Letter of the Day | Beware of breeding, training dogs for aggression
THE EDITOR, Sir:
Understanding dogs such as pit bulls requires understanding of the results of selective breeding, and it will make persons promoting this breed more cautious in so doing.
In Russia, the selective breeding experiment of black foxes by Demitri Belayev, assisted by Lyudmila Trut, is instructive as to what is happening in pit bulls. It started in 1958, only 60 years ago, and they had two streams of selection - one selected for tameness and the other for (and this applies to pit bulls) aggression.
After only six generations, noticeable movement towards the goals became apparent. Please note that pit bulls have been selected for aggression for far longer than 60 years or six generations.
Today, the fruits of the experiments are a breed of varicoloured, friendly foxes and a vicious, aggressive breed. These are distinct traits, and even if they implanted the embryos of the friendly type into the aggressive type, the pups came out friendly, and the reverse also. See YouTube videos Belyaev Experiment Docile Foxes, and Belayev Experiment Aggressive Foxes.
Nowadays, the breeding of pit bulls or other dogs is a haphazard business, mostly with no regard to the initial aim, although some breeders, I suspect, are intentionally breeding for aggression.
Friendly Pit Bulls
So, I have seen some very, very friendly pit bulls, and I read in your newspaper and others of vicious ones attacking, and on occasion killing humans. One friendly one I know is mostly friendly, but has been triggered on occasion to attack and kill two other dogs, one who was a friendly, harmless elderly female beagle. There are occasions when this dog is in the presence of aggressive ones when I believe it would really be unwise of me to approach.
This is a consistent behaviour with how they are being bred now; some will throw back to a friendly type, and some will exhibit the traits originally selected for (yielding a really dangerous dog).
I have corgis, and although they have never interacted with cows that they were bred to herd, occasionally they will exhibit a behaviour, nipping at my heels as I walk, used in herding cows.
If we select pit bulls or other dog breeds for friendliness, this killing of humans would stop.