Webster’s Dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as “mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who is confronted by information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values”. What that means in real world terms is that if you have a deeply held belief, it doesn’t matter how much proof you are given, you will find a way to discount or ignore it all, to protect what you hold dear.
The area where this has the most impact in my own life, is with anti-pit bull, pro-BSL people. It doesn’t matter that all of the latest studies prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one breed of dog is more aggressive than another. They find a way to minimize or discount that information, or twist it to suit their own erroneous beliefs. That would be fine if they just minded their own business, believing whatever they wanted to. But that isn’t the way it goes. Every single time there is a news article, facebook post, or opinion piece that portrays these dogs in a positive light, you will find them spewing the same old venom in the comment sections. It generally takes about 24 hours for them to appear, but then they do, all at once. Apparently they have a strong network, and alert each other to opportunities to cut and paste their drivel.
It doesn’t matter that every single organization that works with dogs for a living disputes their contentions. That dog trainers, veterinarians, and behaviorists do not support breed discrimination. That all the latest studies show time and again, that dogs are the product of their training, socialization and environment. They will dismiss the studies by saying they were funded by “the pit bull lobby”. But they also contend that only criminals own pit bulls……how many criminals do you know who are willing to pay to change people’s minds about anything? Come on…if you believe that, you will believe anything.
At the risk of my blood pressure, I looked at one of the most familiar dog hating sites. I will not name it, because I don’t need them to have any additional press. They already get too much attention. Here are some of the things I read there. (warning…this may cause extreme anger).
- Pit bull type dogs lead in all bite statistics. Untrue. They don’t even lead in serious bite counts. In fact, the CDC stopped tracking dog bites by breed because it served no good purpose. It isn’t a breed that causes dog attacks, it is an individual dog, usually because of something humans have done (chained, abused, neglected, abused) or have not done (spay/neuter, train, socialize).
- Pit bull jaws lock and are impossible to pry open. They have the most severe bite in the canine world. Untrue. Pit bulls have no different jaw structure than any other dog. They have less PSI in their bites than other large breeds.
- Pit bull bites are so severe because they bite and shake. ALL dogs, especially terrier breeds, bite and shake. That is a canine characteristic, not a breed characteristic.
- Pit bull owners are thugs, criminals, or mentally ill. Untrue. There are millions of well-respected, educated and responsible pit bull owners.
- Pit bull owners try and lessen the threat by saying their dogs will “lick you to death”. We say that because it is TRUE, not because we are trying to hide their true nature. Most of the pit bulls I’ve met want to be lap dogs. They are happiest when people are touching them. Heck, Ray leans against me when I’m driving.
- Pit bull owners have a “lion tamer mentality”. Huh? I’m not even sure how to respond to that one.
- It is just a matter of time before a dog aggressive dog (or one with a high prey drive) turns on humans. Untrue. There are many, many, many dogs of many different breeds who are not good with other dogs. That doesn’t mean they are suddenly going to become human aggressive. These are two totally separate, unrelated behaviors.
- Pit bulls attack out of the blue, with no warning. Untrue. All dogs depend on body language to communicate. They telegraph exactly how they are feeling by the way they hold their head, body, ears, tail and hair. If you aren’t smart enough to learn basic canine body language, you don’t deserve to have a dog. If your dog is licking his lips, yawning, looking away…you are making him very uncomfortable, and should stop what you are doing before he feels compelled to tell you in a more forceful manner.
- Pit bull terrier dogs are all ticking time bombs. It’s not if they will go off, it’s when. Untrue. There are several million wonderful pittie type dogs in people’s homes who will never act aggressively towards anyone or anything. Unless you count pittie gas as aggression.
- It is simple to identify a pit bull terrier breed. Untrue. Many dogs that are considered “pit bulls” are nothing more than mutts. Good old fashioned American mutts. With no DNA in common with the more commonly known pit bull terrier type breeds. What they are saying is that how a dog looks determines how he will act, regardless of his background.
For my own peace of mind I had to find a way to understand where these people are coming from. Some of these rabid anti-pit people may have had a tragedy in their lives. They may have been bitten or scared by a dog. They may have lost a beloved family member or pet. For whatever reason, they feel my dog is a threat to their safety and happiness. When I stop and think about it, I can find it in my heart to feel for them. It must be horrible to be that consumed by hatred.
Their contentions and hatred do not change a basic fact: BSL laws do nothing to actually make a community safer. They don’t address the things that actually cause dog aggression….things that land squarely in the laps of humans: spay/neuter, socialization, training and responsible care of dogs. It doesn’t matter that no amount of proof, or scientific studies are going to change the minds of people who have lost the ability to distinguish fact from fiction.
What we can work to do is change the minds of people who haven’t had the opportunity to interact with a pit type dog. We need to view ourselves as ambassadors for the breed…and our dogs as a positive shining example for the world to see.
We are winning this war. BSL laws are being over-turned everywhere. There are increasingly frequent positive stories about wonderful dogs and the amazing things they do. We just need to keep the faith and continue to fight the good fight. We CAN change the world