Skip to comments.Meet Dallas, the pit bull saved from a Canadian dogfighting ring to get K-9 training
Posted on 08/16/2018 10:09:04 PM PDT by Norski
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I've worked with a lot of hounds, and I sure haven't run across one that pound-for-pound could take a pit bull. They are quick, and their jaws are just too strong. The one I have only weighs 60 lbs, and he could easily crush the bones in your hand if he ever seriously bit you. All those "indestructible" dog toys I buy don't last a day in his yard. His favorite are those "monster" dog tires that look like 8" lawnmower tires. He can have those in pieces in no time.
I'll make sure he has a happy life, but when he's gone, I won't have another one. Pits are high-maintenance, and you always have to be careful not to p!ss them off. I've had 100 lb Doberman's that weren't as dangerous as this dog.
The hound described was a “Catahoula Leopard Dog” (sp),plus one other breed - I do not recall at this time. This was hearsay by a poster. It was on the FR boards, months ago.
I understand that these were originally bred to capture runaway slaves in the 1800s, possibly earlier in Cuba and Haiti, but this is mostly hearsay, too. Someone also said that they were used as cattle dogs in the southeast, but I have not looked seriously for corroboration on this.
The “re-creation” of historic Molosser breeds (Dogo Argentino, Cane Corso, Presario, etc., is of serious concern. They are quite rare, but their maulings and deaths are becoming known. Two Dogo attacks occurred this summer upon the young wives of the breeders, and one was mauled to death. The other lives, but will be a long time healing, with many surgeries.
For you, and for your family and the dog, I hope you have break sticks and training, and a secure enclosure. 60 lbs is actually medium sized for a pit bull historically, but the breeders are breeding them larger. (cf “Hulk”, youtube)
Fire extinguishers will work to drive off or let go of the victim about 70% of the time. (Firearms about 80%) Aim for nostrils and breathing passages to encourage the dog to open its mouth to breathe.
Pepper spray and tear gas are of mixed use, and it seems to depend upon the dog. Some these items do not affect at all.
If you would like to document what you describe, in order to help potential dog owners to make a sensible decision, perhaps you could wear a bodycam, eyeglass cam, or other such device, and show on video a documentary-type item of you and your family interacting with your pit bull, especially when you can catch him flipping “on and off”.
In addition, the behavior noted is described and dissected in at least one book by Alexandria Semyonova :
The science of how behavior is inherited in aggressive dogs
November 10, 2015 by Merritt Clifton
Some people have their heads in the sand about the origins of dog behavior, but this Lab, the Mayor of Maxwelton, digs the jive. (Beth Clifton photo)
by Alexandra Semyonova
Probably most people recognize that every dog breed results from human manipulation of inherited physical traits.
Until recently, most people probably also recognized that much dog behavior is also a result of manipulating inheritance: if you want to do sheep trials, you get a border collie. If you get a beagle, he will likely become instantly deaf to your calls if he picks up a scent to track.
But after discussion started about perhaps banning breeds who often attack and kill, defenders of these breeds began to dispute the heritability of any kind of dog behavior.
Only when behavioral inheritance is understood, beginning with basic biological concepts, can we have a clear and honest discussion about aggression in domestic dogs. First we must understand the relationship between physical conformation and behavioral conformation, which may be seen as opposite sides of the same coin.
Physical conformation describes how a dog has been bred to become physically shaped specifically for the task we want him to perform. The purpose-bred dogs bodybrain, skeleton, muscles, and metabolismwill be different from those of other dogs. The dog will feel physically comfortable doing the job, whatever it is.
The border collie is physically designed for the stalking stance and for switching easily and often from standing to lying down to standing again. A greyhound enjoys sprinting, with a deep chest that easily provides enough oxygen to the dogs muscles to fuel a burst of high speed. The same deep chest means the greyhound cannot run marathons because the deep chest prevents a greyhound from losing heat efficiently.
The greyhounds brain has been shaped by selective breeding to steer the legs in a gait that provides maximum speed in a sprint. The unique composition of a huskys skeleton, muscles and brain enables a husky to pull a sled with a different gait, and to sustain a brisk pace for long distances.
The greyhound runs by leaping, the husky by pushing, always with one foot on the ground. Each dog is genetically wired to use the specific body the dog has.
Selecting for performance
Dog breeders have for centuries selected for particular traits by simply watching how a dog performs. They have bred dogs for specific tasks by removing the dogs who perform less well from their breeding stock. Sometimes they will cross in a dog breed they think will add traits to perform the task better. Breeders select for performance without always knowing exactly which traits they are breeding for. For example, until recently no one realized the husky was being bred for a particular heat economy; they just chose the dogs who kept running the longest. Eventually, successful breeders produce dogs who are physically shaped to do the dogs task better than any other dog, no matter how well the other dog is trained.
Physical conformation leads to behavioral conformation. First of all, each dogs brain is genetically predisposed to grow to efficiently direct the body it is born in. Then the dogs brain adapts itself further to the body it is in as it grows in the developing puppy. There is no gene for running or stalking, but there are genes that give a dog four legs and make those legs longer, shorter, more or less flexible, and so forth. It is because of the action of the genes that confer differently shaped bodies and brains that the pointer enjoys pointing, the border collie stalks and stares, the Newfoundland floats in cold water, and so on.
Selecting for aggression
Just as we cannot make a dog into something the dog has no genetic capacity to be, we cannot prevent a dog from being what the dog is genetically predisposed to be. Because inherited postures and behaviors are suitable for the body and brain the dog was born with, they are internally motivated and internally rewarded: they feel good. This means that inherited behavioral traits are practically impossible to extinguish by manipulating external environmental stimuli.
In breeding dogs to perform certain tasks or have a certain look, humans often select (sometimes inadvertently) for abnormalities in body and behavior. We do this by looking for mutations and then breeding for them, or by crossing breeds to get combinations of traits. to speed the process up. A clear case of this is the old English bull dog, who can hardly walk, hardly breathe, and cannot be born except by Caesarean section. The bull dog has also been crossed into other breeds by people who wanted to increase aggression in a breed without waiting for mutations to appear.
There is such a thing as normal aggression in dogs, as in all animals. Maternal defensiveness, territorial defense, and predatory behavior and depend on different neuronal and hormonal mechanisms, and are all normal coping responses. These dog behaviors have been accepted by humans in the process of domestication, as long as the behaviors can be foreseen.
But abnormal disinhibited behavior is not functional, and it is unpredictable. Although high arousal and sudden attack can be functional in certain environments, this behavior is pathological in a safer environment, where a high level of arousal and aggressiveness are not necessary and only lead to unnecessary attacks and injuries. Research implicates the frontal cortex, subcortical structures, and lowered activity of the serotonergic system in impulsive aggression in both dogs and humans. Impulsive aggressive behavior in dogs seems to have a different biological basis than appropriate aggressive behavior.
Kathelijne Peremans, DVM discovered this by studying two different populations of impulsively aggressive dogs. Each dog had executed one or more attacks without the classical preceding warnings, and the severity of the attacks was out of all proportion to environmental stimuli. Peremans found a significant difference in the frontal and temporal cortices of these dogs, but not in the subcortical areas, compared to normal dogs. Peremans also found significant dysfunctions of the serotonergic systems among these dogs. Serotonergic dysfunction has been widely shown in many different species to be connected to abnormal, impulsive aggression.
Peremans studied dogs of various breeds, selected purely on the basis of their behavior. Peremans was not interested in implicating any particular breed, but rather in finding the mechanism behind the behavior in any dog it occurred in. She found that all of the dogs with a history of abnormal impulsive aggression shared the same physical abnormalities in the brain. The gender of the dog made no difference. Neither did whether the dog was castrated or spayed.
Peremans left open the possibility that we will later find other physical factors that contribute to abnormal impulsive aggression. For example, the adrenergic system may also play an important role.
Heritability of behavior
Another researcher, Linda Van Den Berg, investigated specifically the heritability of impulsive aggression among golden retriever, a breed rarely involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks. The goal was find out whether impulsive aggressive behavior was inherited in those few golden retrievers who exhibit it, and if so, to isolate the gene responsible for the behavior. Van Den Berg found high heritability of impulsive aggression, but did not succeed in isolating the responsible gene(s).
The heritability of abnormal aggression in certain breeds of dogs can no longer be denied. The bodies of these dogs have been selected to execute a killing bite more efficiently than other breeds. These dogs share physical conformation to the task of killing, including exaggerated jaw muscles, heavy necks and shoulders, and body mass that makes defense against an attack much more difficult. Among people who want dogs who can kill, these are the breeds of choice because they are physically more fit for it than other breeds.
But breeders also selected for behavioral conformation. To perform well, a fighting dog had to attack without provocation or warning, and to continue attacking regardless of the response of the other animal. Bull and bear-baiting dogs had to be willing to attack in the absence of the species-specific signs that normally provoke aggression, responding to the mere presence of another animals, and not stopping in response to external stimuli. The Dogues du Bordeaux used to guard extended farmlands in France, the Boerbulls used similarly in South Africa, and the fugitive slave-chasing dogs of Latin America, such as the Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasiliero, all were selected to specifically for a propensity to kill.
As they selected for performance, breeders could not know exactly which physical changes they were selecting for. But research now shows that selection for aggressive performance includes consistently selecting for very specific abnormalities in the brain. These abnormalities appear in many breeds of dog as an accident or anomaly, which breeders then attempt to breed out of the dogs. In the case of the aggressive breeds, the opposite occurred. Rather than excluding abnormally aggressive dogs from their breeding stock, breeders focused on creating lineages in which all the dogs would carry the genes causing them to reliably exhibit the desired impulsive aggressive behavior.
That aggression is not heritable is not tenable
Now that we know exactly which brain abnormalities the breeders of fighting dogs have been selecting, the assertion that this aggression is not heritable is no longer tenable. It is also not tenable to assert that not all the dogs of these breeds will carry the genes that make them dangerous. These genes may occasionally drop out through random accident, just as golden retriever may acquire the genes to be impulsively aggressive. But the failure to have these genes, in the aggressive breeds, is just thata failure. It is therefore misleading to assert that the aggressive breeds will only have the selected genes as a matter of accident, or that most of them will be fit to interact safely with other animals and humans.
As in the pointer, the husky, the greyhound, and the border collie, the genes of aggressive breeds have been selected so that certain postures and behaviors just simply feel good. These dogs will seek opportunities to execute the behaviors they have been bred for. Because these behaviors are internally motivated and rewarded, they are not subject to extinction. Learning and socialization do not prevent these dogs innate behaviors from appearing.
Environments such as the fighting pit, confrontations with tethered bulls and bears, and the pursuit of escaping slaves, for which these behaviors were selected as an adaptive response, are so extreme that there is no appropriate context for these behaviors in normal life. Functional in the pit or facing the bull or bear, these behaviors must, in all other contexts, be called pathological. Because the behavior selected for was impulsive aggression, by definition this behavior will always emerge suddenly and unpredictably.
Speculating in favor of the aggressive breeds, suppose that human artificial selection will fail as infrequently in the aggressive breeds as it does in the golden retriever. Van Den Berg found impulsive aggression in approximately one out of a hundred golden retrievers. If behavioral selection fails comparably often in fighting breeds, there is only a 1% chance that their keepers will not endanger others in their surroundings.
Can aggression be bred out?
Can impulsive aggressive behavior be bred out of fighting breeds?
The fiction that, for example, the American Staffordshire terrier is a different dog from the pit bull, just because the breeding has (also fictionally, by the way) been going on separately for several decades is just that: a fiction.
The Russian researcher Dmitry Kontanovich Beljaev reported that he had bred fear out of foxes in only eighteen generations, but impulsive aggression is a more complex response and much more dangerous to live with while you try to breed it out. Further, Belyaevs foxes were bred under laboratory conditions, where there was absolute control over not having the wrong genes creep back in again.
[Alexandra Semyonova, a dog behaviorist and former Dutch SPCA inspector, is author of The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs (Hastings Press, 2009.)]
[Alexandra Semyonova, a dog behaviorist and former Dutch SPCA inspector, is author of The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs (Hastings Press, 2009.)]
As Belyaev bred his foxes into the petable creatures he wanted, they began to have an increasingly floppy-eared mutt exterior. Belyaevs discoveries suggest that the interface of physical and behavioral conformation mean it is not possible to breed out the impulsive aggressive behavior of fighting dogs while retaining their shape and appearance.
Form follows function: one cannot have a dog whose entire body and brain are adapted to executing the killing bite, without having a dog who will execute the killing bite.
Voices of pit bull experience
Police dogs should be trained as officers, not equipment
Note: I apologise for posting such a long article, but I believe that you are a person who would understand and appreciate this, and did not want to just post an excerpt. The article and similar others can be found here:
That's a good idea. Video footage of a trip to the vet is all it would take to convince a sensible person not to bring a pit bull into the home. It's like he's possessed by demons. That dog is either full throttle or idle. There is nothing in between. But, every pit bull I've ever encountered is like that. I thought I was enough of a dog trainer that I could change the aggression. But, as you said, it seems to be inherited. The best I could do is train him to control it. But, when he thinks it's time to twist off, it's full steam ahead.
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