Monday, April 9, 2012

Pit bull mauls girl, 6, in Rochester Hills

Oakland Press photo of Aiden, the pit bull who attacked
Another pit bull mauling made the local news last week — this time, a 6-year-old girl in Rochester Hills was apparently severely injured by a pit bull in the attack.
As a human being, I feel terribly for the little girl. Beside her physical injuries, dog attacks are an emotional trauma too — one that, unlike her physical injuries, will take much longer to heal. She will likely never forget those terrifying moments and may never get to enjoy the companionship of a dog of any breed because of the fear she is likely to carry with her.
As a proud pit bull owner, it is also always saddening to hear of such reports.
And as someone who has studied dog behavior for many years now, it angers me too.

The blame game: where do we begin?
It is not certain from any of the media reports I read whether this was indeed her family's dog. In all media reports, however, it's stated that the dog was recently rescued.
Shame on the rescue agency, first of all, for allowing this dog to go into a home with small children, if that was indeed the case.
But that's not even what makes me angry, because the truth of the matter is, if all rescue dogs had to wait to be evaluated by someone who was actually qualified to do such evaluations, there would be no rescue agencies — not the way we know them. And that means there'd be a lot more dead dogs.
What makes me angry is that we, our society, our culture, calls the dog man's best friend without really knowing the first thing about them. We don't deserve to call dogs "man's best friend." And if we do, it is a joke. A complete joke. We make awful friends and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

Video of the pit bull that attacked the Rochester Hills' girl

Pit bulls: Do you have what it takes to own one?
Reports like this are what motivates me to write this blog. Not because I want to tout pit bulls as the best doggone dogs around — I may own a pit bull, and love a pit bull, but I'm no idiot. Pit bulls aren't the dog for everyone and frankly, it scares me half to death to think of the powerful breeds, labs included, owned by the masses who don't know the first thing about dog behavior.
Most people just get lucky. The right circumstances for an attack never add up. But for damn near every dog, there is a threshold. There is something — some set of unique circumstances — a dog wasn't socialized to, prepared for or ready to cope with that could happen, but it may be a very narrow set of circumstances that just never occurs.
But for many dogs, the circumstances do occur. Many people have been bitten by dogs of all varieties and often, those bites never add up to anything. The dog was small, or the bite was half-hearted and motivated by fear; not serious enough to inflict grave injuries and hit the news.
Pit bulls need an owner who holds him or herself to a higher standard of responsibility and understanding of the breed they've chosen to make their best friend.
Most people don't have what it takes.
Most people hardly have what it takes, in my book, to be a responsible owner of any breed of dog.
And that is why I write this blog.

My contribution to our cultural deficit with dogs
I had a environmental science teacher in college who talked about global warming. Regardless of your political opinions, and without stating my own (though I will note, isn't it ridiculous that I have to reference global warming as a political issue?), the lasting impact she left on me had to do with our discussions relative to global warming.
She gave us statistics — frightening statistics — and she knew it was scary. She told us it scared her. And she realized it would scare her students too.
So she left us with this:
"Don't freak out," I remember her saying. "The point is, what has happened has happened. All we can do is contribute in any little way we can. The world is what it is; we need our cars and we can't change that. We cannot fix a problem this big on our own, and we cannot burden ourselves with the fear of believing we need to. But we can do little things, in little ways that fit our lives, that contribute to helping."
This blog is my little way of contributing to the dog problem, of trying to impart some knowledge of dog behavior to those who care to read it.
I cannot singlehandedly change the way our culture perceives and treats dogs, but maybe I can help a few people understand dogs a little bit better.
That will just have to be good enough for me.

Start learning about dog behavior
Want to be a better dog owner? So glad I could motivate you! I have two great books to set you down a path that will become an incredibly rewarding journey.
Check out my reviews of, and find links to purchase, Jean Donaldson's Culture Clash and Andrea Horowitz's Inside of a Dog.


  1. Sad to say there are several accidents involving this creature that I think we should not all blame it to them and count the responsibility of their owners.

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  3. I live in the Rochester Hills area that this pittbull attack occurred. Because of the attack, my CRAPPY neighor called code enforcement on me because I have a beautiful, friendly pit. My neighbor told code enforcement that we have a vicious bred of dog and that we need very high fences because I am afriad of that breed of dog. Our pitbull's name is Rocko and he is 6 months old. Rocko is the definition of a FRIENDLY dog. He loves people and animals alike. I feel very bad for the little girl who was attacked and I can on some level understand what she is going through as when I was 8 years old I was attacked by a German Sherpherd as I rode my bike down the road. I will never forget that attack. Thank goodness it has not made me afraid of dogs. To go back to the code enforcement. The Oakland county or Rochester Hills code enforcement employee came to my door and was in an angry mood and told me that the temporary fencing (chicken wire) we had up on the side of our home had to be replaced within 30 days or he would fine us. He said that we have to contain our vicious breed of animal and didn't I know that there was an attack just down the road? And WHY would I have that type of breed? He implied I was going to be sorry about having Rocko and that all pits attack eventually. First of all, Rocko has NEVER jumped the fence. EVER! Second, Rocko has gotten out just once out of our front door when he was 4 mnths old as my son was coming in the door. We promptly got him back in, but he did go and say hi to the neighbors son. He never jumped on the boy or hurt him in anyway. We have since taught Rocko to sit at the front door and that he cannot go out that door unless leashed. Rocko is extremely smart and does not jump on you. Rocko learned to sit, stay, lay down, shake, high five, and dance before he was 3 months old. He can even open our interior doors as they have the handles that you push down. So you don't have privacy when Rocko is around unless you lock your door, lol. The code enforcement guy is so mis-informed. He told me that I was crazy to gamble with a pit bull. The lack of knowledge is terrible. You are so right that it takes a strong, knowledgeable person to raise a friendly and socialized pit. Honestly, I was one of the people careful it is a pit and will attack you, but after having our loveable and sweet Rocko in our lives, that thought process now seems so stupid. We will be adding a new fence, but more for privacy from the neighbors than to keep Rocko in. (We planned on putting a new fence in anyways, just could not do it in the middle of winter when we got Rocko) P.S. I am also the proud owner of a Yorkie who I rescued at the age of 2 from being abused. My yorkie is more aggressive than our pit any day of the week. We love the yorkie and understand he has issues from being abused. So honestly when you come into my home, don't be afraid of the big pit bull, just watch out for the 6 pound yorkie, lol! (Laughing aside, the yorkie is doing well and finally learning to trust people again) Please keep writing your blog. Maybe one day, the stigma of the pits will stop. Shoot...wasn't Petie from the Little Rascals a pit bull? PS...I am thinking I should call the city on my neighbor as her small white dog will not stop barking at the fence! (My Rocko just ignores the barking dog though) No, I will not do that because I believe in trying to be a GOOD neighbor, something my neighbor should try some day! :)

  4. Dear anonymous, thank you for reading and posting about your experience. As a pit bull owner, you will have more experiences along those lines. I once had a lady come out of her house while I was walking Sensi down the road. "What a beautiful dog, what type is he?" she asked. "Thank you, he's a pit," I called out. She promptly turned around, walked back inside and slammed the door behind her.

    As unjust as it may seem, I hope you will take this opportunity with your neighbors to show them that there are responsible pit bull owners. It is not about getting them to befriend your dog, and it may take years, but the hope is that one day, they'll be able to say, "My neighbor owns a pit, but that's the only dog on the street that never causes a problem. They keep him in his yard or on leash." My goal has always been not to get people to love my dog, but to say that the people on the corner with the pit bull are the most responsible dog owners on the street.

    Enjoy your Rocko and know that the best thing you can do for the breed is to be a responsible dog owner. Kudos, and congrats on the big fence too! It will serve not just your Rocko, but all your dogs! (and it sounds like your neighbors are the type you want privacy from anyhow!)

  5. I've just found your blog and I'm loving it. Totally agree with on the responsible owner. Unfortunately stupid people are drawn to these wonderful dogs because of their strength and the stigma that they carry. I have a German Shepherd who has issues greeting other dogs and in her old age (and with the loss of my husband) has become very protective of me. I don't know where she gets the dog issue from, she came from her litter to house with another dog that loved everyone he met dog or person and once she gets over her initial tantrum she is fine. Knowing this about her I'm take extra precautions to keep others safe as well as her for I would be lost without her.

  6. Hi There - I've always liked pits and actually thought of them as the "nanny" dog, as someone once told me. My mom, however, is on the other side of the fence - thinks of them as a danger.

    I now have my own dog who we've raised from 2 months, a vizsla who is a little over a year old. He's a good doggy. Never in their history were they trained to injure another animal, although they do point and retrieve they have soft mouths. Even still, we have a baby door so our cats have their own room and haven't left him alone with them (other than leaving the room to go to the bathroom, etc.) He is a happy, well adjusted dog and we exercise him a couple hours every day and get to the dog park several times a week.

    At the dog park, we see pits all the time and they are nice and friendly. That being said, my mom just let me know of a story in which a 4 year old girl asked if she could pet a woman's dog (pitbull). The woman, said yes he was friendly, and then the dog attacked the little girl, biting her face and head. This story scared me. Why in the world would this dog attack the little girl? I can't make sense out of it. I see dogs every day and would have been the parent who allowed the little girl to pet the dog if the owner said it was ok. While searching for the story, I found so many others - infant attacked by pitbull, 6 year old child attacked by pitbull - on and on and on.

    I know you have a lot of information here, if you have a free resource for a specific blog you can direct me to, it would be wonderful! I want to be friendly towards other people and dogs and teach kids to as well, but need to know what signs to look for when it is ok. Also, need to know signs for if my dog could "snap?" Oso has never been aggressive towards any other dogs and gets scared or timid when confronted by other dogs, but we plan on having kids and want us all to be able to live peaceably together.