Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 28, 2019

We Need to Talk About Dangerous Dogs

Posted at 11:17AM - Comments: (61)

I’m just going to jump in. In the past two weeks, I have had two incredibly scary incidents with out-of-control, quite dangerous large, powerful dogs. I also am aware of several people who are fostering and trying to place some lovely, appropriate, sweet, well-mannered big dogs - some of them quite senior or middle-aged, and some of them refugees from the tragic fire in our area some months ago - with little success. And I am so upset and have no idea of where to go with these feelings.

Editor's Note: 

Some people who have read the following post objected to its original focus on a type of dog. The intent of this post is to ask the question, "What can we do to reduce the hazard of dangerous dogs in our communities?" As stated in the post, we do not support breed-specific legislation, and know only too well that breed identification (even through DNA tests) does absolutely nothing to identify dangerous dogs. So, to be more clear, we have removed any language that refers to breed or even type. The issue remains: What can we do to increase the safety of our dogs, children, elders, and selves from dangerous dogs of ANY breed and type – or even size? 

For example, a friend wrote to me privately and said she wishes that the individuals who run rescue groups had to bear financial or legal responsibility for the dogs they adopt out for at least some period of time. Too many rescue organizations, in her opinion (and mine), go too far to save dogs who have worrisome bite histories; if the principals at these organizations had to bear more of the risk of placing a known biter back into society, perhaps they would be more stringent about the dogs they attempt to rehabilitate and place. It could be similar to drunk-driving laws that place some responsibility on bartenders who overserve customers, who then drive drunk and cause harm to others.

Personally, I am focused on the original oversupply of particularly large and/or particularly strong dogs. Their over-representation in shelters, rescues, and in foster homes who are holding them for shelters and rescues, indicates that there are far too many of them being produced, and not enough appropriate homes for them – with people who have particularly escape-proof homes or properties, the physical strength to control them, and the education/skill/experience to properly socialize, manage, and train them. There is a thriving black market for dogs who are large and/or powerful, with tens of thousands of puppies being produced and sold and dumped at shelters in higher percentages than any other type of dogs (save, perhaps, Chihuahua-mixes). What can make it more difficult for backyard breeders to churn out badly bred, poorly socialized, stressed big/strong dogs, many of whom end up in shelters? These are the questions we’re asking.

There are a few helpful suggestions in the comments below. Helene G. mentioned that New York state has good "dangerous dog" legislation. I'm going to take a look at that, and will run an update. What else can we do to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe from dangerous dogs in the possession of people who are not wiling or able to control them?


Two weeks ago, my husband and I went hiking on Table Mountain, a volcanic plateau that looms on our northern horizon. The open space area is managed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife, although it’s adjacent to privately owned property. Beef cattle roam over the entire plateau, on both public and private lands (cattle ranchers lease grazing rights on the public land from the state). It’s best known as a springtime destination for its vast array of tiny wildflowers and dramatic waterfalls.

I brought just one dog, my three-year-old mixed-breed, Woody. We planned a long hike, and I didn’t want to subject my senior dog to a long day on unknown terrain. The area has few trails – and none, oddly enough, go directly to the biggest, most dramatic waterfall; one has to sort of wander across the plateau in a general direction, until you find the appropriate stream and follow it to the cliff it goes over.

nancy kerns

Terrible attempt at a selfie with waterfall and Woody.

For much of the past few decades, access to the land was informal. Private landowners pretty much looked the other way when hikers came to gaze at the waterfalls in awe, or traipse around the wildflowers. But a couple of years ago, the area was added to a list of state lands that would require a small admission fee. One can either pay for a day pass (less than $5 per person), or purchase a year-round pass that confers access to a number of state parks and trails (less than $26), or, show a hunting or fishing license. Some portable toilets were added to the parking lot, and a sign was erected that posted a few rules.

One of those rules was that dogs should be on leash.

Keep in mind that locals have been taking their dogs to this area for decades and letting them run off leash. And they still are. Even me.

However: I practice off-leash behavior with my dogs literally every day. If they show any sign of being unable to heed my cues to stay near me, or sit instantly when I call for them to do so, they go back on leash immediately. I keep my dogs on leash when I am near any other humans, and especially near any other humans with dogs.

So there we were, my husband, Woody, and I, crossing a wide-open vista, in search of the biggest waterfall. A few cattle grazed nearby. As he always does, Woody kept his eye on them, and kept close to me. He’s not sure about cattle, but he knows not to go near them. As we walked, I noticed one young steer grazing apart from the rest, just to our left, and some mamas and one giant bull to our right. I called to my husband, who was a bit ahead of me, to veer to the left and not get between the youngster and the rest of his herd, lest the bull or the mamas get concerned. (Range cattle, who have to cope with coyotes and mountain lions on a regular basis, may well give chase en mass to an unwary dog.)

Just as we veered left, I noticed another young steer, all by itself, a few hundred yards off to our far left, running fast (well, as fast as a 400-pound steer can run) toward us. I glanced at the mama cows and especially at the bull, to see if they were alarmed or taking defensive action. They were watching but hadn’t moved. I called Woody even closer, to my side, and gave him some treats from my pouch of training treats. And that’s when I noticed that the young steer wasn’t just running for fun, or because he had been left behind; close on his heels was a brownish-gray large dog, chasing him with an intent look. Farther off, there was a group of people, with one man chasing and yelling at the dog, to no avail.

And the dog was rapidly gaining on the steer.

A few days prior, I had watched a video taken by someone in Detroit who was one of several people who spent the better part of five long minutes trying to rescue a postal worker from a large dog who, as the video started, had the mail carrier on the ground and was biting his leg. Don’t watch the video unless you are tough; it’s pretty graphic. The man is injured, though ultimately saved, and the dog is badly injured before finally letting go of the man. I watched it several times, and discussed it with a number of other people who watched it, as an educational opportunity. What’s the best way to stop a strong dog in the middle of an attack? The only thing that stopped this dog for long enough for the postal worker to get away was being choked, almost to death, by a leash or rope wrapped around his neck. (And the minute the leash was dropped, though staggering with oxygen deprivation and badly injured, the over-stimulated dog was still looking for someone, anyone, to go after.)

So that was very much in my head. I could see that, within seconds, the dog was going to catch up to and grab onto the steer’s hind leg, or worse, throat. I saw myself trying to stop the attack and control the dog. Having grown up in cattle country, I also saw the possibility that the range bull (who was about 150 feet to my right) would launch into action and come after the dog. I saw my dog Woody getting hurt by either the out-of-control, over-stimulated dog, or the bull.

So I flew into action. I yelled at my husband, “Keep your eye on the bull!” and started running directly toward the steer and the dog, yelling in my deepest, meanest, most out-of-control, angry voice and waving my arms like a crazy person. “NO! BAD! GET OUT OF HERE! BAD DOG! NO! YOU GET!”

Faced with this, the steer veered off, further to my right. And although at this point, the dog was no more than 20 feet from the steer’s hind feet, he was momentarily distracted by my attack. He glanced toward me, and slowed a bit, a bit less intent. As I continued to yell and advance toward him, now miming that I was picking up rocks and throwing them at him, he slowed further and then came to an uncertain stop about 100 feet to my left. I continued to yell, “YOU GET BACK. BAD DOG! GO!” And then suddenly his thinking brain kicked in again, taking control back from his reptile brain and predatory instincts. He heard his owner (still about 400 feet away) yelling for him, and turned and ran back toward his person. With my heart pounding and hands shaking from the adrenaline coursing through my body, I also yelled furiously toward the man, “LEASH!” (I didn’t trust myself to say more, I was poisoned with anger.) I looked back toward the bull and the rest of the herd and they were still stationary; the steer ran to his mama.

And then I looked at Woody – who was cowering behind my husband, scared to death, shaking so hard he could barely stand. I said, “Oh Woody! It’s okay! Come here!”  – and he wouldn’t come to me!

My heart just broke. I dropped to my knees and, also shaking, patted my lap. “Oh baby puppy, come here! It’s okay! YOU are not in trouble! You are a good, good, dog!” I opened my treat pouch and, tears running down my face, dumped out a huge handful of treats. He came to me then, still shaking with fear. I stroked and petted him as he licked his lips nervously, and we sat there for a few minutes, both of us recovering from the flood of stress chemicals in our bloodstream. I was so upset – at the person who had his dog off-leash and without control, and at myself for scaring the crap out of my own dog. But I also felt I had done the right thing; there is not a doubt in my mind that without my intervention, that dog was going to attack that steer and it was going to be all bad.

For the rest of our hike, I kept reassuring Woody that he was a very, very good dog, and we never came within sight of the other party of people (or their dog) again. By the end of the hike, Woody’s confidence in me seemed restored. I’ve made many deposits in our relationship account, and though that was a major withdrawal of funds, at the end of the day the balance was still positive, thank goodness. Had he been a more fearful dog, or our relationship not so secure, my frightening behavior might have bankrupted us irreversibly.

table mountain

My husband and our pit-mix, Woody.

The second event happened two days ago and is more tragic. I was working at my desk, at my office/house in town, when someone knocked urgently on the front door. I answered the door and saw a teenaged boy who lives across the street and one house over. He said, “There’s a dog that got mauled and the owner needs your help!” I was like, “What? Who?” But I grabbed a leash – again, thinking of that dog in Detroit, who had to be choked almost to death to be stopped – and followed him at a run down the sidewalk. There was a group of people gathered on the sidewalk about six houses down, with one woman kneeling and a dog on the ground. The woman on the ground was my neighbor from directly across the street. She has an ancient, blind, deaf old man of a Beagle, Brando, whom she walks very slowly every day. Brando was lying on the ground in front of her, wearing his vest harness and leash but covered with mud and spit and blood. As I approached, I saw his chest expand and then fall – and he didn’t move again. We all gasped as we realized he had taken his last breath.

I put my arm around my neighbor, who was stunned, crying, in shock, and also covered with mud. “What happened?” I asked her. She said, “There were three dogs… they attacked him.” I said, as much to the other neighbors standing there in shock as to her, “Where are the dogs? How far? Where are they?” Everyone started to answer at once. “Around the corner… they are still loose… we saw them…”

Because I volunteer at my local shelter, I have the number (the same as for our animal control officers) on speed dial. I said, “I’m going to call animal control, and get my car.” I asked another woman standing there to stay with my neighbor. I pulled my mobile phone from my back pocket as I trotted home to get my car. When the shelter staffer answered, recognizing his voice, I said, “Dave, we need an officer here, fast. Some loose dogs just killed my neighbor’s old Beagle as she walked him down the street.” He said he would send officers as soon as possible.

I drove back down to the knot of people. One of the people is a guy I have seen walking his senior (though not nearly as senior as Brando) Beagle around the neighborhood. He said, “Those dogs are still loose!” I said, “An officer is on the way, but let’s make sure someone knows where the dogs are – can you keep your eyes on them, or where they go?” He took off up the street, and a minute later, I saw an animal control truck pause at the corner, and then turn up the side street toward where the man had gone.

Together, my neighbor and I lifted her dead dog’s limp, sodden body and placed him onto the back seat of my car. I said, “Honey, I know this is all very sudden, but we could take him to the shelter and arrange for him to be cremated, if you would like.” She nodded and said yes, she’d like that, but she wanted to go home for a minute and check on her other dog, a middle-aged Lab she had adopted from our shelter just a few months ago. I told her I would wait with Brando, and took the opportunity to call the shelter again and let them know I would be bringing my neighbor and her dog; could someone be ready to help her arrange for the dog’s cremation?

We were at the shelter, and she was talking to a shelter staffer about cremation options, when the officers who had been dispatched to the scene returned to the shelter, shaking their heads. The other neighbor who owns a Beagle had seen and spoken to the woman who owned the three dogs who attacked Brando. For reasons of his own, he had apparently told her angrily that animal control was on the way and they were going to seize her dogs. By the time the officers got there, she had put her dogs in a truck and fled the scene.

We just stood there, stunned. There would be no justice for Brando’s murder today.

My neighbor recounted for the officers what happened. She was walking Brando on leash, at his usual slow pace, when a collarless, unaccompanied black Lab-mix approached them. The dog was sniffing Brando and everything was fine, when a woman opened a door to her apartment and started yelling at the dog to come – and two other dogs got past her and ran straight for Brando, instantly attacking the old dog. One was a large brown dog, and the other dog was black – my neighbor thought the second attacking dog was a Lab-type, but it was all a muddle. She said the brown dog had Brando by the neck and was shaking him, and the other dog grabbed Brando by the face, and neither would let go. She didn’t think the first dog who had been sniffing Brando was involved but couldn’t be sure, it was all a blur. She said she and the other woman were both yelling and trying to stop the dogs, and as soon as the dogs let go of Brando, she picked him up and tried to carry him home, but she stopped on the sidewalk where I first saw her, as they were both gasping for breath. And he took his last breath when I came upon them.

The officers promised that they would haunt the woman’s apartment and do whatever they could – but that she might “disappear” the dogs, in which case there would be little they could do, from an enforcement angle. There was no record of licensed dogs at that address, so if they could find the woman and any dogs at the address, they would require her to show proof of rabies vaccination and licenses; if she didn’t comply there would be some teeth in what they could do, but if she did comply, that would likely be the end of it. They were frustrated and upset, and sympathetic to my neighbor, just as I am. I can’t imagine how upset I would be if it was my beloved senior dog who met his end in such a traumatic, horrible way.

I have no helpful thoughts. I am horrified by the ubiquitous presence of these uncontrolled, seemingly untrained, aggressive, powerful, and powerfully focused dogs. Why are there so many of them – in my community and most everywhere else in this country? Our shelters are full of them and it seems like many of the people that own them have no ability to control or contain them. Against their stated policies, Craigslist and Facebook are full of ads for their puppies for sale.

And yet, there are also many powerful, but sweet, reliably friendly dogs out there, too. My one and only foster-failure pit-mix, the gentle and easily frightened Woody – one of nine puppies who washed up onto the shores of my local shelter three years ago – is a delight to own and train. My Facebook feed is loaded with pleas from fellow foster-providers who have taken in homeless large, powerful dogs who are affectionate with all humans and other animals and easy to handle, but no one seems to want to own those! The dangerous ones make it terribly hard to find good homes for these nice ones. Sometimes it seems like the only people who want these dogs are the people who really shouldn’t have them!

Aggression in dogs, no matter the breed or type, is always a concern. But it is a special concern in dogs who are especially strong and as focused (when in predatory, fight, or aroused mode) as many of these large breeds can be. If you doubt this for one minute, go ahead and watch that video linked at the beginning of this post. But don’t let it poison you against all of these dogs; there are terrific ones out there, who wouldn’t dream of biting, not to save their lives.

Ack, it’s such a mess. What can be done?

Comments (61)

I am thoroughly disgusted at the comments that we should let certain breed die out! Perhaps those people who believe this should take a look at the Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) list of dogs that various places ban, as one of their very own may likely be on this list. BSL laws have been proven to be ineffective at keeping anyone or any community any safer. It is founded in ignorance & hatred. Every one of my dogs have been powerful breeds.....purebred and mixes...Pit Bull, Doberman, Shepard, Rottweiler, Cane Corso, & Presa Canario.... weighing from 70 to 125 lbs. None were aggressive or dangerous, none ever attacked or hurt a human or another dog. ALL were rescues adopted at anywhere from 1 year to 5 years of age. Do I walk them off leash? Of course not. All but one have been dog friendly unless attacked first, and that one was dog friendly once properly introduced slowly. Most of them have however experienced an aggression, if not out & out attack by a small dog...and even in their own defense, never hurt the small attacker. I grieve for any dog or human injured by an unprovoked animal attack. I too know of many horror stories. But it is too simple (and stupid IMHO) to attribute it to a breed! There is a reason Pit Bulls were known as the "nanny dog", and Mastiffs (what Corsos & Presas are) called "gentle giants". ALL dogs need training, guidance, & must respect their human. Some of the powerful dogs I have adopted had undoubtedly been abused and neglected. It did not make them aggressive. It made them fearful, and it was my job to understand their fears and work with them until they were alleviated. Stop punishing the innocent for the stupidity & evilness of people. Dogs are naturally more gracious than people, they have the ability to forgive years of abuse, neglect, even torture....and trust human beings all over again. It is time we make ourselves worthy of their trust and start doing something to protect them all from those who breed them without any regard for their proper care & health & emotional well being. It is time we do something to make sure that like the innocent beings they are, that they have the proper modicum of care. It is time we hold people accountable for repeated serial failure to keep their dogs secure & safe, who leave them unidentifiable without tag or chip. It is more common that the owners of small dogs do not bother with proper training, and those dogs who bite for no reason as they have been allowed to control. The reality is, MOST dogs can be rehabilitated. It takes time, and love, and patience. But who are we to deny them that when their issues are human caused? There are a handful who can not be rehabilitated, but those are few and far between. There are also humans born without a conscience. They are far scarier than any powerful breed I have known! Many shelters & rescues take great care to make certain that their dogs go to proper homes who can handle the breed, the dog's particular issues, or needs. Many don't as well. Desperate for homes, too short of cash, staff, volunteers, etc. they just adopt out and hope for the best. Not fair to the dog in need of rehab, or a little training, or direction, or the need to feel safe & loved. Dogs are adopted out, given away for free, and people deem them as "disposable". They are not disposable. They commit to us like no other creature, do they not deserve the same...no matter their breed?
I agree with the many who denounced WDJ for the feeding the breed prejudice. I am glad you tried to correct the error to some degree, but you should have already known the damage that it can cause, and the damage is most likely more innocent loving dogs of particular breeds losing their lives. And that is unconscionable!

Posted by: Celery | April 18, 2019 1:21 AM    Report this comment

This article has opened my eyes, the last thing my wife and I want is to add to this issue. I had intended tobreedmyfemale Old English Bulldog Stella with our male Old English bully, but your article has changed my mind no breeding especially after reading your well written article. I thank you very much for saving several puppies from being one or more of those poor unfortunate dogs placed in Shelters or rescues. Wow, I love dogs and would never want to be a breeder who causes this . Much thanks. Jim & Jeanne

Posted by: jimsims0417 | April 8, 2019 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for sharing and opening up the discussion. I'm not sure what the answer is, but as a first-time dog owner and of a mixed bully breed, I've come to the conclusion that not everyone should be a bully breed/strong dog owner. Not sure how you can vet potential dog owners without discrimination.

I love my pitbull mix but I realize she can be dangerous under the right circumstances. I've had well-meaning friends and strangers tell me that a pitbull's behavior is a product of its upbringing, but little do they know that my sweet dog, who has a loving home, would tear into a cat if it had the chance or attack another dog if it looked at her wrong. After a couple of false starts, I now abide by these rules that others should consider. Responsible people already know and do this, but it's worth repeating:
1. Take a good hard look at your dog's personality, understand it, and take appropriate actions. Don't be in denial. Know your dog's triggers. I had to accept my dog's aggression toward other dogs and she is never off leash. In those rare instances where I can see 1000 feet in all directions is when I let her off.
2. Be realistic about your dog's training. Are recalls 100%? Mine is about 70% if there isn't anything else more interesting.
3. Be aware of your surroundings when out with your dog. That means no cell phones or head phones on your walk. It surprises me how many people walk their dog with their head down (I live in an urban area) and they don't see me trying to avoid them and their dog. Or, allowing their off leash and even on leash dog to approach my dog. I can handle the situation, but it would make my life so much easier and less stressful if the other dog walker would give me a bit of space as well.
4. Pay attention to your kids and what they are doing. Educate them. Yes, the dog owner is responsible for the dog's behavior but there is only so much the dog owner can do if your kids are approaching the dog and acting erratically.

And finally, Nancy, I do have a bone to pick with your justification of walking your dog off leash in an area where the rule is leashed dogs. I used to enforce these types of rules via citations as part of my job. I have no doubt you have great control over your pets but not many people do. When people see others walk their dogs off leash, they do it too. It makes protection of resources and public safety so much harder when we have this "monkey see, monkey do" attitude.

Thanks for letting me get my 2 cents in and let's keep the discussion going!

Posted by: Carleomin | April 1, 2019 6:15 PM    Report this comment

Well, now, this is a sad turn of events. Nancy, you've apparently deleted all references to pit bulls/bully breeds/bully mixes, etc. in your post and replaced them with generic dog descriptions - even though your frightening encounters were clearly with dogs you initially identified, with your own eyes, as pit bulls or mixes. In my opinion, this is exactly the wrong way to address the problem, but I won't engage any further, because I can see the handwriting on the wall here. For the record, we'll never be able to "do" anything about dangerous dogs if we refuse to name the breeds most likely to be dangerous, so I fully anticipate the horrific reports of attacks to continue unabated. Looks like you lost one subscriber, below, because you dared to use your own eyes to identify two dogs of the same "maligned" breed in your post. And now you've lost a second one, because I don't support destructive political correctness or dishonesty.

Posted by: JanC1955 | April 1, 2019 2:17 PM    Report this comment

agree that shelters/rescue groups should bear some financial/legal responsibility for dogs that they have documented records of having caused damage to a human being or another domestic animal. Discounting a waiver signed by the purchaser stating that they have been told that 'this dog has been known to xxx xxx in the past'. Most people don't read their contracts, nor think that it 'applies to them' as they've had reactive dogs before, yadayadayada ...

Too many groups are 'save this dog at all costs' ... -- and while larger breeds can generally cause more damage, it should not exclude the smaller breeds that can also kill or maim other domestic animals or children.

Posted by: KatzDawgs | April 1, 2019 7:26 AM    Report this comment

This post is a poignant piece to awaken the need for a solution to this terrible problem: Ill-managed, powerful dogs.

Here in the state of California, we have Megan's Law. Bottom line, the state has created a site that maps and keeps record of registered sex offenders to help promote public safety.

What if there was a website akin to meganslaw.ca.gov that kept a record of the documentation associated with a dog attack; (i.e. police report/animal control report) so that the owner responsible is kept on a database that prevents he or she from being able to adopt from shelters or buy from responsible breeders.

Documentation would be required to avoid people like disgruntled neighbors from abusing the site and making a dishonest report.

I realize there are a few holes in the idea... What about the virtually endless number of free puppies and dogs that exist outside of shelters and breeder establishments? What prevents said irresponsible owner from taking hold of one of these and perpetuating the same problem? I don't know. But maybe someone out there on the interwebs has an idea on how to address this problem.

We need to come together to try SOMETHING to limit the number of experiences like that which befell poor Brando.

There are also questions that would need to be answered in order to get this idea off the ground.

For example: What if the owner on the list suddenly sees the error of his/her ways and decides to be proactive about becoming a responsible dog owner? Should this person be allowed to have a second chance? If so, what should the requirements be, and who should be making that decision?

Thank you, Nancy, for sparking the discussion.

Let's come together to find a solution, and reduce the number of attacks that occur each year.

Posted by: JessieB. | March 31, 2019 6:44 PM    Report this comment

I live in a NM community with many pits and pit mixes. It is also the community where four pit mixes killed a mentally ill woman several years go. Recently I was walking four small dogs - two chihuahua mixes, one shaggy mix and a Boston mix on two tandem leashes when two pits breached their fence and attacked. One dog got our of his harness and took off with one of the pits in pursuit. The other attacked my other three dogs. If the neighbor across the street from these dogs had not opened his gate and helped me inside it would have been catastrophic. As it was the littlest chihuahua was badly bitten on the head and the other bitten on the flank. The neighbor saved me and the dogs. The owners heard the yelling and showed up and got their dogs back under control and in their house. The dog that ran off came back after the dogs were in the house - he had one bite and had been slobbered on but was pretty much ok. These dogs were not loose but easily escaped their yard. It was reported the owners went to court and the male had to be neutered. I do not know the answer but I go to great pains not to walk my dogs in neighborhoods with large potentially dangerous dogs.

Posted by: majiep@windstream.net | March 31, 2019 6:01 PM    Report this comment

This is in response to Jayni's response to me. The first link below is to a website that belongs to a woman who was attacked by a pit bull. Hopefully you can put that aside, if you're truly interested, and dig into all the statistics, studies, and links she provides at her site. It's a great resource for all things dog bites-related. The second link is an article written a few years ago by Dr. Stanley Coren, author of many books on dogs, including the oft-quoted The Intelligence of Dogs. He describes an encounter with a pro-bully woman who didn't want to hear the statistics he quoted. The article is well worth the read. I see WDJ doesn't accept links in comments, but you can Google Dogsbite dot org for the first site I mentioned, and Psychologytoday dot com dogs bite and people don't listen, which should take you to the Coren article.

Posted by: JanC1955 | March 30, 2019 4:04 PM    Report this comment

I must disagree with you JanC on a couple of points. I will not claim to know everything and I doubt very much I will persuade you anyway. But if it is solely a breed issue, then what is going on when a lab attacks, or a greyhound, or any other breed? Besides which, no one can agree on what constitutes a pitbull anyway. If the problem is solely genetics (please cite some legitimate studies instead of making a blanket statement), then virtually every single dog of this type would at some point turn vicious, and there are just too many instances of responsible people having them without ever having an incident. I'm shocked and saddened that your solution is to let the breed die out. Then what happens when it suddenly becomes German Shepherds who are the focus? And the next, and the next until there are virtually no dogs except teacup poodles.

Posted by: Jayni | March 30, 2019 3:34 PM    Report this comment

I've been checking in on the comments here and this is my third comment, actually. I'm gratified to see people on both sides of the argument acknowledge the dangers pit bulls/pit mixes pose. It's not "dogism" to have this discussion, and I'm grateful the pro-bully PC crowd hasn't shut down the conversation as so often happens. My heart goes out to these dogs, and I completely understand that bully parents love their pets as fiercely as I love mine. But bully genetics are what they are, and I'm not sure anyone knows what the breed would have been like had their fighting instincts not been so finely tuned through deliberate, despicable breeding practices. That said, these dogs are unpredictable and capable of horrific attacks. Pretending they're not is not helpful. I think my earlier suggestion to enforce strict spay/neuter laws until the current "version" of the breed goes extinct is the kindest, most humane approach. Then maybe one day, when humans do some evolving of their own, we can bring a new "version" of the breed safely back into society. For the record, deliberate and despicable breeding practices have destroyed other breeds as well, insuring they live abbreviated, often painful existences. But with bullies, bad breeding has consequences beyond the dogs themselves.

Posted by: JanC1955 | March 30, 2019 11:01 AM    Report this comment

Every time I read something like this I cringe...and then get so very sad...

I don't condemn you for writing the article. It's good to have discussion. I'm open to learning new information that can prove helpful. Only I get very sad reading the horror stories and then the opinions of people who are obviously shut down to these dogs along with knee-jerk, emotional reactions that really won't solve anything.

I have a pit-bull type dog. An American Bully. And it's my first dog. I thought long and hard before adopting him. I've put a lot into training him. He has his CGC. He is a therapy dog. He loves people and I seriously doubt he'd ever go after a human. Not confident he would even protect me if the need arose! Had him tested with the American Temperament Test Society and they said these dogs ALWAYS score so high, particularly with the threatening stranger coming at them. He just wanted to avoid them if he couldn't befriend them.

He had been labeled dog-aggressive at the shelter. Now, he mainly ignores other dogs on walks and is rarely interested in meeting one. If an off-leash dog comes at us he fiercely warns them off and thankfully so far it has not come to the point of fighting. I'm really so scared of a fight, regardless of whether he would 'win'. I don't want ANY dog harmed.

But we love walking and hiking and it's almost daily that we encounter off-leash dogs. I have to alter our route if I see them in time and stew in resentment. I have respectfully asked people to leash their dogs and they are almost always angry with me. They think their dog is friendly, well-trained, etc. and if I have a dog who isn't just like theirs it's us who doesn't deserve to walk the earth. There are off-leash parks aplenty in our city but they are entitled to go where they want. So where can we go?

My dog is very strong. Hence we do a lot of training. And I have a strong leash which he is always on, even on trails. I just don't want to take any chances. Plus I like him close enough to me I can see what he might be getting into (discarded food, foxtails, etc.). I don't think a dog is somehow deprived of a good life if they are ALWAYS on leash.

So since these dogs are so powerful I do believe they require extra diligence. I cringe when people say "the dog got out." No, it was up to the human to ensure the dog is contained at all times.

I am hyper vigilant about watching my dog interact with anyone. I don't believe that just because he is a therapy dog he is bomb-proof. He really is tolerant of children but will move away if they try to touch his eye or if they scream. (He is very sensitive and hates screaming and yelling.) It's my job to protect him and watch for signs he is uncomfortable.

It's my job to keep him out of trouble and I take that very seriously. I only let him interact with another dog if both dogs are calm. I closely monitor their greeting and if either dog gets stiff I end the encounter. He has been a jerk (nothing serious) with respect to food and toys so I don't allow any situations where there will be competition for those things.

In my humble opinion, every horror story I hear must be a result of unsocialized, untrained, unexercised dogs owned by irresponsible humans who failed them. Even when I hear the stories of how someone's own dog 'turned' on them it seems they likely (I certainly don't know the whole story and no one ever does) treated the dog like an animal, only visiting them in the yard to bring them their food, or allowing them to run the household without any rules or boundaries, and then are shocked when the dog acted like an animal. And of course their can be situations of a brain disorder which only a necropsy can determine.

My dog has a best friend, a little French Bulldog, and they are both very calm dogs. We only allow very short, highly monitored, play sessions. But I don't believe I should get another dog I'm not sure these dogs should ever be unsupervised with other dogs.

So I'm learning and open to learn. But determined to protect my dog the best I can.

Posted by: Jayni | March 30, 2019 9:26 AM    Report this comment

I have been on both sides of this issue. I have a pit mix (maybe) who was adopted from the SPCA. She is sweet and lives with a West Highland Terrier and a cat. She was never a problem UNTIL I was walking her and we were attacked by a pack of lose small dogs including a Boston Terrier who throw himself at her face. She pinned him down by the scruff of the neck while I screamed for help. The neighbor came out with a board to hit my dog. Never mind that I was across the road from their house and in a field trying to fend them off. My dog was on a leash. The whole time the other four ankle biters were surrounding her barking and dodging my attempts to kick them away. It was horrible. She is now a leash defensive dog. She is in training and we put in a reinforced fence around our house to prevent other loose dogs running around our neighborhood from coming on our property. We have a neighbor that lets her small dog round loose and he has come on our property many times. One day the gate was not latched properly and our dog got loose and chased the neighbors dog and attacked him. Totally our fault and we paid the vet bills. Her dog did not have rabies shots or a license so the Vet would not report the incidence. They wanted me to put my dog down even though she did not seriously hurt the dog and the neighbor did not follow up with all the appointments. I refused and changed Vets. I added double latches to the gates put up signs to close the gate properly and added wire fencing around the wooden fence to prevent them from pushing through the boards. Our dog is in training and has been examined by a well qualified dog behaviorist. My problem is with people who say my dog is nice or is well trained and should allowed to be off leash in public or where it is posted that a dog must be on leash. I do not care how well trained your dog is if you are in a public place there are people who are scared of dogs and small children are running around. Responsible dog owners MUST set the example of following the rules and asking people to put their dogs on a leash. People need to be aware that even though your dog is friendly, well trained or what ever excuse you use, that your dog is not perfect and you never really know what could happen. All you can do is set an example by following the rules and be a responsible pet owner .

Posted by: CKelly | March 30, 2019 6:00 AM    Report this comment

I feel fortunate to live in New York State which has a good Dangerous Dog Law - it punishes the deed and not the breed. I wish all dog owners were responsible in training and caring for their dogs - sadly, not the case. I own a 13 year old pitbull - Helen of Troy, CGC, TT, ATD - there is seriously not a sweeter animal. And, having volunteered for and supported Out of the Pits in the Capital District of NY for many years, I met (and as a dog trainer continue to meet) many wonderful pitbulls and their responsible owners.

Posted by: Helene | March 29, 2019 10:19 PM    Report this comment

I have personal experience with three attacks by pit bulls and as a veterinary technician, my dog experience is sadly full of many more that I was not personally involved with. I wish I had your courage. Unfortunately, the owners of these dogs are often in denial and blissfully ignorant in regards to the damage their dogs are capable of inflicting. I agree, not every Bully is dangerous, but the grinning happy face of many of them hides a capacity for destruction that boggles the mind. Worse still, many owners are either not able to control their dogs or are criminally negligent when attacks do occur.

Your post brought back memories I wish I could forget... The 8-year-old nephew of a good friend in South Carolina was pulled from his bicycle while riding in front of his house after school one day. His Uncle Ray drove up to the scene and came upon the two dogs who had Trevor on the ground savagely mauling him. "I thought they were fighting over a piece of rug, but when I got closer I was horrified to see it was my nephew..." Ray managed to drive the dogs off with help from the neighbors. Trevor survived and required over 60 surgeries to piece him back together. The trauma will never be mended.

I lost a beautiful 6-month old Collie puppy when our neighbors 2 pit bulls escaped a fenced yard. My lovely puppy lived long enough to get to the vet's office where he died. Every inch of his poor body was covered in blood and gore, a harmless, gentle Collie pup, in his own yard, helpless against the mindless onslaught of dogs 4 times his size.

My veterinarian recently told a horrific story of two pit bulls who lived in the same house for almost 8 years. The owner said the dogs were "the best of friends, the older female would wash the younger dog's ears and groom her every night". One day when the owner was getting groceries, the neighbors heard a savage dog fight inside her house. They called 911 and the police forced the door open to find the larger female had literally torn the hind leg off the smaller dog. The dog that she washed and groomed daily, unbelievable. My vet said the police told him it looked like a murder scene with blood sprayed over all the walls and windows.

I see the Facebook pages, the Pinterest boards proclaiming how misunderstood and harmless the Bull breeds are supposed to be. I know better and for every 10 dogs who are indeed dependable and trustworthy, there are dozens who are lethally dangerous. If you have an out of control Lab or Beagle, the chances of a life-threatening attack are almost nil, that simply is not true of these dogs. It is the responsibility of each owner to be positively sure that their dog is never allowed to take the life of another person or animal. Anything else is unforgivable...

Posted by: Angelgate | March 29, 2019 6:53 PM    Report this comment

How brave Robin, I applaud the courage it took to write this blog post if it saves one dog's life it will be worth it.

Posted by: Angelgate | March 29, 2019 6:53 PM    Report this comment

In the two incidents, there were a total of 4 dogs involved - two pitbull types and two lab types. The two dogs that actually killed Brando appeared to be one pit-bull type and one lab type, and yet the title of this post is "Bully Breed Dog Disasters".

I currently live in the southeast and our shelters are not only filled with pitties, but also with hound dogs, who can have a serious prey drive. I almost lost one of my cats to a foster hound a month ago, but I do not consider the dog aggressive, nor that it needs to be euthanized, or that hound type dogs need to be reduced in number because many have a prey drive and once they even visually "lock on" to their prey, it can be hard to stop them.

As far as the off-leash dog chasing the young steer, that dog did not redirect on you or your dog, and once you broke his focus on the bull, he returned to his owner. Nipping at the heels of animals is something herding dogs also do - perhaps it was a pit/BC mix? Do I think this dog sounded aggressive - no, I think he sounded stupid and his owner should have had him on leash. I would also think cattle are fairly good at sensing imminent danger, and yet none of them moved.

My heart breaks for your neighbor, but I don't believe singling out one type of dog will stop dog attacks. You singled out one type of breed when there were two types involved. Nowhere in your discussion did wonder how to reduce the number of labs - the most popular dog breed in America for the past 26/27 years.

In my opinion, we need stricter breeding laws, spay/neuter laws, animal cruelty laws, leash laws, and affordable training resources. In order to enforce these laws, municipalities will require more AC officers to work within the community. Unfortunately, this all takes money to accomplish. We also need "breed-type" education when it comes to adopting from shelters and rescue groups. People have to stop picking a dog because of the way it looks, and choose a dog based on temperament and activity level and how it will fit into the person's lifestyle. Reputable rescues do this - especially ones that adopt out the more powerful breeds. I am involved with great dane rescue and we understand the damage a dog of that size could do and our responsibility to make sure we're placing dogs that are safe into the community.

I have had numerous run-ins with off-leash and loose dogs - everything from chihuahuas, beagles, "pittie-types", and misc. mixed breeds of all sizes. I personally will continue to look at the individual dog and its owner, and make assessments based on that, because I've seen the good and the bad in so many different "types." Remember - for every tragic story, there are hundreds of thousands more dogs of that "type" out there who are wonderful companions, service, and therapy dogs.

Posted by: Lisa A | March 29, 2019 6:43 PM    Report this comment

Nancy... jut like everyone here, I think you as much as any other poster has a right to say what transpired and yes, it is associated with WDJ but it is still truth.I think the one lady has a good idea about spay and neutering and letting the breed go dormant. Not because I don't like the dog or the type but there are way too many ignorant humans dealing with a dog they don't understand . Having raised and run a Jack Russell Rescue I SO understand that "switch in the brain" that goes off. Not until you see it happen, will you. I have a cattle prod that is a four d cell battery type that I used to carry when walking my dogs but it's heavy and I fear it can make some dogs even more aggressive so I agree with the one lady who mentioned a stun gun and personally I am thinking tazer but if you have more than one dog attacking? It does get "hinky" I admit . Maybe we will have to go about with a second in command with a very large baseball bat or maybe the cattle prod would be the best bet as you cantouch more than one or two dogs with it. It is though, a sad state of afairs and whomever mentioned that humans wouldhave to pass a test to live with their dogs proving they have control WOULD be good. ( Of course you then have the ones that will sneak by with no training.)

Posted by: FoxyLoxy | March 29, 2019 5:09 PM    Report this comment

This is a good blog post, written for all of us good people who love dogs. Humans on both sides of this issue can have their say and maybe, maybe, each side will understand the other a bit better. The immediate question is how can we protect our own dogs? We also use a second gate outside the front door, because we had to evacuate to a new neighborhood and I don't want my dogs to bolt and get lost. There were many dog attacks in my old neighborhood, little dogs killed by bigger dogs - and yes they were out of control pit types kept by scary type people. My own dogs have been attacked at dog agility, of all places, by purebred dogs who were not pit types. And my sweetest dog was attacked in a wilderness area by an off leash mutt who drew blood - no pit type visible in that mutt at all. Now that we live in a more populated area, I keep my dogs on leash, cross the road if I sense anything "off" about the oncoming dog, and stay far away from off leash dogs. So far so good. I also block little children from petting the wrong part of my dogs, and pick up my terrier before things get out of hand. The second reply to this blog was about off leash dogs, and I agree 100 percent. If leashes are required in an area, then use one. Otherwise the authorities will make it a no dogs allowed area. I've had off leash dogs my entire life and it's beautiful. But the world is changing and we need to use leashes now.

Posted by: SundogsHawaii | March 29, 2019 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Nancy: It was not "irresponsible" of WDJ to post your blog nor is it irresponsible to discuss the dangers posed by pit bulls, bully breeds, bully mixes, or whatever those of you flipping out about breed discrimination are going on about. Any of you ever watch Judge Judy or similar shows? Ever notice how many injured/killed dog cases are adjudicated? Ever notice how many of the injuries and deaths are caused by pit bulls and pit mixes? Once in awhile, the TV judges even screw up the courage to mention it, or show a graph of how many of their cases involve pit bull attacks. Wake up, people. I realize you think it's honorable to defend the perpetuation of this breed, while ignoring their genetic predisposition to launch vicious, to-the-death attacks out of the blue, but what you're actually doing is putting your love of being virtuous over the lives/quality of life of countless victims of these dogs, both human and animal. You've become part of the problem. Wake up.

Posted by: JanC1955 | March 29, 2019 1:29 PM    Report this comment

I foster Cairn Terriers for a national rescue, and for the longest time I thought that any dog can be rescued and if handled property could live a long and happy life. But I now know that I was wrong. Some dogs have a switch in their brain that makes them attack, and no amount of training, goodness, or kindness can make those dogs safe to have in a home. With the numbers of maulings and deaths of dogs, livestock, and humans attributed to 'bully' style dogs we need to face reality and stop allowing them to be adopted from shelters. And large finds for producing puppies should go hand and hand with these efforts. Hitting the folks that breed 'bully' style dogs in their pocketbooks is the only thing that will get their attention.

Posted by: pkinpa | March 29, 2019 1:06 PM    Report this comment

Ms. Kerns,

As other posters have stated I am disappointed that the WDJ would post this blog article as it does more harm than good.

I realize this is a small gesture on my part and will mean nothing to you or WDJ, but, I will be cancelling my subscription to WDJ...one I have had for the past 12 years.

Posted by: Jonah J. | March 29, 2019 11:43 AM    Report this comment

I'm terribly sorry that this happened. But it could have happened with dogs of any breed. Yes, larger dogs are more dangerous simply because of their size. But as a trainer, I'm no less wary of Shepherds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Boxers, livestock guarding dogs, Poodles, and even America's favorite Golden Retrievers. Singling out a breed type (which can't accurately be identified by most people - DNA tests often prove that "pitbulls" are anything but) is misguided. I'm very disappointed that WholeDog Journal would approve this article for publication since it does more harm than good.

Posted by: TimS | March 29, 2019 11:15 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, This is in response to your comment. I appreciate that you want to dialogue. However, I'm going to call you out once again. What IS a "pitty-type" ... there is no scientific basis to what you are saying and you are perpetuating a myth that there is a breed basis for issues with large, unleashed dogs. There is NO genetic basis to what you are saying - dogs that LOOK like "pitty-types" often are found to have NO DNA from the bully breeds. So I'm calling you out for perpetuating a myth that a "breed group" is the issue. This is simply NOT TRUE. Large, unleashed dogs and irresponsible owners are the issue - and YES we should address that. I urge you to read the book "Pitbull" - it discusses some of the myths you are perpetuating here and is a great education on breed discrimination that has occurred throughout history. I urge you to reconsider the title of your blog as it is the stuff upon which breed bans and BSL is based - and results in the death of countless dogs. I agree with this statement in your comments: "I don't know ANYONE who doesn't have a nightmare story about a large, powerful dog attacking someone they know or someone's dog." .. YES - LARGE, powerful dogs (often mixed breeds that might "look" like bully breed - but often do not have ANY of the DNA from that group) are an issue - particular breeds or breed types are NOT an issue. We should not create policy based on appearance of mixed breed dogs because it is proven that appearance means absolutely nothing in identifying breed. Please consider carefully that you ARE identifying a "breed type" in this post - if you take out that, I'm all for dialogue.

Posted by: Jodi C | March 29, 2019 10:55 AM    Report this comment

To respond to a few comments here, and keep the conversation going:

It's a "type" of dog, not a breed, that I am concerned about. Size has a lot to do with it. As several people have mentioned, there are lots of large dogs that can do damage.

I know that "breed bans" are both ineffective and indiscriminate. I don't think that slating breeds, or even "types" of dogs, for destruction or elimination is the answer.

This is not to say I know what the answer is – far from it! – but I think we should be having a national discussion about it, and many, many local discussions. I don't know ANYONE who doesn't have a nightmare story about a large, powerful dog attacking someone they know or someone's dog. If it's a drug causing this much harm in the community, we talk about it. If it's a type of gun causing this much harm in the community, we talk about it. Yes, these are living beings, important to and beloved by many of us, but also wielded indiscriminately and dangerously by others, and I think we have to talk about it! How can we limit the danger that large, powerful dogs are capable of inflicting on others? Is there anyone out there with answers that make sense?

But it's an undeniable fact that bully-breed, pit-type dogs are wildly overrepresented in the shelter population in this country, and, I suspect, overrepresented in the population of dogs who get euthanized. I'd love to learn about *anything* that can get to the root cause of their overproduction. In my county, they are coming from the population of people who are never going to be able to adopt a neutered dog or puppy from a shelter – people who won't be able to get a letter from their landlord proving they are allowed to have a dog in that rental, who have outstanding fines from past animal control violations (loose dogs, perhaps even dog bites), people for whom selling a litter of puppies every few months really helps their subsistence-level bottom line, and even people who won't give their identification to a government employee out of fear that their outstanding warrants will catch up to them after getting put into a county database! I don't know how to reach this population of dog owners. It's one of the reasons I am so angry at Facebook and Craigslist for not doing anything filter out and eliminate the ads for puppies for sale.

If I could wave a magic wand, I wouldn't eliminate bully breeds – but I'd make it a law that any dog of more than, say, 25 pounds has to pass some sort of good-canine-citizen test or be enrolled in a training class, or safely confined in a yard that has been inspected and passed for suitability for that dog. And that anyone who breeds dogs has to pay a sizable fee to the county animal control for each puppy produced, and have each one microchipped and licensed to a documented new owner. Dream on! Pfft.

Is anyone aware of anything that's going on (in this country or others) that can actually work to reduce the number of irresponsibly owned and produced large, powerful dogs? Or truly hold their owners accountable for their behavior?

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | March 29, 2019 9:47 AM    Report this comment

I'm so sorry that you had these scary experiences. I hope you can see from the comments that by using the WDJ's platform to vent publicly, and by focusing on breed (which is a guess based on appearance), you've created yet another place for people who hate and fear bully breeds to congregate and spread dangerous misinformation. It's not hyperbole to warn that this could directly lead to more dogs visually identified as bully breeds being euthanized in shelters, and add fuel to the fire of BSL. Please consider removing this blog.

Posted by: Kelly L. | March 29, 2019 9:41 AM    Report this comment

@Harve Morgan
who posted, "The problem lies in the perceptions of those who want to own pits. They are lacking empathy for others. It usually shows in their everyday life as well, their relationship with people. I've only met a handful of pit bull owners that I would classify as sane and normal."

Based upon your comment, I must assume that you are an imbecile.

Posted by: Jonah J. | March 29, 2019 9:22 AM    Report this comment

This is what I do......I always carry a lead-weighted billy club that was given to me by a police officer. You can make you own....or have one made for you. CARRY IT. USE IT.
I have a sanctuary for small dogs. Most have medical issues.
Our neighbors have had two dogs over the years that have been vicious to anyone walking in the neighborhood. For that reason the mom kept them indoors unless she was outing the yard with them and they were on a chain. However, she has a son who is as irresponsible as they come. He would frequently allow the dogs out to roam when she was at work or sleeping.
The chow, first bully, threatened one too many neighbors and was put down. Cops gave her a rottie mix, would meet me at the edge of my yard as I returned home from work al 11:30 PM. Mom was at work and son was being an irresponsible jerk. I faced that dog down several times and was then fed up. Although I really like the mom I had had it. I went to home and had a nice, but intense discussion with her. I told her what had transpired with her dog. She knows I adore dogs and that this was truly an unacceptable situation. I told her that I hoped she could keep the dog contained, but that if it threatened me even one more time I would kill it on the spot. I was prepared to buy a handgun and use it. We discussed its danger to neighborhood kids also.
She elected to put the dog down as she did not want anyone harmed.

Posted by: 24dogs1cat | March 29, 2019 9:21 AM    Report this comment

All purebred and mixed breed dogs are 'man made' animals. All of these canines have been designed thru years of controlled selective breeding for a purpose to suit humans. Some of these uses were good, like herding and retrieving. Some were simply evil, like pit fighting and bull baiting. Kindness and training can't change genetics. If you choose a breed you also choose what they were breed to do. There is no legal purpose for these type of dogs in modern society.

Posted by: JeaninSarasota | March 29, 2019 8:22 AM    Report this comment

TWO WORDS..... BEAR SPRAY. Don't leave home without it when I walk my two little JRT. Once someone had their two pit bulls loose in the park. When I suggested they be put on a leash, the owners said they were fine. I replied, "you better make sure they don't come close because they won't like what I have in my bag". I would not have a problem emptying my $40 can on the situation.

Posted by: Mommabear | March 29, 2019 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Let me ask you, if you had a bowl of candies, delicious candies, but were told one of those candies is poison. Would you still eat from that bowl? That's the way it is with pits. Sure, some may go through live without exerting their genetics, but chances are against you that it will happen that way. I've known pit owners that swear their pit never harmed anything only to learn that the pit had killed wildlife and the neighbor's cat. But the owner doesn't see those kills as any indication of viciousness. The problem lies in the perceptions of those who want to own pits. They are lacking empathy for others. It usually shows in their everyday life as well, their relationship with people. I've only met a handful of pit bull owners that I would classify as sane and normal.

Posted by: Harve Morgan | March 29, 2019 4:40 AM    Report this comment

I am sorry you guys had to go through this and you handled it quite well. The sad reality is that people who adopt a dog from a shelter know nothing of the dog's past. If they want a bully breed that dog could have come from a long line of dogs used for blood sports, dogs that were bred for aggression, and the most aggressive chosen, not much different than purebred dogs who are bred for herding, retrieving, guarding, etc. The dogs that show the most affinity for these various tasks are the ones carried on in the breeding program. This is about "nature vs nurture". No dog "asks" to be born, so the source of a problem dog many times is the result of breeding by those, the normal person would never consider. Unfortunately, adopting a bully breed, or any breed or mix for that matter, is playing Russion Roulette, and you better be super educated about dogs and training, and most people aren't. One is much better off, going to a responsible breeder who has a long line of genetically healthy dogs (with documentation) with good temperament, if one wants any predictability. All of this can be researched, and remember, you will have that dog for many years if you do your "homework" thoroughly.

Posted by: estee | March 29, 2019 1:16 AM    Report this comment

A friend's mini-pointer was attacked by an unleashed pit-bull last week who ran across a field from 150 yards away and rag-dolled the little 10 pounder. So far his surgery has cost close to $10,000 and the pit owner is not returning his phone calls. My friend is impoverished and unable to take on work as he has to be with his dog constantly while he recovers... a truly sad situation for all.

Posted by: sgarcata | March 29, 2019 12:33 AM    Report this comment

Nancy - I'm so sorry you have had these experiences. Dog attacks are truly terrifying and you demonstrated bravery and excellent thinking in these situations. Understandably, you are hurting and frustrated.

But I have to be honest and say that I am really, really disappointed that WDJ published this blog. The latest science tells us that not even experienced shelter workers can ID the breeds in a mixed parentage dog (see "Inconsistent identification of pit bull-type dogs by shelter staff", September 2015, The Veterinary Journal 206(2) among other research). Once a pair of disparate breeds mate, their breeds of their progeny cannot be accurately assessed visually.

Sadly, we often see the labels pitbull, bully breed, etc thrown around in any dog attack. This leads cities, towns, and even countries to ban specific breeds. And the science also tells us that such bans do nothing to reduce dog bites and/or dog related fatalities.

Like I said above, I understand your pain and your need to write about your experience. However, a major dog publication like Whole Dog Journal should focus on science and is remiss in posting this blog. We live in an exciting time in the dog world - there is a great deal of study of dogs, their behavior, and associated social issues. Through applying this science as professionals, we can best serve dogs and society. I ask that Whole Dog Journal stick to the science - dogs and humans deserve that.

Posted by: Jodi C | March 29, 2019 12:06 AM    Report this comment

I couldn’t post my comment with links to my stats sources (no outside links allowed).

It’s estimated that Bully breeds make up less than 10% of the US dog population, but comprise over 35% of shelter dog populations and over 60% of fatal dog attacks. They are unusual in that they kill adult humans as well as children.

Since “Pitt bull” is a rather meaningless term, it’s easy to assume some of the fatalities attributed to Pitt bull-type breeds are in error. But even if they are misidentified 75% of the time, they’d still kill more human beings than any other breed of dogs.

They also maim more people than any other breed, by far, even if they are misidentified most of the time.

Since there are only 20-30 dog bite fatalities in the US every year, chances are almost all bully dogs are not going to participate in one. The breed ban legislation may be overkill, but no one doubts the potential for these powerful dogs to be dangerous.

Posted by: Bunnyhunt | March 29, 2019 12:05 AM    Report this comment

As suspected, and judging by the comments, you only added to the discrimination against a breed of dog. Shame on you, this is true for ALL dogs and to single out what you so judgementally perceive to be a breed issue is beyond responsible. I'm sure many more deaths will now be the result of your irresponsibility and public forum of abuse. It's apparent that you are not familiar with the rules of reporting, and that's to report all sides in an unbiased manner.

Posted by: Beverly | March 28, 2019 9:33 PM    Report this comment

I am so sorry that you, your husband, Woody and your neighbors went through these terrible experiences. I have been reading your blog for a while and thank you for all the time, love and energy you have put into helping companion animals and your community. Therefore I say the following with the utmost respect - please, please everyone leash your dogs when they are not on your fenced property, especially if it is state law or the requirement of a property you are visiting- for the safety of the dogs as well as humans. I adopted a senior mix breed dog (lab/boxer/hound, probably some pit) 5 years ago when she was 13. Her redeeming quality was that she loves humans of all ages and is very gentle with everyone. However, she was extremely fear-aggressive towards other dogs. I had several trainers, but this issue was not resolved by them. Long story short, I went for walks every single day, several times a day, for an average of 4 miles a day, During these walks she and I learned to keep this behavior under control when passing other leashed dogs. We have traveled up and down the East coast, visited many dog friendly sites, even the Mall in Washington D.C - staying at dog friendly hotels, all with no incident. However the bane of our existence is off leash dogs, especially since our state requires a leash at all times. Only once in 5 years have we passed an off leash dog that was under complete control by his guardian. I have had to fend off dogs in much the same way that you distracted that pitbull, with a deep loud voice and standing between my 70 lb dog and another large dog. She was attacked once, and we were pinned up against a tree another time - both times by 'friendly' off leash dogs. Of course, after these harrowing experiences on these public areas- I could not return because I could not risk this again. I think what people with off leash dogs don't realize is that they are usurping public trails and parks for their own enjoyment and preventing others from enjoying the area. There are many people who do not own dogs, have a fear or discomfort around dogs and therefore do not want to walk a trail when they see a dog unleashed. There is only one place now that I can walk my 18 year old senior dog in true peace - it is 45 minutes away, a National Park with strong Ranger presence and so far everyone obeys the leash laws. Since I cannot go there everyday, this means every other walk is potentially dangerous. My 18 year old can no longer protect herself. If people with perfect off leash dogs kept their dogs on a leash, it would be a start to setting an example for others who happen to own dogs but are ignorant of how to have their dogs behave properly in public. Thanks for letting me speak out in this forum. My only intention is to try to give perspective on what it feels like when a person with or without a leashed dog comes upon an unleashed dog on a leash required public trail.

Posted by: ellanine | March 28, 2019 8:42 PM    Report this comment

This response will be wildly unpopular with many people, but honestly, I don't care. You asked, and I'm going to answer. I can't say what I do for a living, but trust me, it involves animals and I'm a huge animal lover. I've always had dogs and/or cats in my home. I live in the southwest, and 99% of the dogs at the local shelters are pits and pit mixes. This is a terrible situation for everyone, especially the poor dogs. My recommendation is to make it a felony to keep or breed an intact pit bull, with strict enforcement of significant penalties, including jail time. Then let the breed go extinct. The tremendous abuse and pain so many of these dogs suffer, and the tremendous pain and death they're also capable of causing, is just not worth it. Let the breed go extinct. Enough.

Posted by: JanC1955 | March 28, 2019 7:46 PM    Report this comment

I used to think it was all in how they are raised but I have learned some disturbing things over the years. 1. I work for an insurance company and we won't insure a home if there is a pit bull there due to statistics (not stereotypes). 2. We met a very nice man who told us how his own pit bull turned on him (and he showed us the scars on his deformed arm). 3. After that I got curious and looked up deaths caused by dogs. Found a Wiki page with reported cases in the U.S. There were other breeds that made the list repeatedly but pit bulls appeared again and again. 4. Why don't cops use them for apprehension? They are easy to train and powerful. I think because they can't turn them off. 5. Labradors and golden retrievers experience horrendous abuse and are raised in 'bad homes' but I have never heard of one them mauling someone to death.

I truly believe there is something in them that makes them more likely to 'snap'. And when they do you don't want to be around. I think it is common knowledge that dogs can be bred (for better or worse) for temperament so, when you think about it , I guess it's really not that surprising. It was hard for me to accept at first, but I couldn't ignore all of the evidence stacking up.

Posted by: Krista April | March 28, 2019 7:31 PM    Report this comment

1) I had a mixed breed terrier that I rescued. She had irritable bowel and hip displacia, that I fixed. But no one told me that she bites people in the face. I was one of her victims. My vet did some checking with the dog’s previous vet, and yes, she’d bitten children in the face before she was adopted. The history was too long, so I put her down. Luckily, I still have a nose.

2) I was walking my cairn in the neighborhood when a young girl was walking 2 pit bulls (she was clearly not in control). I turned around to move away from her when one of the dogs broke his harness and made a b-line for me and my little dog. I stayed as calm as could be, but when the dog lunged, I got my dog out of the way. Then they young girl started yelling at me that I know nothing about dogs and that I deserved what I got. Meanwhile, a car stopped to help me. The young girl yelled at the driver to leave the dog alone, threat she had control (while both dogs were getting more aggressive as she raised her voice). Finally, it took 2 people who stopped their cars to control her two dogs while the young girl continues to yell. I walked away shaken, as was my dog. I found out later that the dogs are kept in the garage in a house up the street. They’ve never been trained and had bitten 2 fingers off of an elderly neighbor who was prettified to report them because of retaliation from the father. Frightening!!

Posted by: Nina Hanson | March 28, 2019 7:29 PM    Report this comment

Are English Mastiffs generally considered a dangerous breed? I owned two wonderful Mastiffs who never took a wrong step. However, one day when an intruder attacked me on my new mini farm, probably high on meth or something just as bad, they saved my life. The nearly 300 pound male, Luke Skywalker, jumped in front of me to shelter me while the 180 pound female confronted the tire iron swinging mad man by rearing high into the sky like a mythical dragon, backing up him to defend her mom. Galloping Gertie was able to back the man back into his marooned Jeep (he had been mud running in my horse pasture, late winter, Western Washington state...) We retreated to the house and called the local sheriff. The sheriff showed up an hour later and the attacker had already left. We had the license plate number and a neighbor identified the intruder but the case was never pursued..... I think these big, powerful dogs have a place but the owners have to be responsible. I am quite certain I would not be alive today if they hadn't been with me that day. Neither had ever shown any aggression in "normal" situations and were excellent and gentle with small children and other animals.

Posted by: Dolly2015 | March 28, 2019 7:19 PM    Report this comment

I appreciate you bringing attention to this and not screaming that 'it's all in how they're raised". I helped raise two pits (owned by my now ex boyfriend) and was a supporter of them! Our two pits were fixed, socialized and the perfect pets for the four years we were together. A cold night in November, while home alone with the pits and my six year old boxer-- the pits joined together in mauling her throughout my house while I fought in vain to save her and failed. While covered in her blood and begging the pits to stop killing her, I had the brief thought of my parents finding me dead-- by the very two pits I loved and trusted. It was a nightmare and though almost nine years ago, I still struggle some nights. Since then, I advocate for victims, previous owners and pets/livestock killed by bullies. Please know that I don't hate pit bulls-- I do dislike pit bull pushers. Adopting this breed type to any home, making unsuspecting owners think the dogs are misunderstood, just need love, socialization, etc and not sharing the face that many of us thought we did things right and still ended with blood on our hands is irresponsinle. Until we start teaching on genetics, what it takes to own differing breeds of dogs, and that indeed, it's not all in how they're raised-- these shock maulings will continue. I will forever be grateful that I wasnt further injured that night but will never stop speaking out. Every time another person, pet, farm animal is killed, my heart breaks for the victim AND the pit bull that again was set up for failure.

Posted by: Nook1980 | March 28, 2019 6:41 PM    Report this comment

Nancy, THANK YOU for everything you do for dogs. I fear that your pit bull education is just beginning. I, too, lived with a delightful pit mix, for 10 years, and I always gave pit bulls the benefit of the doubt and blamed any problems on upbringing. But on New Year's Eve in 2017, my elderly beagle was badly mauled by an 11-year-old "friendly," "well-socialized," "sweet" pit bull who had no history of aggression toward other dogs and had a loving guardian and a lovely home since puppyhood--filled with everything a dog could want or need, including training. But it took three people to get her off my beagle and the wound was massive. It is not about nurture; it's about nature. This switch that can flip in a pit bull's brain is bred into their genes, and no amount of love or training will make it go away. It is the breed that needs to go away, through mandatory spaying and neutering.

Posted by: Karen Porreca | March 28, 2019 6:36 PM    Report this comment

I live in the UK where the Pitbull is a banned breed of dog so supposedly there should not be any about. Unless they are on a short lead and muzzled in public and neutered and registered with the authorities. However, I have reported Pit Bulls to the police which have been on busy play parks with an owner who looked like your idea of a drug dealer. DOg was on a lead but not muzzled.
My lovely "Dog in a lifetime" dog parker 1/1/02 to 26/10/15 was attacked by a Staffie which pushed him over and stood rigid over him with its nose pressed into his belly. I instantly swung into actionand grabbed the dog by its chavvy leather and bronze harness and lifted it off Parker. He was 12 at the time. The female owner ran around the corner and grabbed the dog off me and punched me in the face. I wouldn't let go of it and was screaming and screaming for someone to get the police. Parker jumped up repeatedly at the Staffie and bit it on the bum a few times. He was the sweetest temperament Kerry Blue you would ever meet and very dog-friendly normally. He knew I was in distress and made the right choice of biting the aggressive dog and not the aggressive owner! When the police came the owner said the dog had not been off-lead and she had not punched me and I had no witnesses. I found out later that this dog had previously attacked another dog which required it having vet attention being stitched up. I have had so many bad experiences with bull bred/Pit Bull type dogs over my dog owning years but after the above incident I took up nordic walking and have used the pole to protect my dogs when necessary.
Yes bull breeds are not all aggressive but many I have met are dog-aggressive and I want my friendly dogs to be protected from them and their skanky owners.

Posted by: Kerryowner | March 28, 2019 5:52 PM    Report this comment

My heart goes out to your neighbor and I understand how heartbreaking it can be to lose a beloved pet in a tragic way. I have two pitts that were rescued from the same litter and were abused and starved to near death. They are fear reactive to dogs and children because of this and we take full responsibility for them. They are good on leash and our vet is a fear free vet so she makes allowances for us when we go in. We have a 2 fence system with a 6 foot privacy fence on the outside and signs up so they have free run of our large yard. We don't walk them in the neighborhood much now because we have a new neighbor who lets his little dog run where ever it wants. They get along fine with our Bassett but we make sure that they are not in any situation where they are subjected to other dogs. We have other rescues in the home and they stay with my mother in her apartment as well as having a certain routine to keep everyone separated during meal times and potty breaks. I love my twins and take full responsibility for them. They do very well with us and we know how they are and how they can be. We don't travel and we don't spend hours away and we are ok with that. But most people aren't. All dogs have the potential to do anything, just like all animals do; including humans. In this day and age it is important for everyone to take responsibility. I can tell you that I did Home Health for 8 years during my long nursing career and out of ALL of the breeds I met, I was bit by Poms and Chihuahuas during that time and nothing else.

Posted by: SunnyL | March 28, 2019 5:23 PM    Report this comment

Nancy - thank you for your assistance in both situations. I have a 13 yr old dog that I walk regularly and could not defend herself if attacked. I started carrying a stun gun a couple of years ago - checked w/local police first. It is strictly for my dog. my neighborhood is safe but an aggressive dog can appear out of nowhere in any neighborhood. I feel I had no choice. I do not want my dog to be attacked and killed in her senior years. So far, have never had to use it-hope I never do.

Posted by: browndog | March 28, 2019 5:12 PM    Report this comment

People should be licensed, not dogs, and demonstrate basic training skills before being allowed to adopt any breed of dog. I tip my hat off to Nancy Kearns for taking action, her compassion & being an endless inspiration to her readers.

Pit bulls are usually the focus of news stories about dog attacks, not Golden Retrievers or other popular breed, resulting in an unfortunate stereotype about bully breeds. Helen Keller's dog was a pit bull, as was Theodore Roosevelt's dog. The dog featured in the iconic television show, Spanky & Our Gang, was a pit bull. In the 19th century, they were known as nanny dogs.

That said, every dog owner should make the time to train themselves to train his/her dog(s) & educate themselves on body language. Training is crucial to keeping our dogs safe and well adjusted. My current dog is a rescue & a bully mix, as were the last 3 dogs I had. Not everyone is willing to spend the time I have on training & educating myself, but, it's the most worthwhile investment you can make for the sake of your dogs, family and the general public.

The work my dog & I have done together has been a basis of relationship building. He's an AKC Canine Good Citizen and a registered Therapy Dog, who brings love & joy to seniors, students, including those with special needs. Hopefully, his good work will help dispel the negative image of the bully breed.

Posted by: kindredspirit | March 28, 2019 4:44 PM    Report this comment

Second gates, socialization, and training.
Thank you for sharing and jumping into appropriate action in both cases.

One simple tool is a second gate around the front door. Inside the home or outside the home, does not matter. Make it match the woodwork, and make it look intentional. We trainers could choose to recommend it until it becomes normal.
Dog trainers hear the same story again and again. My dog got through the front door. My dog opened the door. My ____ left the door open. Kids opened the gate. The gate broke.
In your story, "...and two other dogs got past her and ran straight for Brando"

I figure most delivery people, mail carriers and such have three thoughts just before they arrive at most homes.
1. Do they have a dog?
2. Where is it?
3. Will it bite me?
Hey, we are just human, we all leave a gate open or allow a dog to squeeze past us.

So install a second gate, inside the home, so your dog NEVER has access to persons coming in. Other wise dogs think they are first responders and it’s their responsibility to protect even though they probably don't even want that job. At least that’s what I “think” they think. Being first responder is a stressful job, ask any police officer or fire fighter.

It’s not going to solve the problem of dogs acting aggressively, that takes step by step training, dedicated humans, healthy food, early puppy socialization (8-16 weeks), management, and a little luck. Still, based on my experience listening to clients, a second gate or door would prevent a lot of horrific events.

Posted by: BrainyDogBehavior | March 28, 2019 4:37 PM    Report this comment

I try to remind myself that it is not the dog/breed, it is the humans.
My breed, GSD, also has made some horrible headlines.
Google "German Shepherd Attack in Bellevue Richmond Va."
Three GSDs running loose in the neighborhood and mauled several dogs. The owner was charged but was just visiting his relative from out of state. It makes me worry for anyone living in the state where the owner came from.
Dogs running loose is always a bad situation. I currently have a neighbor who continues to let his Rhodesian Ridgeback run loose. It is not a bad dog as far as I can tell but it may end up getting hit by a car, so I will make a phone call to animal control.
Humans are the problem...stupid humans.

Posted by: chesterpig | March 28, 2019 4:01 PM    Report this comment

My next door neighbor caught a giant boxer, who was running loose. She couldn't find the owner, so she kept him. He is fine with her other big dog, which is a bully mix, and her 2 young children, but he is tall enough to jump their fence and get loose in spite of her carefulness, and he loves to run. The trouble is, he thinks of small dogs as toys. This last winter he ran around the corner and attacked my dog while we were on a walk. Even though he did not bite my dog, my dog died shortly after, possibly as a result of internal injuries. The boxer frequently gets loose and chases/injures cats and squirrels. His owner cannot recall him when he is loose. A few months ago he attacked another neighbor's small dog, who was being walked by a pet-sitter. I have just gotten a small breed puppy, but I have not taken him outside when my neighbor is at home, for fear of another incident. Instead I have been relying on pee pads. As the weather warmed a little these last two weeks, I have started taking him on walks, with the hope of housebreaking him. Twice I have had to snatch him up as other large dogs, playing loose in their yards with their owners, have headed out of their yards towards us, with their owners calling, 'Don't worry, she/he is gentle". I have become afraid of walking my dog, and he is picking up on my fear.

Posted by: ralpt | March 28, 2019 3:54 PM    Report this comment

There seem to be so many large dogs that are people friendly, but extremely aggressive with smaller dogs and cats. I do not understand how you live with the risk that your dog might kill or wound someone else's pet. I also think that the push to save every dog from euthanasia means putting dangerous animals into the community with the feeble hope that their owners will be responsible. I trust people even less than the dogs. As a lover of toy breeds, these stories are my worst nightmare.

Posted by: Chandra | March 28, 2019 3:53 PM    Report this comment

Hi Nancy, Congratulations on really great save regarding thing one, so sorry about thing two! I saw the video of the postal worker attack, and it looked to me that the (understandable but ineffective) things people were doing in that situation were only making the situation worse. I wondered with the postal worker if he had just held still and tried to calm everything down, while the dog had the grip on his pants, that the grip might have stayed on his pants until the owner came out. Who knows. I also wondered if the dog was rabid? Or just insane? Why haven't we seen any follow up news to that story?

But I wanted to share a couple of real bad things I've seen happen that didn't happen with bully breeds. One was an Akita. A southern rescue told a client that if she didn't rescue this Akita they would put her down. The rescue said she was a fine dog for a person who had never had a dog before. The client was a merchant marine and had to leave for a month, and she brought her to me, telling her that the dog was fine with other dogs. I was walking the Akita on leash when an off-leash old beagle tottered up, barking insanely, and placed herself under the Akitas nose. We all froze in that position and I was saying reassuring things. After an eternity of this standoff, I thought, if i just relax my arm maybe I can reduce the tension but boom, that was when the Akita exploded and tried to kill the beagle. I was still on the other end of the leash and managed to pry the beagle out of the Akita's mouth, and fortunately the beagle's owner is a great guy and we still are friends, but that was the moment I decided I would never again walk anyone's dog off my property, that the risk is just to great. I want to control the environment much better than a dog walker can, no matter what a client says about a dog. But since then, I've seen dog walkers bring entire packs of dogs OFF LEASH to public dog parks! I've seen dangerous situations with off leash packs supervised by a person who doesn't even know the dogs. And in the same park, there's a guy with a chihuahua who gets a kick out of how "brave" his dog is, as it relentlessly pursues my leashed German Shepherd. People often don't realize what is expected of them at a dog park. Maybe we need to make rules more clear about what "off-leash" privileges require. People think that their little dog won't hurt anyone, but it could provoke a pack.

Another story is a family adopted a greyhound. The dog was laying on the floor with a ten year old boy petting him. The boy's friend came to the door, the ten year old leaped up to greet him. As the boy leaped, the greyhound leaped, ripping his throat open ear to ear. The boy survived to show me his impressive scar.

Another story. A family with three kids adopted the sweetest black lab. They were walking along, the lab up ahead, when an eccentric looking man, a painter with his easel, stepped out of the rose bushed. The dog bit the painter in the leg and removed one pound of meat. The family gave the dog to a shelter who "tested" it for aggression, tried and tried to get the dog to display a repeat aggression, but they decided the dog wasn't aggressive after all and they rehomed the dog.

I don't have any good answers either. We humans are "great apes" and we learn by imitation. I loved your rules of thumb above, about how you dole out off-leash privilege in tiny increments and take it away the instant the dog doesn't respond to a cue. It takes so much practice to get to that point. My 9 year old dog is totally there, my 15 month old GSD is still learning, and it doesn't help when off leash dogs pester him! Thanks for your reflection and writing!

Posted by: Yasijenny | March 28, 2019 3:34 PM    Report this comment

I live in NYC and I have acquaintances from work that rescue pit bulls and I understand the desire to help.However I saw a smallish young pitbull on the corner of 86 street and Third avenue last fallout about noon.The pitfall had grabbed a pigeon and wouldn't let go.The middle aged woman walking him had no control at all in a demure little voice she kept saying "let it go".Of course the pitfall didn't let go until a a very large man came up yelled at the dog and admonished the owner for having no control.By this time a crowd had gathered and the dog dropped the now dead pigeon in the presence of the man.I like pigeons so I found it very upsetting but even worse was the fact that this woman was on an incredibly busy street and had absolutely no control .What if it had been a child or another dog?I saw her again on the street later and told her she shouldn't be walking a dog she can't control - she told me she did everything right according to her trainer.Unfortunately I don't think anyone who witnessed the event thinks so.This wasn't a park it was a major intersection in one of the worlds busiest cities.I have a male spaniel and I will often cross the street if I see a pitfall looking at him with too much interest .The owners are usually on their phones with a slack leash and totally oblivious so it is up to me to act defensively.If you are going to have these bully breeds you need to be attentive and in control and not just have a good heart.

Posted by: inky is teddy | March 28, 2019 3:19 PM    Report this comment

We've owned two pitters and one Am Staff. All three were fantastic dogs. All three could have been aggressive, especially dog aggressive, none of them were. They are very intelligent dogs, they love learning, mostly because they love attention. A lot of people own bullies because of their reputation - they are the kind of people who shouldn't own any dog, much less a bully. The reputation they have gotten makes me ill. Don't know if it will ever change. As long as shelters aren't willing to thoroughly vet the people they allow to adopt them - probably not. The dog we have now was listed as ½ Am Staff. DNA says he is half Boxer and the other have just about every other breed known. That's another problem. Looks can be deceiving.

Posted by: CKallen | March 28, 2019 2:39 PM    Report this comment

I believe something very important to address in both of these situations as well as the situation in Detroit. (I'm from Michigan btw and am very well aware of what happened and am also part of the Animal Welfare Community in our state and work at a local animal shelter in canine behavior and enrichment.)

Irresponsible Owners in each situation and many more that have happened and sadly will continue to happen with Any breed of dog. Following animal control laws and being responsible pet owners is key to preventing dangerous situations and helping keep communities safe.

The reason the shelters are so full are for many reasons, Breed Specific Legislation and Discrimination, Breed Restrictions in Housing, backyard breeders, people getting dogs and then realizing they don't have the time for them, the vast majority of these dogs are not surrendered by any fault of their own. I spend my days working with these dogs, training them, caring for them, going in and out of their kennels, going for walks, rides, field trips to local businesses, they are just dogs.

We need to stop encouraging this stigma when a Pit Bull attack happens it's all over the news but if a Lab or Husky does no one hears a word.

Any dog can bite any dog can be dangerous, it's up to us as pet owners, trainers, those in animal welfare / animal control, Veterinary medicine to encourage responsible pet ownership and address the issues at the other end of the leash not consistently blame a dog or a breed of them for the fault of humans.

Posted by: Tanelle | March 28, 2019 2:31 PM    Report this comment

BTW, Trish King, a behaviorist from Northern California, used to teach a really interesting seminar on playstyles in different breeds, called “different breeds have different needs.“ she herself has had dogs of several breeds, including bullies, and has done behavior evaluations on hundreds of dogs. She said among other things that bullies like to playbite around the face which can totally freak out dogs with other playstyles. Labs like to play bumper cars but are generally not freaked out by bullies. Border Collies are often touch sensitive and like flybys where they run at each other but then make a pass at the last second without actually touching. A bullie playing with a border collie may be perceived by the border collie as initiating an attack, and a dogfight can follow even if the bully didn’t mean it.

Anyway, it’s available on DVD, and I highly recommend donating one to your local shelter if they don’t already have it for them to lend to new bully owners. I think it’s a really helpful discussion of how to avoid problems before they start with this particular breed group.

Tawzer Dog has the DVD under Trish King. I’m sure other places will have it as well.

Posted by: Robin J.. | March 28, 2019 2:23 PM    Report this comment

shanamc, please don't be so quick to say "put him down." I live in NYC and rescued a 6 yr-old pit-mix sight unseen from NM. A friend checked him out with his female pit and all seemed well. It turned out he didn't like animals bigger than he is in size and has strong prey drive for squirrels. Bit of a disappointment because I wanted to take him to the park during off-leash hours, but he loves people and is otherwise lovable, so he's never off-leash and we tailor our walks to suit his temperament. Like children, you never know what they'll grow up to be, but you work with what you have and love the good in them.

Posted by: Czerny | March 28, 2019 2:23 PM    Report this comment

I couldn't read all of the details of the 2nd attack on the senior beagle. I was walking my 2 senior, special needs rescue dogs in our courtyard when 2 loose pit bulls raced around the corner in super excited over stimulated mode. It happened so fast. They saw my little white terrier/maltese mix who was the sweetest dog ever and was probably born deaf - they ran straight at us (I had both my dogs on leash). Chimi was just standing in the sun next to me. It happened so fast that there was no way for me to react fast enough. Those dogs would not stop. I screamed and yelled and was on the ground trying to protect her, hitting the big male. He would let go but the other one would grab her - at one point they both had her. I was never bitten or attacked. Chimi was their prey. I was screaming and screaming for help from neighbors. When one lady finally ran out to help, the 2nd dog was dragging my poor old disabled dog, Webster, away by his back leg. Webster survived with just bruises and much soreness (although psychology it must have been horrible). Chimi died at the emergency room - she had broken bones and deep punctures all over her poor little body. Animal control would not do anything. Period. They said unless I could tell them who owned the dogs they couldn't do anything. The police said unless the dogs attacked a person, they couldn't do anything. Anyway, I had always liked the bully breeds of dogs and felt that they were much maligned. But with the trauma of this attack, it took me a year before I could even look at a photo of a bully breed! I did find out later from someone who had seen my facebook postings. She worked in these nearby warehouse offices and a man who owned a business nearby told her a couple days later about how he always brings his 2 dogs to work and that they had gotten loose. He said he got in his car and drove all around - finally finding them blocks away on my street. He had no idea they had done anything. I did not feel comfortable confronting him by myself so all I did was email him at his business along with a photo of Chimi and told him what happened. Of course, he never replied, but I know he got it. No matter what, it wouldn't bring my little friend back. His dogs were clearly people friendly, but as I have always known from volunteering with shelters and rescue groups, any time you have 2 or more dogs get in that type of excited tunnel vision that certain dogs can get -- there is no knowing what they might do. This man did not intentionally let his dogs run loose, but if you are going to have a dog, then you should be more careful. Especially powerful dogs like these were. Oh, and I found out from that lady who told me about him and his dogs, that he was breeding them and the female was pregnant. that's just great.....

Posted by: sunnyblu | March 28, 2019 2:23 PM    Report this comment

Oh Nancy this is such a horrific story. I'm so sorry for everyone involved. I am with you on the types of people who are getting these bully breeds. I steer clear of them when out and about and tell all of my clients to. Not because of the breed, but b/c of the folks who own them and fail to teach them to be members of society, so they can live and thrive in the world.

This happened to me when I was walking two small dogs; one mine and another a client, on a street I had walked for months. I heard someone calling a dog from a house, I never knew had a dog. I was a few doors before the house, so I went up a driveway behind trees, b/c it was clear the dog wasn't listening to their owner. The English Bull Dog, short but very stout, spotted us. I started to pick up both pups, keeping them at a distance or they would be toast with one shake. My dog, wiggled out of her harness and took off down the street, towards a 45mph very busy no, sidewalk street. The bull dog came after me w/ the dog in my arms, jumping and biting me and the dog. I held her high, screaming, just like you but to no avail. The owner was screaming too. While she was trying to get the bull dog, Newfy came out and started running after my dog who was running for that busy road. I imagined my dog running directly into traffic and when all was said and done, I'd find her flattened by a car. Someone got the bull dog and I started running towards the street after my dog. I saw the woman holding the Newfy by the collar as he dragged her up the road. I hid behind a tree on someones front yard, till they passed and then I ran to find my dog. I didn't see her anywhere. I ran to the house, to put the puppy in my arms inside while I went to find my dog and there she was in the yard, shaking and whining in fear. She had gotten into the yard by squeezing under a very narrow space but adrenaline will do that. All 9 lbs of her was being chased by a 150 lb Newfy and she knew she had to get away.

She has never tried to get out of her harness but she knew she had to flee and wiggled like hell to get out of it so she could run to the safety of her yard. She's one smart dog. I was a mess and so were the dogs. We sat and cried together on the ground, hugging and snuggling eachother while getting all the treats that were in my pouch. We are all fine but it just solidifies my fear dogs who are owned by ignorant, selfish irresponsible people.

What's to be done? Can the shelters do a more thorough check before adopting these dogs out. Do a home check, more background checks on potential adoptees? Something needs to give. I'm not a fan of banning a breed but I am a fan of banning irresponsible breeders. But how... it's horrible to live in fear when we're out walking our dogs in our own neighborhoods or anywhere.

Posted by: Jbreitner | March 28, 2019 2:17 PM    Report this comment

It is scary.

In less than a year we have had a dog killed by pits that went out an open door near our neighborhood, a woman and her two small dogs attacked (one dog died) in our town, and just this week five pits terrorized the neighborhood one block over from the first attack (Google - Gainesville Florida pitbull attacks).

My breed is poodles but I have defended pits for a long time as being innocent. Now we walk with pepper spray and discuss what to do if we are the victim of an attack since we live a few streets over from where the attacks took place. My mother who lives on the other end of Bella's street heard the screaming (canine and human) and refuses to replace her last dog out of fear.


Posted by: Furrykids | March 28, 2019 1:56 PM    Report this comment

I’m so sorry you had to go through that all that, and in two separate incidents as well! I’m glad the first one ended successfully, although I’m not sure what the best course of action was. For the second, although tragic, you obviously handled it beautifully, and did much more than most people would’ve thought of.
As far as bully breeds and their popularity, there are lots of reasons for that, including the fact that some people feel comforted by having a dog that is scary to other people. That includes mastiffs and Rottweilers and dobermans and bully breeds.
For other people, bullies are just the dogs that they grew up around. That’s what “dog“ means to them. Those are the ones that make them smile when they see them in movies or on greeting cards or coffee mugs.
So congratulations on handling everything so well, and hugs for all the difficulty.
One very small point, but one that is personally important to me, so I hope you’ll forgive me including it. I am old enough to remember when mandatory seatbelt laws first came in and many people, including many of my own relatives, said “I’ve been driving without a seatbelt for decades, I’m not going to start now.“ If an area is now marked “leashes required,“ please put your dog on a leash. It can be a long line in some places, In others it has to be a 6 foot leash, but if the area requires leashes please use them, even if it used to be leash free for decades.
There are lots of reasons for that, but one of them is that your own dog is much more likely to be injured by either a passerby or law-enforcement or even animal control if he is running free in a lease required area. You may know he has great offleash control, but they won’t, and in that situation the law is not on your side.
I know it’s annoying when the rules change, but if they change, they change. Work to change them back if you like, but meanwhile, follow the posted rules of any property where you walk your dog. Like I said, a small point, but just something to consider.
And again, I am so impressed with what you did under such crazy circumstances! And I’m so glad Woody is OK. He’ll understand. Dogs are incredibly forgiving with those they love and again, I am so impressed with what you did under such crazy circumstances! And I’m so glad Woody is OK. He’ll understand. Dogs are incredibly forgiving with those they love.

Posted by: Robin J.. | March 28, 2019 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Truly horrifying. I have to wonder why shelters are adopting out dogs that are people and/or dog aggressive? I showed some interest in a pitbull mix at our local shelter who was very people friendly. The shelter told me he tested as being extremely dog aggressive but they were willing to adopt him out to a family with no other pets. I took a pass and hope the shelter did the responsible thing and put him down so he didn't end up in the hands of an irresponsible owner. Not all dogs can be saved.

Posted by: shanamc | March 28, 2019 1:19 PM    Report this comment

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