True aggression is rare in dogs. Indeed, dogs generally strive to maintain peace among their kind and among the other species they live with. This is a complex system and I am not about to try to get into the mechanisms here. However, human beings have created several breeds of dog for the purposes of guarding, fighting and general aggression. These breeds can probably never really be trusted, even though you may never see any signs of aggression in your family pet. Neither did the people whose cat or child was killed by their family dog. These incidents appear to "come out of nowhere." That is never the case! Where they actually come from is the particular dog's breeding history or the conditioning the dog has undergone. Until I learned how long it takes to actually breed out aggression in a species, I was on the side of the "save the pit bulls" campaign, but now I'm no longer sure where I stand.
After finding out that Lucy has some American Staffordshire Terrier in her (one of the Bully Breeds), does she qualify as a Pit Bull?! Now that just makes me laugh! Nevertheless, hopefully she does come from that strain that was bred for companionship and show (American Staffordshire Terrier), not the strain that was bred for dog fighting (American Pit Bull Terrier)! But, she's no pushover, my little girl, so I do keep a firm hand on her. She's always corrected if she barks or growls for any reason. I don't need her to be a watchdog. Her only job is to eat, sleep, play, walk politely on- and off-leash... and to follow my lead at all times. After all, I'm no pushover, either!
Aggression can only be bred into or out of animals over many generations. There has been a long research project with silver foxes in Russia in which their natural aggression has been bred out over many generations and these animals now act like the family dog... they've even started to look like dogs! Another group has been bred for aggression and you can't get near their cages without them wanting to tear you to pieces.
- Read this report on a 50-year-old breeding program of silver foxes in Russia.
- And here is the main Web site for this study. Watch the videos and you will be amazed! (Note: You might need to install QuickTime to view the videos. Also, I had to view them in Internet Explorer, not Chrome.)
- There's also a documentary from NOVA called "Dogs Decoded" that has a wonderful section on these silver foxes.
- "Dogs Decoded investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs—with revealing implications for the evolution of human culture as well. NOVA also travels to Siberia, where the mystery of dogs’ domestication is being repeated—in foxes. A 50-year-old breeding program is creating an entirely new kind of creature, a tame fox with some surprising similarities to man’s best friend."