The Truth About Pit Bulls
by: Laura Witkowski
As more people adopt pit bull-type dogs, more people are realizing the truth: that they’re… wait for it… just normal dogs. And just like any dogs, they should be assessed individually, not judged based on preconceived notions.
Despite growing awareness and successful positive media campaigns, the words “pit bull” still hold a lot of negative charge. Though there is no real evidence to justify it, many people still believe pit bulls are vicious, unstable and “not like other dogs.” Most of these beliefs are not based on facts or even personal experience, but rather a result of fear fueled by media hysteria, bad data and misinformation. This stigma has led to a lot of needless abuse, discrimination, unnecessary fear and reactionary breed bans in the name of “public safety.” Whether the words “pit bull” fills you with joy or apprehension, here are some important things to consider and know:
Banning pit bulls has never brought down dog bite statistics
There are municipalities all across the country that currently ban pit bulls, including several cities here in Michigan (Hazel Park, Melvindale, Center Line, Sylvan Lake, Waterford and Grosse Pointe Woods, just to name a few). According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “breed-specific legislation is an ineffective way to reduce the number of dog bites in a community, unfairly targeting dogs that have done nothing wrong and providing a false sense of security.” These laws are usually passed by local lawmakers in reaction to an emotional, tragic dog-related incident rather than after careful review of the best ways to lower dog bite rates in that community. The evidence strongly suggests it is properly constructed, actively enforced animal control ordinances that make a community safer, not breed bans. Bans also have the added negative effect of associating pit bulls with lawlessness and danger further cementing in the public’s mind that they’re something to fear while increasing their desirability with the criminal element. It’s a terrible cycle.
Bully breeds don’t need a “heavy hand” for training.
Strength, drive and athleticism are all part of a pit bull’s DNA. Unfortunately, it is a misperception that big, high energy dogs need heavy-handed, aversive training techniques like prong collars, leash corrections and a “show ‘em who’s boss” leader. This is not true or necessary. Pit bulls are dogs, and all dogs learn the same. They do what works! It’s hardly a surprise how many positive reinforcement trainers love working with (and have) pit bulls — that strength, drive and athleticism makes them SUPER fun to train! Additionally, force-free training is the best way to build trust with shelter and rescue dogs so you can set them up for a successful second chance!
Want to learn more about (and meet some) pit bulls? Come to our seminar, Facts Over Fear: Breaking the Cycle of the Pit Bull Stigma here at Fido on Saturday April 11 from 1-3:30pm. We’ll talk more about the topics in this article as well as touch on the history of the breed, things to consider when adopting a pit bull, what you can do about breed specific legislation and more! Whether you’re familiar with pit bulls or cautiously curious, there’s something for everybody. $20 per person. Space is limited. Call (313) 204-6154 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up today.
Bonus blog material!
The definition of a pit bull is… complicated.
What is a pit bull? This seems like a fairly simple question, but the reality is the definition of a pit bull changes depending on who you ask! To some it is an informal term that groups specific breeds such as American Pit Bull terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs. To others, any muscular, medium-to-large dog with short fur and a blocky head is pit bull. Most of the time a dog’s designation as a “pit bull” or “pit bull mix” is based on appearance alone. But a dog’s breed and physical appearance are not accurate predictors of behavior or temperament. Even if you could tell if a dog was more prone to biting by breed, it’s nearly impossible to determine a mixed breed dog’s make-up based on appearance. So is labeling a dog a “pit bull” really a fair or accurate way to determine whether a dog is dangerous? More importantly, is targeting “dogs that look like pit bulls” an effective way to make communities safer? No on both counts!