Wednesday, December 19, 2007

McDonald K-9 Academy - very impressive

In case you live in the Birmingham, Alabama Metro Area, and want/need training to work with your dog, do yourself a favor and check out the McDonald K-9 Academy.

I know you will be impressed, just like we are.

The breeds most likely to kill

In recent years, the dogs responsible for the bulk of the homicides are pit bulls and Rottweilers:
"Studies indicate that pit bull-type dogs were involved in approximately a third of human DBRF (i.e., dog bite related fatalities) reported during the 12-year period from 1981 through1992, and Rottweilers were responsible for about half of human DBRF reported during the 4 years from 1993 through 1996....[T]he data indicate that Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs accounted for 67% of human DBRF in the United States between 1997 and 1998. It is extremely unlikely that they accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities." (Sacks JJ, Sinclair L, Gilchrist J, Golab GC, Lockwood R. Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998. JAVMA 2000;217:836-840.)

The Clifton study of attacks from 1982 through 2006 produced similar results. According to Clifton study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes were responsible for 65% of the canine homicides that occurred during a period of 24 years in the USA. (Clifton, Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to November 13, 2006).

Other breeds were also responsible for homicides, but to a much lesser extent. A 1997 study of dog bite fatalities in the years 1979 through 1996 revealed that the following breeds had killed one or more persons: pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, chows, Great Danes, St. Bernards and Akitas. (Dog Bite Related Fatalities," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 30, 1997, Vol. 46, No. 21, pp. 463 et. seq.) Since 1975, fatal attacks have been attributed to dogs from at least 30 breeds.

The most horrifying example of the lack of breed predictability is the October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, which was killed by her family's Pomeranian dog. The average weight of a Pomeranian is about 4 pounds, and they are not thought of as a dangerous breed. Note, however, that they were bred to be watchdogs! The baby's uncle left the infant and the dog on a bed while the uncle prepared her bottle in the kitchen. Upon his return, the dog was mauling the baby, who died shortly afterwards. ("Baby Girl Killed by Family Dog," Los Angeles Times, Monday, October 9, 2000, Home Edition, Metro Section, Page B-5.)

In Canine homicides and the dog bite epidemic: do not confuse them, it has been pointed out that the dog bite epidemic as a whole involves all dogs and all dog owners, not just the breeds most likely to kill.

In all fairness, therefore, it must be noted that:

Any dog, treated harshly or trained to attack, may bite a person. Any dog can be turned into a dangerous dog. The owner or handler most often is responsible for making a dog into something dangerous.

An irresponsible owner or dog handler might create a situation that places another person in danger by a dog, without the dog itself being dangerous, as in the case of the Pomeranian that killed the infant (see above).

Any individual dog may be a good, loving pet, even though its breed is considered to be potentially dangerous. A responsible owner can win the love and respect of a dog, no matter its breed. One cannot look at an individual dog, recognize its breed, and then state whether or not it is going to attack.

Factors that determine whether a dog will bite

It unfortunately is common for dogs to direct their aggression against people, by biting them. Two percent of the population of the USA is bitten by dogs every year.

There is much in the scientific literature of animal behavior that sheds light on the causes of dog attacks. As you review the literature, it is interesting to note that a dog owner is directly responsible for the presence or absence of most factors that determine whether a dog will bite.

A report by the American Veterinary Medical Association, Task Force on Canine Aggression and Human-Canine Interactions, entitled “A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention” (, refers to five factors commonly associated with dog bites:

1. Breed and "parents" of the attacking dog: this refers to aggression as a type of behavior that has been bred into certain breeds of dogs, and characteristics of the "sire" and "bitch" that produce an individual dog.

2 Socialization of the dog: how the dog has been desensitized to stimuli, especially stimuli produced by children. Poor socialization results in less inhibition to bite and engage in other undesirable behavior.

3. Training of the dog: the nature, degree and quality of training. A dog that has been trained to threaten people is an obvious danger, but so is a dog that has been poorly trained or not trained at all.

4. Health of the dog: whether the dog was sick or injured. When a dog is sick or injured, or in pain, biting can result for a number of reasons.

5. Behavior of the victim: this includes any behavior (i.e., a baby rolling over on a bed), not just provocation (i.e., hitting the dog).

At one time, the American Pit Bull Terrier was a true American “nanny dog” protecting children and loved by families. In the beginning of the 20th Century it was the number one family dog:

So what happened?

Now let’s look at the issues behind the statistics….

I. The Difficulty In Accurately Identifying 'Pit Bulls'

First of all, The term 'pit bull', in its somewhat broad meaning, generally includes breeds such as: American Pit Bull Terrier (UKC), American Staffordshire Terrier (CKC & AKC), Staffordshire Bull Terrier (CKC & AKC), and sometimes the Bull Terrier.

To accurately identify a dog of just about any breed, the viewer must be truly experienced with a wide array of dog breeds. Even some "experts" might have difficulty differentiating between a female AmStaff and a female Cane Corso, for example.

Unfortunately, many other breeds or crosses are confused with 'pit bulls'. Similar-looking, but much larger breeds such as: Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Dog Argentino, & Tosa Inu are more frequently misidentified as 'pit bulls' than not.

And even breeds that look nothing like 'pit bulls' have been reported as such. Some of those misidentified as 'pit bulls' are: Jack Russell Terrier, Labrador Retriever, Great Dane, and even an Airedale cross.

If anyone thinks I am kidding, here is a site that has the pictures of 25 dogs:

Go ahead, click on the pictures of the dogs you think are pit bulls. (Hint: Only ONE of them is!).

When government agencies or the media report a “pit bull” attack (fatal or otherwise) it is seldom that the actual breed is verified by a qualified professional. Even, when a knowledgeable person does point out that the attacking dog was some other breed, we NEVER hear a correction or a retraction from the reporting source. NEVER. Does that surprise you?

Still not convinced? Look here:

Honestly, now, could YOU tell the difference between what you thought a pit bull was and a Alapaha BlueBlood Bulldog? Now think about the average person (or policeman) reporting a dog attack… if you are reading this you are at least somewhat interested in dogs…. Most people can’t tell the difference between a Molosser and a Chihuahua.

BTW, there are over 100 breeds of Molossers:

You want a list of dog fighting breeds?… also dozens:

"In reviewing and studying over 448 cases of fatal dog attacks in the United States, it is apparent that the three most critical factors that contribute to a fatal dog attack are: function of the dog, owner responsibility and reproductive status of the dog. There is no documented case where a single, neutered, household pit bull was the cause of a human fatality.” Karen Delise, in “Fatal Dog Attacks.”

Biting and attacking are behaviors, NOT a matter of temperament.

II. Temperament Test Results

What is temperament?

W. Handel, German Police Dog Trainer, in his article, "The Psychological Basis of Temperament Testing," defines temperament as:

"the sum total of all inborn and acquired physical and mental traits and talents which determines, forms and regulates behavior in the environment"

The American Temperament Test Society, Inc. (ATTS) test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog's instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. The test is designed for the betterment of all breeds of dogs and takes into consideration each breed's inherent tendencies.

The test simulates a casual walk through the park or neighborhood where everyday life situations are encountered. During this walk, the dog experiences visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. Neutral, friendly and threatening situations are encountered, calling into play the dog's ability to distinguish between non-threatening situations and those calling for watchful and protective reactions.

The ATTS Temperament Test consists of ten subtests divided into five subcategories:

1. Behavior Toward Strangers
2. Reaction to Auditory Stimuli
3. Reaction to Visual Stimulus
4. Tactile Stimuli
5. Self-Protective/Aggressive Behavior

The American Temperament Test Society conducts tests every year on thousands of dogs to determine the soundness of their temperament. The American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier routinely and consistently rank in the average range, and well above many "popular" breeds such as the beagle, collie, Doberman pinscher, cocker spaniel, dachshund, and Great Dane. (Source: American Temperament Test Society)

Alfons Estelt of the American Temperament Test Society, Inc., stated the following with respect to pit bulls: "The American Pit Bull Terriers participating in our temperament evaluation have thus far shown a passing rate of 95%. The other 121 breeds of dogs in our tests showed the average passing rate of 77%."

III. Morons 1 – Politicans (wouldn’t you know)

According to the National Canine Research Council, Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, (R-Moore), pushing for (Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) for the entire state of Oklahoma was reported ("Dog Gone Goal of Lawmaker," Enid News, July 28, 2005), to have stated:

"Each year we lose 10 children and two elderly people because of pit bull attacks nationally"

Wow! you say. That’s really bad. Except for a tiny flaw… the man is lying. Here are the statistics:

· In 1998 there was 1 child & 0 elderly persons killed by Pit Bulls & pit bull-type dogs.
· In 1999 there were 3 children & 0 elderly persons killed by Pit Bulls & pit-bull-type dogs.
· In 2000 there were 4 children & 2 elderly persons killed by Pit Bulls & pit bull- type dogs.
· In 2001 there were 4 children & 0 elderly persons killed by Pit Bulls & pit bull-type dogs.
· In 2002 there were 3 children and 0 elderly persons killed by Pit Bulls & pit bull-type dogs.

Although 3 children were killed by Pit bulls in 1999, an additional 19 children were killed that same year by other (non-Pit Bull) breeds of dogs. So while Pit Bulls and aggression grab the headlines, these other 19 young victims go virtually unnoticed in a climate of breed hysteria - and any lessons we may have learned about the cause of their tragedies are overshadowed by the Great Pit Bull Debate.

Kory Nelson, Assistant City Attorney for the Denver City Attorney's Office is quoted with making the following remark in "City Plans to Fight for Pit Bull Ban", Fox31 KDVR-Denver: "The fact we haven't had fatal attacks in years indicates it (the ban) may be working." The last “pit bull” attack in Denver occurred in 1986. The BSL banning “the breed” in Denver was instituted in 1989.

Makes sense, right? Wrong. Portland, Oregon, a city with the same population as Denver, also reported a fatal Pit Bull attack in 1986. Portland, Oregon did not institute a ban on Pit Bulls after this incident, yet they have not had another incidence of a fatal Pit bull attack since 1986.

Cause and effect? I think not!

In 2004, thirty-five (35) children died as a result of maltreatment (abuse or neglect) in Colorado. In a single year, 2004, more than FOUR times as many children died from maltreatment (abuse/neglect) than the total of ALL dog attacks in Colorado over the past 42 years. Oh, yeah… in 2004, 8 people drowned in their pool and 249 were killed in alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. Not a single dog-related fatality.

Heard about Ontario’s Michael Bryant? No? Well, he was elected as the Ontario Attorney General and Minister with responsibility for Native Affairs and Democratic Renewal. You know what he is known for best? You guessed… lying. See for yourself:

Like I said… morons! This time with a political agenda.

IIIa. IDIOTS 2 – The Media

The National Canine Research Council reveals biased reporting by the media, its devastating consequences for dogs and the toll it takes on public safety. Consider how the media reported four incidents that happened between August 18th and August 21st:

* August 18, 2007 - A Labrador mix attacked a 70-year-old man sending him to the hospital in critical condition. Police officers arrived at the scene and the dog was shot after charging the officers. This incident was reported in one article and only in the local paper.

* August 19, 2007 - A 16-month old child received fatal head and neck injuries after being attacked by a mixed breed dog. This attack was reported two times by the local paper only.

* August 20, 2007 - A 6-year-old boy was hospitalized after having his ear torn off and receiving severe bites to the head by a medium-sized mixed breed dog. This attack was reported in one article and only in the local paper.

* August 21, 2007 - A 59-year-old woman was attacked in her home by two Pit bulls and was hospitalized with severe injuries. This attack was reported in over two hundred and thirty articles in national and international newspapers, as well as major television news networks, including CNN, MSNBC and FOX.

"Clearly a fatal dog attack by an unremarkable breed is not as newsworthy as a non-fatal attack by a Pit bull" says Karen Delise, researcher for the National Canine Research Council.

So is media coverage “proof” that pit bulls are more dangerous than other dogs? Costly and ineffective public policy decisions are being made on the basis of such "proof". The result? Biased reporting is not only lethal to an entire population of dogs, but sensationalized media coverage endangers the public by misleading them about the real factors in canine aggression. I guess you can’t make money by reporting that a Pomeranian killed a child. Which did happen.

I don’t condone aggression. You want to see some truly vicious bullies? Here, take a gander:

Some excellent sites about pit bulls or, more, precisely, the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT):

Let's start this soapbox

First let me mention that I am qualified (licensed) behavioral psychologist. I have trained many animals, anywhere from lizards up to Rhesus monkeys and children with behavioral problems. Never did dogs, although I had a good notion of the principles involved. Did my homework as far as dog ownership is concerned and have decided that I wanted a pit bull puppy. My main reason, after wanting a dog of my own for three decades, was to have a dog that needed a lot of work, one that had plenty of energy, intelligence, and character and one that was known for its loyalty to the human family. The fact that the whole breed is under attack because of morons like Vick and the sensation-seeking media was a plus, inasmuch as I wanted the challenge to show that a dog is just a dog, no matter what the breed and its behavior ALWAYS represents the effort and care the owner has put into owning a dog.

I studied everything I could lay my hands on pit bulls and dog raising: videos, TV shows (love the “Dog Whisperer”) books, discussion groups and forums, Web sites, and talked to as many owners and veterinarians as I could. Then, I read about training methods and philosophies. Several of my friends had variable experiences with several dog trainers and facilities and we discussed the pros and cons of each. I also talked to foster “parents” for the local pit bull rescue group and found out what my options were for training and working with a pit bull. I decided that the McDonald K-9 Academy in Birmingham, Alabama was what I wanted.

After only five training sessions, I will bet anyone that our not-quite-5 months old puppy is better behaved than 99% of the dogs I have ever met. He is also one of the most affectionate animals you will ever meet. Loves people, children, babies and gets along with cats. Sandor (Shahndor) will go around the house when he is let out of the crate first thing in the morning and “kiss” everybody “good morning” before he goes outside and before he eats, although he really wants to do both, badly.

All this due to Aaron McDonald who, patiently and kindly, has trained us (my wife and I) how to work with Sandor. Aaron is a genuine lover of dogs; however do not mistake that for a weakness, because the first sign of love he teaches you is that controlling your dog is an absolute must. A dog under control is easy to like. Many people love their dogs, but many don’t like them because the dog does whatever it wants. Just like a child, a dog that does not know the rules is uncomfortable. That discomfort will be expressed in a myriad of possible ways, like chewing, biting, dominant/aggressive behavior (jumping on you; sitting in hour lap when you have not given permission) and jumping on people or being afraid of people who visit you, barking, whining, doing its “business” all over the place, pulling on the leash, and just generally being a pain to own. All I have to do is look around the neighborhood (we have no leash laws) for examples of what I am talking about.