Lately, there has been a lot of talk about certain dog-on-human aggressions in England. The press, radio and television throughout Europe have echoed these regrettable events. Now, if the misfortunes to which I refer have transcended in such a way, it is because British high politics (or low politics, you never know) has been involved. Sensationalism, which always obeys to interests of one or another sign, is one of the worst scourges of our century, and drags to give opinions, without knowledge of cause, to a good part of the human mass that, more or less unconsciously, is limited to wander through the most superficial of the whole reality.
According to the information broadcast, a Pit Bull Terrier attacks a girl in a park, and two Pit Bull Terriers attack a baker. Sad events, for which the dogs are not to blame. Their owners are to blame. Aggressive dogs should not be taken to parks. I don’t know if the baker was attacked by his own dogs, or if, on the contrary, they attacked him when he was delivering the bread to some villa where they were guarding.
There are thousands of dogs capable of attacking humans in the world, providing guard service, to the good fortune of their owners. Otherwise, the thieves would do their thing whenever they felt like it. And since the profession of being a criminal is a social disease that is very difficult to cure, the non-caco does very well to surround himself with guard dogs, because only in this way will he be able to live with a minimum of tranquility. It is true that there are “gentlemen” who enjoy large mansions and enormous fortunes, who surround themselves with dogs that are proof against the most cunning thieves, being the biggest thieves in society, but there is little that can be done against them. The law protects them, rather than persecuting them.
Dogs are a cultural product, the same as horses, chickens, sheep, etc. etc. etc. If mankind did not exist, these domestic animals would not exist either. Dog breeds are the way they are because man has made them the way they are through selection. There are cattle dogs, hunting dogs, dogs for guarding and defending private or state property. There are also the companion breeds, the so-called lap breeds, which, of course, in former times also fulfilled various functions.
The so-called prey dogs are as old as sheepdogs. The bird of prey dog has always been an exceptional being that has served mankind millennium after millennium. In ancient Mesopotamia they were already used as hunting dogs in big game hunting, in war as attack dogs, in the properties of the state and religious-political dignitaries for guarding. In all empires, large or small, they were used in large numbers.
Humanity has changed and has not changed, in the basics we continue as in the most remote times; our vital needs, our passions, our ambitions for domination and power continue to be the same. Our culture does not differ, in essence, from that of the Mesopotamians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, etc. We can surround ourselves with machines, books, university degrees, whatever we want, our nature is the same, and therefore we still need those dogs that from time to time bite, and in some cases kill.
The problem is not in the dogs but in the humans, I repeat. Too often stupidity dominates us. Guard and defense dogs are not toys and must always be under control, and even more so if the dog has been trained, not to mention when it comes to animals with psychic imbalance, which, as in humans, is very common.
There are dogs with psychic imbalance in any breed. Psychic fragility is the same in a poodle as in a Great Dane, the same in a German Shepherd as in a Pit Bull Terrier, or in a Perro de Ganado Majorero, or in a Perro de Presa Canario. Of course, the reaction of a fighting dog, such as the Pit Bull Terrier, with psychic imbalance will always be much more harmful to humans than the reaction of a miniature poodle.
The Pit Bull Terrier does not have to be more dangerous for the human being than the Afghan Greyhound, what happens is that if we subject the first one to an intensive training in order to obtain from him the maximum aggressive response we can turn him into a machine to bite whatever, it all depends on what or who we direct the obsession that we encourage in him. Human beings behave in a similar way when circumstances are conducive to it. The Pit Bull Terrier is gifted in its specialty, which is fighting, just as the dairy cow is gifted in milk production. Am I understood? but no one should be allowed to roam around with a typical Pit Bull Terrier, a typical German Shepherd, a typical Majorero Cattle Dog, etc. (meaning with a strong temperament) as if they were carrying a poodle.
A Pit Bull Terrier can be dangerous, but no more so than a Majorero Cattle Dog, it all depends on what stimuli we have subjected it to. There are many irresponsible people in the world with their guard and defense dogs (I speak with full knowledge of the facts), just as there are many irresponsible people out there with a steering wheel in their hands, and with excess alcohol in their blood. Has anyone stopped to think about the number of people who die in England year after year due to this type of irresponsible people? Of course, that’s why it doesn’t occur to anyone to say that all the English should be sacrificed, fortunately for them.
Professional breeders of guard and defense dogs take special care to select the most suitable (meaning the most balanced) dogs for breeding. Any withdrawn, fearful, aggressive specimen is discarded (or at least should be discarded). Aggressiveness should not be confused with courage. Aggressiveness is synonymous with pathology. Courage, temperament, are synonyms of bravery, of mettle.
What do individuals do when they have an unbalanced dog? That is the key question. Many continue with their dogs. Some because they are not very aware that their dog is mentally ill; others, aware of the problem, either because they have consulted a professional (experienced trainer), or because they have come to that conclusion on their own, continue with them because they feel sorry for them. What to do with unbalanced dogs? Under no circumstances should they be mated.
Puppies inherit the qualities and faults of their parents. Putting a sick dog to sleep is neither complicated, nor expensive, nor cruel. On the other hand, the dog does not consider that it is going to die. The dog is not aware of life or death. Any dog with psychic imbalance is, potentially, a social danger. What we cannot do is to eliminate an entire breed of dog simply because some dog, due to illness or irresponsibility of its owner, has attacked a child or the baker in the neighborhood.
Moral: let’s put aside racist approaches and continue to select our dog breeds as best we know how so that the rate of unbalanced dogs is less and less; and let’s not be reckless with those we take out into the street, let’s think of others.
Published by the author in the newspaper El Día (Tenerife) on June 30, 1991.