Dog lovers and those actively involved in animal rescue and welfare may have come across the term “bait dog.” What does this mean, and do bait dogs really exist, or are they just an urban myth? Learn all there is to know about bait dogs, their origins, and the myth versus reality.
We would like to preface this article that bait dogs are illegal and we don’t condone any type of dog fighting. We are simply exposing the unfortunate truth and terminology used in illegal and underground dog fighting.
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Bait Dog Meaning
Bait dogs are an unfortunate part of illegal underground dog fighting. Trainers essentially use bait dogs to condition their fighting dogs to attack and brutally maul. In other words, bait dogs are the punching bags that the dogs under training attack constantly. It is obviously very illegal, but this is the term used in dog fighting.
The idea is to make the fighting dog more vicious, so they’ll be more inclined to fight back when pitted against another fighting dog. The concept of a bait dog enables the game dog to get used to attacking others while minimizing the risk of injury during training.
What Kind of Dogs are Bait Dogs?
Several dog breeds may become bait dogs. These may be medium to large breeds that tend to be more docile and avoid conflict. It may also be aggressive breeds, such as Pitbulls or Dobermans, that have been somehow incapacitated. Trainers may tape their muzzles shut or tie them to a pole to limit mobility.
Dogs intended for fighting that lack the “killer instinct” may also instead become the bait dog. There are rumors that cats are used as bait if there are no bait dogs available.
In any case, a bait dog is a dog that cannot fight back or defend itself well. There are no rules that establish what makes an animal a good bait dog candidate.
How do Trainers Acquire Bait Dogs?
Trainers procure bait dogs in a myriad of ways. They may adopt dogs from an animal shelter, pretending to be a loving owner. Others may acquire them through Craigslist ads. There is also speculation that some trainers will abduct dogs at night by scouting homes with dogs left in the yard. However, there is no evidence to support this assertion.
What Becomes of Bait Dogs?
A bait dog is on the receiving end of multiple maulings. Trainers also intentionally malnourish them and keep them confined all day long in a crate. These canines undergo the same kinds of physical and emotional trauma as human victims of abuse.
Some eventually die from their injuries. Trainers may also cull (euthanize) them once they are deemed no longer useful, or they may just abandon them on the street. Some dogs eventually make their way to an animal rescue shelter. Even then, there is a long road to recovery. Loving pet owners that adopt them may or may not successfully help them overcome their emotional scars.
Do Bait Dogs Exist?
There’s fierce debate whether bait dogs exist in underground dogfighting or if it’s all a myth. Some people believe the concept may have originated from an isolated incident. From there, it became a huge topic of discussion on Reddit and other discussion boards.
However, some people in animal rescue do comment on rescuing or treating bait dogs. It’s important to note, though, that the term gets applied widely to describe any abused dogs. This includes dogs from abusive households with little to no interaction with other dogs.
The truth is probably somewhere in between. Illegal dog fighting rings do exist. People have been prosecuted and convicted for running such organizations. Former NFL quarterback Michael Vick is one of the more high-profile individuals convicted of running a dogfighting ring. It’s also likely true that weaker dogs are used in some capacity to train fighting dogs. However, it is likely not to the extent that most people believe.
Some Pitbull lovers have also questioned the existence of bait dogs. Since Pitbulls are the most common breed in dogfighting, some people feel the term bait dog is irresponsibly used to elevate more docile species as the victims. Meanwhile, Pitbulls are demonized as the aggressors. This gives the breed a bad reputation, making them less likely candidates for adoption.
Origin of the Term
The animal rights charity Animal People researched the historic validity of bait dogs. Upon intensive Internet research, the earliest use of the term they were able to find was from a 1996 Albany Times Union article. The piece used the term “baiting dogs” to describe owners that tethered their dogs and tortured them as an inhumane form of punishment. This seems to lend credence to the idea that bait dogs may be grounded more in myth than in reality.
Are Bait Dogs an Effective Way to Train Fighting Dogs?
There is debate whether bait dogs enable fighting dogs to become more aggressive. Most experts believe bait dogs are ineffective. In people, to become a stronger fighter, you have to train with fighters who are equally strong. As the saying goes, iron sharpens iron. If you’re an advanced and seasoned fighter, would you get better by only training with beginners?
By the same token, fighting dogs are unlikely to get better by constantly attacking other dogs that can’t fight back. Fighting dogs more often undergo similar training to human athletes, such as running on a treadmill or running with a weighted tire.
These training methods are humane and legitimate ways of keeping dogs fit. Don’t assume the worst if you see owners training their dogs in this manner. These are likely just owners working out alongside their canine friend; nothing more.
Are Bait Dogs Dangerous?
Loving pet owners may want to give abused bait dogs a second chance at life. However, there is speculation that bait dogs may be aggressive to humans after years of abuse. This may be true in some cases. However, all dogs are individuals, so you have to judge each case by its merit.
Most abused dogs are safe with the right attention, care, and supervision. Some abused dogs may integrate well with a new human owner but not get along with other pets in the household.
The same is true of dogs trained to fight. Just because their previous, cruel owners trained them to be ruthless fighters doesn’t mean they’ll remain that way for life. Again, every dog is different. Training to fight other dogs also doesn’t make them aggressive towards humans by nature.
Fighting dogs are just as much the victims as bait dogs. Canines brought up in a fighting environment deserve just as much of a second chance. Whether a bait or fighting dog, these canines underwent major physical and emotional trauma. If adopted, owners should consider enlisting help from a professional trainer. At the minimum, owners need to spend more time than normal making these dogs feel safe in their new environment.
Abused Dogs are a Real Phenomenon
If you would like to help, don’t worry so much about whether bait dogs are real. According to Pet Pedia, 65% of all abused animals are dogs. An animal also becomes a victim of abuse every 60 seconds. Be mindful of the greater issue at hand and take action by getting involved in your local animal shelter.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can you tell if a dog was a bait dog?
Dogs with many scars, puncture wounds, and fearful or extremely aggressive may have been used as bait dogs. The ASPCA explains that although it’s a felony offense, it still occurs in many parts of the country. Here’s what you should look out for if you’re trying to help a bait dog:
- Breeds used for fighting like Pit Bulls, Presa Canarios, and Dogo Argentinos are most often used for dog fighting.
- Injuries include puncture wounds, crushing injuries, broken bones, blood loss, and lacerations
- Many injuries are untreated, and dogs may be undernourished and chained outdoors regardless of temperature.
- If you see something that resembles a dog fighting, you should report it to law enforcement.
- If you want to help animals and dogs in need, reach out to Animal Recovery Mission (ARM) and ARM Sanctuary or PETA.
What do they use bait dogs for?
Bait dogs are used for training and to see how aggressive another dog is. They often feature cropped ears, have their mouths duct-taped, and are used as bait.
Dog fighters use bait dogs to lure other dogs into fighting; most often, bait dogs are killed or badly mutilated. If you suspect a person is running a dog fighting ring, you must report them to the authorities.
Are bait dogs a thing?
Unfortunately, bait dogs are a thing throughout the US and internationally. Although many organizations are cracking down on dog fighting, new rings, often by criminals with lengthy records, keep emerging.
If you suspect dogs are being used as bait or for dog fighting, you should report them anonymously to the authorities.
Are Pit bulls used as bait dogs?
Often this breed is used as a bait dog and does not survive to be seen by shelters. When Pit bulls have served their purpose, they are killed or left to die alone.
Most of these dogs live secluded and are on heavy chains tied to something. ASPCA adds that a ” Dirt ring around the dog or dogs chained inches apart from one another may exist.”
They also explain that ” Pit bull-mix-type dogs weighing approximately 40-50 lbs.” are often used and that dogs penned in secluded areas are intentionally kept away from the public.
Why do they spray paint bait dogs?
Bait dogs are often spray painted in different colors so that owners can quickly identify their dogs. Bait dogs are used by dog fighting rings to prep their dogs for dog fights.
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Dr. Sabrina Kong graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in England in 2016 and has been working at a small animal clinic in Northern California since then. She grew up in the Bay Area and got her bachelor’s degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She also became a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner through a program at the University of Tennessee.
When she isn’t in the clinic taking care of her four-legged patients, she enjoys traveling and trying new foods with her friends and her three-legged dog, Apollo. She adopted Apollo from her clinic when he was a puppy with numerous health issues. Dr. Kong truly cares about taking care of animals.