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Is ‘Don’t Blame the Breed’ Valid? The Truth About XL Bullies

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The Truth About XL Bullies. Why 'Blame the owner, not the breed' doesn't work.

The debate around the American XL Bullies breed has been as heated as a summer day in Arizona—intensely hot and unlikely to cool down soon. The UK government’s recent decision to ban the breed has reignited conversations about the role of genetics, instincts, and responsible ownership in dog behaviour.

A Brief Look at Dog Breeds and Traits

Before we go barking up this particular tree, let’s talk about dog breeds and their traits. We have herders like the Border Collie, bred to possess a low prey drive and efficiently move livestock. Then there are hunting breeds like Beagles, designed to have a high prey drive to flush out game. And let’s not forget the fighters—breeds like the American Pit Bull Terrier, which have a history of being bred for combat and big-game hunting. Each of these classifications comes with its unique behavioural traits, like resource guarding, reactiveness, and differing levels of aggression.

The American XL Bully: A Breed Under Scrutiny

The American XL Bully has recently been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It’s essential to note that the breed is primarily based on the American Pit Bull Terrier, a dog initially bred for fighting. While breeding has tried to maximise bite inhibition towards humans, the aggression towards other animals hasn’t been fully bred out. To top it off, many XL Bullies in the UK are believed to be descendants of a notorious dog from the US named “Killer Kimbo,” who was heavily inbred. This lineage has been linked to a number of attacks and fatalities in the US.

Unsettling Statistics

Now, let’s talk numbers, shall we? While XL Bullies make up less than 1% of the UK’s dog population, they account for a staggering 40% of all fatal dog attacks on people from 2020 to present. Meanwhile, in the US, 430 fatal dog bites occurred between 2010 and 2021, with 185 attributed to Pit Bulls and another 41 to Pit Bull crosses.

The “Blame the Owner” Argument

Many people subscribe to the “blame the owner, not the dog” school of thought. While ownership does play a role—dogs aren’t born knowing how to sit or heel, after all—it’s not the whole story. The argument falls flat when we consider that dogs of other breeds, which are just as numerous if not more so than XL Bullies, are not causing fatal attacks at the same rate.

The Role of Genetics and Instincts

Genetics and instincts are the unseen hands that guide a lot of canine behaviour. For instance, resource guarding is a trait that can be exacerbated by genetics. A dog with a high prey drive may be more inclined to chase after smaller animals. Reactiveness can also be a genetically predisposed trait, leading to heightened sensitivity to stimuli and possibly aggressive behaviour. These factors, coupled with selective breeding, significantly influence a dog’s actions and reactions.

Dog genetics play a big role in their ability to be aggressive.

The Unpredictability of Predatory Drift

Now, let’s talk about something as elusive as a cat in a dog’s territory—predatory drift. This term refers to the sudden and often unpredictable switch from playful behaviour to predatory behaviour, usually triggered by some form of stimuli like fast movement or high-pitched noises. One moment, your dog may be playing fetch, and the next, it might be triggered into a predatory mode, especially if it’s a breed with a high prey drive.

Why You Shouldn’t Trust Your Dog 100%

“Trust but verify,” as the saying goes. Even the most well-trained dog can have an off moment due to predatory drift or other triggers. It’s always advisable to be cautious, especially in unfamiliar situations or environments. Claiming to trust your dog 100% is not only naive but potentially dangerous. Understanding the genetic predispositions and behavioural traits of your dog can go a long way in preventing unfortunate incidents.

While dogs bring immense joy and companionship, understanding the genetics and traits that influence their behaviour is critical for a harmonious relationship. It allows us to appreciate the complexities of what makes a dog tick—or rather, wag its tail.

So, the next time you find yourself saying, “I trust my dog completely,” take a pause and remember that dogs, like humans, are complex beings influenced by a myriad of factors, some of which are hardwired into their DNA.

Why Are XL Bullies and Pit Bulls Leading in Attacks?

Now, let’s attempt to answer the million-dollar question: why do XL Bullies and Pit Bulls account for a high percentage of fatal attacks? In my opinion, it’s a cocktail of genetics, instincts, and selective breeding. These breeds were designed to have aggressive traits for fighting or hunting, and while they might be domesticated, those instincts can flare up unpredictably. Add to this the issue of inbreeding in lines like “Killer Kimbo,” and you have a volatile mix. It’s not about blaming the owner; it’s about acknowledging that these breeds are predisposed to behaviours that can be risky.

The UK’s Ban on the Breed

Given the alarming statistics and public safety concerns, the UK’s ban on the American XL Bully is understandable. It’s a relief that there won’t be a cull, but existing XL Bullies will need to be neutered and muzzled in public.

Final Thoughts

While it’s convenient to latch onto the “blame the owner” argument, the statistics suggest a different story. Genetics and instincts play a non-negligible role in dog behaviour, which, when mixed with specific breeding histories, can lead to tragic outcomes. Ignoring these factors is like ignoring the elephant—or should I say, the XL Bully—in the room.

As we wrap up, remember that opinions are like tails; every dog has one. But when the tail starts wagging too fiercely, knocking over vases and causing chaos, it’s time to look at why that tail is behaving the way it is. Opinions may not outweigh statistics, but understanding the blend of ownership, genetics, and instincts gives us a fuller picture of why certain breeds act the way they do.

So, what’s your take on this? After all, a debate is like a game of fetch—best enjoyed when both sides are willing to play.

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