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Pit Bull Facts and Myths

Updated on August 8, 2016
Dezl, American Bulldog
Dezl, American Bulldog | Source
Angel - American Bulldog/Pit Bull mix
Angel - American Bulldog/Pit Bull mix | Source
Dezl - American Bulldog
Dezl - American Bulldog | Source

It’s big ratings in the media to report about bites or attacks that are perceived to involve Pit Bulls, even if those dogs are incorrectly identified as such. Many people cannot properly identify a true Pit Bull, further skewing the statistics against the breed.

The term “Pit Bull” does not refer to a specific breed of dog, but rather a catch-all, with a number of breeds and mixes that are made up of or resemble each other. These breeds include American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers and American Bulldogs, to name a few. Arin Greenwood, Animal Welfare Editor of The Huffington Post warns, “Animal shelters, rescues, newspaper reporters and the police don’t, by and large, genetically test the dogs they label as Pit Bulls; they just make their best guesses. Which are often very wrong.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association has discovered that no one breed of dog is more dangerous than another. “... studies show that the most popular breeds at any given time tend to top the list because there are more of those dogs in the general population.”

But Don’t Pit Bulls Have Locking Jaws?

The short answer is no. There is no special mechanism to keep a Pit Bull’s jaw locked. Badrap.org tells us matter-of-factly, “They’re dogs, not alligators.” In fact, no breed to date has been found to have a mouth that allows their top and bottom teeth to “lock” together.

National Geographic conducted a test that compared the bite pressure PSI (per square inch) of a German Shepherd, a Rottweiler and an American Pit Bull Terrier. It was discovered that the Pit Bull had the lowest PSI of the three breeds.

Aren’t Pit Bulls Dangerous Because Their Brains Swell/Never stop Growing?

A Pit Bull’s brain grows no differently than any other dog. If there is ever an instance where a Pit Bull’s brain swells, it is most likely because the dog has received a serious injury. Fact is, if any animal’s brain grew too fast to fit its own head, the animal would die.

Aren’t Pit Bulls Unpredictable Around Children?

Pit Bulls have long been considered a “nanny dog,” so unbelievably great with children that they can be left alone to care for them. They were thought to have a long history as children's companions as well as family pets, and the perfect breed to handle the rough play that kids generally exhibit, as long as they are well socialized and properly raised. Pit Bull advocacy group, badrap.org, announced in 2013 that they are no longer backing the “nanny dog” claim, saying it is pure myth and endangers children.

According to petfinder.com, “Pit Bulls are physically powerful, strong, agile, and energetic dogs. These traits can sometimes combine to make the Pit Bull ‘too much dog’ for an inexperienced pet parent or a family with small children.” If you have small children and are planning to bring a new dog into the home, you have a responsibility to supervise your child, and to teach them the correct way to interact with any dog, no matter what the breed. It is also your responsibility as the child’s parent, and the pet parent, to pay close attention to and learn the signals your dog is displaying.

Isn’t It True That Pit Bulls Never Feel Pain?

This is absolutely false. All dogs, no matter what the breed, experience pain. What is different is the way in which a dog responds to that pain. Responses will vary but you cannot predict a response by the specific breed. Pit Bulls have the same nervous system as all other breeds, therefore, can and do feel pain.

Aren’t Pit Bulls Aggressive Toward Other Animals, Therefore Becoming Aggressive Toward People?

Many working breeds of dog have aggression towards other animals. Foxhounds will tear a fox to shreds, greyhounds live to chase and kill rabbits, and coonhounds go nuts when they see a raccoon. Given the opportunity, a beagle will even kill a rabbit.

Some Pit Bulls are wonderful with other animals and some are not. It’s no different with any other dog breed. Says Arin Greenwood, “Pit Bulls aren’t inherently anything, other than dogs with a blocky-shaped head. And of course the shape of a dog’s head tells you exactly nothing about that dog’s personality.” Each dog has its own identity and personality; it will depend on the individual dog, not the “shape of their head.”

The American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS) tests over 240 dog breeds annually, putting them through a series of confrontational situations. If there is any sign of panic or unprovoked aggression, the dog fails the test. These tests measure stability, aggressiveness, friendliness and protectiveness, with Pit Bulls passing in 2012 at 86.8%, Gold Retrievers at 85.2% and Collies at 80.1%.

Pit Bulls are typically referred to as a Bully Breed, but this term is not referring to their behavior, rather that they have bulldog origins, descending from English baiting dogs. The United Kennel Club does not recommend Pit Bulls as guard dogs, however, as they are too friendly with strangers, despite their reputation.

Pit Bulls are not the vicious beasts the media portrays them to be, nor are they perfect. While breeding can influence some behaviors, it is ultimately the owner’s training, treatment and supervision that determine how well the dog will behave in the long run. As a dog owner, regardless of breed, you are responsible for the training, care and well-being of the animal. If you are not ready to take on that responsibility, please put the dog’s best interests ahead of your own.

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