Friday, October 28, 2011

Are the "Nanny Dogs" a Myth?

My esteemed critic DubV asks: "do you still think pit bull's were ever the or a nanny dog?"

Here is my reply:

  1. ANY point of view is supportable by simply cherry-picking supportive “evidence.” Notoriously, in research, it is not unusual for one to cite a hundred articles that support the findings of the research and ignore most, if not all, the ones that would contradict it. Similarly, when deposed or asked to act as an expert witness in forensic work, we have been taught not to cite references supporting our point of view, because the opposition has just as many “expert witnesses” who will bring to bear references that state the contrary view. Any good expert witness, and I think I am one, states his or her OPINION and supports it with HIS or HER findings.
  2. History is “truth” as seen from the perspective of the writer of history. I believe that our knowledge of history of the past is nothing but a recitation of “facts” as ordered by the winner of war(s) or whoever is in power.
  3. Beliefs are acquired through: a) learning (experience); b) what an authority tells us; c) consensus. All three can be faulty. I know you can think of examples of each.

A Google search of the phrase “nanny dog historical fact” yields 1.5 million hits, much of it “”noise.” However, the vast majority of hits on the top few pages will be supportive of the idea, while the minority who calls us “nutters,”  holds the opinion that this is a myth.

CKing and Craven Desires, who dedicated their My Space page to “debunking” the “myth of the nanny dog” are “friends” with a dozen kennels that breed “pit bulls” (note the quotation marks), bring NO evidence that the American Pit Bull Terrier was NOT a family dog at the turn of the century and into the 40s and 50s, and by failing to find evidence of “historical fact” conclude that the whole things is a myth. It’s the classical “Bertrand’s (Russells’) Teapot,” or argumentum ad ignorantiam – indeed, the absence of proof is not proof of absence. The rant starts with a false premise, quite thoroughly contradicted by both the CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association (the number of children killed by “pit bulls). Further impugning the person’s credibility, at the very top of his/her page, this person starts with an image that paraphrases Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister in Nazi Germany. What a perfect example of Godwin’s Law.

That My Space post has been cut and pasted verbatim by several other bloggers. 


Personally, I prefer to give credence to the American Pit Bull Foundation:

“The American Pit Bull Terrier was not bred for human aggression or for use as a guard dog. Rather, bred for their unmatchable will, high tolerance for pain, and their athletic abilities. They are good caretakers who are intelligent, loving, and alert. Combine all of these factors together, and you have the recipe for a companion animal that does well with children when properly trained. Pit Bulls make great search and rescue dogs and many serve as therapy assistance animals. The Nanny Dog story dates back to the 19th century where the Pit Bull was a popular choice as a companion animal for children based on their docile temperament. Certain sites will have you believe that the Nanny Dog story is a myth, such as the Truth about Pit Bulls blog, yet if you read such sites, you will see that these individuals are making assumptions based on comparisons of dog aggression and human aggression as if the two are related to one another. For example, one of the implied ides on the site mentioned is the thought that the Pit Bull could be the perfect family companion by day and be the throat ripping monster fighter in a ring by night. What these authors do not grasp is the fact that a scenario of this sort is not only completely plausible, but did, and does exist. Because of how Pit Bull fighting and over-breeding has evolved, coupled with the fact that people can’t understand that dog aggression and human aggression are not the least bit related, most do not comprehend that the family Pit Bull often shared a bed with the kids, ate dinner with the family, saw a veterinarian on a regular basis, and when it was time, was thrown into a ring by his master. When a fight was over, rarely was a death of a dog the end result.

The other side of the Nanny Dog involves those who were companions in the wars. Many Pit Bulls/Staffordshire Terriers would accompany their masters to their posts. There are several war stories and memorandums in dedication to the breed for their courageous efforts and their therapeutic loyalty to injured soldiers.

There are still stories today involving heroic efforts for the family children that the media passes right over. Two recent cases involve a Pit Bull pulling a baby’s basinet through a home away from a fire, and another involves a Pit Bull alerting his owner to a strangling child. Both children were safe in the outcomes. Though bad people do bad things with dogs and tragedies result from their negligence, this breed by nature is not the culprit, they are often the reason that children are removed from harm.

Myths or beliefs, past or present, the nature of this breed emulates a loyal companion and sheppard for children when brought up in the right hands. We share our home with two Nanny Dogs.”

Considering all of the above, I BELIEVE that the “nanny dog” moniker is well-deserved with the appropriate cautions: 1) no dog of any kind should ever be left unsupervised with a young child; 2) a dog should be treated with the respect that a family companion deserves; 3) a dog should be trained every day of his/her life; 4) a Pit Bull of any kind is not for everyone.

Just an aside... the original "nanny dog" name was attached to an English breed of dogs, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. 


Ravi G. said...

Pitbulls were never nanny dogs

and mostly it's the favorite of criminals.
Although they don't make even 1% of dog population they are responsible for 50% or more fatal attacks.
Stats don't lie

Andrew said...

Thank you for calling me a criminal. Coming from you, it's a compliment.

Of course statistics can lie...

IF you are interested in the truth, instead of myths and IF you are not a mindless zombie following the craven dicta of a couple of hysterical women who give female dogs a bad name... IF...then do yourself a favor and do some reading... Merritt Clifton is a greedy unqualified (meaning ZERO credentials) ape who wrote that garbage in order to get a couple of bucks in his bank account. His "Report" has been debunked so many times that the only people who still cite it are the ones who are too lazy to do any REAL research.

Eilidh Somerville said...

I have just read one of your 'debunking' links about Clifton. I couldn't believe what I read. It said that statistics are made up of media reports and that journalists, animal control officers, etc are more or less incapable of identifying breeds. Well what about the people who had the attacking dogs? Surely they would know what breeds the dogs were? Or are you going to argue that the owners themselves don't even know what breeds they have? The link I read also said that the APBT is the most abused dog breed in the world. I beg to differ. Greyhounds are subjected to horrendous abuse (such as being drugged with things like steroids and cocaine), being kept in tiny kennels, suffering all sorts of horrific injuries while racing and being roughly handled by handlers, being ruthlessly disposed of when they are no longer of any use and the methods that many owners/trainers use to 'get rid' of them' are quite often the same methods employed by dog fighters. Yet I have not been able to find a single story about a Greyhound killing a person. Why is that?