"While we hate that there are people who would abuse animals, the term 'bait dogs' is very overused by the well

intentioned but misinformed. Unless there are witnesses to the cause of injury, mysterious bite marks on a dog remain an

unhappy mystery with an unknown perpetrator. To shout "bait dog!" whenever a dog with bites appears keeps a popular

myth alive and may actually be encouraging copycat crimes by offering animal abusers ideas we would rather they didn't have."

- See more at:

Labels: What's In A Name?

Presented by The REAL Pit Bull

Written by Mary Harwelik

Contributor: Our Pack, Inc/Marthina McClay

What's in a name? Well, lots if your name is "bait dog" or "fighting dog". And these labels often determine the fates of the dogs that wear them.


Bait dogs are typically thought of as ‘victims’ and ‘non aggressive’ but fighting dogs are all too often viewed as ‘vicious, trained killers’ instead of the abuse victims that they truly are. There are many mistaken beliefs about fighting dogs, and the supposed use of bait dogs to ‘train’ fighting dogs. This article attempts to address some common concerns and misconceptions about fighting dogs, and the ‘bait dog myth’.


What's a ‘bait dog’? In a nutshell, according to popular Pit Bull culture (which often includes elements of myth), a 'bait dog' is a young, weak, or inexperienced dog (Pit Bull or otherwise) that is used to teach fighting dogs how to fight. The objective is to use a dog that does not fight back and injure the fighting dog, and to help the fighting dog 'learn' how to fight, 'get a taste for blood' and so on.


What’s a ‘fighting dog’? For the sake of this article, a fighting dog is one that has been used in the illegal ‘sport’ of dog fighting and has been fought in organized fight conventions or used in informal street fights; any dog that has been purposefully conditioned to fight and then allowed to fight another dog, or dogs confiscated from ‘fight busts’, whether or not they have actually been fought. It is important to note here that dogs coming out of fight busts have not necessarily been fought or even conditioned to fight. Don’t assume! Judge the dog’s behavior and not his unknown history.


Let's look at some common questions & incorrect assumptions about fighting & so-called bait dogs:


Will allowing a Pit Bull to kill/maim a weaker ‘bait dog’ make him a good fighting dog?

Let's get this straight – allowing a Pit Bull to fight another weaker dog will NOT make him into a prize winning pit dog. Dogs when placed into certain situations will indeed fight – this is true of all dogs. A dog when repeatedly placed into certain situations and encouraged to fight through goading, tormenting or other means of environmental pressure will likely have increased fighting behavior in the future under similar circumstances. This does not mean the dog is a good fighting dog, however. There is a big difference between fighting a weaker opponent that does not fight back, and fighting a wellmatching opponent in the pit. When it comes time for a real match, the shock of being up against an opponent that fights back could very well send a dog running for the hills - even if that dog had been 'trained' on 'bait dogs’.


Another important point to consider is that aggression or the willingness to start a fight does not equal gameness; gameness is the trait that dog fighters value above all others – the willingness and ability to keep fighting regardless of threat of physical harm or death. This is not something that can be ‘trained’ – it is ‘heart’ that the dog is born with.


Considering the above perspective, using ‘bait dogs’ to train fighting Pit Bulls would be pointless – and maybe even counter-productive.


Don’t dog fighters use ‘bait dogs’ to train fighting dogs? Historically, dog fighters never used 'bait dogs'. Fighting dogs were not traditionally ‘trained’ to fight, but rather physically and environmentally conditioned to do so. First, they were exercised, running and walking mostly, to build up stamina. Second, they were consistently placed in threatening situations with other dogs that encouraged defensiveness and kicked fight drive into gear, resulting in dog-directed aggression.


Remember – fighting behavior is something that ALL dogs can potentially perform. Fighting is defensive behavior, conditioned in the dog through environmental processes. With Pit Bulls, in part this conditioning would occur by means such as: chaining in close range of other dogs, lack of socialization & training, ‘rolling’ (practice matches….see below for more on rolling), etc.


So where'd this idea of using bait dogs come from?

Most likely from misinterpretation of old time fighting dog magazines and books that talked about 'cat mills' and treadmills, on which some dogs were encouraged to run by use of a small animal in a cage held in front of the dog. Another possibility was a misunderstanding of the process of 'rolling' during which a new, young fighting dog would be placed in the pit with an older, seasoned dog in order to teach the young one 'the ropes'. It's ironic that the true method for conditioning a fighting dog actually involved putting him up against a more experienced dog, not a weaker or non-aggressive dog unlikely to fight back. Rolling was all about allowing the new dog to gain experience and learn to maneuver in the pit against a strong, experienced fighter. Rolls were typically stopped before either dog could get seriously hurt.


Physical exercise does not equal ‘fight dog training’! Treadmills and spring poles are NOT ‘dog fighting equipment’. 

Many individuals who own Pit Bulls, as well as owners of other breeds, use treadmills and spring poles as means of exercising their dogs. These are humane tools for keeping your dog healthy and happy.


“So are you saying bait dogs are a myth? But I  knew/worked with/heard about a rescue that saved a bait dog!"

Lots of rescue organizations seem to be quick to label – if it’s cute, beat up, and sweet, the Pit Bull must have been a bait dog…..right? These are all assumptions made carelessly and not based on fact. The histories of many dogs coming into rescue are only known in part or not at all. Just because a rescue places a label on a dog does not mean that label is accurate. Ask for details – often you will find that the details are sorely lacking.


Same goes for labeling dogs of unknown history ‘fighting dogs’ when they happen to have a scar or two. Bottom line, if an organization does not know for a fact the dog’s history, they should not label the dog!


The term ‘bait dog’ in our opinion should never be used,

as it sends the wrong message about Pit Bulls in general, and propagates mythology.


Aren’t fighting dogs vicious towards people; once they get a taste for blood, aren’t they completely untrustworthy around other dogs and people?

The "taste of blood" myth goes something like this: once a dog has fought another dog or killed another animal or otherwise had the opportunity to 'taste blood', the 'taste for blood' will drive him to viciousness towards other dogs and people. Let's get this straight - 'tasting' blood won't make your dog vicious, or a good fighter. And no, a dog who fights will not automatically be ‘vicious’ towards people, since dog-directed aggression is completely different than human-directed aggression. The two behavioral issues are NOT related.


ALL dogs can and will fight another dog given the right set of circumstances. In the case of fighting Pit Bulls, you have dogs that were repeatedly put into situations that encouraged and demanded dog-directed aggression. Given a whole other set of circumstances, you might never see dog-directed aggression in a particular dog. This is one reason why ex-fighting Pit Bulls can and DO make wonderful pets and YES can even get along with other dogs when supervised properly – change the circumstances and you change the behavior of the dog!


We must drive this point home: dog-directed aggression does NOT equal human-directed aggression: a dog that fights other dogs will NOT necessarily be vicious towards humans.


There is another important reason why ex-fighting Pit Bulls can make great pets. Pit Bulls as a breed have NEVER been meant to be aggressive towards people! Pit Bulls were bred to excel in the pit, BUT also be extremely deferential towards humans, and safe to handle EVEN under duress.


Are 'bait dogs' safe to place in new homes, while fighting dogs are not?

The bottom line is, each dog should be evaluated on his or her own merits – labels mean nothing, and a label does not determine behavior! Careful evaluation of all dogs entering an adoption program is a must; fighting dog, ‘bait dog’, or just dog – good dogs come from all walks of life, and their future should not be determined based on a label they’ve been saddled with.


As the recent extremely successful rescue and placement of some high profile fighting dogs has shown, ex-pit dogs can and do flourish in kind, knowledgeable, and responsible homes. These dogs are proving that the baggage they come with needn’t be carried around for the rest of their lives. In fact, these dogs are showing just how resilient the Pit Bull breed is and how very quickly they bounce back from bad beginnings.


"Bait dogs" and Dog Fighting are Animal Abuse Issues,

NOT "Pit Bull Issues"!


The atrocities committed against dogs in the name of

'dog fighting’ are horrendous. These dogs are victims in

the purest sense of the word. Breed is irrelevant in these cases. The dogs are exploited, their innate talents misused to the highest degree imaginable, their true value stifled and ignored.




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The Animal Farm Foundation has noted “many possible explanations why a shelter dog might present with injuries:  getting hit by a car, mange,  having a scuffle with another animal, birth defects,  etc.  When we label these dogs as ‘bait dogs,’  we’re implying more than we actually know,”  the posting reminded.  “The ‘bait dog’ label carries baggage,”  the Animal Farm Foundation continued,   “and people make assumptions about how ‘bait dogs’ will behave.  Every time you use the ‘bait dog’ label, you demonize the ‘fighting dog’ who supposedly caused those injuries.”


Ubiquitous as the term “bait dog” has become,  it appears to be of surprisingly recent origin.  Using the search engines NewsLibrary, NewspaperArchive,  Culturomics,  and the archives of the New York Times,  ANIMAL PEOPLE found no mention of “bait dogs” in mainstream media predating January 13,  1996.  But that first mention,  in an Albany Times Union item headlined “Pit Bull is More Victim That Criminal,”  linked the concept of “bait dog” to the centuries-old use of “baiting dogs” to torment tethered animals as a cruel amusement.  “Baiting dogs” could be either the dogs used to attack tethered bulls, bears,  or other species including other dogs, or might be tethered for other dogs to kill.  The term was not used consistently. 



(3) “Bait dog” – this is just one of those things that won’t go away. The truth is, the ONLY way to know if the dog was intended to be used as “bait” is if the person tossing the dog in the ring tells you so (and we hope none of our readers know people that would do such a thing).


Simply being a smaller or weaker dog in the ring does not make the bait dog legend true, it just means that not only are the dog fighters criminal animal abusers, but they also have no idea what they are actually doing.  Additionally, promoting the idea of bait dogs may give those who seek to abuse dogs more ideas. The fighting history of the APBT is violent and horrible, but that does not mean that there weren’t some 'rules' for the sickening battles. It’s a complete and utter myth that one must “train” dogs to fight by “making” them maul smaller dogs and we only serve to further endanger dogs by repeating this myth to others.


Source: Pit Bulls Against Misinformation



The 'bait dog' started as a myth created by Animal Rights groups which led to people believing that this was a method used. Their attempt was to lie in order to gather support and donations from the general public, playing on their fear and lack of knowledge on dog fighting.


This is called PROPAGANDA, anti Pit Bull propaganda.


By doing this, they are responsible for every real and made up ‘dog bait’ case out there today. This gave wannabe dogmen the idea that this was how you went about the practice but this couldn't be further from the truth.


The media and rescues soon picked up on this like they do with everything and guess what? Now every dog with scars, hung from a tree, has bite marks, shows fear is automatically labelled a ‘bait dog’. Well that’s just stupid and irresponsible. Again, it helps bring in the donations for those rescues and makes people adopt those dogs because they feel sorry for them.


A dog can act that way for many reasons. An animal that has scars on it does not have to be a ‘bait dog’ or a previous fighter. Dogs can get scars from running into bushes, getting caught on a nail, rough play, a fight with a dog in the same household, a cat, other wildlife or even just from being a stray.


A dog will fight if it wants to. If it doesn't, it won’t. Nobody makes an animal do anything. These people who spread the ‘bait dog’ myth, also say that it builds confidence but that’s not true either. A dog isn’t going to learn anything from an inferior opponent. You wouldn't stick a human fighter already high in the ranks with a 6 year old kid.


So the moral of the story is, never spread misinformation because you will do more harm than good.


myth (mith) n. invented story, fictitious person, etc. 2.a belief or set of beliefs, often unproven or false, that have accrued around a person, phenomena or institution.



Khalessi was NOT a 'bait' dog

She was abused, however -

her injuries were consistent

with being beaten with

a baseball bat :O(


'Bait dogs' are used to help train pit bulls to fight. The owners often try to “turn” them or make them aggressive, but due to their sweet disposition and temperament, they fail. Because they refuse to become mean, they are used as 'bait' and left for dead.


On any given day - either a dog wants to fight, or it doesn't. There is nothing to be gained from 'training' a dog to be a better fighter by letting it beat up a smaller or weaker animal.



The majority of 'bait' dogs in the media (social and news) are not, in fact, verified 'bait' dogs.  The title is based on supposition and frenzy. Many dogs have been labeled as such only to find out they were suffering from disease, scarred from traffic accidents, or physical abuse from humans.  They should be labeled as animal cruelty cases, nothing more.

Labels: What's In A Name
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