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October 15, 2009 at 11:37 pm 12 comments

First a thought-provoking article in the New Yorker comparing football and dog fighting by Malcolm Gladwell.  Here’s an excerpt, go here to read the rest:

In a fighting dog, the quality that is prized above all others is the willingness to persevere, even in the face of injury and pain. A dog that will not do that is labelled a “cur,” and abandoned. A dog that keeps charging at its opponent is said to possess “gameness,” and game dogs are revered.
In one way or another, plenty of organizations select for gameness. The Marine Corps does so, and so does medicine, when it puts young doctors through the exhausting rigors of residency. But those who select for gameness have a responsibility not to abuse that trust: if you have men in your charge who would jump off a cliff for you, you cannot march them to the edge of the cliff—and dogfighting fails this test. Gameness, Carl Semencic argues, in “The World of Fighting Dogs” (1984), is no more than a dog’s “desire to please an owner at any expense to itself.” The owners, Semencic goes on,

understand this desire to please on the part of the dog and capitalize on it. At any organized pit fight in which two dogs are really going at each other wholeheartedly, one can observe the owner of each dog changing his position at pit-side in order to be in sight of his dog at all times. The owner knows that seeing his master rooting him on will make a dog work all the harder to please its master.

This is why Michael Vick’s dogs weren’t euthanized. The betrayal of loyalty requires an act of social reparation.
Professional football players, too, are selected for gameness. When Kyle Turley was knocked unconscious, in that game against the Packers, he returned to practice four days later because, he said, “I didn’t want to miss a game.” Once, in the years when he was still playing, he woke up and fell into a wall as he got out of bed. “I start puking all over,” he recalled. “So I said to my wife, ‘Take me to practice.’ I didn’t want to miss practice.” The same season that he was knocked unconscious, he began to have pain in his hips. He received three cortisone shots, and kept playing. At the end of the season, he discovered that he had a herniated disk. He underwent surgery, and four months later was back at training camp. “They put me in full-contact practice from day one,” he said. “After the first day, I knew I wasn’t right. They told me, ‘You’ve had the surgery. You’re fine. You should just fight through it.’ It’s like you’re programmed. You’ve got to go without question—I’m a warrior. I can block that out of my mind.

KFOX New Mexico reports that marijuana was found in several bags of dog food.  And no, this isn’t another product recall:

A drug-sniffing dog alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to the trunk of 2009 Peugeot. CBP officers opened the trunk and found large bags of dog food, but when they opened them up, marijuana was found inside.

 CBP officers removed 30 marijuana-filled bundles from the dog food. The drugs weighed 31 pounds. A drug-sniffing dog alerted U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers to the trunk of 2009 Peugeot. CBP officers opened the trunk and found large bags of dog food, but when they opened them up, marijuana was found inside.


A disturbing case of animal neglect reported on LocalNews 8 an eleven-pound stray dog in St. Anthony, Idaho had nine and a half pounds of matted hair removed from its body by a local vet.

However, police in St. Anthony say the owners of the matted dog Tuesday will NOT be charged with animal cruelty.

St. Anthony Police Chief Jim Smith says the owners are not mentally capable of understanding any charges facing them.

“You pass by the house where we found the dog and it’s surprising that people even live there it’s so run-down,” said Smith.

The dog, now appropriately renamed “Matt” is reported doing well after the mat-ectomy.  St. Anthony police are looking for ways to help his owners because according to the chief of police, “the dog’s situation mirrored that of the owners.”



Entry filed under: bull breeds, pit bulls, pitbulls, rescue. Tags: .

Pablo the Drug Mule Dog Good Things

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jan  |  October 15, 2009 at 11:47 pm

    Marijuana in dog food bags?

    For the dog with glaucoma?

  • 2. Viatecio  |  October 17, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Why NOT charge that one dog’s owner with cruelty? I can’t even tell on that dog which end has the teeth! Heck, I can’t even tell it’s a dog…that’s just not right. Even someone in dire straits still owns a pair of scissors or something similar, or knows someone who does.

    Very interesting about the game-ness observation. I might have to check out that book from 1984 that they mention, if even just to read it and know the material. Some of the Amazon reviews are plain funny…people seem to think that reading about something indicates that IT SHALL BE DONE. I recommend Koehler’s book as a historical reading document for perspective…just because it’s in my bookcase doesn’t mean I drown my dog!

    And the first thought that crossed my mind with the marijuana in the dog food? “What the heck are people doing bringing Peugeots back into this country?!” Are we importing them again or was this a Mexican thing? I don’t care about the dog food issue, I want to know about the CAR! Priorities, priorities… 😀

  • 3. Mongo  |  October 17, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I am a pitbull owner. I do NOT support dog fighting.
    But I DO wish more people would learn more about what the founders of the breed did and expected of dogs in the ring to better understand the breed and the men who did love the dogs they fought.
    It was not the insane blood bath that some think- it was a poorman’s genetic game, combining attitude with physical ability in hopes of winning some money.
    Keeping the old info available is important.

    Interestingly the whole ” If the mind is willing, it can be done!” is an exclusively masculine concept.
    If a woman insists she can still chop wood, race dirt bikes, or wrestle alligators nine months pregnant we question her mental state. We don’t feed girls the same ” IF you WANT IT BAD ENOUGH NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!!!!” crap they do to boys.

    Such willingness to be self sacrificing to a mission is what makes a military strong. (and police and fire rescuers, etc)
    But revering men who are willing to kill themselves trying to do something they are physically incapable of achieveing for SPORT is wrong. Allowing them to actually do it in unconsionable. Men are not disposable for purposes of entertainment.

    Its interesting that the “gameness” mindset is junk to the people who actually choose the players, no matter what lip service they give it….. Really, if all it took was desire instead of ability, the NBA would look very different with a buch of short guys running around. And the NFL would have a bunch of fat 40 year olds who would have given anything to keep playing after highschool.

  • 4. SmartDogs  |  October 17, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I am always surprised by the extreme emotions that Koehler’s books bring out in people. Several people at the dog club where I started out training wanted to burn them. Even though he warns people in the first chapter that the exercises absolutely must be followed in the order he presents them, people jump to the end of the book where he presents methods only to be used for the most extreme cases and base their opinions of of Bill and his methods on those pages alone.

    IMO the strongly antagonisitic tone he takes in the book has more than a little to do with his current unpopularity but – if you follow the exercises in the order presented not only will you find that the behavior problems addressed in the back of the book will go away on their own and you will not need drown, shock or smack your dog – you’ll also give your dog the freedom of off-leash obedience quicker, cheaper and more reliably than with almost any other method available.

    I’ve recommended Koehler’s book to a few clients – it is not the right method for every person or every dog – but for a person with the time, patience, coordination and mindset to follow the first three weeks of foundation work it can be a godsend.

  • 5. SmartDogs  |  October 17, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    But when you combine ability with gameness – you end up with a truly formidable competitor. This may be why a disproportionate number of professional athletes come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

    And FWIW – I really love game dogs. My first Leonberger was utterly fearless and he loved to fight. He was huge and fit and fast and he’d fight for the pure joy of it. He was also a skilled hunter, bringing down adult deer, wild turkeys, woodchucks and more. Once I earned his respect, that dog would have cheerfully jumped through fire for me (though I wouldn’t have asked him to unless it was absolutely necessary).

    My foster dog Charlie is also a game little fellow. Now that he’s past the phase where I have to worry about him attacking me or my two- and four-legged family members – I absolutely love working with him.

    In the right home, a game dog is a truly wonderful thing. In the wrong home he can be a complete nightmare.

  • 6. Mongo  |  October 17, 2009 at 9:44 pm

    LOL- Koehler books taught me consitancy, and respect for any dogs intelligence….. and to be willing to give people caramels (to shut them up) while I try to train!
    I think that people forget the Kohler assumed everyone loved their dogs. Praise WAS part of his method.
    I have an old Pekingese breed book from the 40’s that recommends barking dogs be repeatedly dunked in a rain barrel to teach them to stop barking. I forget what transgression warranted being tied to a bed post and whapped with a broom, but its in there.
    (Her point was a Pekingese COULD be trained, contrary to public opinion- it was not simply a question of “temperament”)

    The old books were written because they are the first voices saying training COULD change what a dog does. Bashing them now is silly since they are the foundation what what we know-even if it was a method that made us sure there must be another way….
    Like finding a test for gameness that doesn’t involve killing other dogs………

  • 7. Viatecio  |  October 17, 2009 at 10:05 pm

    That’s the best analysis I’ve ever heard of that book. Not for every dog, but definitely a big help to those who use the basic theories incorporated within. You might be interested in what this guy has to say about something in the book at the end of this little piece…while not a Koehler trainer himself (he actually was a ‘traditional’ trainer who went to a pure-positive technique, and went back to a ‘balanced’ method), his writings exude what should be, but sadly isn’t, common sense.

    On the topic of gameness in dogs, I’m sure you’ve taken a gander at Terrierman’s latest post on the pit bull?

    Mongo, I looked at some of the books ‘related’ to that World of Fighting Dogs and really want to read more about how the dog was bred to fight in the pit. History is truly lost on the ignorant and/or those with ‘only the best’ intentions. By the way, I do not support dogfighting either!

  • 8. SmartDogs  |  October 17, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Thanks – I have the advantage of knowing several people who worked directly with Bill and his son Dick. A couple of these people are/were some of the finest trainers I’ve known. And everyone I know who worked with the Koehlers remark how much they loved dogs – and how much dogs loved them.

    I only read Terrierman occasionally these days. Partly because I disagree with him a lot more than I used to but mostly because his blog takes so freakin’ long to upload that about one time in ten it makes my laptop crash. I don’t even like *my* blog well enough to put up with that on a regular basis.

    I just read the piece you linked and agreed with what Pat had to say. I think the same caveats should come with Belgian Malinois, working-bred German Shepherds, Dogos, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Ovchartkas, Anatolians and a host of other breeds. There is nothing wrong with a good game-bred dog – if it’s in the right home. The problem is an awful lot of people are in denial about what they can and can not handle in a dog. Even after their bad decision literally bites them in the ass.

    I’ve read Roger Hild’s piece before. I know him from the interwebs (we’re on several training lists together) and met him at a Koehler seminar about 6 or 7 years ago. Nice guy and a good trainer.

  • 9. EmilyS  |  October 17, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    virtually NO APBTs or ASTs are “gamebred” at this point. In the APBT, “game” means proven in the pit, and “gamebred” means bred from 2 “game” dogs. Normal owners of these breeds may have “dogs descended from gamebred dogs”. Which means exactly nothing. It was HARD to produce truly game dogs, since dogs really don’t particularly want to fight each other to the death. Most of the puppies in a “gamebred” litter were cold or curs.. and they ended up dead, or given to family as pets (which indeed is where most of today’s APBT/ASTs come from).

    Certainly owners of APBTs and ASTs should know their dog’s heritage, their terrier tendency towards contentiousness and their bulldog tendancy towards tenacity. But the notion that their owners have to have special restrictions placed on them is just another piece of BSL BS

  • 10. Mongo  |  October 18, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Unfortuantely ” game” does not change meaning from dog to dog.
    It is the same quality regardless of breed. HOW it is determined for each breed varies, but it is the same quality.
    “Proven in the pit” never defined game either. A big strong fast dog could win without being game if the other dog was lacking ability.

    I agree that winning dogs were hard to produce (excellent dogs of any breed always have been) and MUCH training was always needed to get dogs to override their own instincts and fight. That bit of knowlege has always escaped those who need to believe their pitbull “Lion on a leash!” will cheerfully kill every dog that crosses its path if not for their own exaggerated management measures.

    But the point is “gameness” has been highjacked by some to not only beileve it is a pitbull quality but that “dog fighting” is the only proof of the quality, and it is not.

  • 11. EmilyS  |  October 18, 2009 at 3:14 am

    Mongo, I disagree, and so do most writers/aficionados of the APBT. “Gameness” in the “pit bull” has only one historic meaning, and it refers to the pit. And “training” was not required… no dog needs to be “trained” to fight. Selection, conditioning and experience (testing/rolling) along with circumstance (confinement in a pit) and owner behavior were needed. Dogs were matched with equal contestants because as you say, just winning didn’t mean anything.. it was winning in the extreme circumstances of the pit against a real opponent (historically, dogfighters did NOT test their dogs against random pets). A losing dog could be a game dog.. but in the end the only “dead game” dog was a … dead dog.

    There SHOULD be a different definition of gameness for the APBT (or a different test for it), but most knowledgeable people simply say that “gameness” as a quality is obsolete for the APBT. We can talk about the breed’s physical courage, determination, tenacity, willingness to do a job (combined with its unique love for people). We can use those qualities for difficult jobs such as SAR, detection and other things for which the APBT is very very well suited. Those dogs are great, the dogs whose qualities should be upheld and perpetuated. Sometime in the future, maybe we can reclaim the word “game” for those dogs. Now is not the time.

  • 12. Mongo  |  October 18, 2009 at 3:32 am

    “And “training” was not required… no dog needs to be “trained” to fight.” !!!

    How funny- every thing a bitch teaches a puppy about getting along with others somehow doesn’t apply to the APBT??

    I will not argue the point, or your inaccuracies here.
    (Why loose an over matched game dog?? Take him home and breed him to something more capable- perhaps you are confusing a cockfight and a dog fight?? No one takes home a losing rooster.)

    I have been involved with the breed since the mid eighties and I am have having my last one (age 12 1/2) put down in two days as he is becomeing senile. So I will no longer be a pitbull owner whose duty is to spread TRUTH.

    I hope you have more fun that I did ever educating others about this breed. It just doesn’t seem to get thru- they are writing their own dictionaries and running with innacuracies.

    There was just an unpleasant exchange at a local working dog event- re- Isn’t an an APBT doing bite work on command grounds for euthanization under the ADBA standard.

    ” Sometime in the future, maybe we can reclaim the word “game” for those dogs. Now is not the time.”
    No. The truth is the truth.
    “Game” applies to many breeds. Before you start telling other how to use the word, you should make sure you understand it when intelligent people are using it propely and not thinking it has some hip secret illicit meaning.
    I will not post on this topic again.

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