Jul 30, 2013 Pit bulls: It's not the training, it's the breeding

By Karl Knudsen

A friend of ours in Denver was attacked this week by two dogs. Before I tell you what breed they were, can you guess? Our friend was jogging near his home in a park and the dogs tore into him with a vengeance, chewing up his face, arms and legs before he jumped into a lake to escape them.

While a witness called police, this strong healthy man was chewed up by two dogs … both of the same breed. He didn't have a good pocket gun with him to protect himself. Police finally showed up and both dogs are in quarantine. Colorado and Illinois officials have forced up on us laws that supposedly protect us from guns … even the legally-owned guns. Too bad my friend didn't have one. Both can be helpful and both can be deadly but let's stay on the dog topic for now.

In our area, we've had multiple dog attacks and it just so happens that most of the attacks are perpetrated by the same breed of dog. In Dispatch stories from March 26, May 13 and June 4 you can view samples. Even before I mention the breed I know that a few pulses are beating faster as certain dog owners and breeders are ready to defend this breed of dogs. And yes, you guessed right, it was a pair of pit bulls that attacked my friend.

A quote from The Dispatch story of June 11, details the mauling death of Ryan Maxwell, of Galesburg. "Maxwell had played with the dog before and the animal hadn't been aggressive." Two others attacked the dog owner and his toddler in their Florida home a few weeks ago. The list is long.

Over lunch the other day, a friend who owns and loves dogs was discussing the possibility that with proper training a pit bull would never hurt someone. Hold on. He said the problem isn't just the training, it's the breeding. Those dogs were bred to be powerful, aggressive animals with the strength to kill. That breeding is not in a dog owner's manual or at a dog training class, it's in their DNA. You might suppress it, but you'll never know when something unexpected might trigger what is already in that animal … the ability to hurt or kill. It's bred that way.

I know that Cesar Millan (the dog whisperer) strongly disagrees but it's hard to argue with the fact some breeds have deadly potential and others don't.

My boss made a few visits with me last year to homes in this area and he was viciously attacked by a dog in the driveway of a home, with the owner standing right there. If it weren't for some fancy dancing and kicking, that little Chihuahua might have ripped his fancy pants. But it wasn't capable of maiming him.

I was walking in my block on the sidewalk the other day and a large pit bull came running toward me. I'd seen him before and the owner was right there. As a matter of fact the owner shouted at the dog to stop. The dog did not obey. I stood motionless until it was clear I wasn't going to be chewed on. "Oh he just looks mean, he's never hurt anybody." Add the word "yet" and the story becomes complete. Hasn't hurt anyone yet.

My question is, why own a pit bull? Is it macho? Is it cool because gangster thugs have them? If you want home protection, how about a Great Pyrenees. There's a breed that loves people and you never read about them ripping up family members, yet their size and bark make them protective … not aggressive. It is arrogant to assume you are such a great trainer or owner that your pit bill would never attack a friend. It's in the breeding … still there despite your training.
Karl Knudsen, of Rock Island, is a former radio announcer who is now in estate planning.

Read more: