Saturday, March 02, 2013

Pugilistic pit bulls

Roissy's perspicacious, if deliberately provocative (it's who he is, after all), post on pit bulls and the bleeding heart SWPL instinct to apologize for (if Tookie was a dog, he'd look like this) and adopt them got me into a heated facebook conversation. Opposition to Roissy's post took two familiar forms; 1) Exceptions to the rule ("My family's three year old pit bull is the most lovable dog ever."), and 2) External factors ("It's all about how they are socialized and raised. Any dog can be made vicious by an irresponsible owner. Rottweilers and German Shepherds used to be thought of as the most dangerous dogs, now pit bulls are.").

Different breeds of dogs do not all share the same propensity for violent behavior. Statistics show that pit bulls kill more people than does every other kind of breed of dog combined. Yes, part of that is a consequence of the way pit bulls are often raised, but the reason they're raised to be fighters is because they are the breed most naturally suited to fight. Even if, for sake of argument, propensity for violence is assumed to be identical across breeds, when a pit bull snaps, it can very well be lethal. When a dachshund does, it's essentially harmless and just sort of funny. Further, pit bulls notoriously give little or no warning prior to attacking, unlike virtually all other dog breeds, which bark, growl, and assess their targets before lunging.

Humans aren't great at thinking in terms of probabilities. Of course most pit bulls are not going to seriously injury people (or other dogs)--the nice pit bull story isn't even the exception that proves the rule, because it's more the rule than it is the exception, but the fact remains that though they are in an absolute sense unlikely to injure or kill people, they are more likely to do it than any other breed is, by a long shot. In absolute numbers, Rottweilers are the second most lethal dog breed, and huskies (or wolf-dogs, depending on how prevalent the incorrect identification of wolf-dogs as huskies is) are third.

Regarding irresponsible owners, there are reasons certain animals are outlawed in most cities. Take tigers as an extreme example. Blaming a tiger's reckless owner after it rips my face off doesn't change the fact that my face has been ripped off. If that same irresponsible owner had a pug instead, I'd be just fine. There exists a spectrum, and pit bulls are as far to the dangerous end of the spectrum as dogs get.

The assertion that pit bulls are the new rottweilers or new German shepherds is difficult to square with the fact that the former breed is (and appears to have been for as long as records have been kept) considerably less common than the latter two breeds are. According to the American Kennel Club, in 2012 German Shepherds were the second most widely owned breed, Rottweilers were ninth, and pit bulls were 76th. These stats rely on registration data, and presumably pit bull owners (present company of SWPLs who are the target of Roissy's derision excluded) tend not to be the types of people who do civically-minded things like registering a pet, obeying federal drug laws, or joining the PTA. Still, it is clear that despite being less common than other potentially dangerous dogs, pit bulls cause a lot more absolute harm than other problematic breeds do.

The same sort of thinking that makes people jump to the defense of pit bulls is the sort of thinking that leads them to defend hip hop culture, oppose racial profiling, support open borders, etc.

Allow me to excerpt one of Roissy's many golden lines:
Not content with leaving ill-bred animals alone, and apparently incapable of enjoying the simple pleasure of normal dogs like labs without experiencing an existential crisis, the pitbull has become the newest cause celebre for urban SWPLs who can’t make it through a day without a pat on the back from their fellow missionaries.
For fun, I took a gander at Google trends' results for the terms "labradors" and "pitbulls" (understanding that the compound word should actually be two separate words, but also aware of the fact that "pitbulls" is more commonly searched on than is "pit bulls", and cognizant that the 'musician' who uses the singular form of the word requires that both terms be searched on in the plural) by state. The following table ranks states by labrador preference, which is calculated by simply taking a state's search index (on a relative scale from 0-100, the higher the number the more frequent the search term is) for labradors and subtracting from it the state's search index for pitbulls:

StateLabs
1. New Hampshire69
2. Montana67
3. Maine62
4. Alaska59
5. South Dakota54
6. Vermont47
7. Connecticut46
8. Idaho36
8. Oregon36
10. Massachusetts34
10. North Dakota34
10. Wyoming34
13. Wisconsin33
14. Colorado31
15. Iowa29
16. Minnesota28
16. Washington28
18. Rhode Island27
19. Pennsylvania23
20. Maryland18
21. Nebraska17
21. Ohio17
23. New Jersey16
24. Missouri14
25. Utah13
26. Kansas8
27. Virginia8
28. New York5
29. West Virginia5
30. Delaware4
30. Oklahoma4
32. Michigan1
33. California0
34. Indiana(1)
35. Kentucky(3)
36. Arizona(5)
36. Illinois(5)
36. New Mexico(5)
36. Tennessee(5)
40. Nevada(6)
41. Hawaii(8)
42. North Carolina(11)
43. Arkansas(14)
44. Florida(15)
45. South Carolina(19)
46. Alabama(20)
47. Georgia(29)
47. Texas(29)
49. Lousiana(42)
50. Mississippi(56)

A cartographical representation is available here. Head north for civilization, south for barbarism.

Weather aside, this ranking could almost double for a listing of the nation's nicest places to live in. The correlations between a state's estimated average IQ and its labrador preference is .77 (p less than .01) and between a state's homicide rate and its labrador preference is an inverse .72 (p less than .01).

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's not just that 'how the dog is treated' *can* affect its behavior, it's the dominant factor, much more predictive than breed. And this has been demonstrated by studies which actually tried to answer this question. For example, 85-90% of dogs which kill people are unaltered males, almost all the rest unspayed females or groups of dogs. But 'pit bull's adopted from shelters by 'bleeding hearts' are virtually always spayed/neutered, and usually 'only dogs'. So in fact the populations of 'pit bulls' which attack people, and the population belonging to 'bleeding hearts' which adopt them from shelters are almost 100% separate. And as would be expected if that were true, fatal attacks by bully breed dogs adopted from shelters are almost unheard of, not just 'exceptions to a rule'. And you can go down a list of other *owner* behavior markers which correlate to dog attacks, for example the CDC found that about 2/3's were by dogs normally chained up outside, basically mistreatment, and find the same thing. The dogs which attack people are simply not the same dogs the 'bleeding hearts' will tell you they got from a shelter and have sweet dispositions.

In statistical terms, the variation in propensity for human aggression from one dog to the next, depending on its circumstances, dominates any variation between breeds on average considering dogs treated (key factor: spay/neuter) the same way. This is what explains apparent paradoxes like the higher pass rate of APBT's on the ATTS temperament test (to screen out human aggressive dogs) than the average of all breeds, and also a study based on owner reports which put APBT's far below average in human aggression among breeds. The types of owners who submit their dogs to temperament tests or answer such questionnaires are a more uniform sample, whereas the smaller population of owners who engage in practices highly likely to produce human aggressive dogs are also highly skewed toward owning 'pit bull' type dogs; they don't have dachshunds. Or more relevantly, they aren't (yet at least) as likely to own large breeds which show up higher for human aggression than 'pit bulls' when the owner sample is normalized.

And even in the irresponsible owner category, there's nothing unique about the 'pit bull' in fitting their needs. That's why anti 'pit bull' BSL's often include laundry lists of breeds not 'pit bulls' by any stretch of the definition (Presa's, Cane Corso's, Dogo Argentino's etc), but which are becoming more popular with the same general type of (problem) owner. But those additions are still an arbitrary political popularity contest at least partly based on which breeds 'look like a pit bull', because in the general public 'everybody knows that pit bull's are the problem'.

Laws which discriminate about 'pit bulls' do not stand up to *thorough* scientific examination of the issue, and that's why almost no experts in veterinary science support BSL.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Anonymous. "More predictive than breed..." Even granting that - and spay/neutering seems to indeed be an important factor - then breed is still somewhat predictive, eh?

I note in passing that northern New England is again at the far edge of some cultural list comparing states.

Audacious Epigone said...

Anon,

I'm somewhat familiar with the study that evaluated aggression in dogs showing pit bulls to have lower than average aggression towards humans but higher than average aggression towards other dogs. Self-selection was an issue there as well.

There are cases of rescued dogs fatally attacking their owners (13% of all dog attack fatalities in 2012 according to this source), although admittedly I'm not sure of where it stands quantifiably in terms of whether or not those dogs were males and/or neutered.

Noah172 said...

What is Hawaii doing so low on the list? Almost no blacks, a sizable whiterperson contingent, and many honorary whiterpeople East Asians.

Spike Gomes said...

Noah:

Hawaiians really really really like pitbulls. If a Hawaiian has a dog, it's either a doberman, a rottie or a pitbull or some mixture of the above. It makes up for all the White people's normal family dogs and the Asian's preference for lap dogs.

Billy Bob said...

So is an American Staffordshire terrier (Amstaff) without its ears trimmed as a puppy (presumably to prevent them from being ripped off when fighting) still a pit bull?

Anonymous said...

Re: Assistant Village, some breeds aren't as strong as others even if equally disposed to human aggression, so in that sense breed might be viewed as non-trivial, but to clarify my statement as it relates to big strong dogs, the breed by itself is an essentially useless indicator of human aggression in dogs. This is basically what the US Centers of Disease Control concluded, and again it's a fundamental reason almost nobody in mainstream veterinary science supports Breed Specific Legislation, especially if as usual it's aimed at particular breeds based on a political popularity contest.

Audacious E, dogsbite.org is a website run by a lady who was bitten by a 'pit bull' while jogging. She is extremely opinionated on the topic, and I would not rate her site a reliable source, especially where facts aren't clear. You can count on it to paint the picture it wants to paint without outright falsehood (giving the benefit of the doubt).

A simple set of statistics I think would win the case for BSL: show that spay/neutered dogs of a type you clearly define (a dogsbite.org trick is to use one definition of 'pit bull' when collecting media accounts of 'pit bull' attacks but another definition when determining the total number of 'pit bulls' to which it's compared) are involved in a statistically significantly higher incidence of serious bite incidents than other similarly large or powerful dogs, *per dog* of such breeds. That site doesn't have those stats, because they don't exist. And that's before we introduce the additional qualifier of temperament tested dogs (the dogsbite people have more or less plausible arguments why such tests are 'unreliable', but backed by absolutely no statistics which show that they are unreliable).

As far as dog aggression I don't know of any rigorous stats which prove it's more common in bully breed/'pit bull' type dogs either, however it is my personal experience that it is. And it's what neutral qualitative references also usually say (to bait bulls or fight other dogs, the animal should be animal aggressive, but to be safely handled, couldn't be human aggressive).

However, while one might reasonably justify killing lots of dogs (which BSL's do) even if it saved the lives of relatively few people, one cannot justify killing large numbers of dogs because a few might kill other *dogs*. Sometimes the debate on BSL seems to skip from human to canine victims ignoring that big difference in the moral equation. And it also gets back to popularity contests. IME dog aggression is quite common in all kinds of breeds, even if more common in some than others.

If people have negative opinions of 'pit bulls', or those who adopt them, I can agree to disagree with those people. But when they propose laws to take and kill dogs which haven't hurt anyone, or kill lots of dogs which could be good family pets, they should have statistics and proof of a strong connection to breed, per se, inherently, proof that stands up to careful analysis. They don't have it.

Steve Sailer said...

There used to be a reality TV show called "Pit Bulls and Parolees."

Dan said...

Anonymous @5:09 --

Responsible owner, yadda yadda yadda.

Almost every dog, sooner or later, will be bothered and tugged at by an energetic misbehaving child, unless the owner goes to great lengths to ensure that this does not happen. And then?

Deaths are just a tiny fraction of dog violence. Those attacks that were just so vicious and so relentless that the person did not live. And even though everyone knows about Pits and even though they are but a small fraction of dogs, they stand alone in their violence.

If a Pit owner gets bitten but is okay, I calculate the chance that they will report it to be exactly 0%.

I was out walking our golden and a vibrant youth let his pitbull out of his yard as I walked past just for a show. As it lunged toward my dog, I brought my boot back and kicked it in the ribs with all my might, perhaps cracking a couple ribs. It squealed and then backed away only a few feet still barking and menacing.

The vibrant youth brought his dog back in and acted as if it was accident that his dog got out and he was just as surprised as I was.

Audacious Epigone said...

Perfect example from that show of why pit bulls, even with well-meaning owners, are likely more menacing than any other breed is.

staffanspersonalityblog said...

It's funny that these "bleeding hearts" should even consider adopting a dog they know is going to scare people.

Anonymous said...

Here's a listing of dog IQs:

http://sociobiologicalmusings.blogspot.com/2011/09/dog-iq-how-smart-is-your-dog.html

Pit bulls at bottom.

TGGP said...

Are you sure that google is taking into account the plural? When I do a search it often does a sort of "auto-correct" and includes results it thinks I meant have meant to include, which includes including or dropping the plural (even with non-standard plural nouns).

Audacious Epigone said...

TGGP,

I don't think it's an issue. Check this out.

Toad said...

Not all lab breeds are the same.

Here's a map with meth lab frequency:
link

Fenris said...

This whole debate reeks of confirmation bias on both sides. The data is just too low quality to generate a meaningful picture right now. Show me a good source on the population of pit bulls relative to other breeds without that comparison there is no way to know their relative dangerousness. I have looked but couldn't find anything. Even the gross number of fatalities attributed to pit bulls is based on flimsy evidence
http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/breed-identification-1/

On the flip side the temperament testing data and the legend of dog men culling all man biters and pit bulls being nanny dogs cited by pit bull proponents don't convince me either. My own experience though falls more on the pro pit bull side having been a dog walker at the pound for 10 years and growing up around pits my experience with them is that towards people their personalities are pretty much like labs just less irritatingly focused on chasing sticks. Here in north seattle pits are common dogs for SWPLs and appear to be harmless. I don't think Roissy is going to get his wish for the adoption of pits to back fire on SWPLS like the adoption of NAM's.

This is the survey that showed pit bulls to have relatively low human agression
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168159108001147

It not much to write home about as far as proving anything.

One thing that bugs me is that neither you nor roissy seem able to identify an actual pit bull the pictures both of you used are of American bullies which is new breed derived from crossing pit bulls with Olde English Bull Dog to produce a more muscular impressive looking dog. Impressive looking if you don't understand dogs at all and don't care if the dog can walk properly. Fighting pit bulls looked like this http://www.jpsdynamitekennels.com/





Anonymous said...

Wow you people are all stupid. I have a Pit Bull and she is FIXED, CHIPPED, AKC and UKC registered. She is the most smartest and loving dog in the world. I have had her around small children and babies more then once and she loves them. Kids jump and play on her and she wont move an inch. Pit Bulls are AMAZING dogs. Unlike some of the things said on here Pit bulls are so smart! They are said to have the same IQ level as a 12 year old. So you people let a few "bad" dogs make up your mind. WOW can we say ignorant. ALSO you can match this up with being raciest! Are you going to hate black people because they "by charts" do more crimes?? I would hope not. Until you have seen a great Pit Bull you will never get it and I don't think any of you have any room to talk. Get a life.