Pit Bull Terrier - Not As Bad As You May Think They Are
Pit Bull - just the name sparks fear and terror in people. This is the most misunderstood dog breed of all dog breeds out there. They have received a bad reputation because people corrupt their good traits and use them for less than desirable purposes, mainly fighting. The media is also partly responsible for the bad reputation this breed has received. The media knows dog attack stories sell, they concentrate on the bad, not the good. At one time in the United States the Pit Bull was a much loved and welcomed part of families and society. The Pit Bull used to be the most respected All American Dog. What happened?
My first close encounter with a pit bull was surprising, to say the least. I had gone to visit a friend, taking my four small sons with me. They had a beautiful (what I now know is called brindle) brown dog that was very friendly. She was small, maybe forty pounds. I did not know what breed she was, so while she was sitting on my lap I asked. My friend told me she was a Pit Bull. I was instantly petrified. Here was one of those terrible, vicious, man and child killing dogs I had heard about sitting on my lap. It could turn on me and rip my throat out at any time! Then my friend proceeds to tell me this particular dog came from fighting stock down in Texas, she had been the runt of the litter and the owners didn't want her. Well, that made it even worse. She came from fighting stock, she was a bad dog, a killer. And she was on my lap. And at the same time I was wondering why this vicious dog was being so nice, showering me with affection even though this was the first time she had met me.
I have to laugh when I think back on that first Pit Bull encounter. That dog did nothing but try to be friendly and let me know she accepted me and did not consider me a threat to her or her family. She didn't bother my kids, just greeted them and tried to play with them. All she was wanting from me was some attention. Her name was Petey. That was the start of my Pit Bull education. I have had Pit Bulls, or mixes, ever since.
I ended up owning Petey several years after I met her. Her owners had problems, split going their separate ways and leaving Petey chained at the house they had lived in. After four days of seeing this dog chained down with no food or water I decided I had to help her. Yes I was petrified she was going to attack me. I took her home. On the way home all she tried to do was get a drink of my kids pop. She was one of the best dogs I ever had.
Several years after I brought Petey home I decided I wanted to breed and raise Pit Bulls. I had two litters of white pups with brown spots on them. The second litter, seven beautiful pups, were stolen from me and that is when I quit breeding them. In dealing with some of the people that had been interested in obtaining one of my pups and learning more about the terrible way some Pit Bulls are raised, I did not want to be part of that or put more Pit Bulls out there.
To say the least it has been a learning journey. A journey that has taught me what a wonderful breed Pit Bulls are and can be. They are not the monster dog they are made out to be. There are many reasons to love this breed. The Pit Bull's downfall happens because of it's good traits.
A Pit Bull is a very loyal dog. They just want to please their owner. They will do anything within their power to please that owner. They are also very intelligent. My brother trained his Pit to his own brand of sign language. His sign language consisted of subtle things; a finger on his nose or above his lip, or rubbing his ear. Stuff no one else would guess was anything but normal was my brother communicating with his dog. His sign language even included sneezing. Everything from watch 'em to attack to it's all okay. Yes, my brother trained his dog to attack, but never used it. "Just in case" is what he told me.
Pit Bulls love to play. Catch, chase, frisbee, tug of war, hanging out with you on the couch watching tv, learning, they love it all. They just want a lot of attention. And they blossom with a lot of attention. This breed has been trained by many to do many different things; from herding to search and rescue, and everything in between. Including fighting other dogs. They are very agile making them good in agility competitions. They have been taught to herd cattle. There are pulling competitions. There is not much this breed cannot do.
A Pit Bull will fight to the death. It was bred into them a long time ago. One of my male pits came home one day with half his face torn off. He was cut up all over his head, chest, front legs and shoulders. I ran him to the vet wondering what had happened to him. He had found a badger and was fighting the badger in the badger's hole. A trip to the vet. The vet had to rebuild the right side of that dog's face. The vet warned me to keep him fenced in and not let him loose for awhile because the dog was mad and would go back and find that badger. He did. Another trip to the vet.
Not all Pit Bulls are other dog friendly. I have had several that hated other dogs no matter what. There was one time I was very glad one of my Pits was dog aggressive. The neighbors had a very people aggressive dog that always got off it's chain. One day it was in my yard so I thought I would chase it off. It ended up chasing me and the only thing that saved me was I made it to my Pit before that dog made it to me. My Pit knew exactly how long her chain was and how close that dog would have to get before she could get him. She just waited for that dog to get into range and then she had him. She didn't have time to wait until he was in good range, she was at the end of her chain and couldn't get a very good hold on him. That dog left fast. That dog almost had me. She saved me from being mauled by that dog. No it was not a Pit Bull that was after me, I don't know what breed that dog was. It was larger than my Pit, which was small.
Dog aggressiveness is natural for a Pit Bull, it was bred into them long ago. It was a desired trait long ago when dog fighting was common and accepted. Not all Pit Bulls are dog aggressive though. Not all, but most can be socialized to accept other dogs. I have had several Pits, both male and female, that no matter what I did they would not accept other dogs.
Pit Bulls will put up with rough play and kids climbing all over them, enjoying the attention they are getting. You can push them around and they come back for more. While they have a high pain tolerance, after the fact they will act like they are in the worst shape and pain, wanting your sympathy and attention. Having a high pain tolerance does not mean they do not feel pain. They do feel pain, they just don't acknowledge that pain until the situation is over.
One day two of my pits had been out in the pastures with my kids. The kids came home first. Then here come the dogs straggling in with fuzzy faces. Until they got close enough for me to see them clearly I could not even imagine why they looked like they had fuzzy faces. Well, they had found a porcupine. I didn't know there were porcupines in Kansas until then. Talk about big babies, they were in pain. They got lucky, no quills got in their eyes. I have noticed a Pit is very good at protecting it's eyes. They did have a lot of quills in their mouths. They were acting like they were about to die, walking slow, whining when I tried to pull the quills out. Another trip to the vet.
These same two Pits could also climb trees. I kid you not! One day I heard them barking and going crazy so I hurried to get outside and see what was going on. Well, these two crazy dogs were halfway up a tree on the other side of the road. They had chased a cat up the tree and for some odd reason thought they could climb trees too. They had literally chased that cat up the tree! It was funny watching them get down, they weren't quite sure how they got up that tree! So they jumped. Pit Bulls will definitely keep you entertained.
A Pit Bull just wants to be a big lap baby. They thrive on lots of good, loving attention. A Pit Bull would rather spend most of it's time sitting on your lap soaking up all the attention you will give it. And it returns that affection with giving you lots of affection in return! They will swipe you with their tongue or touch you with their nose almost every time you pass by them, just letting you know they are there.
I had the misfortune of getting bit by my male Pit once. I was keeping my brother's Pit for a little while. One of my sons did not make sure my male Pit was in his pen when he let my brother's dog outside. Well, my Pit was not happy there was another male at his domain and was acting like he wanted to attack my brother's dog. I was getting my brother's dog into the house and stepped behind him right as my dog had gone for my brother's dog. My Pit was already on the way to biting my brother's dog when I started walking into the house behind the dog and put my leg right into the path of my Pits attack. As soon as my dog bit me he let go. The look on his face was priceless! He knew he bit the wrong thing and immediately let go. I didn't even know his attack had started; he made no noise, just went for my brother's dog. Yes, he got me pretty good, I'll have the scar forever, three poke marks where his teeth went in the skin on my calf. No, I did not punish him for biting me, he knew that was wrong. He let go the second he bit me. It was my fault for putting my dog in that situation. His remorse at biting me was pretty funny to see! He was so tender and quiet around me for the longest time.
I have also been bit by my black lab, amazingly in the same spot, and still have the scar from that. Neither dog bit me out of viciousness toward people. My Pit bit me by accident. My black lab was in the middle of defending herself from one of my Pits attacking her and with my leg right in the middle of the fight, I guess she thought I was attacking her too. I was grabbing my Pit and trying to haul her out of the fight.
While I have said dog aggression has been bred into a Pit Bull, I have not yet said that people aggression was bred out of Pit Bulls long ago. We can give those long ago breeders, with their selective breeding, the credit for making today's Pit Bull the people lover that it is. Back when dog fighting was accepted and common, the handlers had to be able to pull on their dogs while they were in a fighting frenzy or after a fight when they were badly wounded. Any Pit that snapped at a person was immediately put down. Or it was never allowed to breed if it wasn't put down. No other dog breed has been bred to be specifically people friendly like the Pit Bull has. Pit Bulls love people naturally because of that long ago selective breeding. I have seen this up close. My sons and I have had to break up several dog fights and not once have one of my Pits ever snapped at or tried to bite or attack us. (Not counting when I got bit! But that only happened because of my bad timing on stepping in front of him when his attack was in the process of starting! After seeing dog fights with my dogs I'm sure when he launched his attack his eyes were closed and he didn't know I had stepped in front of him! It all happened in about two seconds!)
My veterinarians are not afraid of my Pit Bulls. The quills were pulled out of my Pits mouths and faces without anesthesia. They took the pain and laid there without hardly making a sound, just a whine here and there. They barely even moved, poor pitiful girls! My Pit that fought the badger, they did put him out to rebuild the side of his face, but before that he laid there and let the vet poke and prod without moving or making a sound. I have never heard any of my Pits growl or use their vicious bark at a human. I have always been afraid someone would steal them because they are so friendly toward people. (My last litter of puppies was stolen with mom right there.) And they definitely won't keep burglars away! They will invite the burglar in and help them haul everything off and then let the burglar keep them! They will bark when someone comes to the house, but it's a "hey, someones here" bark; not the snarling, ferocious bark of a mean dog. Just the reputation the Pit Bull has keeps people away. Also their look is enough to make people think twice.
The Pit Bull gets it's bad reputation from bad breeding, dog fighters, bad owners, kids taunting dogs, and the media concentrating on "Pit Bull" and exploiting dog attacks. The Pit Bull is a victim, a product of it's environment. My questions are - Are Pit Bulls the only breed of dog that has attacked people? The answer is absolutely not. Do Pit Bulls enjoy having to fight another dog for it's life? I doubt it. Do Pit Bulls enjoy being abused just for the entertainment of others? I don't think they do. I remember when the Rottweiler had this bad reputation. And in my opinion, the dog that should have this reputation is the Chow. That is one dog breed I stay far away from.
Of course a Pit Bull is not the ideal dog for anyone and everyone. You need to train and teach a Pit Bull. They need an owner with strong, patient, and calm leadership abilities. They need an owner that will let them know their boundaries. They need fair and consistent rules. Pit Bulls can be very dominant and want to run the show, so they need an owner with the stonger mind. They are very active dogs and need a lot of exercise, for their bodies and minds. They need a lot of affection and attention. They need owners that will help the breed get through this time and help them get back their reputation of being the All American Dog that we used to love.
A Pit Bull owner needs to know their dog very well. You need to be able to read their body language because they are not very vocal. My experience has been no barking or lunging at another dog; just total concentration on that other dog, body tense, ready and waiting. My two Pits that were not other dog friendly have just stood there, watching the other dog, waiting. The Pit Bull (or any dog for that matter) needs an owner they can trust to keep them safe and away from bad situations.
My advice to anyone wanting to own a Pit Bull is to prepare yourself first. Educate yourself about the breed before you get one. You will also have to check the laws where you live. Pit Bulls are not allowed everywhere. I got my education from my dogs, but I lived out in the country where neighbors were a couple of miles away. I would have been a better owner if I had educated myself on the breed first. Get to know the Pit Bull history. That way you will know where this dog has come from. Get to know their history just to give yourself knowledge of this wonderful dog, even if you don't want to own one.
And most important, if you decide to own a Pit Bull, do so with the intention of helping the breed, not hurting it's reputation further. The Pit Bull is a wonderful, loving dog that will bring joy, humor, and affection into your life!
My Half Pit Half Rottweiler
The pictures on this page are of my current dog. His name is Dog. He is getting gray on his face now. He is probably twelve years old or so. He is half Pit half Rottweiler. He is the last of my Pits. He came about because the neighbors didn't keep their dog in their yard. He is very dog aggressive. He hates all dogs, except for the ones he grew up with. And he hates all cats. He likes to think he is the boss, but I win everytime. He has both Pit Bull and Rottweiler traits. His neck is bigger than his head so a collar does not stay on him, I have to use a harness.
I live in a small town now and Dog has only known town life, no country life for him. He barks at people, but he has never growled at a person. I have only heard his vicious noise when he is fighting another dog, which has happened when other dogs visit his yard. He is not a people lover though unless he knows you. Outside he stays away from people. Once you have been invited into the house it is a different story, he won't leave you alone just wanting attention.
He is much bigger than any of my Pits ever were, I suppose it's the Rottweiler in him. He does not have the thin, short hair a full-blooded Pit has, his hair is very thick and wow, does he shed. He is a very intimidating dog, with his size, and solid as a rock. When he rubs against you he almost knocks you down. With his coloring I have had people tell me he looks yellow lab mix, but they weren't the ones taking his dad back to his owner after the fact. And he's red not yellow! During the summer heat he lounges in the house in the air conditioning. He prefers to lay in the house or the yard. We go on walks almost everyday.
He was in a couple of dog fights in his younger years. The funny thing about this dog is he fights laying on the ground on his back. I have never seen anything like it! He was in a fight with a yellow lab several years ago. He was on his back and I thought "oh my God, my dog is getting killed". After I got the fight broke up and the other dog ran off I was able to check my dog over. He had blood all over him. But he had no wounds anywhere. I guess the other dog got the bad end of that deal. After this fight I locked my dog in a shed because I had to go to work and didn't want him fighting this dog again while no one was around to stop it. When I came home later that night, the shed was missing the door and Dog was sitting on the porch. I guess he showed me!
I trust my Pit Bulls with my life, my grown children's and my grandchildren's lives. I trust my Pit Bulls around friends and the general public. But I do not trust anyone else's Pit Bull. I do not know how they were raised. But I am that way with all dogs. Any dog has the potential to be vicious, no matter what it's breed is.
A couple of good sites about Pit Bulls
- American Pit Bull Terrier, Pit Bulls, Pitbulls
All about the American Pit Bull Terrier, info, pictures, breeders, rescues, care, temperament, health, puppy pictures and much more
- The Most Complete Website for Pit Bull Owners on the Web
Your one stop source for Pit Bull information. Everything from training, health, to sporting activities. If you're looking for it you'll find it here.
Here are some books that tell about the Pit Bulls history. Yes, they are about the fighting dog. Fighting is a part of the Pit Bulls past. Fighting needs to be left in this fantastic dogs past, but it also needs to be acknowledged.
I do not believe in dog fighting, I do not agree with dog fighting. But for the historical information they contain, they are invaluable. They give you insight on this fabulous dog breed that has done so much and continues to do so much.