“Pit bulls” are great dogs…if you raise them right/treat them right” is a statement I see scrolling across my Facebook newsfeed at least a dozen times each and every day. It’s a phatic expression, “thinklessly” repeated by people who really love their “pit bull” family dogs and know they have a great dog that the public seems to pick on too much. Dogs that are often in their second, third or even fourth homes. Sometimes the dogs are believed to have endured hardship, even neglect or abuse in their prior situations, but most of the time no one really knows anything about their dog’s past life. Sometimes when a dog loses his or her home it’s through absolutely no fault of the dog’s – or the prior owner. Frankly, there isn’t even a universally accepted definition of what a “pit bull” is.
I’ve never really believed that “pit bulls” are great dogs if you raise them right or treat them right. Because that would conversely mean if they weren’t raised or treated right, they would be bad dogs. I’ve seen some that weren’t raised right and I’ve seen some that were treated badly and downright neglected and even abused terribly.
They were great dogs in spite of it.
I have been a breed advocate for almost 20 years now and, no, I don’t believe it at all.
All dogs, not just “pit bulls”, can be raised wrong and treated wrong, even come from the most horrific of circumstances, and STILL go on to be a good family dog, sometimes with or without special intervention. It is no more accurate to say “pit bulls are bad dogs because…” than it is to say “pit bulls are good dogs if…” Why? Because concentrating on a dog’s looks or breed says nothing about the dog’s behavior.
What I do believe is that dogs are generally resilient, malleable, and forgiving. Certainly they must be if they have gone from a wild canid to 700 varieties of bed hog! Pit Bulls are assumed to have a “sad past” and a presumed reputation as ghetto dogs, status symbols, fighters. But that’s all from mis-information, myth, and media hype. The experts agree that each dog, “pit bull” or otherwise, is an individual that occupies a tiny place on a behavior continuum shared with all other domestic dogs (from independents to alphas to omegas, from love bugs to mushes, from lifes of the party to couch potatoes, from suspicious of people to body slammers to “only dogs” and everything inbetween). Each dog, pit bull or Pomeranian or Heinz 57, has its own unique, ingratiating personalities and styles.
So, by all means, raise them right and treat them right. And stick up for them when necessary. But when you look into the adoring eyes of your “pit bull” mix, whose past you truly know nothing about, whose true ancestry you may never know, remember she is a good dog despite her upbringing or prior treatment. She’s a good dog simply because she is living in the moment and wants to know how to live peaceably in your world. Dogs are WTAIWTA*.
I understand how easy it is to respond personally to the negative media reports. But think about this: when another type of dog bites someone (if it even makes the news), I don’t seen the same communal guilt from owners of “that” breed as when an alleged “pit bull” bites someone. I know why…because if a “Labrador” bites, no one cares. If a “pit bull” even jumps on someone, legislators start getting all tingly. Let’s change OUR response in an effort to change THEIRS.
Sometimes when a dog hurts someone, it’s minor. Sometimes, the person who was hurt did a very stupid thing. Sometimes, it’s a lack of enforcement of already established laws. Sometimes, it’s a perfect storm of events that could have been prevented if only someone realized in time what was happening. Sometimes an owner was truly, truly reckless. Sometimes, it was really just an accident. Any dog CAN bite, few ever do, and only a few of those cause serious injury.
It wasn’t my dog. I wasn’t there. Repeat after me. Go ahead, say it out loud. “It wasn’t my dog. I wasn’t there.” Actually feels pretty good.
Instead of communally reacting to every incident across the nation with “it’s not the dog it’s the owner”, or “it’s how they are trained/raised”, let’s just respond with something like, “every dog is an individual, every incident is discrete. Rational conclusions cannot be drawn about one dog or an entire breed type based on the actions of a dog down the street or a hundred miles away.” Cut and paste away.
Then, after a few thousand of those, let’s just stop reacting.
*What They Are Is What They Are