have never had any problems. In fact, two of the pits I know will consistently try to break up the play-fights that my two dogs get into.
posted by Pax at 5:38 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


zennie said something very wise. Take those three questions to heart.
posted by reflecked at 6:41 PM on June 25, 2008


Regardless of what anyone says, there are no stats. Labs are the most popular dogs in America. They are also the most commonly euthenized, most common to be out of control, and most likely to rip apart your living room.

Pits are, as someone said, usually bred by inept casual breeders who care little for the breed standard and care more for the ....whatever that word is, that you get when you stroll down the street with a boxer. That does mean that they're often prone to expensive fixes...hips, eyes, organs, but any smoosh-faced or similarly-smoosh-faced dog often has mouth/eye/nose issues.

The Standard Poodle actually has a significantly higher PSI crush force in its jaws that a pit bull, it also has significantly longer jaws. Rotties will often bite harder than Pits, and Malinois' and Shepherds have mouths more designed for ripping and tearing than do Pits. The misconception that they bite X hard is misleading. They have underbites, which allow them to bite and hold on more, especially through the hackles and necks of other dogs, but it's not ZAMG CRAZY HARDEST EVAR BITING DAWG.

Like any dog, they need exercise, love, and you-time. You'll learn the dog and his habits, you'll make some and you'll break some. There's no reason that you shouldn't be able to bring in other dogs/children/cats into your home, and for the 34,000th time this year I will say on metafilter "A dog's breed is no excuse for lack of effort by the owner regarding his/her behavior."

That said, some cities are enacting idiotic "dangerous dog" laws that include requirements for insurance policies on certain breeds of dog. Make sure your town isn't one of those towns if you're not ready to throw down some cash.

If you'd said "my friend found a half-starved pit bull with a spike collar and a huge bite mark out of his flank, should I adopt him?" I would have had a different answer.
posted by TomMelee at 7:03 PM on June 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


There are a lot of pit bulls in my urban neighbourhood, and I adore them. Loving, sweet mushes. But, they do take consistent handling and a lot of time and energy.

I'd recommend contacting your local pit bull breed rescue group, and asking them to recommend a good dog trainer. The pit might not need it, but you do. Good dog trainers train the human.

My first dog is a chow cross. Folks will tell you that chows and part chows are dangerous, first time dog owners should never have them, you can't trust them, they'll attack without warning and all that. Conan is 15, loves kids, dogs and cats and, while he has limited my life in many ways, I have no regrets at all.
posted by QIbHom at 7:41 PM on June 25, 2008


Things to think about:

a) do you have kids or plan on having kids? Kids are NOT able to instinctively behave soothingly around animals, and a warning nip from a pit bull - with their extra-strong jaws - can be lethal to a toddler. Especially since they are face-to-face. One of my friends' daughters literally had her cheek pulled from her face by a non-agressive bite from a dog that was just standing around wagging his tail, and didn't understand that he'd done anything wrong. Sad.

b) do you rent? Many places will not allow you to have pitbulls, so that might complicate your living arrangements.
posted by GardenGal at 9:06 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Even the pit bull rescue people will tell you that...

They will? Weird. I've worked with multiple pit rescue groups and have never heard them say that a pit bull raised lovingly is more apt to be aggressive than any other breed. My 10 year old pit bull has never been struck in his life (I adopted him at 12 weeks) and would never think of harming a human. In fact, he's only ever barked at one person in his life--a guy who was coming at me with a hammer raised to smash my head in.

My dog HATES raccoons and skunks and will try to chase them but outside of that, he has no more aggression than any other well raised dog. He has MUCH less aggression than the 3 non-pit bull dogs who've attacked him in his life, too. (He didn't fight back, though twice they drew blood.)

Pit Bulls are great dogs and used to be bred primarily for fighting--but as anyone whose cared enough to check has found out, fighting pit bulls that showed any aggression to humans were immediately put down (usually with a shot gun)--this has caused much of the human-aggression to be bred OUT of the dog. In fact, Pit Bulls are among the highest rated dogs for temperament (see American Pit Bull Terrier).

One of the best articles I ever read about APBT is this one by Malcolm Gladwell. Here's a choice quote which pretty much contradicts what you've stated:

"A mean pit bull is a dog that has been turned mean, by selective breeding, by being cross-bred with a bigger, human-aggressive breed like German shepherds or Rottweilers, or by being conditioned in such a way that it begins to express hostility to human beings. A pit bull is dangerous to people, then, not to the extent that it expresses its essential pit bullness but to the extent that it deviates from it. "

statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm. (emphasis mine)

I'd love a cite for this. In over a decade of ownership I've never heard this. From the same article:

"Between the late nineteen-seventies and the late nineteen-nineties, more than twenty-five breeds were involved in fatal attacks in the United States. Pit-bull breeds led the pack, but the variability from year to year is considerable. For instance, in the period from 1981 to 1982 fatalities were caused by five pit bulls, three mixed breeds, two St. Bernards, two German-shepherd mixes, a pure-bred German shepherd, a husky type, a Doberman, a Chow Chow, a Great Dane, a wolf-dog hybrid, a husky mix, and a pit-bull mix—but no Rottweilers. In 1995 and 1996, the list included ten Rottweilers, four pit bulls, two German shepherds, two huskies, two Chow Chows, two wolf-dog hybrids, two shepherd mixes, a Rottweiler mix, a mixed breed, a Chow Chow mix, and a Great Dane. The kinds of dogs that kill people change over time, because the popularity of certain breeds changes over time. "

Over half is a gross exaggeration.
posted by dobbs at 9:08 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


do you have kids or plan on having kids? Kids are NOT able to instinctively behave soothingly around animals, and a warning nip from a pit bull - with their extra-strong jaws - can be lethal to a toddler. Especially since they are face-to-face. One of my friends' daughters literally had her cheek pulled from her face by a non-agressive bite from a dog that was just standing around wagging his tail, and didn't understand that he'd done anything wrong. Sad.

I think anyone who leaves a toddler unattended with a dog is an idiot but that of course is just my opinion. That said, Pit Bulls are great with kids. One of the reasons is that they have a high tolerance for pain and the tail grabbing and slapping and such that a kid is gonna dish out will not quickly anger the dog. Same can't be said for a Collie. Again, check the ATTS stats for tolerance on various breeds.
posted by dobbs at 9:12 PM on June 25, 2008


I think anyone who leaves a toddler unattended with a dog is an idiot but that of course is just my opinion.

I think anyone would share that opinion.

But she was not unattended, she was standing right next to her mother, AND it was a dog they were familiar and friendly with, AND the girl hadn't done any slapping or grabbing. It was just a quick nip of the type given between friendly dogs, but unfortunately a) human skin is not as tough as dog skin, and b) it happened so fast - as such things do - that no one even realized what had happened until one side of her face slid off and she started screaming.

My point being that small kids and strong dogs (of any breed) are an unpredictable mix that the OP should think carefully about, if kids are in his/her close future.
posted by GardenGal at 9:22 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


My sweet little Jack Russell got nippy with a toddler a few weeks ago - I was there, the toddler's well known to him, and it was unfortunate (but fortunately not devastatingly so). There's no way to predict this from breed alone.

Most of the pit bulls I've met over the years have been lovely. The only dog who has ever drawn blood from my dog has been a terrier mix. The only dog I've ever seen draw blood from a person is a German Shepherd. Anecdotes are just anecdotes and statistics are just statistics. You need to make your decision about this specific dog based on your own sense of what will work for you. You can also have the dog evaluated by a trainer if that would give you more confidence. There are standard temperament tests that are performed at shelters and such.

BADRAP is a good source of pit bull info. (And dogs, if you're in the bay area!)
posted by judith at 11:41 PM on June 25, 2008


Also, via BADRAP, the Vick dogs blog, with updates on the now-happy lives of dogs rescued from Michael Vick. Heartmeltingly sweet.
posted by judith at 11:46 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Check the laws in your state to see if you have to carry insurance. Check to see if homeowner's insurance would be affected. If you rent, it's already hard to find a dog-friendly apartment; a pit bull makes it harder. Dogs live 10 - 15 years; this is a big commitment. Don't adopt the dog unless you will attend training.

Pit bulls have been bred to maximize aggressiveness, as well as for fighting strength in generals and strong jaws. All dogs can attack; when pit bulls attack, the consequences are more likely to be serious. They are also very loyal and the ones I know are very sweet and playful. They are quite people-oriented, much more so than my hound.

Pit bulls are very popular with foolish aggressive people who want to look tough. Some pit bulls at shelters have been very poorly raised, and it's sad that the animal suffers from the actions of fools. A well-raised dog whose training is maintained, and whose owner is vigilant is likely to be just fine, but don't take on the dog unless you are prepared to maintain the training and be vigilant.
posted by theora55 at 8:00 AM on June 26, 2008


Thanks everyone for the great advice. I am definitely now much better informed. Probably the most important issue I will have to consider is the time and energy requirements that everyone seems to agree on. I'll take some more time to think it through and maybe even try it out for a week or two before adopting.
posted by roaring beast at 3:04 PM on June 26, 2008


Listen to dobbs.

Also, take judith's advice and read the all the info and articles on Bad Rap's site. I can vouch for them personally -- they won't steer you wrong.

This is a dog you know, treated with gentleness and love. Don't worry about the dog; find out the relevant regulations in the community you're living in, and recognize that if you do adopt him/her, in some cities and counties will be forever off limits, because your dog's ancestry is illegal there.
posted by tangerine at 4:16 PM on June 26, 2008


so here is the ultimate coincidence: while walking my dogs today, a young, cute little pit bull/am staff ran up and started playing with my two. there were some ppl walking behind us so i assumed she belonged to them and we'd walked a bit of a distance before i realized there were no longer ppl behind us and she obviously was not theirs. and when i brought her back to the block where she'd joined us and knocked on several doors, only one person claimed to have seen her being walked before but otherwise, no one knew where she came from.

she had no collar. but she's here now, in my house—with the other two dogs—chewing a bone. she's as sweet and playful and gentle as can be.
posted by violetk at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2008


My pit came bouncing up to my workplace one hot Texas summer an obvious stray and a sweetheart from the get-go. We've had him for 10 years now and have never even considered the "OMG he's pit' question. He's just too damn adorable.

He can be needy affection-wise: jealous of other dogs that get our attention (sadness not aggresion), severe separation anxiety/depression if my parents go on vacation or something, HATES going on car rides and is complete homebody (walks, or trips to the local cafe always include a "I'm-miserable-but-I'm-doing-this-for-you" kind of glumness). I imagine all these temperaments stem more from being abandoned than from being a Pit Bull. That being said, he loves playing with other dogs outside the home and it really was sad when we had to stop taking him to the dog park because of the negative response we got from other owners. This was not due to any behaviors he displayed, but just from the fact that he was a pit bull and so was "obviously" a danger.

Whatever dog you get, please train it well. Dogs are pack animals and need to have a clearly defined pack role to be happy. If you're dog is not trained thoroughly it is going to make you (and it) miserable no matter what breed it is. I cannot overstress this enough. I volunteer in animal shelters and most of the dogs that come in are given up for "behavior problems" or because the owners "couldn't handle the responsibility." More often than not, they are smart, loving dogs that do just fine with some basic training and it was just the owners who weren't willing to put in the time/effort.

Good, non-dangerous dogs are not x or y breed, they are dogs that have a loving home and responsible owners.....except for chihuahuas, I have never met a chihuahua that was not absurdly aggressive and mean.
posted by doppleradar at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2008


statistically, pit bulls are the breed involved in over half of attacks that do bodily harm. (emphasis mine)

I'd love a cite for this. In over a decade of ownership I've never heard this.


Apologies for the late reply -- my source was Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada September 1982 to November 13, 2006 by Merritt Clifton (PDF link).

As for the person pointing out my potentially faulty logic (namely the question-begging inherent in assuming that all pit bulls have certain characteristics (the characteristics I am asserting that they have) while it is commonly claimed that pit bulls raised in certain types of environments do not have said characteristics) -- nobody cares. There's no test you can apply to an arbitrary pit bull to determine whether it was raising in a sufficiently loving environment and there's no test you make of a dog-raising environment to determine if it's sufficiently loving to prevent your pit bull from killing someone.
posted by j.edwards at 4:58 PM on July 8, 2008


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