Pit Bulls: Setting the Record Straight
One of the more persistent urban legends around these days is about the innate ferocity of the pit bull breed.
I remember being appalled when my son and daughter-in-law brought home a female pit bull they had rescued from the local shelter.
Then, I reached down and stroked her soft, square head. She nuzzled my hand and my heart melted.
My negative opinion about pit bulls has been changed 180 degrees since that day, Prissy (that’s what they named her) is playful, lovable and obedient.
Keeping those powerful jaws busy
Her one fault (if you can call it that) is that she can make short work of any ordinary chew bone or toy she’s given. Her strong jaws and vigorous playfulness was requiring replacement of toys and chew bones just about daily.
From an online dog toy review site, we ordered the Zogoflex Air Wox Interactive Tug Dog Toy — a delightful, three-legged, super durable toy that so far has withstood weeks of playful tug-of-war and intense, solitary chewing sessions — usually when she’s left alone for the day.
It’s by far her favorite toy. And, as advertised, it seems to live up to the phrase: Indestructible Dog Toys for Pit Bulls — I should stress the qualifier “even for pit bulls,” since her jaw structure and powerful play habits usually would have ripped a lesser toy to shreds by now.
Other opinions about pit bulls
Other pit bull owners have found the same to be true with their pets. Here’s a portion of an article in the Huffington Post that backs up my assertion about the breed’s essentially sweet nature:
The article says that five sweet-natured dogs came into Kristen Auerbach’s pet shelter recently.
They were all pit bulls. And, they had been “de-selected” from another shelter due primarily to their heads’ shape. Many shelters euthanize pit bulls out of hand, without even trying to put them up for adoption.
Now, however, due to Auerbach’s kennel policy, they face a far happier future.
“’Dogs like this will fly off our adoption floor. Who doesn’t want a dog that is social and friendly with other dogs and calm and well-mannered in real-life situations?” says Auerbach, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Animal Shelter.
“How they’re getting there is what happens when very bad laws mix with great fun and games.”
The article goes on to document the value of constructive play time for pit bulls — or any breed, really — and the importance of having toys that can withstand the rigors of doggie tug-of-war with playmates in the dog’s home or, at the dog park.
Does breed type predict behavior?
Veteran dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, writing in a post on Positively.com, states emphatically:
”Every dog has their own set of personality traits that make them unique, and it’s impossible to predict a dog’s behavior solely on its breed type. That’s because the way a dog is raised and the environment in which he is raised has a significant impact on behavior, regardless of breed.
“So while I do take breed predisposition into account when I’m working with any dog, I never rely on it solely as a predictor of behavior. The myth that all pit bulls are dangerous or ‘bred to be violent’ is simply not true, but myths like these continue to instill fear in the general public and cause devastating misunderstandings.”
Pit bull prejudice is everywhere
Finally, Arin Greenwood, Animal Welfare Editor, The Huffington Post, has this to say about pit bulls:
“My dog Murray and I were taking our usual amble through town the other day, when we came upon a puppy we hadn’t seen before. I don’t know a lot of my human neighbors, but I’ve got a pretty comprehensive roster of all the dogs around town. We stopped to get to know this little golden bundle of wiggles, but her owner snatched her off.
“’I don’t want her playing with pit bulls,” he said to me, dragging the puppy away.
“The thoughts that went through my head directly after this encounter are not printable in a family publication. Here are the thoughts that are:
“1. It is truly astonishing how many otherwise progressive people consider their prejudice against pit bulls to be perfectly reasonable, when the data shows it isn’t; and
“2. Given that Murray isn’t even actually a pit bull, this encounter highlights one of the major reasons that prejudice against pit bulls is extremely problematic: it’s really hard to tell which mixed-breed dogs are even actually pits.
“Pit bulls are subjected to an almost unimaginably cruel world, in which they are subjected to every kind of violence — and then, at the end of it, are euthanized in shelters at shockingly high rates, because families are afraid to bring them home, landlords won’t rent to the families who do bring them home and localities impose restrictions on their ownership, despite ample evidence that these restrictions do nothing to improve public safety.
“By the way: Murray, my sweet baby, is a rescue, so — as my husband puts it, possibly plagiarizing Dave Barry — ‘he’s the result of many generations of unregulated dog sex.’ The group we got him from listed Murray as a border collie, which — given that he’s never, ever, herded anything — is the only kind of dog we’re sure he’s not.”
So, there you have it. Pit bulls can make an ideal family pet, once you shed whatever prejudices you might have picked up about them.