Friday, September 30th, 2016

Why own a pit bull?

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Jun 30, 2011; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A    

Why own a pit bull?

It’s like playing with a loaded weapon

 (James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.) 

    I was outside Tuesday evening when I saw Flight for Life flying overhead. I learned later that the helicopter was reporting to the scene of a dog attack. A pit bull attacked its owner and another person. The police were called. They shot and killed the dog.

    I have been around dogs my entire life. I know that dogs are like people in that they all have different personalities.

    Dogs vary widely within each breed. You can read the American Kennel Club description of the temperament of the different breeds and meet a dog the next day that defies the descriptions.

    Part of what makes a dog’s personality is the dog’s experience. If the dog is abused, then it will react accordingly. If the dog is trained to behave a certain way toward people, it will likely behave that way.

    But there is no guarantee, any more than it is guaranteed that how a person is raised is how a person will turn out.

    I can tell you from my own experience raising a Siberian husky that came from a neglectful home, it takes a long time to correct a dog’s behavior and regain its trust.

    When we first adopted Ingrid, giving her a treat meant counting your fingers afterward to make sure they were all there. Because we made it a point never to tease her with food or allow anyone else to, she learned that she could take the food without fear of it being jerked away. Now she takes treats as gently as you would kiss a baby.

    That training took more time and patience than most pet owners have. It was important to us to get it right so we could trust her and she could trust us. She’s been with my family for most of her 13 years.

    I can’t imagine living with a dog that I would fear. My parents bred Great Danes when I was growing up. The earliest home movie of me is from when I crawled through a whelping box as another puppy litter was being born. I was raised to respect dogs, and in turn almost all of the Great Danes with whom I have been in contact lived up to the reputations of “gentle giants.”

    My brother continues to own large dogs, Rottweilers. My brother understands that a poorly trained Rottweiler is a formula for disaster so he spends a great deal of time working with them to make them feel social toward human beings. The Rottweilers he’s owned have been some of the sweetest animals you could ever meet.

    I have known people who fear dogs solely because of the dogs’ size. I keep telling them it’s the little ankle-biters you really have to fear.

    I am normally of the opinion that whatever kind of dog a person wants to own, he or she should be allowed to own it. Maybe it’s the libertarian in me, or maybe it’s because I have seen the prejudice against Great Danes.

    But here we have another case of a pit bull attacking its owner. It’s the same sad story over and over again, only this time another person was hurt. Flight for Life had to be called. The police had to be called and the animal was killed.

    I know there are pit bull owners out there who will claim that there are no bad pit bulls, just bad pit bull owners. Good or bad, there seems to be an awful lot of owners getting attacked by their own dogs. There is something in the way pit bulls evolved that sets them apart from other dogs.

    I recently lost a 16-year-old dog to old age. My wife, my kids and I are debating about adopting another dog to provide a companion for our husky. When the time comes, I will do my best to make sure that the new dog would be compatible with our other dog and our children by carefully choosing the right one.

    So I cannot imagine the circumstances under which someone would ever look at a pit bull and say, yes, this is the one for my family. Why would you invite such trouble into your own home? They are not man’s best friends.

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