Thursday, August 7, 2014

A tale of two breeds

Since this article was originally published 4 years ago, there have been scores of people killed and thousands maimed or disfigured in the US by "family pit bulls", and yet the myth persists that pit bulls are harmless, misunderstood dogs. Pit bull advocates like to try to deflect the negative attention away from pit bulls, to other types of dogs, such as Akitas - which they claim are much more dangerous than pit bulls, but interestingly enough, Akitas have been responsible for a grand total of zero human fatalities in the US during the same period. I've taken the liberty of updating the facts and figures from the original article to reflect current reality.

Naturally, we all know that dogs can be dangerous, and some types are certainly more dangerous than others. We rely on the dogs sanity and good temperament to inhibit them from attacking us, our families and our animal companions. Some breeds have caused more concern then others, some due to their unpredictable behavior, others due simply to their size and strength. Many communities have reacted to horrific attacks by enacting Breed Specific Legislation, a subject that seems to drive some folks completely over the edge. It's not my intent to make the definitive statement about Breed Specific Legislation here, but perhaps we shall look deeper into that contentious subject in a later article.

What with all the reports of pit bull violence in the news lately, I find it interesting to compare the "marketing" of pit bulls with that of another breed which is also considered dangerous - the Akita. Both breeds are physically capable of causing a lot of trouble, and both breeds have their fans, rescuers and advocates. But the marketing of the two breeds is very different, as are their respective records of violence.

Let's take a look at how Akita advocates characterize the breed, for those seeking information:

Akitas are inherently aggressive towards other animals and for this reason, they should not be allowed to run free or roam at will.

Akitas like to take charge--an inherited trait from their wolf ancestry and may at some time, challenge you for the dominant position.

Akitas may respond with aggression if treated harshly.

Akitas do not like to be teased and can respond by biting.

Akitas consider eye contact a challenge and can react aggressively. 

That sort of advice provides some serious food for thought, making it clear that these dogs can be dangerous. While responsible Akita owners generally have good, well-behaved dogs, it's clear that Akita ownership is not for everybody. That particular advice came from the site, but the same advice has been available for some time from most Akita organizations.

It's interesting to how compare this to how pit bulls are described by their advocates - the following points were taken from a representative pit bull information site, and any of them, if googled, will provide pointers to a number of other web sites where you can read these and similar claims:

The bull breeds are nicknamed the "nanny dog" - they are great with kids.

Pit Bulls are not human aggressive. They are gentle and loving dogs.

In actuality, pits are bred to be affectionate toward people

Pit Bulls are no more vicious than Golden Retrievers, Beagles or other popular dogs!

Very interesting. In contrast to the dangerous Akita, the pit bull seems rather harmless - it's all blue skies, rainbows and butterflies, if the pit bull advocates are to be believed. Apparently pit bulls are ideal family pets.

Just to make sure though, let's see if we can confirm this marketing info with empirical evidence. There have been a number of 3rd party studies on dog attacks that we can reference. Here are a few of them:

U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities January 2006 to December 2008
Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to June 25, 2010
Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs
Are "Pit Bulls" Different? An Analysis of the Pit Bull Terrier Controversy

Even a casual glance through studies referenced above destroys the assertion of the advocates that pit bulls are harmless and gentle with people.

Some highlights of the studies: Pit bulls, estimated to be around 6% of the dog population, were responsible for more maimings and deaths than all other breeds combined during the 28 year study period. Rottweilers are a distant second, while Labs, German Shepherds and Dobermans were far below the leaders. Akitas were further down in the rankings, with around the same number of deaths as Boxers, Chows, and Dobermans. There have been 8 deaths attributed to Akitas, most of which apparently occurred in guard dog scenarios. In contrast, there have been a total of 86 deaths by Rottweiler and 301 deaths by pit bull. The pit bull death toll is aside from the astounding number of pit bull attacks in which the victim survived, but with permanent disability and/or disfigurement.

The study by the Emergency Room doctors (Bini et al) made the following conclusion: "Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs."

So to recap, Akita advocates warn that Akitas must be treated with respect and caution and can be dangerous. There have been some injuries and even a death from an Akita bite. On the other hand, pit bull advocates claim that pit bulls are just misunderstood people-pleasers who have been unfairly demonized by a vast media conspiracy. But what do we see in the cold hard reality of the real world? While referred to as "nanny dogs", and touted as "great with children", the "family pit bull" is statistically the most dangerous type of dog one could possibly own. Pit bulls are known to have killed far more children in the USA than all other types of dogs combined. 

The contrast between the Akita and pit bull communities can be as striking as the difference between the respective records of violence of the two breeds. While the Akita community can be generally characterized as cautious, frank and responsible, the pit bull community appears to live in denial and has a credibility problem.

The disconnect with reality is unbelievable. But what is even more is concerning are the increasing pressure to increase the magnitude of that disconnect. There have been renewed efforts from top pit bull advocacy groups to "rehabilitate the image" of the pit bull and counter it's "bad rap" by ramping up the "education" campaigns.

Let me get this right - instead of working to reduce the number of pit bulls dumped into the system by breeders, or holding pit bull owners accountable for attacks committed by their animals, we are just going to turn up the volume on the pit bull hype machine instead.

Instead of help for victims of pit bull violence, or better yet, preventative measures, we'll instead have to make do with fabricated pit bull hero stories, and feel-good articles about how wonderful they are. More pit bulls will be pushed onto an unsuspecting public, and the pit bull death toll will continue to rise, even while the propaganda machine blares forth the message, ever louder and more frantically, that pit bulls are wonderful. War is peace. Black is white. Love is hate. It's 1984 all over again.

One can only hope that, as pit bulls and their owners continue to over reach, and to make new enemies every single day, with each new atrocity, each new beloved animal companion mauled to death, each new toddler torn apart by the "family pit bull", 
a tipping point will be reached, and a critical mass of people will rise up and say "enough!"


  1. Good points - I've been noticing some of these things in the back of my mind but this post helped define what I've been seeing. "credibility problem" indeed!

  2. you nailed this one jake. great job illustrating the insanity that is pit bull advocacy. i share your ambivalence about BSL, actually, just breeds bans. i don't have a problem with the law treating different breeds differently.

    progressive talk radio host thom hartmann wrote a book called Cracking the Code that addressed this very same issue about how the right wing conservatives have managed to hijack the debate in much the same way that the pit nutters have. i picked up a used copy, it is sitting in my growing pile of must read books. i might have to bump it up.

    *it is important to understand what that 5% pit bull population really means because it is misleading. that is just purebred APBT, it doesn't include amstaffs, staffy bulls, ambulls, dogos, bull terriers or their mixes which most people think of as "pit bulls" and is much higher than 5%.

  3. Appreciate the feedback Craven - I know the pit bull statistics in the Merritt study don't include bull terriers, dogos, presas, cane corsos, fila braseiros - but I'd be surprised if they didn't include all the usual names (amstaff, staffy bull, american bulldog, staffordshire terrier etc) in the pit bull stats.

    Maybe things are different up in your neck of the woods but down here I see 10-15 labs or GSDs for every pit bull.

  4. not many GSDs here and slightly more labs than pits. i am surrounded by these ugly dogs.

  5. Sorry to hear that. I do see pit bulls here and there, but hardly any that have been around for the long haul.

    The guy around the corner used to have 3 pit bulls, which would "somehow" get out of the yard and attack people. The pits are all gone now, and instead there is a very sweet black Lab. Great big silly boy, makes lots of noise. Baby girl looks for him whenever we walk past that house on our rounds.

    There was a family a few blocks over that had a couple of pit bull puppies - I would always see them walking around, with the dogs off-leash entering people's yards and running up to other dogs. They came running at Baby and me as we walked one night, the owner shouting "friendly, friendly! they are friendly!". Fortunately they were still puppies and didn't attack, but I was angry at myself for putting Baby in such a vulnerable position. Since then I have armed myself. At any rate, I suddenly stopped seeing those dogs some months ago. I'm betting there was sort sort of "scuffle" once they hit that magic age.

    I don't see many pit bulls at the dog park. I did notice a fight some months ago they seemed to be having trouble breaking up, and the owners were having a heated exchange. The dog who wouldn't let go was a pit bull.

  6. I can assure you that the reason akitas are not a problem breed despite their similar nature to the pit bull; is because they don't have idiots promoting and owning them.

    They have more responsible owners that are more willing to alter their pets and prohibit certain people from engaging them in public. Because they speak the truth it encourages idiot dog owners from attaining the breed and it allows for the more responsible ones to create safe environments for the people and their pooches.

  7. @Digger - it's clear that the Akita community is more responsible but that's the not the sole reason. There are fundamental differences between the breeds.

    For one, an Akita doesn't lie. You pretty much know where you stand. If you're a stranger coming around when nobody's home, it's probably best if you just turn around and head back, and you can clearly see that message from the dog.

    Pit bulls, on the other hand, are well known for giving misleading signals: A playful bow, a wag of the tail, and suddenly lunging for your throat. Just because you seem to be on good terms with a pit bull is no guarantee of safety.

    No other breed has such a record of attacking family members suddenly and violently with zero warning, after months or years of peaceful coexistence. The fact that a pit bull can seem docile and loving, and gain an owners trust before unleashing an orgy of spattered blood makes them dangerous on an even deeper level.

    It's fairly easy to google the news stories and verify what's become a cliche in the aftermath of the typical violent and unexpected pit bull attacks that we see every week - the befuddled owner will remark "We raised him from a puppy and he's never shown any aggression before. I don't understand what set him off"

  8. Jake,

    I'm sorry, my comment came out horrible and I obvious did not proof read.

    To clarify:

    Akitas and pit bulls are known to be bossy breeds.
    Akitas don't lie, pit bulls generally do.

    Akita's may maul, but they give ample warning.
    Pit bulls do not.

    Respect the Akita and you generally get a decent dog.
    Respect the pit bull and you might get a decent dog.

    It does also help that the Akita community is more honest and responsible than the pit bull one however.

    Therefore, despite the similarities. Akitas are safer than pit bulls.

  9. i don't have a reason to say this other than it is just my gut feeling but i think the akita most likely would stop attacking if a crowd of people were hitting it with a hammer and 2x4's. they may be large powerful dogs bred to fight but they weren't bred to fight like pit bulls were.

    i think there is another explanation as to why akitas don't register high on the attack data, population numbers and purchase price.

    first go to petfinder:
    804 akitas
    16,086 apbt (excluding all of those lab/boxer mixes)
    2,642 ambull
    5,248 amstaff
    1,160 sbt

    then google akita puppies for sale.
    the price range is $800 - $3500

    shelters can't give pit bulls away. nobody wants them. the risk is too great for INTELLIGENT people with something to lose.

    MOST people who get an akita buy an expensive dog, opposed to the average unemployed white trash judgement proof felon and his live-in food stamps girl friend with 3 kids from 3 fathers who adopted their pit from a rescue and got free spay/neuter, free obedience classes and lifetime support or bought it for $30 and a 6 pack from the neighbor's friend's brother's baby's daddy after he went to prison.

    the situation for pit bulls is really bleak. when i am not actively in a rage about what these ugly dogs are doing to people, pets and livestock, i feel very sorry for them. they shouldn't exist in these numbers and in a perfect world, they would have never existed at all.

  10. Craven,

    Most breeds only register in the 1 to 2 million marker range. According to the pit bull community it is 5 million. They claim they are popular dogs and they are partially right. They're so popular that so many are bred and adopted out only to be dumped in shelters before many reach a ripe age of 4.

    They're so popular that they are unwanted if that makes sense.

    All the misery the pit bull breed experiences can be seen by people like Bad Rap and several others. Who apparently think that mandatory spay and neuter are wrong yet promote that people spay and neuter. What?

    What makes that first notion even more stupid is that they don't want laws on pet alteration but then admit (last time I checked) that it can cause for a roaming pit bull who will be more inclined to fight.

  11. Very good points craven, and I don't discount any of what you're saying, except to point out that the original "matagi inu" (hunting dog) which is now called the Akita was an ancient, naturally occurring breed - unlike the pit bull which was created specifically by sociopaths for the purpose of fighting to the death.

    I think we agree that pit bulls have some special genetic issues that set them apart from normal dogs, and that is the basis of the problem. But the points you raise above certainly make a bad situation even worse.

    I also agree that it sucks to be a pit bull because over a million a year too many are being pumped out. The most humane thing would be to sterilize them and stop the cycle of misery for good.

  12. pit bulls and their mixes are VERY popular where i live. they are a close second to labs.

    my point about the population numbers is this: if you want to be fair and honest, you can't compare the pit bull mauling numbers, which includes a heck of a lot more than just purebred APBT, to the population of pure APBT. in comparison, akitas are more rare than staffy bulls where i live and staffy bulls are pretty rare. i think that has a lot to do with their price tag.

    dogos and presas are even rarer. i've seen one dogo in my life time and no presas. if they ever become popular, society will spiral into chaos. i personally think these gripping dogs are more dangerous than pure APBT.

  13. Hmm, just about all the sources I can find put the pit bull population at 5%, though one suggests that it's getting closer to 10% these days - maybe that's true if you count all the pit bulls in the shelters, where they are often the majority.

    Just as a random data point: during the course of my day yesterday I saw a German Shepherd, 4 labs, 3 Akitas and 0 pit bulls. Every neighborhood is different.

    I agree that the giant gripping dogs are deadlier than the normal sized ones. Fortunately they are, as you say, still rare...

  14. i don't think merritt clifton or anyone else is skewing the pit numbers. i also don't think it is possible to get accurate numbers given the underground nature of dog fighting, the surge in tax dodging unlicensed back yard breeders and the fact that the majority of the losers who gravitate towards pits usually fail to license them (and vaccinate them). i believe that we can only have rough estimates of the numbers of pit bulls.

    it is irrefutable that pit bulls (i am using the broad term, not APBT) are responsible for roughly 50% of fatal attacks. whether pit bulls (and their mixes) account for 5% or 10% or even 20% of the population doesn't matter. they certainly don't make up 50% of the dog population. so the pit nutters will lose this argument every time. i have been thinking about blogging this as well.

    my comment was really more about why we don't see more akita attacks. in comparison, the akita is a rare and expensive animal that is unlikely to fall into the hands of felons and judgement proof morons.

  15. i should add, my theory about why there aren't more akita attacks is not intended to replace or discount yours, it is to compliment it. i believe that what you have outlined above reasonably explains part of the problem. my theory reasonably explains another part. there could be yet more explanations that you or i have not thought of.

  16. I think that the population of pits depends on where you live. In Southern CA, they are definitely the most popular. And you see them as strays many times over any other breed. Where you find the most criminals, you will find the most pit bulls. One area I know you would be hard pressed to find anything but a pit bull. Akitas are few and far between. In my dealings with rescue, akitas are much easier to place and usually the people who want one are nicer than the people who want pits.

  17. @P. I live in southern California. I see more Labs, GSDs and small dogs than anything else - pits are few and far between, and the few I used to see around my neighborhood are gone for some reason.

    I'll admit that on those occasions where I've passed through the inner city ghetto I've seen more pits, but otherwise they are a small minority of the dog population as far as I can tell.

  18. Jake, have you looked into the cases of Akita attacks in the UK? I've only seen a couple but it seems to me most of those cases are involving ignorant owners and the breed has a bad rap there. I am curious to see what the empirical evidence would suggest for the breed in the UK.

  19. I'm sorry but your statistics are way off. The REASON that there are more attacks by Pit Bulls is not because they are more aggressive. It is because more people that abuse dogs are getting Pit Bulls. There are more Pits in the population than Akitas, so obviously there will be more bites. Your numbers are very very skewed and you really shouldn't suggest that they are fact when they are so biased. I have an Akita, a Labrador and also a Pit Bull and they are all extremely sweet.

  20. @KGC - feel free to point out exactly which statistics you feel are incorrect, and why. BTW the statistics are not mine, I'm referencing studies done by reputable 3rd parties which were conducted with careful attention to detail and accuracy. You may not like what the reports say, but shooting the messenger won't help.

    You claim that there are a lot of pit victims simply because there are so many pits. Explain why aren't there more victims of Lab attacks, since Labs are big strong dogs, and Labs far outnumber pit bulls.

  21. Oh, and I used to have a Dogo Argentino, who passed away from old age. He was a wonderful dog. All of my dogs are well known and well loved in the neighborhood. You can't judge one breed by the few that attack. There are more "pit bulls" in the world than akitas. and those that abuse dogs prefer pits. If you read anything about pit bull history, they were called "nanny dogs" at the turn of the century. You can't judge a single dog by their breed. Just like you can't judge a person by their skin color.

  22. Jack - that's very easy. People who abuse dogs generally don't choose Labradors. They like dogs that look tough (whether or not they are). Labs look too goofy, and people who abuse and fight dogs are not going to chose them. There are more pit attacks than lab attacks simply because the people that abuse dogs and train them to fight prefer pits to labs.
    as for the statistics - you mentioned the percentage of pit bulls, but not the percentage of abused dogs or those seized from dog fighting rings that are pit bulls. and you didn't look at the percentage of abused or fought dogs that have attacked. You are only looking at the population percentages, not the situations which cause the attacks. That is like saying that a certain ethnic group is stupid because they can't read, instead of looking at poverty rate of that ethnic group.
    Pits are the dogs that are chosen by thugs who beat them. Akitas are much rarer (as your own statistics prove). Even if you don't factor in which dogs are abused or not (which you SHOULD), you should look at what percentage of akitas attack and what percentage of pits attack, because that would put it in proportion. Just population percentages and attack percentages are not a valid method of comparison and would never stand up.

  23. @KGC -

    You seem to be jumping to conclusions and making accusations, but I'm merely offering the data and asking questions.

    Your claims that pit bulls aren't dangerous aren't helping the victims of pit bull violence, or to prevent the increasing rate of such attacks.

    Re your idea that abusers prefer pit bulls - no, those who abuse dogs prefer chihuahuas, and other little dogs that can't fight back.

    Re your idea that pit bulls are abused and taught to be mean - no, essentially all of the horrific pit bull attacks I read about in the news every week are from pit bulls in normal homes, not from dog fighters or abuse situations.

    It sounds like you're trying to make the "it's all in how you raise them" argument. So, 180 years of specifically selecting pit bulls for willingness to attack and kill other creatures has nothing to do with it?

    BTW the proportions of dogs of any given breed who attack are all available from the reports I referenced, if you'd just take a peek at them.

  24. Thank you for writing this excellent article. I agree with your post 100%. My Akita brings me great joy and I trust her to signal me when she is not happy with a situation. I keep up on extensive training, firm voice and a gentle hand. Even though the breed is known not to do well with other dogs I can still take her to social areas without incident.

    I personally have been attacked by pit bulls in the past. Once, years ago, while I was walking my shepherd (that has since long passed) 2 pits broke through the storm door on their house and attacked us on the sidewalk. The owners ran out to grab their dogs (which of course the dogs took off down the street and out of sight) then holed themselves back up in the house. They did not check to see if we were ok. The second time was at the dog park. The owner didn't bother to help break the dogs up....that was left to me as her dog pinned mine and left several puncture wounds. She ran off without a second look.

    Pit owners are the first to throw words and get all bent when someone speaks poorly on the breed but when something does happen...they take NO responsibility for their dog's actions.

    Ok...I not going to go on a total tangent but thank you for writing this.

  25. Very well put together. I am going to post this on the akita rescue forum of which I am rep for. Many thanks for the interesting read and following on discussion.

  26. meg, you are deluding yourself if you think you are a responsible dog owner. your akita has as much business in a dog park as a pit bull.

    this is exactly why we need breed specific legislation. people are unable to police themselves. that's why we had to pass laws against drinking & driving and texting & driving. common sense really should be COMMON!

    these dogs should NEVER EVER be allowed in a dog park, i don't care how sweet you think your dog is:
    american staffordshire terrier
    staffordshire bull terrier
    american bulldog and any of their bizarro derivatives
    english bull terrier
    tosa inu
    dogo argentino
    presa canario
    any dog with fighting or baiting in its history should be restricted from dog "social areas".

    donna, you need to talk to meg. it only takes one of these lion tamers to ruin it.

  27. It's well known that Akitas were commonly used to hunt bears, and can be hostile to other animals.

    Akita attacks bear

    Shar-Pei and Akita fight

    But everything is relative...

  28. akitas were bred to a lot of things, all demanding strength and aggression.

    what's your point with these 2 videos?

    you are pointing to a dog with such a prey drive that it wants to attack a tv, why? and that idiot with the sharpei and akita is just asking for trouble, wtf?

    sure, everything is relative. neither the sharpei or the akita offers much in the way of competition to a shit bull, but when it comes to labs, yorkies, border collies and poodles or even my 115 lb malamute mix at the dog park, these fuckers are just as deadly.

  29. Hi Craven, love your blog BTW.

    I don't think Akitas ought to be lumped together with fighting mutant dogs who turn on their owners at the darndest times.

    Just FYI, the Akita is not attacking a TV, but a bear on TV, an important distinction. Notice how sweet and docile he is with all the people, and took no notice of the TV until the bear came on. Note also that he didn't redirect his aggression on the man holding him back from the TV as a pit bull wuuld have.

    I've talked to several Akita owners who've said their Akitas have been attacked by pitbulls and fought back very successfully. pits are vicious and strong for their size but even a pit bull is going to have a hard time taking on a 140 lb Akita who doesn't like the pit bull to begin with.

    1. Beebee, you are correct. Both of my Akitas have VERY successfully defended themselves against pit bulls without a scratch on either, while both pit bulls spent a good amount of time and the owners money at the vet

    2. Thank you unknown, I'm always interested in data points like that one. I know that my own Akita pup, even at 12 weeks old, had very good moves and would put any of my other dogs on their back immediately if they challenged her. That wasn't taught or trained; all i ever did was pamper her. That was her genetic blueprint, the heritage of a bear hunter, coming through, simple as.

    3. I know this is all very old, but if you want another data point, my akita at about 6 months when she was still able to go to dog parks without being a royal PIA (and no, she never goes to dog parks now) got attacked by a pit. She rolled and pinned that dog very quickly. But in the scuffle, she punctured his ear. The owner, who had been alpha rolling his pit prior to the dog redirecting onto my dog, had the gall to ask for my contact information so I could pay the vet bill should it be required.

  30. your one up on me. i've only talked to two akita owners (husband & wife) and the gist of the conversation went something like this "you need to take these fucking dogs and leave this dog park now".

    no, akitas don't lie. they do the opposite, they broadcast their intent. they walk around like a big silver back gorilla beating their chests. i am not a fan of this dog.

    i don't think much of the distinction that you are making between bear on tv and tv. the end result is the same, if it wasn't held back the tv would have been attacked.

    i don't think the akita is as dangerous as the pit bull, just because it is grouped in the fighting/baiting category. i didn't put them in any order but if i did, i would have put sharpei at the bottom and probably the akita next. i didn't even touch on flock guardians, which also no business being in dog parks.

    i am not suggesting that akitas be banned, i am suggesting that common sense laws need to be put in place because people like meg exercise poor judgement and take dogs that to places they have no business being. her statement that her akita does well sounds awfully pit nutter like. they are always just fine, until they aren't. and then somebody gets to scoop up their mangled beloved family member and go home to a life time of horror movie reruns.

  31. Thanks for your comments Craven, I won't discount your opinions on Akitas because I think you've learned some things in the school of hard knocks.

    Wow, a Silverback Gorilla, that's an interesting comparison.

    I agree that generally speaking, the dog park isn't a good idea for an Akita, since he'll tend to want to show all the other dogs who's in charge.

    But I'm inclined to give Meg the benefit of the doubt since I don't know her dog. Some Akitas can be OK with other dogs if they are socialized early.

  32. this was my one and only direct experience with akitas. when i say they are rare around here, i ain't kidding.

    there is no mistaking their intent, it is serious and it is scary.

    i'm not inclined to give anyone the benefit of the doubt when it comes to endangering others.

  33. wait a minute, so when it comes comes to pit bulls, genetics rule the day but when it comes akitas, it's all how you raise 'em?

    1. Not at all, old friend. Genetics make Akitas what they are, just as much as genetics makes pit bulls what they are - but what they are is very different. In any case, an untrained Akita will rule the roost; they need training.

      On the other hand, a pit bull might be friendly and docile for years, and then suddenly they turn on with zero warning, and there will be blood. Akitas might not care for strangers, but they don't kill the humans they've bonded with.

      In contrast, pit bulls pretty much have the market cornered when it comes to killing their owners.

  34. I have an Akita and a Pit Bull. They are both dominate breeds by nature and I understood this before I adopted them as puppies over 3 years ago. They are both excellent family dogs because I've spent a lot of time training and socializing them. They both are very protective of our home and our family and could and would attack a stranger who would be stupid enough to try and enter our home.
    I believe that the reason for the ban on pit bulls in some states and cities, is because of the dog fighting industry and the big problems associated with it. People raise these fighting dogs to fight to the death and they will because their owners tell them to. Authorities have been so overwhelmed trying to crack down on this horrible practice that sometimes it's just easier to ban the pit bull breed in the area so they won't have to deal with the problem.
    The point I'm trying to make is, that it's really not about the breed, which one is more dangerous than the other, Its all about the owners and how they raise and treat these powerful awesome dogs. Please don't try and vilify one breed over another. We just need more responsible dog owners out there.

  35. I'm sorry that you feel that way Craven. Athena does beautifully at the dog park (she wasn't the dog that was attacked).

    She frequents the park with a Tornjak and no...I'm not delusional. If we show up at the park and she is showing that she doesn't care for the dogs that are there we don't go in and just take a nice stroll.

    She is never allowed off leash besides in the large dog enclosures. She communicates very well and I listen. I know that Athena's mother tries to kill other dogs....however her father is much more docile about the matter (no I don't breed but I did get to meet Athena's parents when I went to see the litter and I still keep intouch with the breeder). I know the boundaries I need to take with her as an individual (no not pit nutter and I'm sorry that you feel that way.)

    I am mushy about my dog. I love the bond that I have with her but I am very firm. She doesn't get away with nonesense. She has been completing commands since she was 6 weeks old.

    I understand your point on the dog park....but don't insult me as a dog owner.

    Athena is CGC certified. (Canine Good Citizen)

  36. Diane -

    Fighting dogs don't fight because their owners tell them to (else why do they attack their owners so often?) They attack because it's in their DNA. Pit bulls have been carefully selected for hair trigger violence and willingness to destroy another living creature, and are still being selected for those traits today. Dog fighting and breeding is big business.

    The reason for the ban on pit bulls is the bloody trail of people maimed and killed by these creatures - usually from their own pit bulls, or loose pit bulls from around the neighborhood.

    Banning the breed is absolutely a way of dealing with the problem. Areas that institute pit bull bans invariably see a drastic drop in serious dog attacks. I'm not saying that's the only way or the best way to deal with the problem, but it works, and it's better than doing nothing.

    On the other hand, laws that put the responsibility on the owner are better in the long run. Let's say your dog injures or kills someone - you go to jail, period. Let's say your dog kills someone's pet, you get charged with felony animal cruelty and possibly depraved indifference charges too depending on the circumstances. There should definitely be consequences that hurt, and really make people seriously consider whether they really need a mutant fighting dog to give them a feeling of power.

    I'm not sure what is meant by "vilifying a breed". Are we to pretend the weekly killing and maiming isn't happening? How are we to deal with the problem if we pretend it's not there?

    I agree with you that only responsible people should own dogs, of any kind. But the past 30 years have shown us very clearly that the pit bull community is absolutely not going to regulate themselves. Without laws that have real teeth and real consequences, how do we ensure responsible owners?

  37. I am a Trustee and Area Co-Ordinator for the Akita rescue, Akita Rescue and Welfare, site that you quoted from in your article.
    It is a thought provoking article you have written and i agree with most of what you have written.
    As i am in the UK it is a different situation here.
    The Pit Bull is supposed to be banned in this country, yet we see quiet a few of them here. In fact my Akita male was attacked by a Pit Bull a couple of weeks ago. I made sure that the Pit Bull was not able to latch on to my boy as i knew it would not let go if it did, my boy was trying to get the Pit Bull, which was loose with no collar or identifaction, and he would have given a good account of himself if he had a chance to fight the Pit Bull.
    I was just coming back from a walk and was putting the key in my front door when the Pit Bull shot across a busy main road to attack my boy.
    I do not believe in BSL and it is deed not breed. The owners of these out of control dogs that need dealing with and the breeders needing more regulation to stop the increase of dog mauling/biting/killing.
    Here in the UK i find that it is usually human fault ie: leaving children without supervision around the family pet, training the dog to be aggressive, etc that is the problem and that the owners do not understand what kind of dog they have and the needs of that dog in way of training, exercise etc.
    My Akita is never let off lead in a public place and i take him to a friends who has an indoor school for her horses and let him off in there to have a run around, he also has several dog friends who also come in and give him company and play with him. He will be 9yrs on 4th July and in this time he has been attacked by off lead dogs 30+ times, most being by a Boarder Terrier and i had to make sure that my boy did not get hold of this dog and really hurt it, yet it was my dog that was vilified because it was an Akita, yet he was on lead under control.
    People have to understand what breed they have and the way it needs looking after or you end up with people making perectly good dogs in to monsters, unintentionally.
    And of course there are those who have the dogs to do dog fighting with or use their dogs as weapons to gaurd the drugs they sell etc, this, unfortunatly will never stop, no matter what breds are banned, they will find another breed to move onto.

  38. Jake-

    I have to disagree with one of your earlier statements" Akita's may maul, but they give ample warning. Pit bulls do not" My Akita and my pit bull have both attended a doggie day care since they were puppies. Just recently, my Akita has been"banned" from this facility because, and this is their words "He attacks other dogs with no warnings". This doggie day care facility only allows 8 to 10 dogs at a time, and the dogs are highly supervised at all times. They love my akita very much, and he loves them there, but, he is no longer welcome. My Pit is, but he is not. So, please stop generalizing about the different breeds like that. I believe that if you owned a Pit bull as I do, you'd find that all those terrible misconceptions you have about them, are for the most part, incorrect.
    I used to have a lot of the same beliefs as you do about pits until I got one, and got educated.

  39. Thank you for your comments Denise.

    I agree that Breed Bans are not a perfect solution, and ultimately people must take responsibility, regardless of what sort of animal they have. The question in my mind is how to ensure that people do take responsibility. I've thought a lot about that question and I'm certainly open to suggestions.

  40. Personally, i believe that every litter born, no matter what breed or x or mongrel should be micro chipped and/or tattooed, when the pup is sold or given away, it should be registered with a name and address with the chip register company, the breeder should also reister that they have had a litter with the Kennel Club no matter the breed, x etc and if the pups are not registered with a new owner, or the breeder does not register with KC they are heavily fined. It should be similar to a car, where you can follow the cars history with a log book, it should be similar with a dog.
    The Kennel Clubs are already ready set up to register dogs, as are the chip register companies, so the cost could be kept down on that side, and there should be a hot line to tell on people who have had a litter, to make sure that the breeders do register as breeders and having a litter.
    It would take time and it will not be 100%, put at least it would be a start, and with the anti-dog brigade they would be more than willing to report people having litters.
    I people are taking on a certain breed, they should also have to prove to the breeder they have at least basic knowledge on that breed and are required to go to training classes, for the larger breeds in particully, like you have to take a driving test to drive a car, you need that with a dog.

  41. If the akita breed becomes very popular and people start over breeding them, as in the case with pit bulls, you would find the shelters full of them.
    And, every City and County calling for a ban on the breed !! Now, would this be the dog's fault, or the fault of all the stupid breeders who just wanted to cash in on the breeding and selling of akitas because of the demand?

    Akitas and Pit Bulls are not for everyone! With both breeds, you need to know what you are getting yourself into and I believe that the majority of people that get that cute little puppy, have no idea...and thats how the problems starts!!

  42. Diane O - I'm not sure who you're quoting when you attribute statements to me, but dogs are not peas in a pod. There are however general statements that can be made about various breeds, as canine DNA is a determinant of characteristics.

    If you think my views on pit bulls are due to a lack of education, I must respectfully disagree. For a gentle heads-up, feel free to consult any of the studies I referenced in the blog, or the excellent book by Alexandra Semyonovna "The 100 silliest things people say about dogs"

    If you love pit bulls, and manage them responsibly, that's fine. When I see an apparently docile pit bull on a leash I have no problem with it.

    However, a number of people close to me have been victims of pit bull attacks. One of the pit bulls knew the victim well, and had always been friendly with her until the sudden attack. One of the pit bulls "somehow" escaped its yard and attacked the victim. One of the pit bulls jumped over a fence from its yard to attack a small dog which was being walked on a leash.

    I've known of too many beloved and pampered pit bulls who have suddenly and unexpectedly turned their owners into a bloody mess.

    So no, I don't want to play pit bull roulette. If you must have a pit bull feel free, but please manage it properly. I don't care for them and will not put my family or my other dogs in danger by bringing one into our home. If you think that's ignorance on my part, you haven't been paying attention.

  43. @anonymous 10:29 - I haven't looked into UK-specific attack information. I would be interested to know of some good sources which could facilitate that kind of search.

  44. Akitas and pit bulls are very similar. The only known difference to me is that Akitas have a higher propensity to broadcast their emotions quite clearly while pit bulls have a lower capacity of doing this.

    @Denise Didsbury:

    From what I understand, the lawmakers in the UK are too lenient and unwary of what dogs they allow into their country which is a shame. A lot of harm could be prevented if the laws were enforced.

    @Diane O:

    Of course there are individual dogs, and of course there are some people who are less experienced at catching onto dog warning signals. From my experience with both breeds; I've had more Akitas give me clear emotional signals when they're agitated more than the pit bull... but that's just me.

    As for the ban thing, I doubt it would happen with the Akita because they self regulate their breed. The pit bull community refuses to which is why they have a lot of the problems they have.

  45. @digger - I agree that pit bulls and Akitas have some similarities, mainly in terms of animal aggression, but I think pits have other, more serious issues.

    The propensity for suddenly and unexpectedly launching a violent attack on their owner is really a pit bull specialty. The hair trigger attack switch, the lack of warning signals, the drive to finish off the victim once the attack is started, and the ability to ignore pain and injury while doing so have all been bred into pit bulls and are constantly being reinforced by the dog fighters/breeders.

    @all - I'm not the one calling for jack booted thugs to kick down your door in the night and take away your pit bull. Actually I don't think anyone is, but that's what the anti-BSL crowd claim is the goal.

    My primary message is that pit bulls are dangerous and unpredictable. I know, it's obvious to anyone who's had their eyes open, but the pit bull community continues to disseminate the dangerously false story that pit bulls are just gentle misunderstood people pleasers. This sort of foolishness might be funny if it weren't getting people killed.

  46. @ Jake

    When it comes to the BSL myth I've never heard of any case where officials have come to people's houses to obtain a dog without reason; all of that stuff spewed out of the advocates mouths are nothing but BS to my knowledge.

    When I ask for such a case people can never show me a real incidence where this has occurred either. If anyone comes off as paranoid it's most certainly the nutters.

    If pit bulls were the biggest people pleasers they wouldn't be the number one murderers. Maybe that's what the advocates consider to be pleasing though... it would explain a lot more than what's being shown.

  47. @Craven - I just noticed you said

    "when it comes comes to pit bulls, genetics rule the day but when it comes akitas, it's all how you raise 'em?"

    I'm not saying genetics are unimportant. Genetics have a profound influence. I'm saying pit bull genetics and Akita genetics are different.

    Akitas are an ancient breed that was known to exist 4000 years ago, while pit bulls were specifically created 180 years ago by pitiless sociopaths for the purpose of attacking and killing other creatures in the pit. The genetics of pit bulls are responsible for their tendency to attack without warning and hang on until the bitter end.

    While both dogs are physically capable of being lethal, the Akita community readily admits the danger, while the pit bull community denies that pit bulls are dangerous at all.

  48. One point that is not realized by most newbies to rescue is pitbulls are bred to "get straight to work" that is how the Pitbull see's it. Posturing and and making any sound were considered undesirable. so a pitbull that is bred to standards will give no warning whatsoever. His job is to destroy, not negotiate. He doesn't climb in the pit to chat you up. They are deadly, not because they have been poorly bred, but because the the breed requirements. We are surprised when a killer kills?

  49. The discussion seems to me to be getting a bit off track here. Note that the blog entry was about the differing marketing techniques for breeds acknowledged to be dangerous to other animals. Fact is, the Akita is dangerous for other dogs. Exactly how or why it differs from the pit bull isn't (to me) relevant or interesting in light of this. I find that more food for a discussion between lion tamers over a beer.

    Just like the pit bull, my knowledge of this comes from the school of hard knocks. Seeing three different couples get an Akita pup, bring it to the dog park for socialization, then at onset of puberty watch it suddenly start trying to kill other dogs. Including dogs it had played with fine up til then, or dogs that had taken parenting roles towards it up til then. Three out of three, all raised in loving homes, socialized, trained, exercised, etc. I have since then avoided Akitas, though more cases have been added to my tally here as I watched from a distance.

    Whether the Akita signals, etc, isn't relevant.
    1) A domestic dog trying to kill another dog is by definition abnormal behavior in the species. In fact, trying to kill members of their own species is rare and abnormal in any mammals at all (except in humans and these kinds of dogs).
    2) I don't care if your Akita or whatever signals first, I still object to it trying to kill my dog. I don't care if your Akita hasn't yet tried to kill another dog, I still object to you using my dog to continue your experiment. To you putting my dog at risk in the hope that your Akita will continue not to kill 'this time' and will come when called 'this time'.

    I find it very strange that people choose any type of dog that is known to be dangerous to other dogs...then still want to go to the dog park and enjoy all the social benefits of being a normal dog owner. This shows (IMO) unspeakable egoism and vanity. When you choose a biologically abnormal breed, this means you can't enjoy the normal benefits of owning a biologically normal dog.

    In a nutshell, I find it kind of immature to be making this lion-tamer choice, but then wanting to get into discussions of exactly how your dog kills (threatens or not), relative risks for other people's dogs compared to other dog-killing breeds, and so on. Who cares about the relativity of their killing? The fact remains that you've made a choice and should, like an adult, live with it...not (like a child who chose the wrong toy) try to reason backward why others should pay for your choice.

    Meanwhile, I agree with the point originally made in this blog: it’s laudable that the Akita clubs are being honest in their information and advertising. Thanks to them for that.

  50. You make some good points Sputnik, but then you seem to accuse the Akita community of what the pit bull community is doing.

    As far as the risk, I suppose it's all a matter of degree. I can't for the life of me understand how anyone could want a pit bull, but if a pit bull owner takes pains to make sure his pit bull does not endanger me, my family or my animal companions I can't begrudge him that choice.

    IMHO an Akita is like a pit bull in some ways, only bigger, better looking, more honest, and statistically less likely to attack his owner. I appreciate the loyalty the Akitas show when they bond to someone and can totally understand why people want them.

    If my Akita initiated any aggression at the dog park that would be it, no more dog park for him. We'd just have to walk trails or whatever, on leash and away from other dogs. I will not make others pay for my choices.

  51. Hey Jake, to clarify... I don't think the entire Akita community is doing what the entire PB community is doing (ironically: except for the dogfighters, who are generally very honest about what the PB types and other fighting breeds are). The Akita clubs are being honest in their info and advertising, unlike all these PB clubs and rescues. Again I thank them for that.

    I was responding to owners like Meg, who do knowingly choose an Akita and then still want to go to dog places. And who would likely then be extremely upset and indignant if I killed her Akita if it approached my dog in a certain way instead of waiting to see whether it killed my dog, or to see if she could call it off 'this time' when it did try. Wanting me to pay for her choices, my dog to be at risk but not hers, and so on. Like I said, vain, egoistic and immature. Besides showing signs of the Lion Tamer Syndrome: 'my dangerous dog always listens, I always see what he's planning to do, am always in time to prevent it' -- in other words, 'I have no human failings or moments of inattention'. It's simply not credible, is a fantasy that does betray a certain amount of vanity.

    Your comment about not begrudging someone the choice of a PB 'as long as''s one of those things that's right in a perfect world but just doesn't work in this imperfect world we all really occupy.

    Risk is indeed always a matter of degree. The trouble is that people who choose this kind of dog are always deciding about which risk I and my dogs, you and yours, and everyone and their children will be exposed to. I don't agree that they have a right to make that choice for me and everyone else just because of some non-life-essential consumer preference they have.

    Ya know, it just ain't the same as slippers, ladders and balloons (which weren't specifically designed to kill) or what color shoes you like. All the things these people claim to like in their dangerous dog breeds are amply available in non-dangerous, biologically normal domestic dogs. There's some other reason they are choosing these biologically abnormal breeds.

    I also think that if you (and others) want to be philosophizing about freedom of choice and so on, we need to include the basic rule our Founding Fathers (and those before them -- Hobbes and Locke, Thoreau, et al) included: your personal freedoms stop where they start to infringe on the freedoms of others. There's a reason why 'Life' was put before 'liberty and the pursuit of happiness'.

    As to your last paragraph, gads, I'm surprised to hear this coming from you. Because it still means my dogs would be experimental material until your Akita went into the kill mode 'this time'. Only after that would you protect whatever dogs I had left.

    Please don't take this as an attack, rather as a sign of respect. That I can confront some of what I see as leaks or holes in your logic, and that you'll be willing to chew on my comments for what they're worth, ever interested in considering things.

  52. @sputnik - the very first dog ever to steal my heart was a Chihuhua, about 6 years ago, so I'm sensitive to the issues you raise.

    I don't consider any dogs experimental material, and I support your right to defend your animal companions from attack, by any means possible. My responsibility is to make sure that I don't ever put you in that position.

    There was an ugly situation at a dog park awhile back when a Husky named Bear-bear was playing a little too rough with a German Shepherd. The owner of the GSD was an armed, off-duty cop and he shot the Husky, some say immediately, before the owner could respond. I'm sure each side has their own story to tell, but bottom line, I don't ever want any of my dogs to end up in a situation like that.

  53. @Jake: My responsibility is to make sure that I don't ever put you in that position.

    Thanks Jake. I didn't and don't think you ever would, but that's probably one of the reasons you aren't choosing PBs, Akitas, Presas and such. One problem out here in the real world is that people who have these types of dogs all too often do consider other people's dogs to be experimental material. Some not consciously (Meg), but that's what they're doing all the same. Others downright consciously. I've seen many a PB owner watch with interest as its dog attacked another dog. I've stood eye to eye with raging PB owners too, too often because I stopped their mutant from killing another dog.

    I haven't seen any Akita owners do these things. They've always seemed upset when the Akita attacked, disappointed in their dog. I guess that some of the PB lies leaked into their minds as they read the more honest Akita-club info. That they figured if you can socialize a PB into a dog-sweet dog, why not an Akita? Even so, they chose a certain kind of dog and are experimenting on other dogs -- even if it's from ignorance and wishful thinking rather than cold indifference. Meanwhile, you do see most of them at the dog park again the next day. I don't think they can claim ignorance anymore that second day, nor lack of intent to experiment on other people's dogs.

    I think if we're going to leave people free in these choices, we ought to make them accountable for them. At the moment, we're letting people make these choices then when someone else's life, liberty and/or happiness is destroyed by it there are hardly consequences. (When I say 'someone' I'm including dogs, whom I consider to be feeling, sentient beings.) Even where there's no intent (you oughtta see how the PB people talk on their forums, where they think no outsiders are listening), it's still depraved indifference, criminal negligence, etc.

    Thought: Some kinds of ignorance are inexcusable. But I wonder how much *is* really ignorance. I wonder how many 'naive' people would still choose these types of dogs if there were dire and life-changing consequences for them attached to the very first 'accident'. It might just be that the 'ignorance' turns out not to run so deep or be so sincere.

  54. @Jake: The owner of the GSD was an armed, off-duty cop and he shot the Husky, some say immediately, before the owner could respond.

    I think what we're seeing here is a side effect of the tough dog fashion and of the fact that people do take these kinds of dogs to dog parks. With so many dog killings going on, people get touchy and hair-triggered. The more so due to the nutter lies that all dogs are natural born killers, and that it's normal for dogs to kill each other. I too am seeing people panic nowadays when normal dogs play a bit rough or have a normal, non-wounding spat.

    When you interrupt a PB attack on another dog, you are taking your life in your hands -- safer to just shoot. Not so if you interrupt play or an argument between normal dogs -- but how many people trust that these days? I blame the nutters (and people who take dogs like PBs and Akitas to dog parks) for the death of this husky.

    Geeze, I'm doing long posts here, will stop after one more thought. It would help a lot if these people would call and restrain their dogs when simply requested to instead of wanting to get into a discussion first (while their tough dog continues to approach and eye your dog). Back when I had a fairly fragile old dog with me, I got to a point where if I could have, I would have summarily shot any tough dog whose owner ignored my request and let the tough dog get within 10 feet of my old guy. Why should I have to explain first that my dog is old and I don't mean any insult to their tough dog or their training vanity before they'll even try to stop their tough dog?

    Question to Meg: Do you leave the large dog enclosure the instant someone requests you to? Or do you interpret this as an insult and first try to have a discussion with them before simply complying (or not complying at all cos you think you know better)?

  55. @sputnik - thanks for the thoughtful feedback. But just to be clear, I'm not throwing Akitas under the bus here. I have no problem with the idea of an Akita or a pair of Akitas in my home, and if and when that time comes, you can be sure they will never be out roaming the streets on the hunt or terrorizing the neighborhood.

  56. It is so hard to keep dogs out of the hands of ignorant owners. I have a few Akita's in my hood. Some of them, well, it is more like watching an army regiment on parade when you see them walking the street with their owner. But I see some too that are walking the streets off leash. They are going to the dog park which is next to a school and a nursing home. None are muzzled.

    Akita owner doesn't want to put dog down after attack:

    Akita owner (who has certificates for dog training) blaming the victim:
    "I told her not to go near Kruger and I turned away to go into the kitchen to start making the meal when I heard a noise. I looked back and could see Toni over at the dog. She was holding her face and I could see there was blood."

    Trying to find a trigger:
    "A neighbour had been teasing Kruger earlier in the day."

    Here is a UK site that tracks some incidents there with dangerous dogs.

    I agree they are beautiful. Never can figure out why anybody would want a fugly pit bull.


  57. I think the author is on to something here. By all accounts Akitas are as dangerous as pit bulls, if not more so due being much larger. However, every Akita rescue organization or breeder I can find is very upfront about the dangers and extra responsibility that comes with owning these dogs, and they encourage responsible dog ownership. Pit Bulls are the opposite. Many of those orgs emphasize denial.

    I am repeating what the writer has already eloquently said, and will shut up now. Bottom line: I am a firm believer in his theory.

    By the way, the reason I am commenting now is because this article in esquire has brought attention to the issue:

  58. Akitas and pit bulls are each, in their own way, more aggressive than most breeds, but there is definitely a difference in the nature of the aggression inherent in pit bulls vs Akitas.

    On the one hand, you have pit bull type dogs, which are constituted according to the hundreds of years of breeding to produce a type of dog which will happily commit atrocities against an animal which poses no threat, for no particular reason other than the fact that it feels good for it to do the thing it was designed and bred to do.

    On the other hand, the Akita, an ancient breed known as a hunter's companion and a guardian of the home, simply has a very dominant nature, tends to dislike strangers and to have both low bite inhibition and a low tolerance for annoyance.

    An Akita will attack when a stranger comes into his space; on the other hand a pit bull typically goes through a lot of effort, digging under or chewing through fences, jumping out of second story windows, out of the windows of moving cars, to seek out a victim. Home invasion torture/killings are committed by pit bulls quite regularly, but I've not seen reports of any such incidents from Akitas or any other non-pit breed.


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