I recently came across Tracey Stewart’s book, Do Unto Animals. It’s a beautiful, inspiring, informative book about caring for and loving animals – one of the sweetest I’ve ever seen. Not to mention beautifully (stunningly!) illustrated. You can read my review of the book HERE.
For the Love of Pit Bulls
In the book, Tracey writes a chapter regarding pit bulls that brought me to tears. I felt compelled to share it on this website, and to promote the ideas she shares so that more people can learn how to help pet bulls. I hope you’ll do the same by sharing this article with your friends and on social media. Here’s Tracey’s article:
“Clearly, certain dogs are more physically powerful than others and can be visually intimidating to some people. If you choose to share your life with a larger dog, in addition to the extra-large portion of love you’ll get, you need to be prepared to accept an extra-large portion of responsibility. People may be tolerant of a little dog that is a lot out of control, but often have no tolerance for a larger dog that is even a little out of control. You owe it to your dog, who by no choice of his own may be judged more harshly than his smaller, less fearsome-looking counterparts, to teach good manners and sociability. Who knows, perhaps your dog can be an ambassador to change perceptions.
To date, five dogs that would be described by many to be “pit bulls” have joined our family: Enzo, Shamsky, Monkey, Lil’ Dipper, and Scout. Each has touch our hearts and enriched our lives profoundly. I can’t imagine never having had the joy they’ve all given us.
Misinformation about this breed abounds. Here are some facts you may not know and that you can share with others to spread the good word about these dogs that too often are stigmatized without cause.
FACT: Three breeds of dogs are officially considered pit bull terriers (a mix of bulldog and terrier): Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terriers, and American Staffordshire terriers. Anything else is not a true pit bull, but rather a mix of some other kind.
FACT: Experts have found it impossible to accurately assign a breed label or predict future behaviors based solely on a dog’s appearance.
FACT: In the beginning of the twentieth century, pit bull-type dogs were among the most popular family dogs. They were even referred to as “nanny” dogs.
FACT: In the 1980’s, pit bulls became the dog of choice of drug dealers, dogfighters, and gangs. These people raise dogs in deplorable conditions and purposely incite fear and aggression in them for their own deviant purposes. The result has been unspeakable injury, suffering and cruelty for canines and humans.
FACT: The disproportionate number of pit bull types in shelters is more due to irresponsible and prolific breeding than the misconduct of individual dogs. The large number of these dogs in shelters should not be interpreted as a negative reflection of their adoptability.
FACT: Media outlets have always salivated over a good fear-instilling animal story. Some believe that pit bulls became the victim in 1987 when Sports Illustrated published a cover with a snarling American pit bull terrier and the headline, “Beware of This Dog.” Rolling Stone also published a graphic article about “teenagers, inner-city gangs, violence and the horrific abuse of pit bulls.” Pit bulls became the new easy breed to plug into the vicious dog story.
FACT: Many shelters euthanize a dog just for looking like a pit bull either due to their own ignorance or because they think that prejudice will limit the dog’s chances for adoption regardless of the temperament or soundness of the individual dog.”
Pretty Sad, Don’t You Agree?
When I read this I pictured a young, male pit bull at the local shelter saying, “You mean I have to die today because of the way I look? But I’m a good boy!” This dog likely gives unlimited, unconditional love to humans, most likely behaves well as it is an intelligent breed, and would, I have no doubt, give his life to protect its owner (especially a child). Tears. That’s what the misperception and mistreatment of pit bulls creates for me. Profound sadness, sympathy, and tears.
Ways to Help Pit Bulls
Pit bulls need extra help with training because, as unfair as it is, they have to behave almost perfectly just to be accepted by society. Sadly, they can’t get away with minor misbehavior or mistakes that every dog breed makes – they tend to be crucified for the smallest infractions.
The best dog training program I know of is The Online Dog Trainer, created by well-respected dog trainer, Daniel Abdelnoor (known as “Doggy Dan”). His dog training website is by far the best, and fastest growing dog training website available. You can read my review of The Online Dog Trainer HERE.
Here’s a video of Doggy Dan working with Kay, an 18-month-old pit bull.
The best (and maybe only) way to keep your pit bull out of trouble is to make sure that he’s trained so well that he doesn’t misbehave. Doggy Dan is the best trainer there is. You can have access to more than 300 videos on his website where you can see Doggy Dan working individually with dogs about every dog behavior issue you can think of. Doggy Dan offers a 3-day trial of the website for $1. There is no obligation after that. So get on the website and look around for 3 days. I’m sure you’ll be very excited about the things you can teach your dog.
More Ways to Help Pit Bulls
Remember Their History
Not that long ago, pit bulls were the preferred nanny dog, and they were often left in charge of young children. One of the most famous pit bulls was Petey, the dog who starred in “Little Rascals” films. There have been a number of famous pit bulls, and they are still one of the top ten most popular breeds in the U.S.
Pit bulls then ended up getting a bad rap when they became the guard dog of choice for drug dealers. Around the same time, dog fighting re-emerged. And pit bulls are not the only dogs who have been marked as dangerous over the years. At various times, German shepherds and Rottweilers were at risk of being outlawed.
These facts alone are strong evidence that it’s not the breed that’s the problem; it’s how they’re treated and used by humans.
Be a Responsible Owner
If you have a pit bull, make sure you have trained him properly, and that he gets enough exercise. Provide him with boundaries, rules and limitations, and make sure he’s socialized with other dogs, people, and children.
Work Against Breed Specific Legislation (BSL)
Many lawmakers are starting to take another look at Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) and are now working on more sensible laws that focus on the behavior of the owners rather than focusing on the type of dog.
The best way to counteract fear is education. Together we can keep pressing forward until, one day, pit bulls are once again seen as the beautiful, lovable best friends they’ve always been.
Get the Word Out
Please do your part in helping to get the word out about pit bulls being misunderstood and unfairly judged. This book, “I’m a Good Dog,” is a great way to start. Read it, then pass it along. Perhaps even purchase a copy to donate to your local library (or several libraries)! Anything we can do to educate people will help.
I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America’s Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet
Filled with inspiring stories and photographs, this heartfelt tribute to the pit bull celebrates one of America’s most popular yet misunderstood dogs.
Perhaps more than any other breed, the pit bull has been dogged by negative stereotypes. In truth, pit bulls are innately wonderful family pets, as capable of love and good deeds as any other type of dog. Setting the record straight, Ken Foster sings the praises of pit bulls in I’m a Good Dog, a gorgeously illustrated, tenderly written tribute to this most misunderstood of canines.
Founder of the Sula Foundation, which promotes responsible pit bull ownership in New Orleans, and the author of two acclaimed books about abandoned dogs, Foster has made it his mission to bring overlooked canines into the limelight. I’m a Good Dog traces the fascinating history of this particularly maligned breed. A century ago, the pit bull was considered a family dog, featured in family photos and trusted as loving companions for children. More recently, pit bulls have been portrayed by the media as stereotypes of everything they are not. Foster shatters that reputation through moving profiles of pit bulls that serve as therapy dogs, athletic heroes, search-and-rescue dogs, and educators, not to mention as loving pets. Foster also profiles many pit bull lovers, from Helen Keller and Dr. Seuss to actor Todd Cerveris, who took his pit bull on tour with him for the musical Spring Awakening.
Proving that there’s much to love and nothing to fear, I’m a Good Dog restores the pit bull to its rightful place as friend, family member, athlete and entertainer.
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