Why does the Houston Chronicle want me to hate Pit Bulls?

I’m old enough to know by now not to believe everything I read.  I also know that all media is slightly bias in some way or another, but what I read in the Houston Chronicle a few weeks ago was simply ridiculous.  (I expect more from a newspaper!)  On the front page of the Sunday paper was an article:

Man’s best friend?  Beware

Another picture of the same "vicious" pit bull featured on the front page of the paper.

Below that was a picture of a pit bull (of course!) with his front paws resting on the bars of his crate.  I think he was suppose to look mean, but he actually just looked like there was an unfamiliar man in front of his cage (which there was!) holding a foreign object in his face (a camera!)

The first sentence of the article (in big print) read: 70% of 12,000 bites by animals here were unprovoked, with kids most often targeted.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME!  So right there, I knew that this article was going to throw a bunch of random statistics at me that no one can back up.  I would like to know who decides which bites are “unprovoked.”  As we dog lovers know, 99% of the human population doesn’t know the first thing about what messages our body language is saying to members of the canine persuasion.

Yang Wang, what the heck were you thinking when you wrote this?!?  I’m thinking that she must have been traumatized by a dog when he was a child, because the article feels like it’s trying to create fear with little facts to back it up.  For instance: the 12,000 bites the article is referring to happened over the span of 5 years and all the statics cited are based not on any animal affiliated organization, but on “a Houston Chronicle analysis of data.”  And those bites include cats….and skunks….and beetles?  Wow, even monkeys.  Then why are there pictures of pit bulls throughout the article??  After explaining about the “dangerous dog” list that Houston has (and you BETTER be careful, because there are lots of pit bulls on that list!)…there are only 5 dogs in the entire Houston area that have been declared “dangerous”.

Oh, but wait….it gets better.

“Just Monday, a missing 4 year old boy was found dead….the prelimiary autopsy report indicated the cause of death was canine mauling.”  OH MY GOSH!  I’m thinking.  That is horrible!  Reading further into the paragraph, the child had been “left unsupervised” and “wandered away from his home” into a “FENCED-IN yard filled with pit bulls.”  Then the real hard-hitting reporting starts.  An animal control supervisor gives us some valuable information – “Kids should never be left alone with dogs.”  I thought kids were never supposed to be left alone, period.

If you cannot tell, this article really rubbed me the wrong way.  I feel like the media is trying to get everyone all worked up over something that is a non-issue.  I’m sorry, but if you go up and get up in any dogs face (be it cocker spaniel, a chihuahua, or a pit bull) you are asking to get bit.  I would also like to know how the Houston Chronicle can be so confident in the fact that the bites were “unprovoked” when apparently a majority of them happened to children who were left unattended.  Shame on the Chronicle and shame on Yang Wang.

There is a little humor in all of this, though.  The article was printed with some “Dog saftey tips.”  Would you like to hear some?  They will make you chuckle:

**DO NOT chase dogs
**DO NOT leave a child alone with a dog
**DO NOT challenge a stray dog
**DO NOT break up a fight with your hands

You can email Yang Wang at yang.wang@chron.com to let her know what you think about her bias story.

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How to NOT Get Bit in the Face

Recently, I have been doing a lot of reading, researching, and blogging about the origin of dogs and their evolution from wolves to four-legged family members.  While domesticated dogs are certainly not the wild animals their ancestors were, we humans should not forget they are still animals.

Last week, one of the dogs I visit every day bit a woman in the face. (Thankfully not on my watch.)  When I first started walking “Spot” (the pup’s name has been changed to protect his identity), he was not very pleased with a stranger coming into his house.  His mother had been honest – the reason I was called in was because Spot had just bitten a man (a stranger), and the man had to get stitches.  Spot’s mom was hoping that introducing me would kill two birds with one stone – Spot would get use to interacting socially with a human AND burn off some energy which would help him be calmer and more balanced overall.  Being extremely experienced with “difficult” dogs, I was up to the challenge.  And a challenge it was!

Spot (who weighs about 120 pounds) growled, snarled…and basically did everything a dog can do to say “get the hell away from me!”  It was easy for me to see right off the bat, though, that he was really just a big baby.  He was terrified of anything new or unknown.  I took it slow.  First, just getting close enough to his crate without him getting agitated.  Second, getting him comfortable with me touching him enough to get his harness on.  Finally, gaining his trust so that he could relax and we could both enjoy our walks together. (Again – he was scared of anything foreign…and too a dog this can be a squirrel, mailman, or kid on a bike.)

Over a year later, Spot was a changed man.  This dog is filled with puppy-like excitement when I come in.  He even gives me kisses…something I wasn’t sure he could ever be calm or gentle enough to do.  He is so relaxed on our walks – no cat, dog, yard worker, or screaming child can rile him up.  I was so  proud of his progress.

But back to the bite.

Spot’s mom was entertaining a friend in her apartment.  This friend had been warned that Spot was aggressive, and that he should not be touched.  So, what does this woman do?  This woman approaches Spot, puts her face in his face, and tries to give him a kiss.  SERIOUSLY?!!?

Now, I know some people think that I should not be standing up for a large, aggressive dog that bit a woman in the face…but is the dog really to blame here?  When a friend introduces you to someone for the first time, do you chit-chat for a few minutes and then try to KISS THEM?  Why would anyone think that this is the appropriate way to deal with any dog (or human!) especially an aggressive one!  Yes, 98% of dogs are go-with-the-flow, happy-go-lucky balls of fur that will not bite you…even if you have no manners.  That still doesn’t mean you should not abide by doggy etiquette.  (Rule #1: Don’t get in my face!  Especially if I don’t know you!)

Something that was so easily avoidable is now causing so much pain.  The woman who got bit is (understandably) very upset.  Spot’s mom is worried about her dog and her injured friend.  Spot is now working with a dog behaviorist…but of course that is a stressful, mentally draining endeavor for a poor, already fearful dog.  And I am just plain mad!  All our (me and Spot’s) hard work….gone!  Just because someone thought that they were “the One.”  “The One” the dog would instantly love and connect with.  “The One” that would break through his tough exterior and prove how much of a “dog person” she was by kissing that gentle giant right on the mouth.

So, to answer the question “How do I NOT get bit in the face?”: 

  • Show dogs the same respect that you would like.
  • Remember, just because other dogs love you does not mean ALL dogs will love you.  
  • Put yourself in their paws – physically (you are taller and therefore seen as trying to dominate) and mentally (stranger danger!!!)
  • Always ask if it’s ok to pet a dog BEFORE you touch.  If someone tells you not to touch – DON’T TOUCH!