By Will Bangura, Applied Animal Behaviorist

Should there be a Pit Bull ban or breed specific legislation against Pit Bulls? Recently I received a call from a reporter of a local television news station here in Phoenix Arizona where I own and operate Phoenix Dog Training. The reporter wanted to do an interview about Pit Bulls, and the recent number of Pit Bull attacks in the area.  One of the specific questions that arose is whether or not Arizona should adopt breed specific legislation against Pit Bulls, or the institutionalized ban of Pit Bulls. I asked my Head Trainer who has been training dogs for over 20 years and has started several dog rescues over the same period of time to comment on the issue.

Dog Training Phoenix News Interview About Pit Bull Dog Aggression

 Pit Bull Bans and breed specific legislation bans on certain breeds have taken place across the United States, with many states now reversing those bans on specific breeds to include Pit Bull Terriers.  One of the reasons the bans have been reversed is that the number of dog bites have really not been reduced, and research has shown that breed specific bans, and more specifically bans on the American Pit Bull Terrier are based more in emotion than in logic, reason, and critical analysis of the statistics. The facts don’t support the bans.

 One of the first things I want to say, is that any dog bite from any dog should never be minimized.  Dog bites should be taken seriously. My number one care and concern as a Professional Dog Trainer and an Applied Animal Behaviorist is the safety of children and the prevention of dog bites to children. There is nothing more heart-breaking than having to see a child endure the physical pain and damage of a dog bite as well as the sometimes-psychological pain and damage that can come with a dog bite.

 One only needs to turn on the TV to the local news to see story after story of a child being attacked by a Pit Bull. Each story deserves all the empathy, care, compassion and concern we have to give.  As a parent myself, I have had to endure my own son being attacked by a neighbor’s Pit Bull mix when he was about the age of 8.  My own son had to be rushed to the Emergency Department because of serious bodily damage that required significant medical care that included many stitches and many staples to put my son’s body back together again.  He is 24 years old today, and the many physical scars are still very present from the many bites, tares, and lacerations he endured from being attacked from that neighbor’s Pit Bull mix.

 If the only information you ever received about Pit Bulls came from the evening news or much of the internet, you would certainly conclude that the American Pit Bull Terrier is one of the most aggressive breeds of dogs and children are not safe around Pit Bulls. If you were to do a google search for dog bite statistics and dog bite fatalities, you would conclude the same thing.

 I am careful where I get my facts and what I read on the internet and see on TV.  While I do believe the notion of “Fake-News” is mostly a figment of the imagination of a bully in the Whitehouse, I do believe that there are many facts and statistics in the world that can be misleading and misinterpreted if not put through the scrutiny of reason and critical thinking. Unfortunately, the disciplines of reason and critical thinking, have for the most part, been taken out of the curriculum of secondary education as a requirement, and have been left to those in higher education, university and graduate studies. Even still, those disciplines have found themselves out of mainstay education today, and that of an elective course for the erudite student, otherwise know as us nerds, geeks, and information junkies.

I’m certainly not the only one or the first to tackle the many myths surrounding the Pit Bull, but here are my two cents on the issue.

  • First, there are very few accurate statistics on dog bites and dog bites by breed. Over 80% of dog bites are never reported and have not sought out medical care. That is not to say that they did not need medical care but that they did not seek out medical care.
  • Second, 50%-80% of dogs that have been reported to bite have had the breed of dog misidentified by animal shelter professionals, and other animal professionals. If animal professionals have misidentified dog breeds by 50%-80%, how many lay people and medical staff have misidentified a dog that bit as a Pit Bull Terrier? I would say an educated guess could be that 80% or more have misidentified a dog that bit as a Pitt Bull Terrier. If animal professionals have less than a 50% accuracy when it comes to identifying breed, we can at a minimum agree that the general public would be wrong at least 50% of the time.  The possible conclusion then is that about 50% of dog bite attacks identified as Pit Bulls did not actually happen from Pit Bulls.  Now, I am not claiming that this is the truth or that these are the facts, but there are serious flaws in the reports of how many Pit Bull attacks are actually happening.
  • Third, as a result of poorly reported statistics and breed misidentification, using that information is probably one of the worst ways at determining what the real facts are.

 As a Professional Dog Trainer and Applied Animal Behaviorist, I specialize in assessing and rehabilitating aggressive dogs and aggressive breeds. I have been training dogs for over 40 years, professionally for over 27 years, and my current dog training business which specializes in dog aggression where 90% of our daily cases involve dog aggression has been operating in Phoenix Arizona, the 5th largest City in the country for over 16 years now. I can conservatively say that I have personally worked with and rehabilitated thousands of aggressive dogs with a bite history over the past 16 years. Each day I receive on average 6 to 8 calls and or emails from dog owners wanting help with a dog that has some level of dog aggression.

 With all of that being said, I can also conservatively say that by far, most of the aggressive dogs I am called out to see are in fact not Pit Bulls. Anecdotally, I would have to estimate that Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes make up less than 30% of the aggressive dogs I receive calls about. 70% or more of the calls I receive from dog owners with aggressive dogs are not Pit Bulls.  What I can also tell you, is that most all the Pit Bulls I have been asked to help train are some of the friendliest and have the best temperaments.  At least 80% or more of the Pit Bulls I have trained are not at all aggressive.

 Being one of the countries leading dog aggression experts who has trained and rehabilitated thousands of aggressive dogs, I will tell you that the gold standard in assessing a dog or a dog breeds chance of being aggressive is the administration of a Temperament Test by the American Temperament Test Society. 

 The American Temperament Test Society tests tens of thousands of dogs each year, and tests over 200 different breeds of dog.  This is one of the definitive tests that can test for a dog’s stability, soundness, propensity for fear and aggression.

“Based on the testing done by the American Temperament Test Society, The American Pit Bull Terrier has a better temperament than over 152 other dog breeds.”

Pit Bull Dog Training

 Because the American Temperament Test Society tests so many breeds, there are many breeds that are less known, less popular and more obscure.

 Below I have put together a list of the 20 most aggressive “Popular” Dog Breeds.  You will see that of the Most Popular Dog Breeds that are in homes across the United States, the American Pit Bull Terrier is not even listed as one of the 20 most aggressive breeds.

 The American Pit Bull terrier is a very popular breed of dog in the United States. In fact, there are estimated to be about 3.6 million to 5 million Pit Bulls in the United States.  To give you and idea of how many Pit Bulls there are in the United States, consider this.  Currently there are estimated to be only 500,000 to 750,000 Golden Retrievers in the United States. There are about 6 to 7 times more Pit Bulls than Golden Retrievers in the United States today.

 Statistics can be a funny thing and can be presented in a way that is often misleading.  When showing the number of dog bites by breed, dog bite statistics do not take into consideration the number of dogs within each breed of dog by population. So, for example, If I were to say that in the last year there were 80,000 dog bites by Pit Bulls, but only 30,000 dog bites by Golden Retrievers in the last year, you would possibly believe that Pit Bulls’ bite much more than Golden Retrievers’ bite.  When in fact, looking at dog bite statistics per capita, (what percentage of Golden Retrievers’ bite verses what percentage of Pit Bulls’ bite,) the actual numbers per capita show a very different story. In fact, based on percentages per capita, in the above example, the real percentages would be that of the total number of Golden Retrievers, 6% bite versus only 2% of Pit Bulls that bite, or that a Golden Retriever is 3 times more likely to bite than a Pit Bull.

 Now let me be clear, a Golden Retriever is a great dog breed. In fact, Golden Retrievers scored 85.6% on the American Temperament Test Society’s Temperament test. But the American Pit Bull Terrier is also a great dog breed, and as a breed, the American Pit Bull Terrier scores higher in temperament testing, and has an overall better temperament than a Golden Retriever, with an average score of 87.4%, or about 2% higher than a Golden Retriever.

Cute Pit Bull with Owner

“Out of 20 Most Aggressive Popular Dog Breeds in America, The American Pit Bull Terrier Comes in at 21.”

20 Most Aggressive Popular Dog Breeds in America as scored by the American Temperament Test Society

 Out of 34,686 Total Dogs Tested in 2017 with an average score of 83.7%.  The American Pit Bull Terrier has an above average temperament score of all breeds tested with an average score of 87.4%

Most aggressive to least aggressive popular dog breeds American Temperament Test Society scores

  1. Dachshund 69.4%
  2. Chihuahua 69.6%
  3. Chow Chow 71.7%
  4. Shih Tzu 77.6%
  5. Pomeranian 77.8%
  6. Doberman Pinscher 79.5%
  7. Beagle 79.7%
  8. Collie 80.6%
  9. Poodle 80.9%
  10. Australian Shepherd 82.2%
  11. Border Collie 82.4%
  12. Maltese 82.4%
  13. Dalmation 83.3%
  14. Yorkshire Terrier 83.7%
  15. Boxer 83.9%
  16. Rottweiler 84.7%
  17. German Shepherd 85.3%
  18. Jack Russell Terrier 85.5%
  19. Golden Retriever 85.6%
  20. Siberian Husky 86.8%
  21. American Pit Bull Terrier                    87.4%

“The American Pit Bull Terrier scores higher in temperament testing and has an overall better temperament than a Golden Retriever with an average score of 87.4%, or about 2% higher than a Golder Retriever.”

Golden Retriever Dog Training

All of the above information when read and analyzed, sheds a different light on the Pit Bull debate and controversy.  One thing is clear, larger breed dogs can often do more damage when they bite than smaller breed dogs. However, this is no reason to ban a breed. Larger vehicles do more damage than smaller vehicles in car accidents, should be ban larger vehicles?

 Each year there are about 320,000 Emergency Department visits due to dog bites. In addition, there were about 420,000 Emergency Department visits due to bicycle accidents. Do we want to ban certain types of bicycles especially since there were almost 100,000 most Emergency Department visits for bicycle injuries than dog bite injuries?

 Last year there were approximately 2,216,400 Emergency Department visits due to cuts.  Do we want to ban certain types of knives and scissors? There were 2,765,900 Emergency Department visits for overexertion. Do we want to ban certain types of exercise and physical activity? In addition, there were 1,102,500 Emergency Department visits due to accidents in nature. Do we want to ban activities like hiking, or visiting parks?  The answer is, of course not. The one thing that all of these accidents and Emergency Department visits have in common is that most of them can be prevented.  Most all dog bites can be prevented.  The answer is in education and being a responsible dog owner just as we educate drivers on the road and we need to be responsible drivers.  Despite drivers education, each year there are 2,765,900 Emergency Department Visits from motor vehicles.  No one is calling for a ban on motor vehicles.  Dog bites are actually rare. They make up only about 0.3% to 1% of all Emergency Department visits, but you might not realize that when reading the news or watching the news on TV, especially about dog bite attacks by Pit Bulls.

 So, my position on Breed Specific Legislation and Breed Bans is that they are not the answer.  They don’t make logical sense and are not based in fact and reason.  They are a knee jerked reaction based in emotion and a distortion of facts.

 I’m not alone in my position against Breed Specific Legislation and Breed Bans. Below is just a small list of organization who have published position statements against Breed Specific Legislation and Breed Bans.

 Just some organizations against Pit Bull ban and breed specific legislation.

  • Center for Disease Control (CDC
  • American Kennel Club (AKC)
  • American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)
  • American Society of Veterinarian Behaviorists (ASVB)
  • Humane Society of America
  • National Animal Control Association
  • National Canine Research Council
  • International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
  • Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)

This debate is far from over and probably won’t end anytime soon.  Unfortunately it is human nature to look to a scapegoat in most problems. When it comes to dog bites and dog aggression, today the scapegoat is the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Will Bangura Applied Animal Behaviorist, Dog Behaviorist, Dog TrainerWill Bangura is an Applied Animal Behaviorist and Owner of Phoenix Dog Training in Phoenix Arizona. He is an expert in Dog Aggression Rehabilitation with over 27 years professional training experience with some of the most aggressive dogs. He has worked with owners throughout the United States and Canada to manage and rehabilitate dogs with severe aggression, fears and phobias.  He can be reached for comment by emailing info@phoenixdogtraining.com