Where Does the Hatred Come From?

November 6, 2012  

A nurse and mom to a therapy dog, takes a deeper look into the psychology behind pit bull hatred

By Barbara Telesmanic, RN, CPON

With National Pit Bull Awareness Month just passed, we are all focusing on education, positive imagery, advocacy and celebration. We also need to be aware and very familiar with our opposition. As James Joyce said, “Never let us do wrong, because our opponents did so. Let us, rather, by doing right, show them what they ought to have done, and establish a rule that dictates reason and conscience, rather than of angry passions.”

I have always been so perplexed at how difficult it is to get people to understand that dog behaviors and conduct are stemmed primarily from owners and not particular breeds. It seems logical that we as humans impart behaviors on our dogs, good or bad. We achieve this through training (reward based vs. punishment based), socialization (constructive vs. destructive), and human or canine interactions (positive vs. negative). It led me to my theory that maybe there is an underlying issue (aside from media bias), a deficiency or disorder, perhaps. So, I began to study and research psychological perspectives and insights. Here is what I’ve learned …

The topic of breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL) has both sides vehemently defending their stance and believing their perspective is right. I feel this issue ultimately comes down to interpretation; how one receives information and, ultimately, how that information is processed. According to renowned scientist and Nobel Prize winner Ivan Pavlov, you can condition your mind to think negatively or positively. Some people learn and grow, some whither and degenerate.

From PsychologicalHarrasment.com: “The way you think can be conditioned and a person can also be psychologically manipulated to have a negative thinking pattern, to always see the negative side of things or expect the worse. To see the negatives out of a situation or event reflexively instead of being open minded or thinking of the positives first.”

On the contrary, the opposite is true as well, “You can condition your mind to think positively or expect positive outcomes,” hence the expressions: “Look on the bright side,” “Put a positive spin on it.”

The Opposition

The main focus of certain victims’ groups seems to be based on retribution rather than resolution, and they appear to subscribe to this pattern of negative thinking, in addition to demonstrating an inability to empathize. It reflects the “victim to bully phenomenon.” According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ stages of healing, some individuals exhibit an inability to achieve the final stage, which is that of acceptance. This is where, according to Gumbypana.com, a “peaceful resolution wherein the victim accepts what has happened, makes peace with it, and is able to move on.”

Why the Hate, Why the Revenge Methodology?

Anti-pit bull hate groups and BDL supporters appear to subscribe to a theory commonly referred to as Collective Punishment. This states the punishment of a group of people (or dogs in this case) as a result of the behavior of one or more other individuals, (dogs) or groups. The punished group (dog) may often have no direct association with the other individuals or groups, or direct control over their actions. In other words, punish the breed not the deed. This involves All-or-Nothing Thinking which is defined as a distortion, and is described as thinking of things in absolute terms. All-or-Nothing thoughts often contain words like never, always, all and every. For example, “every pit bull is vicious” or “all those dogs are bad.” It would appear their group focus and mission is not to make society safer or promote compassion but to impart revenge and instill fear.

According to PsychCentral.com, one in three Americans are suffering from a mental disorder in any given year, or over 75 million people. We see staggering instances of this every day, in particular with unscrupulous organizations. For example, someone suffering from a syndrome like narcissistic personality disorder may, according to PsychologyInfo.com, “lack empathy and readily exploit others to achieve his or her goals. To others he or she may seem self-absorbed, controlling, intolerant, selfish, and insensitive. If he or she feels slighted or ridiculed, he or she may be provoked into a fit of destructive anger and revenge-seeking. Such ‘narcissistic rage’ can have disastrous consequences for all those involved.”

The Tragedy of Revenge

As quoted on EmotionalCompetency.com: “The passion for revenge is strong and sometimes almost overwhelming. But our intuitive logic about revenge is often twisted, and dangerous. Revenge is a primitive, destructive, and violent response to anger, injury, or humiliation. It is a misguided attempt to transform shame into pride. Choose another path.”

And from MentalHelp.net: “In the novel ‘Moby Dick,’ Captain Ahab is obsessed with seeking revenge on the white whale, Moby Dick. His long struggle results in the death and destruction of the entire crew except for Ishmael the storyteller. Unfortunately the destruction described in this fictional account is often too accurate an account of revenge in the real world.”

Our mission is no longer an option: This is right versus wrong. Creating a culture of well informed, compelling pit bull crusaders that impart knowledge and truth upon our society is imperative. Be heard. William Faulkner once said, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty, truth and compassion against injustice. If people all over would do this, it would change the world.”

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9 Responses to “Where Does the Hatred Come From?”
  1. bluebrindle says:

    This is a wonderful article and the quotes so appropriate. Funny because it applies to the “Political World” as well as the “pit bull” dog world. We all need to change hearts and minds one person at a time. It is very important not to be just “heard” but to be “seen”. Seeing more and more wonderful “pit bull” dogs out and about in our communities everyday is great way to start. Let the nay-sayers see that every dog is an individual!

  2. Sheiv001 says:

    Excellent read! Thank you so much for posting this. From the perspective of someone very close to me that was seriously injured by a pit bull, I understand the tremendous pain of watching someone you love suffer. However, I also am very cognizant of where the responsibility lies. It was not with the dog. It was and is with the breeder, previous & at the time, current owner. Pit Bulls are no diiferent from any other breed! Treated, raised, & trained with the appropriate respect & love ANY guardian should provide their dog, PB’s are just as loving as any other breed. The blame lies with human behavior related to “man’s best friend.”

  3. Rossana_2332 says:


  4. AndyWhiteman says:

    A dog can pick up on human emotion. Red Dogg, my Vizsla/Pit Bull, knows my emotion like mind reading, and will come to comfort me if anything annoys me.
    Her hatred of dogs started while I was walking her and another dog attacked. She didn’t defend herself but I knew the dog and broke it up by ordering him to go home. The next event was at the vet’s when a man asked if it was OK for her to play with his dog. His dog initiated play by swatting Red Dogg’s face with his paw. She immediately became defensive. After that she was defensive/aggressive at the sight of any dog. A trainer told me to let her know that I would control the situation. It works only if I see the dog first and give a SIT/STAY command. She can sense my fear of her being near a dog and sensing my fear, she wants to defend me. She thinks I am afraid of the dog, but I am really afraid she will attack.

    • StubbyDog says:

      It’s hard not to be fearful after those events, but the trainer is correct, your dog will look to you for guidance. It’s easier said than done, but maybe you can re-introduce your dog to other dogs in a controlled situation and make the experience a pleasant one to recondition the response your dog now has. thanks for sharing and best of luck.

  5. LLP2012_lindr76 says:

    I have read this article through twice now and it is a very well thought out,and unbias view. It doesn’t say ”no pit bull is bad” but nor does it hold with the view ”all pit bulls are bad”-it simply states that each dog is an individual and should be treated as such,which is how it should be. I fight daily to end BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) here in the UK as I believe that no breed is born ”bad” ,it is ultimately down to responsible ownership…or in the cases we see in the media,a lack there of! Any dog,given the right balance of love,affection and training will undoubtedly be a well balanced ”pet” -though I prefer the term ”family member” as when raising an animal in a domestic setting they require the same dedication we give to having a child. I am currently running a petition where upon I propose a new,fairer law for dogs here in the UK,a law which will ultimately help end the bias opinions of people with regards to dogs as each animal seized for any reason would be judged in much the same way as a human is judged,by his/her deeds,not by their ”race” or in this case ”breed”. You can view and sign my petition here- http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/lennox-law and you can keep up to date on the petition as well as many BSL related topics via my FB page here- http://www.facebook.com/LLP2012 Education is key to changing the minds of those who have the misconceptions about many dog breeds and I believe together we can change those views and move forward into a fairer era for dogs and owners alike.
    Linda x

    • StubbyDog says:

      Thanks so much Linda, we signed your petition and applaud the work you are doing to help pit bulls and all dogs in the U.K.

  6. mrsdraven11 says:

    Love this. Thank you.

  7. mrsdraven11 says:

    I appreciate this article, and wish it contained some great ideas moving forward of how we can change this! The dogs need our help, they do not have a voice, and they deserve better. What are some point blank suggestions for us to make real change and influence more compassion?