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Pit Bulls are Not Inherently Mean - Update on Michael Vick's Dogs

Updated on September 8, 2012

Myths About Pit Bulls

There are tons of myths about the Pit Bull, and most aren't all that great. Most of the stories that you hear about this breed are bad ones- stories that make you want to stay away from the breed.

The problem is that most of the stories are untrue, and most of what is heard on the news, in papers, and anywhere in the media, is going to be scare-tactics and media-produced fear.

As for popular myths about Pit Bulls, the most commonly heard include the following:

  • Pit Bulls are prone to attack humans because they were bred for protection and guard.
  • Pit Bulls don't feel pain.
  • They clamp on with their front teeth and chew with their back teeth.
  • Pit Bulls have a higher bite force in psi's (pounds per square inch) than any other dog breed.
  • Pit Bull attacks are similar to that of shark attacks.
  • Pit Bulls will attack even if they are not provoked.
  • Pit Bulls are ticking time bombs.
  • Pit Bulls attack unlike any other dog breed.
  • Pit Bulls attack more than any other dog breed.
  • All Pit Bulls are dominant dogs.

For the purpose of this article, I'm going to focus on one of my favorite myths about Pit Bulls:

  • Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous.

If these dogs are dangerous by nature, we wouldn't find any that were good in homes with children, other animals, and none would be able to be service dogs or therapy dogs. If these dogs are naturally mean, they would not be able to be retrained and rehabilitated.

You'll find that with one of the biggest and famous pit bull raid at the Vick compound, most of the Pit Bulls have been rehabilitated and rehomed. If these dogs were inherently mean by nature, after their training and fighting background, it would be 100% impossible to have rehabilitated the Pit Bulls.

Michael Vicks Dogs

The dogs that were removed from the Michael Vick raid included 51 dogs. These dogs were bred, raised, and trained to fight, but the trainers and behaviorist found that there were three groups of temperaments.

  • Those who had to be euthanized, which included two dogs out of less than a dozen who were hardened fighters and couldn't be helped; one was excessively violent, and one had an irreparable injury
  • Those who were labeled as "pancake dogs," which included those dogs who were so traumatized that they flattened themselves to the ground and trembled when humans approached.
  • Those who were relatively friendly and had normal temperaments. These dogs were those who were simply unsocialized.

When saving these dogs and rehabilitating pit bulls, the dogs are retrained and the way he thinks is completely reworked.

The Michael Vick pit bulls have been retrained and rehabilitated to think and act differently. If Pit Bulls were inherently aggressive and mean, these dogs would not be able to live in homes with other dogs or people. Out of the 51 dogs, most have been rehomed and saved. It took a lot of socializing and positive training to fix the behaviors of these dogs, and now instead of running and chasing a bird, he waits to hear what the trainer/owner says, as there may be a better choice than just following his instincts.

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AudieHarrietGingerGracieIggyFrodoErnieTeddlesHalleMelHandsome DanHectorJonny
Handsome Dan
Handsome Dan

Michael Vick's Pit Bulls Today

Those who were adopted

  • Audie- Has had surgery on his hind knees, but he now lives in a home in Northern California. Audie is training to enter his first canine agility competition early next year.
  • Harriet- Believed to be Vick's personal dog, and it's though that she was never fought. She was taken in by a Baltimore lawyer who has two other pit bulls. She now runs around free on a farm in rural Maryland.
  • Ginger- Very timid from the start, she greatly needed compassion, patience, love, and understanding. Ginger is now a happy, loving dog that likes to curl up on the bed and sleep next to her adopted parents, as well as riding in the car.
  • Gracie- Started her life named Sherry, but her adopted mom renamed her Gracie. She is now a vital part of conferences and meetings about animal welfare. Gracie goes into schools to help educate kids about dogs, and she shows people that they have nothing to fear from pit bulls.
  • Iggy- Was a shy dog who was very shut-off from everyone. She now lives with a former Bad Rap volunteer with a circle of friends. She's a very happy dog, but he's still a little shy and fearful when he ventures off with his pet parents out of his home and yard.
  • Frodo- One of the shyest dogs that came in, Frodo is now a very confident dog that has come out of his shell.
  • Ernie- He started off very calm and stable. He was even used to help temperament test the other dogs, but once in the real world, he started to struggle, reacting negatively to other dogs when he was on a leash. In time, Ernie grew more comfortable and the problem worked itself out. He now lives with a couple who has another dog and two cats.
  • Teddles- A nurse who works with special-needs children, adopted Teddles. She has another pit bull, and after about 2 months, Teddles came out of his shell, and the two dogs are now best friends.
  • Halle- Although she didn't have any scars or fear of other dogs, she was afraid of people. Halle eventually became more relaxed around people and now loves to get attention. She went into a foster home with six other dogs, and has been adopted to a family with another pit bull.

  • Mel- He was fine with other dogs, and actually loved it. His handlers and trainers used that love to help him warm up to people, and once Mel's fears of people subsided they started working on his love to chew on everything. Once his issues were worked through, Mel was adopted into his new home.
  • Handsome Dan- Starting off as a shy dog who was fearful of people, Handsome Dan tended to run when he was approached. Once he settled down and settled in, the handlers found that he got along fine with other dogs and cats. He was adopted into a home with a young child, to whom Dan bonded with immediately. as shy and fearful of people but not a barker. He would simply retreat and hide when approached. Once he settled down, he got along well with people, dogs, and cats. Adopted in December 2009 by a family with a young child, Dan bonded with the child immediately. He even took really well to the new baby that the couple had after adopting him.
  • Hector- Shares a home with another Pit Bull. He has deep scars on his chest proving to the world his history of fighting and hate, but he only wanted a life of love, as he has had a strive for the world since day one. Hector has fitted in from the start and hasn't had any problems with anyone- human or dog. His owners are working on becoming a therapy dog for the sick and elderly, as well as troubled teens; he has already earned several temperament awards.
  • Jonny- Coming unsocialized with the appearance as though he's never been fought. Being young, his main problem was fear. Jonny was fostered by a man with a pit bull, who has fostered six other dogs. He was put on a firm program of walks, feedings, playtime, and relaxation, which helped Jonny with his insecurities and fears. He is now a loving therapy dog who helps children improve their reading.

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Still at a Shelter

  • Lucas- As a champion fighting dog, he's under court order to spend the rest of his life in a sanctuary. Lucas suffers from babesia, a blood-borne parasite, but he's still in training to earn his Canine Good Citizen certificate. He even has a female pit bull girlfriend who licks him through the fence of his pen.
  • Ray- A very hyper dog that came jumping off the walls and grabbing at clothes. He was very people-focused, but quickly realized he had to learn how to behave in order to get what he wanted. Ray is a smaller dog of about 40 pounds who has earned is CGC certificate. He doesn't get along well with other dogs, which is why he as had a hard time finding a permanent home.
  • Oscar- After recovering his medical issues, Oscar received intense one-on-one training, where he was the first dog to pass his CGC. He came out of his shell around people, and has gained certain skills with other dogs, even playing with another dog. He still has issues with his dog aggression but is being worked with.
  • Willie- A very mellow dog with just a few incidents of aggression, Willie is fearful of other dogs and cannot live with them. One vet believes that he suffers post-traumatic stress syndrome and possibly and undetected physical illness that makes him lash out in pain. He is a fun-loving dog who loves car rides.
  • Layla- Arriving as a very hyperaware dog who barked and charged at other dogs, Layla was always on edge. She hasn't done well with other dogs, but lives by them in her kennel just fine. She will walk up to people to great them, getting very excited with people that she knows, and is a source of joy for those who work and volunteer at the shelter. She loves riding in a golf cart.
  • Meryl- Arriving with an attitude, he was known to lash out at people, and has a court order that requires he stays at the shelter for life. He has gained confidence with people and has become very loving with his handlers and even other dogs and the handlers' cats who visit the trainer's office during the day where Meryl spends a lot of his time. He has started acting better with strangers as long as there is someone he trusts near him.

Died 2008

  • Bonita- She was a loving dog who liked to sit in warm laps and give special sideways grins. Bonita suffered from babesia which is a blood-borne parasite that's common in fighting dogs. She had both physical and mental scars that caused her to run from other dogs, as she was used as a bait dog to train other dogs. She went in for dental surgery to help correct her worn down teeth, but she did not wake from anesthesia.

Unfortunately, the future of these dogs is unknown, as this is the first case of full rehabilitation of fighting dogs. With the results as seen so far, there is hope that more cases of fighting dogs will be saved and rehabilitated so that they can go from a life of fear and pain to a life of love and spoiling.

The dogs from the Vick case, have been trained and have been certified with Canine Good Citizen.

 Please leave comments.

Make note that all comments will be approved before they appear.

I will approve all comments (including those against my statistics and opinions) unless they are derogatory to someone else or contain foul language.


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Pit Bulls ARE NOT DANGEROUS dogs!!!!!!!! and if they are dangerous then its their owners fault for not treating them right!!!!!!!!!!! so all of you people who keep saying that they are dangerous... SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!!!!

    • Efficient Admin profile image

      Michelle Dee 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, NC

      I wondered whatever happened to his dogs. I'm very glad that most of them were adopted into loving homes. I've heard of that sanctuary for unadoptable dogs that some of his dogs went to. At least they are comfortable now. The whole Vick saga made me very angry.

    • ravko profile image


      7 years ago

      This breaks my heart, no dog deserves this type of abuse or any type, I own bully breed dogs and couldn't imagine, no dog wants to be mean, it is the owner that makes the dog that way, we are around pitbulls a lot and everyone are as gentle as a black lab would be...I also don't believe in the banning of pitbulls like some towns/cities have done...

    • RBaca profile image


      8 years ago

      No dog breed is inherently "mean". Yes, every dog can vary in temperament and behavior, but much of that is dependent upon conditioning. Any dog can be conditioned to be vicious, and some are more prone to this conditioning than others, as well as appearing more frightful when conditioned to be vicious. Most people wouldn't be very intimidated by a vicious Chihuahua, but a large breed dog could easily cause serious injury or death to it's victim. People who condition animals to be vicious (K-9 corp trainers excepted) are overcompensating for some other personal insecurity, trying to project a certain lifestyle, or come off as a hard type. At one time, pit bulls were the favorite family pet, appreciated for their loyalty, good nature around children, and playfulness. My family owns a pit-bull mix, and he is a comedian...the only time he gets scary is when it's nail cutting time...then we have to bribe him!

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Georgia

      It's an individual dog thing. I know Pomeranians, Jack Russels, Dalmatians, mixes, and loads of other dogs who catch and kill rodents and lizards. It's not every dog, but there are many who enjoy the thrill of the chase. My yorkie chases them, as does my Bull Mastiff, and Collie mix.

      Pit Bulls are just dogs. Their brains are the same, body growth is the same, physical makeup is the same (in regards to locking jaws and other myths).

      I'm not saying that it doesn't happen, but that it is more likely to get injured and die from other situations- forklifts, lightening, and dining room furniture. There are millions of dogs and thousands of Pit Bulls and mixes. The actual number of bites (not including small paper cut bites) and attacks is actually minuscule.

    • RunAbstract profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      The pit bull who killed my guinea pig wasn't normally chained. He was in fact a house dog, but had come to "visit" and that is why he was chained. Also I own Chow Chow dogs, which are also considered an aggressive breed by many, and they have never bothered my guinea pigs, who are allowed to freely roam the house at will from time to time. And I had the dogs before I got the guinea pigs.

      I also have a rat terrier, who's breed was intended to catch rodents, a cousin to pit bull terriers, who also does not bother the guinea pigs. So... I'm sorry to say, your argument doesn't hold up for me.

      Thanks for the informations about the brain thing. You just never know what to believe!

      From the above: "Pit bulls and pit-bull crosses (not always easy to distinguish) have caused more than a third of the nation's dog-bite fatalities since 1979 and a comparable proportion of serious injuries. The rising number of attacks, and the unease pit bulls and other dangerous dogs cause in public spaces, have spurred many municipalities to crack down with legislation ranging from muzzle laws to bans on pit bulls and certain other breeds."

      From the above: "An Orange County toddler has died after being mauled Sunday evening by her family’s pit bull."

    • Whitney05 profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Georgia

      Pit bulls are just like any other dog. They grow like them, so no, their brains don't continue to grow when their skull stops growing. That would actually, kill any dog if that were true.

      Unsocialized dogs chained to trees and posts are more likely to attack a person or animal, no matter what the breed of dog. Plus, to a dog, a guinea pig is a rodent; I know tons of dogs would have killed the guinea pig if given the opportunity, so breed alone isn't the cause of this. Although, it's sad that you lost your pet, you can't blame the breed.

    • RunAbstract profile image


      8 years ago from USA

      A "friendly, gentle" pit bull, who was chained to a tree, jumped into the back of my pick-up, ate through a pet taxi, and murdered my guinea pig. Just killed it. Didn't eat it. It was just simple blood lust, in my opinion.

      I have heard that the reason pit bulls are so unpredictable is because their brains continue to grow after the skull has stopped growing. True or false...? I don't know.

      If these dogs are as safe as say a cocker spanial, why do so may towns forbid ownership of them within city limits?

      I would wholeheartedly encourage respondsible ownership for anyone with pit bulls. Which would include warning friends about the risk to personal pets.

      The fact that so many people specifically breed pit bulls for aggression and to fight has, in my opinion, caused this breed to become more dangerous.

      I concede there are no doubt many, many, many gentle pit bulls who have no aggressive personalities. But I will personally never own one.

      No animal should be abused!

      Thanks for a good article!

    • Diane Inside profile image

      Diane Inside 

      8 years ago

      How sweet I love dogs any dogs. I think any breed of dog can be made to be mean. And I mean any breed my great grandmother had a chiuahua, meanest dog i've ever seen. Of course she wasn't an angel herself, I know she was my great-grandmother but she hated kids so us kids didn't like her much either. haha. We have had different dogs throughtout the years and no one breed stood out as being meaner than any others. Nice Hub.

    • ZarkoZivkovic profile image


      8 years ago from Serbia

      A dog is a dog, if you give your love it will give love back. The only mean dogs, and I mean any breed of dogs, is one created by us, people. There is no such thing as an aggressive k9, we created them.

      My father is a dog trainer for almost 40 years now, we mostly had German Shepherds, but one thing I learned from him is that a dog is a reflection of his owner and master. If the owner is loving, the dog will be as well, if the owner is aggressive, the dog may become aggressive as well. So if a Pit Bull shows some mean traits, that comes from the owner, not from the dog itself!

      Must love dogs :)

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      8 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      It makes me sick when I hear stories of abuse to dogs. The Michael Vick story left me out-raged. Your hub is excellent/ great photos too. I had not heard of the term "pancake" dogs. How very sad. Appreciate your hub. Voted a big up!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      8 years ago from Northern, California

      This story just breaks my heart and renews my soul at the same time. These beautiful dog souls, such suffering and pain. But the hope that rehab will work makes me smile. I wish animal abuse laws were far more harsh then they are currently.

      Sad, sad, humans these abusers of beasts....


    • girly_girl09 profile image


      8 years ago from United States

      Those pictures are so adorable! I am more of a cat person, but two of the sweetest dogs I ever met were full-grown pit bulls. While I was really intimidated at first because of their reputation, they were docile and big babies. In fact, one friend has a pit bull as well as a little dog (not sure of the breed) and the little dog is the one that makes me nervous of being bit because she is so excitable and noisy! hahaha


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