Pit Bulls: Myths And Misunderstandings

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Certain breeds of dogs have always been considered vicious. The type of dog that is exaggerated as a terrible dog changes with generations and trends. Today, pit bulls are considered the most vicious dog. “In the 70s they blamed Dobermans, in the 80s they blamed German Shepherds, in the 90s they blamed Rottweilers. Now they blame the Pit Bull. When will they blame the humans?”. Ohio was the only state to ever have a ban on a type of dog specifically for their breed, but this law has been since lifted. Cities still ban these dogs or enforce strict laws on them and their owners.Myself personally, have to have renters insurance on our house because we own a pit bull. He’s the biggest baby and has never hurt a fly, but people tend to stereotype all PB looking dogs. Pit bulls are not as vicious as people are making them out to be. Majority of them don’t have a vicious bone in their body, including my own. They are just misjudged and misunderstood. “Many famous figures, including Helen Keller, President Theodore Roosevelt, General George Patton, President Woodrow Wilson, Fred Astaire, and Humphrey Bogart, shared their lives and homes with pit bulls”. They come from a distinct and traumatic history, have various myths, including having the locking jaw, and are actually great family dogs if you put in the time and effort.

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Pit bulls have a unique history. They started in England and came to North America with the English immigrants. They started as bulldogs which served as a gripping dog for hunters then they served as butcher’s dogs and helped control livestock. These dogs were then used for something called baiting. Baiting was when the dogs were put in a pit with bulls, bears, or other large animals. The bulldog or bulldogs would latch on to the animal’s face or head and maintain the grip until the other animal became tired from fighting and loss of blood. Once that terrible act was banned, those fighting the dogs needed to find another way to fight them and make money. They began to pit the dogs against each other. The dogs were eventually bred with terriers so that they would be lighter and more agile. This is where the modern day pit bull came from. “The most narrow and perhaps most accurate definition of the term “pit bull” refers to just two breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier”. Today’s pit bull has a short coat with a wide skull and muscular body. They vary in size and colors. “Typically 35 to 65 pounds, some weigh as little as 25 pounds, while others tip the scales at 80 pounds or more”. My American Pit Bull is 80 pounds at almost 4 years old. They are very strong and athletic and they form very strong bonds with their owners. “Pit bulls become very attached to their family, and most love nothing better than cuddling on the couch or sleeping in bed with their pet parents (preferably under the covers)”.

Pit bulls have been bred to act differently in fights than most other dogs. “They may not give warning before becoming aggressive, and they’re less likely to back down when clashing with an opponent”. They don’t realize how hard they are biting, so they can cause more injury than other dogs especially during play. Also, when biting they are known to shake like any terrier. To help keep them from being aggressive, they need to be socialized. They need to start socialization at a young age, so they get used to it. “Encourage your dog to be a social butterfly. Socialize him/her with as many different people as possible such as kids, seniors, disables folks, and people of all ethnic groups’. Some PB’s are owned for the wrong reasons. Their history has shown more than just being a family protector. The dogs look mean and aggressive so people use the dogs to increase their own macho image. “The pit bull terrier is the breed of choice for criminals. This choice is directly linked to the pit bull’s selectively bred traits or robust jaw line, a deadly bite style, tenacity (gameness) and a high tolerance to pain”.

Officer Dan Waskiewicz received a call about a vicious dog terrorizing the streets. When he arrived there were people yelling at a pit bull that was charging around. When Dan realized the dog was just nervous, he called for it. The pit bull came right up to him and started licking him. Dan gave the dog water, and the dog jumped into his cruiser. He knew the fate of the pit if he was picked up by the pound, so he drove him to an animal shelter instead. A couple days later, when he contacted the shelter to see how the dog was settling in, he discovered it had still not been claimed- so he decided to offer it a forever home and renamed it “Bo”.

For some reason Pit bulls have so many myths and stereotypes. Even though they aren’t high in any dangerous incident categories. One popular myth is that pit bull terriers have locking jaws. Pit bulls do not have locking jaws like people assume, but their jaws are very powerful. Their bite is strong, but out of all breeds they don’t even have the strongest bite. When looking at a pit bull’s jaw structure, it’s no different than any other dog. Dr. Brisbin: “The few studies which have been conducted of the structure of the skulls, mandibles and teeth of pit bulls show that, in proportion to their size, their jaw structure and thus its inferred functional morphology, is no different than that of any breed of dog. There is absolutely no evidence for the existence of any kind of “locking mechanism” unique to the structure of the jaw and/or teeth of the American Pit Bull Terrier.” 

Another myth is that pitbulls are bad family dogs. This simply is not true. Pitty’s love people and love attention from their owners. They are such loyals dogs, they crave our attention and approval. You’ll always know, due to the constant wagging tail. If a pit bull is raised with love, attention and good training it will be the best companion for life. They need to have good social reactions when introduced to these new situations. To socialize the dog you could take him/her for walks with other dogs or organize play dates. Pit bulls require more attention than other dogs. They need good and consistent training and positive reinforcement. Taking classes will teach them fundamental skills that could progress to an AKC Canine Good Citizen certificate.. “Although genetics do play a role in determining whether a dog will bite, other facts- such as whether the animal is well socialized, supervised, humanely trained, and safely confined- play greater roles”. People have many different ideas of how a pit bull acts and because of this many people will not even give them a chance

Pitbulls are misunderstood for so many reasons. Many innocent dogs were dealt bad cards in life, and were put in terrible situations. Their history and history in the making is very traumatic. In 2019, 54% of “pitbulls” were in shelters, going up from 41% in 2018. “Twenty-two percent of the dogs offered for adoption by shelters and rescues in July 2018 were pit bulls and pit mixes. This surged to 31% by July 2019: approximately equal to total pit bull and pit mix intake by shelters and rescues circa 2013, but total pit bull and pit mix intake now appears to be about 50%. The difference between intake and pit bulls offered for adoption is approximately equal to euthanasias”. Having a tough history and all kinds of myths and inaccurate stereotypes make it hard for non educated dog lovers to look into adopting a pit bull of any kind. Pitbull’s locking jaw is one myth heard far too often. I personally used to hear that “fact” often after having my daughter. Relatives would tell me my dog could grab onto me and not let go and it would be impossible to open his jaw. That could very well be true,but it isn’t specific to just terriers or any dog. Any type of animal is capable of anything. Pit bull’s do not have a locking jaw, plain and simple. Their jaw structure is the same as any other dog.

Another myth busted is that Pit bull terriers are not good family dogs. What makes a dog a “good family” dog? Loyalty, bonds and good training makes any type of dog a good family dog, whether it’s a doberman, rottweiler, or german shepherd. Pit bull’s are the most loyal dog, and have strong bonds with their family. “Pit-bull-like dogs are actually some of the most popular types of dogs in America. According to Vetstreet.com, the American pit bull terrier is one of the top three favorite breeds in 28 states. Because pit bull terriers are so popular, some people are overbreeding them and others are neglecting to spay or neuter their dogs, resulting in unwanted litters. These two factors, along with breed-discriminatory legislation, have led to an influx of pit-bull-like dogs in shelters.” If Pit Bulls were used and raised for the correct purpose, they wouldn’t have such a bad reputation. They make perfect family dogs and lifelong companions. All any animal needs is to feel loved, needed, and accepted. Dogs in general are loyal family members, and Pit Bulls are no different. They crave your attention, and your approval. Do you think dogs want to fight other dogs and get hurt or possibly die? They don’t want to be mean and vicious. It doesn’t come natural to them. Being a big, loving teddy bear is what comes natural to Pit Bulls. Fighting is not what Pit Bull Terriers were meant to do in life. They were meant to be companions and house security. They’re meant to be intimidating to anyone who’s drawing negative attention to themselves when doing something suspicious.

Pit Bulls aren’t any different than any other dog, except they’re bigger, more intimidating, and maybe more loving. They’re so affectionate, letting you know how excited they are to see you with their crazy wagging tail that feels like a whip. They aren’t some mean, vicious monster like the media likes to portray. They’ve just had a long and traumatic past, have many myths and misinformation surrounding them, and they’re actually great family dogs if you put in the time and effort.  

16 December 2021

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