“If trained animal professionals with years of dog-handling experience aren’t good at visually identifying breeds, then what does that say about the rest of us?”
“By World War I, pit bulls were so beloved as national symbols that we literally and figuratively wrapped them in the flag. We even called them “Yankee terriers.”
“Dogs have evolved to understand us better over the millennia, but in modern pet culture we appear doomed to understand them less.”
― Bronwen Dickey, Pit Bull: The Battle over an American Icon
The illuminating story of how a popular breed of dog became the most demonized and supposedly the most dangerous of dogs—and what role humans have played in the transformation.
- How did you view Pit Bulls before reading this book? Has your viewpoint changed? Is so, why?
- In Chapter Nine the book discusses “moral panic” which is defined as inappropriate hysteria about a novel, obscure, or previously ignored phenomenon. The book gives examples of this which include early eighties claims of satanic ritual child abuse and the witch hunts that spread across medieval Europe. Can you think of other examples? Does it surprise you that, not just individuals, but entire cultures and societies can suffer from irrational hysteria?
- Reading this book reminds me of the classic “How to Lie with Statistics.” The author also explores how unfounded opinions and speculation can morph overtime into scientific fact. Did reading this book make you more skeptical about arguments based on statistics and data?
- The book illustrates the remarkably patience and tolerance of dogs. A mid-sized dog could, at any time, seriously maim a person. Yet it so rarely happens. There are only an average of thirty-five fatal dog attacks a year. Are you surprised that, when you look at the data, dogs and men coexist remarkably well.
- In addition to amazingly pronounced problem of dog breed identification, a major problem with evaluating dog breed “aggressiveness” is the myriad of variables involved in dog attacks, e.g., was the dog tethered, was the dog provoked, was the dog subject to neglect or environmental stress. Do we lack sufficient data to make this determination?
- Finally, as always, did you like the book? The writer’s style? Did you learn anything that will stay with you?
About the Author:
Bonwen Dickey is a contributing editor at The Oxford American. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Outside, Slate, Garden & Gun, Best American Travel Writing, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Independent Weekly, among other publications. She lives in North Carolina.