When you hear ‘Pit Bull’, what’s your first thought? Is it loyalty, silliness, or family? Or do you associate Pit Bulls with dogfighting, viciousness, and fear?
It’s no secret: Pit Bulls get a bad rap. The media tends to sensationalize the negative Pit Bull stories, alarming the public for a news story. In reality, those stories are often the result of bad ownership, not bad dogs.
Pit Bulls Facts
- A Pit Bull is not a breed! The term “Pit Bull” includes a multitude of different dog breeds such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, and the American Bully.
- They were bred for dogfighting. Although some Pit Bulls are very dog-friendly, playtime with other animals must always be carefully monitored.
- Pit Bulls are incredibly human-friendly. They were bred to be! As of December 2017, the American Pit Bull Terrier has a passing rate of 4% for temperament according to the American Temperament Test Society. A temperament test gauges how well dogs react to new people and different environments. They performed better than many popular family dogs such as Beagles, Chihuahuas, Collies, Poodles, and even Golden Retrievers.
- Dogs are often misidentified as Pit Bulls. “Pit-Bull type” dogs were visually misidentified 60% of the time in a recent study. There are only four breeds that are considered Pit Bulls, but many dogs have a “Pit Bull look.” Because of this, Pit Bulls are getting blamed for incidents they did not commit because of misidentification, causing inaccurate statistics.
Debunking Myths about Pit Bulls
Myth: Pit Bulls have locking jaws.
People mistakenly believe that Pit Bulls have locking jaws, clamping down on prey and never releasing. This makes Pit Bulls seem like natural born killers. In reality, their jaws are no different than other dogs’ jaws. There is nothing special about a Pit Bull’s jaw! The reason they seem like they have locking jaws is because of their determination. They won’t let go of that toy because they don’t want to, not because their jaw locked.
Myth: Pit Bulls have the deadliest bite.
A Pit Bull’s bite is feared by many people. Some people believe that Pit Bulls have an otherworldly strength when it comes to biting. Surprisingly, when compared to other dogs, the force of a Pit Bull’s bite ranks 19th with 235 PSI. German Shepherds and Siberian Huskies both have stronger bites than Pit Bulls. The strongest bite recorded from a dog is from the Kangal with a bite force of 743 PSI.
Myth: Pit Bulls are innately vicious.
Some people say that Pit Bulls are simply born vicious, predestined for monstrous deeds. This is not true. Each Pit Bull has a different personality. While it is true that Pit Bulls were bred for dog fighting, there is another huge factor that plays into a Pit Bull’s behavior: environment. Environment plays a huge factor in the development of a Pit Bull. A Pit Bull’s response is a product of genetics AND environment. That is why an owner’s responsibility and knowledge are so crucial when owning a Pit Bull or any other dog.
Myth: Dog aggression means human aggression.
Some people believe that dog aggression is a direct correlation to human aggression. This could not be further from the truth. Pit Bulls that are aggressive towards humans are anomalies, probably having suffered from abuse, neglect, or a lack of socialization.
Pit Bulls want to cuddle in your lap, not bite you. Think about it: a Golden Retriever might kill a rabbit in your backyard, but you probably wouldn’t worry about it biting you. Why are there double standards for Pit Bulls?
Myth: Pit Bulls are dangerous to have around kids.
Some people assume that Pit Bulls are dangerous to have around children, believing that Pit Bulls will mistake children as prey. This is untrue. Pit Bulls make fantastic companions to them since Pit Bulls are known for being loyal and protective. Of course, Pit Bulls, as well as any dog, should always be supervised around children. Make sure the children involved understand the Pit Bull’s boundaries and don’t do anything to irritate the dog.
Myth: Only “rough” people own Pit Bulls.
When you think of a Pit Bull owner, who do you think of? Many people think of gang members, drug dealers, or dogfighters. Why don’t we initially associate Pit Bulls with upstanding citizens? This preconception is hurtful for both the dog and the owner.
Myth: Pit Bulls need to be the only dog in the house.
While it is true that Pit Bulls have the potential to be dog aggressive, each Pit Bull is different. Everything depends on the individual Pit Bull’s personality. Some Pit Bulls are very friendly with other dogs, while others are not. Many Pit Bulls live successfully with other dogs in the house. With that being said, Pit Bulls should always be monitored around other animals. If the situation cannot be supervised, the animals should be kept separated either in crates, kennels or in entirely different rooms.
Myth: It is better to adopt a Pit Bull puppy instead of an adult.
People think that selecting a Pit Bull puppy ensures the outcome of their dog. They believe that they can prevent dog aggression and other issues by raising a Pit Bull themselves. This is untrue. It is easier to adopt a fully mature Pit Bull. With a fully mature Pit Bull, you will already know the dog’s behavioral patterns and size. There will be fewer surprises.
Pit Bulls mature slowly, and their behavior can completely change during the maturation process. A Pit Bull that was dog friendly as a puppy could turn out to be dog aggressive after maturing.
Spaying and neutering can help to avoid the “switch” from puppy to adulthood, but nothing is guaranteed. But adopting a Pit Bull puppy is a gift for you both, so you must be aware of potential challenges.
How to Take Care of Pit Bulls
- Do your research
Research is vital when thinking about introducing any dog into your home, but it is especially crucial for a Pit Bull. Pit Bulls require informed and experienced owners. This article from Save-A-Bull is an excellent place to start your research.
Keep Pit Bulls out of shelters by spaying and neutering your Pit Bull. Almost half a million Pit Bulls are euthanized in shelters annually.
- Be Prepared For Common Health Problems
Some common health problems Pit Bulls may face:
- Hip Dysplasia: treated with surgery and proper weight management (covered by Prudent Pet)
- Cataracts: treated with surgery but are sometimes left untreated (covered by Prudent Pet)
- Heart Disease and Congenital Heart Defects: may require surgery and medication but not always (covered by Prudent Pet)
- Allergies: can be treated with antihistamines (covered by Prudent Pet)
- Obesity: treated with proper weight management
Pit Bulls are prone to distemper and parvo, so they should be vaccinated early.
- Have an Emergency Plan
In case of a medical emergency, it’s always good to have a plan financially. What if your dog breaks its leg at the dog park? The last thing you want to worry about is money. Consider pet insurance. At Prudent Pet, you can get a free quote in a few clicks. With pet insurance, both you and your dog can sleep soundly knowing that you’re covered (with pet insurance and fuzzy blankets, of course).
Teach them basic commands such as sit, stay, and come. Make sure to socialize them with dogs and people as soon as possible.
Use positive reinforcement instead of negative training. If your dog does something well, give them a treat or a belly rub. Try to avoid punishment when they do something wrong. Punishment can lead to increased aggression.
- Be Responsible
Being a responsible Pit Bull owner is essential. When you have a Pit Bull, you are a breed ambassador. Pit Bulls require experienced owners. There is little room for error.
Pit Bull Awareness
There are two main ways to spread awareness about Pit Bulls: adopt and educate.
Each year, a special day and entire month are dedicated to Pit Bulls, as Pit Bull advocates are attempting to clear up the misconceptions about this breed and educate the public on this severely misunderstood dog.
National Pit Bull Awareness Day
National Pit Bull Awareness Day is on October 26, 2019. In fact, the entire month of October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month!
National Pit Bull Awareness Day was created by Jodi Preis of Bless the Bullys in 2007 to honor her first Pit Bull Tiffin. She wanted a day where people could learn about the true nature of Pit Bulls in hopes of erasing years of unfair negative stereotypes.
Ways You Can Help:
- Attend an event: Check out this article to read about a few of the National Pit Bull Awareness Day events over the years.
- Play with a Pit Bull: Pit Bulls are everywhere–your local shelter, rescue organizations, or maybe even your friend’s house! Play with them and see their true nature for yourself!
- Donate: Whether it be your time or money, these dogs need your support in shelters and rescue organizations. Contact your local shelter to see what’s on their wish list.
- Post to social media: Let other people recognize how beautiful these dogs truly are! Use the hashtag #NationalPitBullAwarenessDay to share your experiences.
- Adopt: If you feel like a Pit Bull is the right match for you, you can adopt one at your local shelter or rescue organization! Before making that huge step, make sure that adoption is right for you. As Christina Francy, the founder of Ducky’s Bravo Squad, suggests:
“You should always look into getting a dog that matches your lifestyle. The best way to do that is by fostering a dog. Fostering dogs not only help get a dog out of the shelter, but you can also do a foster-to-adopt like it’s a child. If the dog doesn’t fit well into your home, you still did a great thing by fostering.”
If adoption is something that you’re interested in, get your home ready for a foster dog trial run and a lot of slobbery kisses! If you don’t own a home, make sure that your place of residency allows Pit Bulls. Some cities ban the breed entirely due to unfair breed-specific legislation (BSL).
National Pit Bull Awareness Month
October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month. This month celebrates and brings to light the true nature of Pit Bulls, not the unfair negative stereotypes often portrayed in the news.
If you choose to adopt, make sure a Pit Bull is right for you. Being an owner is a lifetime commitment. If you cannot adopt, always educate others on one of the most villainized dogs.
Pit Bull Rescues
Prudent Pet wants to recognize some of the rescues who are doing amazing work for these severely misunderstood dogs.
Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue
The Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue is a nonprofit organization founded in April 2009 by Laura Gray-Haug. The rescue is a completely volunteer and foster-based rescue organization located in the Andover, Minnesota area.
The Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue:
- Takes in 100+ dogs annually (on track to double that number in 2019)
- Has about 100 volunteers
- Works with 20-30 foster homes on a full-time or temporary basis
- Gives all of their dogs obedience training
To learn more about Pit Bulls and the Minnesota Pit Bull Rescue, we interviewed Natalie Hayford, the Volunteer Coordinator of the rescue.
Q: What’s the mission for your rescue?
A: Our tagline is finding solid dogs solid homes. Our mission is for our dogs to be breed ambassadors, so all the dogs adopted through our program are required to sign up for an 8-week obedience course. Basically, we want to change the negative perception of Pit Bulls. We’re trying to combat that with positive things.
Q: What are your thoughts on breed-specific legislation?
A: I think it’s horrible. They’re judging off of certain dogs, not on the dog itself. In my opinion, there can be bad Pit Bulls. There can be bad breeding and genetics; there can be issues. But they’re also really good dogs. Just like with people, they are discriminating based on the looks of the dog and not based on their personality or on their owners — what training they’ve put in or what boundaries and rules they’ve established for their dog. I think it’s extremely unfair. Pit Bull isn’t an official breed; there are several breeds lumped into that. There are also dogs that kind of look like one of those breeds. They’re getting discriminated against as well, which is not fair.
Q: What are some misconceptions you’ve heard about Pit Bulls?
A: I’ve heard different things about a locking jaw, which isn’t possible. You hear in the news and you look at the articles: “A Pit Bull did this.” If you read an article with a different breed, they don’t even mention the breed. Why are people singling out a Pit Bull-type dog?
There are misconceptions of them being mean and scary. These dogs seem large and strong, which they are, but they want to be lap dogs too.
People think they’re bred for fighting because of the terrier in them, but that’s not their goal. They don’t set out for that. Human and dog aggression could be from bad breeding or genetics, but it could be managed as well. It’s not something in every single Pit Bull-type breed.
“People think that they don’t have time to foster, but we don’t need a whole lot of time. These dogs are either in a shelter in a kennel or they can be in your home. Being in your home in a crate is a much more relaxing and quieter environment than a shelter with hundreds of other dogs that are barking and crying all day. And fostering is completely free. We just need people to open up their homes and hearts.”
– Natalie Hayford
Love-A-Bull grew out of the former Austin American Pit Bull Terrier Meetup Group, which was formed in 2003. Love-A-Bull achieved 501(c)(3) status in 2008, and they’re a foster-based rescue located in the Austin, Texas, area.
This rescue supports their community through spay/neuter, housing resources, financial assistance, and free training. Love-A-Bull also operates one of the country’s first all-Pit Bull type dog therapy program, which provides therapy dogs to people in need.
To learn more about Pit Bulls, we emailed Crystal Dunn, the Vice President of Love-A-Bull.
Q: What would you like the public to know about Pit Bulls?
A: There is no one trait that suits all Pit Bull-type dogs. Genetically, they are no different from any other canine, but saying Pit Bulls are all the same is like saying all retrievers are the same.
The Pit Bull family consists of at least three different breeds, but many argue this extends to even more with all the crossbreeding happening within the breed family. Amongst them, their temperaments and personalities are as varied as we are, excelling in a myriad of roles depending on the individual.
Pit Bulls are pets, police dogs, athletes, service dogs, and therapy dogs, to name a few. The fact they’re often targeted by aggressive people does not define who they are, but rather their plight. However, they’re constantly gaining popularity with families and continue to be one of the most commonly adopted dogs in the U.S.
Missouri Pit Bull Rescue
The Missouri Pit Bull Rescue was founded in 1998 by husband and wife Veronique and Robert Chesser. It’s based in Kansas City, Missouri, and the rescue is a 501(c)(3) that uses both foster homes and a shelter. They were renting a shelter since 2002, but in 2016, Missouri Pit Bull Rescue designed and conceived their very own home-like shelter, which they built by hand! Their facility is not open to the public, but visits can be made via appointment.
The Missouri Pit Bull Rescue:
- Went from saving 20 Pit Bulls in 2000 to now over 100 dogs a year
- Currently has over 50 active volunteers
- Has 12 foster homes
“We are keeping our chins up however, as we know our hard work is significant even if we only make a dent in the grand scheme of things. Helping 1 dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that 1 dog.”
–the Missouri Pit Bull Rescue website
Ducky’s Bravo Squad
Ducky’s Bravo Squad was founded in March 2014 by Christina Francy. The organization was named after Ducky, Christina’s beautiful gray Pit Bull. Bravo Squad pays homage to her husband’s time in the military.
Ducky’s Bravo Squad is a nonprofit organization located in the west suburbs of Chicago. They’re an intentionally small foster-based rescue so they can focus their attention on the dogs in their care. While they foster to all breeds, they mostly rescue Pit Bulls.
To learn more about Pit Bulls and Ducky’s Bravo Squad, we interviewed Christina Francy, the founder of Ducky’s Bravo Squad.
Q: You have more Pit Bulls in your rescue than other dogs. Why do you think that is?
A: Pit Bulls are the most populated dogs in the U.S. shelters. It’s because people don’t take the responsibility to spay and neuter. People are still buying from breeders; people breed dogs to fight them. It’s a vicious cycle.
When we’re pulling dogs, 9/10 times that dog is going to be a Pit Bull. They’re the most at risk. They’re large breed dogs, so they take up a lot of room at a shelter. Unfortunately, they’re the hardest to adopt out. A lot of places like apartment complexes, condo associations, and townhome associations have breed restriction. So, you’ll find that the reason Pit Bulls end up in shelters is because owners couldn’t take them with when they moved, or their landlord made them get rid of the dog. The world that we live in right now is not beneficial for a Pit Bull-type dog.
Q: What advice would you give to someone thinking about adopting a Pit Bull?
A: When you’re looking at adopting a dog, think about your lifestyle. You should always look into getting a dog that matches your lifestyle. The best way to do that is by fostering a dog. Fostering dogs not only helps get them out of the shelter, but you can also do a foster-to-adopt like it’s a child. If the dog doesn’t fit well into your home, you still did a great thing by fostering.
Please invest in training — just basic things. I’m not asking for your dog to become a therapy dog. It’s important to do training because you’re also training yourself. Training helps you have control of your dog.
Everyone in the house needs to be on board with adopting any dog, but especially a Pit Bull. I always suggest not surprising your husband or wife with a dog. That never works out well.
Be prepared. Have a crate. Have everything you need before you adopt a dog so that you’re not scrambling last minute for supplies.
Educate yourself on the best diet for dogs, especially for Pit Bulls. A lot of them come with allergies. It’s always important to do your research. Be prepared for any physical and genetic issues that come along with the dog. If you’re working or at school all day, adding a dog to your house and leaving it is very stressful. Prepare to take some vacation days to settle your dog in. Be patient. Know that it’s not going to be an overnight situation.
Take it slow. If you have another dog at home and they’ve already done a meet-and-greet in a neutral place, don’t take the leash off and let them go at it in the house immediately. You still need to acclimate your dogs. Keep them separated. Gate them off. Let them see each other through the gate. Do things slowly. Patience is a virtue.
Tips from Christina:
- If you don’t have the finances to make a monetary donation, you can raise money by fundraising! You can even fundraise on Facebook for your birthday.
- Volunteer your time at a rescue. If you’re not good with dogs, there are other things you can do! For example, you can be an accountant.
- If you foster, make sure the rescue is paying for the dog’s medical bills, bedding, and necessary supplies.
- There are different ways to foster. You can be a temporary foster, a long-term foster, a foster-to-adopt, or a hospice foster.
- If a rescue is a 501(c)(3), it means that it is considered a not-for-profit by the IRS. This means that all donations and adoption fees to that rescue are tax-deductible.
If you want to support this rescue, you can donate.
“Determination and fortitude are two of [Pit Bulls’] most significant traits; they put their heart and soul into all that they do.” – the PittieLove Rescue website
Villalobos Rescue Center
Villalobos Rescue Center, the largest Pit Bull facility in the world, has been broadcasted on the TV show Pit Bulls and Parolees since October 30, 2009. The rescue founded by Tia Torres was in Los Angeles County for almost 20 years until it was moved to New Orleans in August 2012. “Villalobos” means “House of Wolves” in Spanish. They started as a wolf rescue in the early ’90s but became a Pit Bull rescue in 1994 and kept the name.
- Daily average of 300-400 dogs
- Average adoption rate is about 30-40 dogs a month
- Takes in around 100 dogs a month
- Costs approximately $8,000 a day to run Villalobos Rescue Center
- They go through 7,000 pounds or more of dog food a week
- Yearly vet bill is about $500,000
“My mission is to rescue. My hope is that one day I won’t have to.” – Tia Torres from the Villalobos Rescue Center website
All these rescues have one thing in common: dedicating their lives to give Pit Bulls the best quality of life possible. Their dedication and hard work are beyond admirable. The least we can do is acknowledge their amazing accomplishments and learn about these precious dogs.
For Pit Bull Awareness Month, support the organizations and rescues who are doing fantastic work for these beautiful dogs. Donating your time, money, and homes (for fosters) is always much appreciated and needed by these rescues. You are crucial in saving these dogs’ lives.
The Importance of Pit Bull Awareness
Being kind to animals can start with educating yourself and others about their characteristics and basic needs. Anyone can be an advocate for Pit Bulls. It all begins with an open mind and the desire to do the right thing for all animals.
Today, the number of animals being killed in U.S. shelters is estimated to be 733,000 per year, according to Best Friends. Unfortunately, Pit Bulls are by far the most likely to be euthanized. You can do your part to help these animals by learning about animal rescue organizations who are advocating and protecting the loveable Pit Bull.