Pit bulls have had an interesting journey. It went from being America's mascot of pure tenacity and grit to a symbol of fighting dog and now a vicious dog to be feared for its aggressive behavior. The wild speculations about pit bulls and the discrimination they are subject to are annoying and heartbreaking, as most of them are based on myths and not scientific or historical data.
In this article, we break down some myths and how you can counter them for your pittie.
"Pits were bred for fighting."
Trace back the history of pit bulls breeding, and you'd realize that they were first bred as family companions and working dogs. It's important to pull a dog out of the fight without getting bitten, and so, breeders who choose dogs specifically for fighting do not pick aggressive dogs.
Talking about breeds, the pit bull is not one breed, but an umbrella term for American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, and American bully. In fact, 25 other breeds such as Greyhounds, Boxers, French Bulldogs, and Presa Canarios look a lot like Pitts.
Physically, there is no way to identify a real pit bull. It requires a genetic test! People who discriminate against pit bulls are really judging or misidentifying a dog based on its physical appearance.
"Most dog bites are by pitbulls."
People often cite the bite statistics available in the public domain to base their claims on pit bulls being aggressive. However, they forget that a bite is an effect caused by either pain or fear.
Let's take the story of a technician from 2005 at a local animal hospital in Charlotte, NC. He saw an unconscious dog whose mouth was bleeding. The dog had been severely ill and was sedated. As the technician reached in to find the source, the dog seized, causing the bite. The bites statistics will have the record of the bite by the pit bull, but not the whole story of the dog.
"Let's ban the pitbulls."
As mentioned earlier, pit bulls are working dogs as they are excellent athletes and great learners. They are used to search and rescue missing children and dementia patients. Other than that, they are used widely as seizure watchdogs, diabetic alert dogs, and companions to kids with reading disabilities and people at nursing homes. Banning them would affect a wider community than just their families.
"There's no answer to the pit bull problem."
There is. It's called training as a family and being a responsible pet parent.
Dogs are not showpieces that could be bought and shown off to guests. They are family companions who need attention, commitment, socialization, and balanced training. Training a dog to follow commands and do tricks is not sufficient. They need a leader. The kids need to be involved in the training process to learn the appropriate behavior around the dog. After all, even dogs are individuals.
Measures to avoid aggressive tendencies
A study by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that 8 out of 10 cases of dog aggressiveness had to do with factors related to the care and control of the dog. What that means is that there are no bad dogs or breeds, only bad owners.
In the animated film, How to Train Your Dragon, there's a dialogue that aptly describes the root problem of the prejudice and discrimination against pit bulls: "Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things."
In a similar vein, the owners of pit bulls need to avoid behaviors that lead to aggressiveness—for example, training with aggressiveness, leaving the dog tethered outside, or allowing the dog to roam around the neighborhood unattended.
Some dogs do not enjoy hugging, sharing their food, or being petted by strangers. If yours is one such dog, you could buy a yellow leash for them to inform strangers to approach with caution.
Over to you
When it comes to pit bulls, people paint with broad brushes. They forget that every dog is an individual and that dogs are followers. They follow their leader, their human. So, having a pit bull that people identify as a sweet pittie and not a vicious dog boils down to being a responsible pet owner.