What has four legs and an arm? A happy pit bull. What happens when you cross a pit bull with a collie? A dog who bites your leg off, then goes for help. Contrary to tasteless jokes and public opinion, it is not the breed of dog that makes a dog dangerous, rather it is the owner of a dog that makes dogs dangerous.
But, let’s face it, there are certain dog breeds that demand their owners be aware of negative opinion; and it is the owners’ primary responsibility to implement careful training and socialization of their pups in order to bring an understanding and acceptance of the breed by the general public. The breeds currently labeled aggressive include Akita, Boxer, Chow, Dalmatian, Doberman, Alaskan Husky, American or Staffordshire Pit Bull, Presa Canario, and Rottweiler. These dogs are mid-size to large and generally muscular, with large heads. The responsible dog owner must help his dog, especially the so-called “aggressive” breed, learn how to cope and respond, in a healthy and acceptable manner, to the spectrum of people, animals, places and things he might encounter throughout his life. Dog obedience classes, regular visits to the vet, playtime with other dogs and regular walks outdoors will help the dogs (and their masters) develop confidence and ease. This goes a long way in helping them become resilient in the face of unsettling situations.
Unfortunately, many of the aggressive breeds, especially the pit bull, have been exploited by certain types of people, such as gang members and drug dealers who are using them as a "status symbol," to menace communities and intimidate rivals. This subculture has emerged in recent years following crackdowns on guns and knives. Then, there’s Michael Vick, former Atlanta Falcons’ quarterback, who was arrested and convicted for maintaining a dog-fighting ring (a blood sport) on his property. Most dog fighters prefer to fight pit bulls. Generally, pit bulls are gentle and fiercely loyal toward their owners. This quality has made them attractive to dog-fighters because they will withstand considerable abuse and neglect at the hands of their owners, but with certain, barbaric training practices, become tenacious fighters with other dogs.
To train a fighting dog, handlers keep the dogs chained or in small, filthy cages. With the dogs chained in place (by heavy chains), the handlers often add extra weight to the chains with the purpose of increasing the dog’s upper body strength. Some handlers make their dogs tug on hanging objects, like tires, to increase jaw strength; and some handlers file their dogs’ teeth to make them as sharp as possible. Other training techniques include keeping other dogs nearby, but just out of reach of each other, in order to increase their antagonism. Dogs are frequently beaten and antagonized to enhance aggressiveness. They may also be starved or malnourished, to increase their hunger. Handlers will use cats or rabbits as “bait.” The bait animals are tied up while the dog...