By: Jenny R
Aggression is "learned"
Deceived advocates and outright nutters continue to assert that pitbulls are just like any other dog, and that they are not born inherently dangerous. In reality, genetics are a powerful influence on temperament and behavior, especially when a breed is purposely manipulated and bred for it. But personality characteristics are undeniably inherited in even humans. There are strong correlations between specific mental illnesses and cognitive predispositions, presented within scientific study and medical treatment. Temperament has some genetic component, as evidenced by the scores of adopted/separated/estranged family members raised and living in different environs but presenting with the same behavioral characteristics. Hard science rebuffs the nutter myths at every turn. DNA cannot be conditioned out of an animal, and environment may somewhat mitigate these issues, the proven impact is minimal at best, as evidenced by scores of unprovoked attacks initiated by family pets.
- Some of the possibilities that come with mixing children and pitbulls (or children mauled by a neighbors dog) The threat of these outcomes is very real, very high, because there is so much precedent. Too much.
Only when behavioral inheritance is understood, beginning with basic biological concepts, can we have a clear and honest discussion about aggression in domestic dogs. First we must understand the relationship between “physical conformation” and “behavioral conformation,” .... “Physical conformation” describes how a dog has been bred to become physically shaped specifically for the task we want him to perform. The purpose-bred dog’s body––brain, skeleton, muscles, and metabolism––will be different from those of other dogs. The dog will feel physically comfortable doing the job, whatever it is. The border collie is physically designed for the stalking stance and for switching easily and often from standing to lying down to standing again. A greyhound enjoys sprinting, with a deep chest that easily provides enough oxygen to the dog’s muscles to fuel a burst of high speed. The same deep chest means the greyhound cannot run marathons because the deep chest prevents a greyhound from losing heat efficiently...
More vibrant illustrations of canine conformation (I strongly recommend reading the entire journal, but experience shows that many people are disinclined to read for substantial periods of time, especially when facing cognitive dissonance with personal views, so hence, the "cliffs notes" here)
Dog breeders have for centuries selected for particular traits by simply watching how a dog performs. They have bred dogs for specific tasks by removing the dogs who perform less well from their breeding stock. Sometimes they will cross in a dog breed they think will add traits to perform the task better. Breeders select for performance without always knowing exactly which traits they are breeding for. For example, until recently no one realized the husky was being bred for a particular heat economy; they just chose the dogs who kept running the longest. Eventually, successful breeders produce dogs who are physically shaped to do the dog’s task better than any other dog, no matter how well the other dog is trained. “Physical conformation” leads to “behavioral conformation.” First of all, each dog’s brain is genetically predisposed to grow to efficiently direct the body it is born in. Then the dog’s brain adapts itself further to the body it is in as it grows in the developing puppy. There is no gene for running or stalking, but there are genes that give a dog four legs and make those legs longer, shorter, more or less flexible, and so forth. It is because of the action of the genes that confer differently shaped bodies and brains that the pointer enjoys pointing, the border collie stalks and stares, the Newfoundland floats in cold water, and so on.
Just as we cannot make a dog into something the dog has no genetic capacity to be, we cannot prevent a dog from being what the dog is genetically predisposed to be. Because inherited postures and behaviors are suitable for the body and brain the dog was born with, they are internally motivated and internally rewarded: they feel good. This means that inherited behavioral traits are practically impossible to extinguish by manipulating external environmental stimuli. There is such a thing as normal aggression in dogs, as in all animals. Maternal defensiveness, territorial defense, and predatory behavior and depend on different neuronal and hormonal mechanisms, and are all normal coping responses. These dog behaviors have been accepted by humans in the process of domestication, as long as the behaviors can be foreseen. But abnormal dis -inhibited behavior is not functional, and it is unpredictable. Although high arousal and sudden attack can be functional in certain environments, this behavior is pathological in a safer environment, where a high level of arousal and aggressivity are not necessary and only lead to unnecessary attacks and injuries. Research implicates the frontal cortex, subcortical structures, and lowered activity of the serotonergic system inimpulsive aggression in both dogs and humans. Impulsive aggressive behavior in dogs seems to have a different biological basis than appropriate aggressive behavior.Kathelijne Peremans, DVM discovered this by studying two different populations of impulsively aggressive dogs. Each dog had executed one or more attacks without the classical preceding warnings, and the severity of the attacks was out of all proportion to environmental stimuli. Peremans found a significant difference in the frontal and temporal cortices of these dogs... [and] significant dysfunctions of the serotonergic systems among these dogs. Serotonergic dysfunction... connected toabnormal, impulsive aggression. Peremans studied dogs of various breeds, selectedpurely on the basis of their behavior. Peremans was not interested in implicating any particular breed, but rather in finding the mechanism behind the behavior in anydog it occurred in. She found that all of the dogs with a history of abnormal impulsive aggression shared the same physical abnormalities in the brain. The gender of the dogmade no difference. Neither did whether the dog was castrated or spayed. Peremans left open the possibility that we will later find other physical factors that contribute to abnormal impulsive aggression. For example, the adrenergic system may also play an important role.