Typically for me, SayUncle became instantly more interesting to me (and upgraded from a semi-frequent read to a daily one, probably) when he went from just being a sharp gun guy to a sharp bully breed guy who actually understands the nature of the “pit bull”. Naturally, I had to go back and start reading about the Politically Incorrect Dogs. Also naturally, I ran across a rather typical idiot in the comments that thinks that pit bulls are Killer Death Droids and should all be shot on sight. SayUncle had linked to statistics from the Temperament Tests that showed pit bulls generally score about like Goldens do, so the Golden Retriever was the point of comparison on this guy’s rant for, I guess, a “normal” dog versus the Lethal Mutant Caninething.
Now I’m going to back up a bit. When I was in the latter part of high school and college, I earned my spending money by working as a vet tech in the clinic that had taken care of our animals for about as long as I could remember. People who work with other people’s pets on a daily basis have a unique perspective on dog breeds; they definitely develop some breed prejudices, because trends do become apparent, but they tend to be very, very different from the breed prejudices developed by people whose outlook is shaped by the media. That outlook is also shaped by their class of clientele- different businesses attract different sorts of owners depending on both the location of the business and the likelihood that certain types of owners would spend money on that business. Owners of utilitarian working and hunting dogs are not likely to use a dog groomer, less likely to use a vet (you can do a lot more basic veterinary care at home than some vets will let on and these owners know it), and the sorts of ghetto/redneck-culture idiots who own the scary-as-fuck dogs aren’t likely to spend money on their animals at all beyond food or a really macho collar. It means the pros do miss some trends- like the backyard hellhounds that most often turn up in the news as having devoured a passerby- but that they do get a rather keen perspective on what breeds are currently more likely to have nasty aggressive tendencies by nature rather than as a product of their raising and training or lack thereof. The “currently” is important- breeds change a lot over time, depending on their level of popularity, who they’re popular with, and what the core of breeders devoted to the breed are doing. This is another thing you won’t generally see media awareness of, although if you track which the scary breed they’re reporting on over time, it’s certainly reflected.
Our vet clinic was located in a fairly upscale section of Phoenix, and while the clientele was very varied (the vets practicing there are GOOD and the pet-owner jungle-drum system is efficient), it mostly trended to middle to upper class suburbanites- not the sort of people that generally want a backyard hellhound to impresss their homies. More the kind of people that generally want something to get on with the kids and play ball.
As you may have guessed what I’m leading up to, pit bulls were NOT something I developed a wary eye for while I was working there. I was generally very happy to see that the next patient I had to deal with was one of our pit bull regulars; the people who brought them to the clinic were people who knew the potential hazards in the breed(s), who knew VERY WELL that bully dogs have image problems and had taken extra care to socialize them well and to choose dogs of sound temperament, and generally had worked to get a clue. Their dogs were pleasant for the staff to deal with because they were of correct bully breed type and temperament: wildly friendly face-lickers with extremely high pain tolerances. Even nice dogs we had to deal with could get overwhelmed by pain and become dangerous to deal with; we could do ANYTHING to the bullies and they’d still just want to lick us. Cactus in the face? No problem. Hit by car? No problem. Things could get exciting if they were brought in for a nail trim, because they were very strong, but they just wanted to get out of the nail trim, not maul us. All in all, pleasant animals to deal with.
The Goldens, on the other hand, were a much more mixed bag. Goldens have been popular for a very long time, and more than that their reputation has been “ideal family dog” all that time. They have been wildly bred, and overbred, and sold to people under the impression that a Golden is a Golden and will always be the ideal family dog- totally sweet and unaggressive, if rambunctious. Unfortunately, that isn’t so; breeding by the unscrupulous and the clueless for as long as it’s been going on has finally resulted in temperament problems becoming increasingly widespread- including various forms of aggression, which would have been totally unheard of in a Golden thirty or even twenty years ago. Our Golden patients ranged all over the place from the wonderful dogs they can be, to the neurotic, to the outright unstable and aggressive. By coincidence, the worst injury incurred by any of the staff while I was working there was from a Golden: the vet had been kneeling down to greet the dog, the dog’s tail had been sticking out under the door to the waiting room, and somebody in the waiting room had stepped on or bitten the tail. The Golden lunged forward and bit the vet- hard. I think she still has lingering nerve and tendon damage in the wrist that dog nailed; there was no bite inhibition at all, which is WAY out of bounds for normal in Golden temperament. They should be very strongly bite-inhibited- and relatively insensitive to touch or pain. This dog was neither, and it cost the vet a trip to the Emergency Room.
If you really want to know the nature of a breed, don’t look to the media and don’t look to dog-bite statistics- ask dog trainers what kind of problems that breed comes in for and how often they see them. Ask the vet clinic staff how easy or tough it is to deal with. Ask groomers if they’re wild or mild. You’ll get a clearer picture, although the perspective for each would be different; a trainer would probably have had a dimmer eye of pit bulls than I developed, because they would have been the people hired to deal with aggression toward dogs and other animals. A groomer probably wouldn’t have had much to say at all, because the coat is short and wash-n-wear. (You’d probably get quite the earful about Lhasa Apsos from them, though.)
If you’re really curious, the top five rogue’s gallery I really DID come to look at with automatic caution and suspicion were: Chows, Dalmatians, Jack Russel Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, and Shar Peis. In roughly that order. I wouldn’t be surprised if it changed if I went back to work there today, either.