While a dog’s life is pretty enviable, the life of a Pit Bull — whether a American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Bull Terrier, American Bulldog — is fraught with prejudice and misconception.
Instead of cooing and cajoling him, park go-ers may stay far away, concerned about his rumored ferocity. They forget that in reality, any dog has the potential to be vicious, due to handling, training, and socialization (or lack thereof). The Pit Bull is no different.
Here are five common myths about the Pit Bull, followed by the relieving reality:
Myth #1: Stand guard! The Pit Bull is a vicious attack dog.
This myth is somewhat grounded in historical truth, as the modern Pit Bull’s ancestors were English Bull-Baiting Dogs, earning their keep baiting, biting, and holding large game (i.e., bears and bulls). But most modern day Pit Bulls have been crossbred (either intentionally or randomly) to the point of losing most, if not all, of this ingrained predisposition.
There are many happy-go-lucky, loyal, and friendly Pit Bull pets today, and their owners would like you to refrain from judging a book by its cover. While a Pit Bull may develop aggression toward other dogs as it matures, he likely will remain a human’s best friend. In fact, his ancestors were often killed if they attacked a person. Most modern Pit Bulls even adore children.
The fact of the matter is that, as with any dogs, a Pit Bull’s behavior largely depends on the way he is raised (i.e., the owner’s behavior). Although there are cases of Pit Bull aggression toward humans and other dogs, the modern Pit Bull has the potential to be one of the most playful, loving, and loyal dogs on the market.
Myth #2: You’re breaking the law! Owning a Pit Bull is illegal.
Reality: It is true that some states and countries as a whole have enacted breed-specific legislation based on factual evidence (often in conjunction with stereotypes). Pit Bulls are not welcome everywhere, so you must be aware of local laws. But many nations refuse to enact country-wide bans. In 2013, President Obama declared that the U.S. would not outlaw certain breeds because such bans are “largely ineffective” and a “waste of public resources.” He further asserted that an individual dog’s behavior is largely a result of his upbringing, putting the onus back on pet owners.
If a Pit Bull is legal where you live, do your part as a responsible owner to make sure it stays that way!
Myth #3: You’d better watch out, because this one’s got a locking jaw!
Reality: This rumor is simply not true. There is no one-of-a-kind locking mechanism in the jaws of Pit Bulls, nor is there a special enzyme, nor anything else you might have heard. Because the ancestors of some Pit Bulls were trained to hold tightly to prey, some modern Pit Bulls can do the same. But this ability will more likely manifest in his ability to tug on his rope toy, rather than pull off your finger! His strong jaw-grip reflects his determination and tenacity — two traits you may actually appreciate.
And a Pit Bull’s bit may not be as strong as that of other dogs. You may be surprised to learn that in a test of bite strength between a German Shepherd Dog, a Rottweiler, and an American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier exhibited the least strength.
Myth #4: Uh oh… you adopted an adult? Watch out!
Reality: Sure, the way a Pit Bull is trained — from puppyhood — often determines his level of aggression. But don’t rule out adopting that adult Pit Bull! Remember that each Pit Bull, no matter his age, has unique genetics, behavior, and personality. This medium-large, active breed can vary greatly in size and personality at an an individual level, depending on breeding. And in terms of training, who knows? Perhaps the adult Pit Bull’s last owner was an impeccable trainer.
Myth #5: Pit Bulls have a mind of their own.
Reality: A Pit Bull who has proven to be gentle all of his life will not suddenly attack. Pit Bull aggression is not spontaneous, despite what you may have heard. Pit Bulls do not have a mind of their own. In fact, because of their intelligence, they are one of the easiest breeds to train.
Pit Bulls can actually be very considerate, accommodating, and protective of others. In fact, Pit Bulls regularly score above average on The American Temperament Test. Just like any other breed, proper training for a Pit Bull is key to it being a well-mannered dog.
So whether you are a Pit Bull owner tired of Pit Bull stereotypes, a future Pit Bull owner, or simply a park-goer, we all must remember that when it comes to Pit Bulls — or anyone for that matter — there is no “rule of thumb.” They are each a unique individual.
About the Author
Alexandra Seagal is a diehard pet-enthusiast who ascribes to the believe that complete information is key when buying and owning a dog. Her website Animalso seeks clearly elucidate the challenges, pitfalls, and amazing rewards of pet ownership. Her own relationship with her beloved hamster, cat, and dogs fuel her passion.
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