We know that dog fighting is illegal, but many believe that it shouldn’t be. What exactly goes into training these canines? Which breeds are used in these fights? Is the training harsh? In this article, we take a look into the violent, but sometimes lucrative, industry of fighting dogs.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states, although it is still common practice in some parts of the world. Likewise, this felony status has not ended dog fighting here in the U.S. There are still criminal fights occurring all over the country, as some cultures have long histories of dog fighting.
Before the training even begins, there is breeding. Fighting dogs have been bred over centuries with the most vicious dogs commanding the highest prices for their offspring. While most people can recognize a pit bull as a fighting dog right off, fewer know that there are many other breeds, including Dalmatians, which are bred and used as fighting dogs.
How Fighting Dogs Are Trained: The Grim Reality
Any dog with size and muscle can make a successful fight dog. When breeding dogs for fighting, some puppies will not have as good of a fighting instinct as their litter mates, these dogs are then used as “bait dogs” to train the fighters.
Many dogs and puppies given away for free also end up as bait dogs.
The life of a bait dog is horrible. He is used, repeatedly, to train fight dogs the commands and fighting techniques they need to know, until he is one day killed. A bait dog can be kept alive for several training sessions, but when his usefulness is over, he will be given to a fight dog to kill.
The mouth of bait dogs are usually tapped shut so they cannot bite the more valuable fight dog. A bait dog experiences broken bones, severe lacerations and other injuries until his short life mercifully comes to an end.
Techniques used to increase aggression
Fighting dogs are usually kept on heavy chains to build upper body strength. They will be kept very close to one another, but on chains that are never long enough for the dogs to reach each other. They are close enough, however, to antagonize the others, but never to get the emotional release of the fight.
Dog trainers also use treadmills or other apparatus to walk the dogs and build cardiovascular health. Many times other animals, such as rabbits or bait dogs, are used to lure the dogs around a running pen. After the exercise is complete, the dogs will be given the lure to kill.
Dogs are also given steroids and other supplements, at times, to increase size and strength. These steroids can also increase aggression in the dog. Fight dogs are injured often. For this reason, they will be given antibiotics to speed healing.
Their wounds are often not properly cared for, as that will cost more money. Fighting dogs also cannot be taken to a vet due the illegal nature of what they are forced to do. Veterinarians would likely report the owner to the authorities.
Instead of award based training (positive reinforcement), fighting dogs are often abused when they do not perform as expected. This keeps the trainer set up as the absolute boss in the dogs mind.
Abuse also makes a dog more angry and vicious.
A fighting dog is never shown love and affection. They must always look at the trainer as the boss and never as a friend or equal. Fight dogs are raised as machines, not as pets.
Any sign of meekness or mercy is negative in a fight dog. If a dog is too friendly, it will be killed or used as a bait dog.
Starvation is a common practice as a hungry dog is a desperate dog. Desperate dogs have the capability for more anger. While food must be given to keep the dog alive, it is measured out carefully, to avoid fullness.
A full dog is a content dog. A content dog is a docile dog. These dogs will often be well fed to make muscle, but starved in the couple of days leading up to the fight to foster aggression.
Fight dogs must be smart and obedient. They will learn commands such as stop, come, and attack. Many of these commands are given as hand signals. Dogs are also socialized around people, to some extent, to keep them from getting startled by the crowds during to fight.
Dogs that don’t make the cut
A dog will usually have at least two test fights before two years of age, with under-performing dogs becoming bait dogs. Dog fights often last until the death, with even winning dogs succumbing to injuries.
Dog owners will kill dogs by drowning, electrocution, beating, etc. if the dog is unable to continue in his career as a fighter due to injuries. Sometimes a dog just stops fighting. It just can’t go anymore. Unless this dog can command champion breeding fees, it will also be killed.
So why do people still do it?
There is a lot of money in dog fighting. If you have a champion fighting dog that survives many fights, people will pay you big bucks for the privilege of breeding their female dog with him. Also, the gambling involved in the “sport” brings in high payouts to winners and bookies alike.
Dog fighting is a criminal act that appeals to people in criminal organizations like gangs and street groups. In countries where it is still legal, it is considered a sport like any other. However, through education and awareness, activists around the world are hoping to ban the sport in every country.