A reader at DogsBite.org recently commented on the often used pit bull advocate mantra: "But cocker spaniels bite more often than pit bulls!" We've all heard the mantra, the question is, what does it mean and what does it reveal about genetics, breeding, cocker spaniels and pit bulls? It reveals that "cocker rage" was primarily a result of indiscriminate breeding practices. Unlike pit bulls, however, spaniels were never bred for aggression or dogfighting.
Given the volume of indiscriminate breeding of pit bulls, plus a history of breeding for dogfighting, aggression and tenacity, are we supposed to believe that the pit bull's temperament and attack traits are not rooted in genetics? That instead, all of these traits were taught to the dog by its owner? Few people argue that the basis of the cocker spaniel's temperament problem is genetic. Pit bull advocates, however, refuse to apply this principle to their breed.
Comment: The American cocker spaniel started to become popular back in the 1940's, and as its popularity grew, so did the number of back yard breeders looking to cash in. The breed was a good choice for puppy mills and back yard breeders because of its relatively small size; you could cram a lot of them into small kennels in a tiny area, they didn't cost much to feed, and there was a constant, steady demand for them as pets. Today, we see them widely used to create mixed breed "designer" dogs such as the cockapoos by breeders whose only goal is to make money.
But this indiscriminate breeding came with a price...the breed suffered from serious temperament problems, and genetic seizure disorders like "rage syndrome", where the dogs suddenly lash out biting at anything near them. The breed standard for a cheerful, friendly companion dog was ignored by all of these bybers and puppy mills, and many of the dogs produced were nervous, snappish, fearful or otherwise unstable. Here is where the irony lies in the pit bull apologists argument that cockers are more dangerous than pits.
The basis of the American cocker spaniels temperament problems are genetic. Careless breeding created dogs with poor temperaments. No one was breeding cocker spaniels FOR aggressive temperaments, as guard dogs, as fighting dogs, etc. They were simply being bred to make money by filling a demand for a popular family pet; these were lap dogs, little old lady dogs, family dogs. No one was starving them to make them mean, chaining them in the back yard to a barrel, beating them or abusing them. They were not being fought, or used to guard drug operations. An aggressive temperament in a domesticated animal can result from careless or indiscriminate breeding, because temperament in domesticated animals is under a strong genetic control.
Yet according to pit bull advocacy groups, cocker spaniels as a BREED have aggressive temperaments, but pit bulls don't???? Pit bulls, which have been selectively bred for fighting another dog to the death in a pit, it seems, are unaffected by genetics. We can quantify and prove that MANY pit bull breeders are breeding dogs FOR human aggressive and/or dog aggressive temperaments, and the majority of those who are not SELECTING for aggression are not BREEDING AWAY from it. Yet, we are asked to believe that pit bulls could not possibly be suffering from the same problems as cocker spaniels.
The vast majority of pit bulls in the pet population were created by people who not only bred them carelessly, but often bred them for their dangerous aggressive temperaments. Pit bull advocates want us to believe that "its all how you raise them", and that only pit bulls who have been abused or not raised to be "nice" are dangerous. But how do they explain the biting cocker spaniels they are always talking about? Aunt Millie's nasty cocker was socialized, well loved and cared for when it nipped her grandchildren. Yet we are asked to believe, again and again, that the family pit bull that gets loose and mauls the neighbor must have been "trained" to do it.
According to WikiAnswers, 53 cases of US "cocker rage" have occurred in the last 17 years (this answer is likely invalid and was left by a pit bull advocate). Still, every day, at least several US citizens are severely injured by pit bulls. So in the last 15 days, pit bull rage has injured as many people as cocker rage has in 17 years. Much work has been done to eliminate cocker rage as well. The pit bull community, on the other hand, continues to breed for aggression. Here are just a few examples:
08/06/08: Comment: Pit Bulls are 14 Times More Likely to Break Constraint...
06/17/08: Comment: High Marks on the ATTS Test is Pit Bull Propaganda