10 Common Misconceptions About Pitbulls

No other dog has had so much media coverage in the last 15 years as the Pit Bull. It’s tough not to be emotional one way or the other about these canines, especially if you’ve owned one or two or three, or if you or a loved one has been involved in a bad incident involving a Pit Bull. One side says Pits are dangerous and should be banned. The other side says they are loving, safe dogs and it’s the owners who are to blame for any “bad” Pits. What is the truth? Somewhere in between.

“Pit Bull” can refer to either the American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) breed or a type of dog who has Pit Bull traits. It’s all muddled at this point with Breed Specific Legislation, which bans or restricts some breeds, lumping Boxers and Dalmatians in with pits and other bully breeds (such as the American Staffordshire Terrier. Most Pit Bulls on the street are mixes though there is still breeding of the APBT. Responsible breeding produces a stable, talented dog while breeding for dog fighting must, of course, be stopped.

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It gets more confusing when trying to identify just how many Pit Bulls are responsible for dog or human attacks. When you see the term “Pit Bull” in the press, it can refer to any type of dog. More often than you’d think, a dog who attacked someone and is labeled Pit Bull, is actually a mutt or a different breed altogether. Even if a picture is attached and it looks like a Pitbull, it could be any number of mixes which produce similar characteristics. Really, when you think about it, condemning a dog based on his physical traits is declaring his guilt based purely on his appearance – this is what BSL is about.

But there are the sensible people who honestly feel that Pitbulls, and any dog that resembles one, are a danger to society. Often, these folks don’t know much about dogs and certainly not much about Pits. But they are being bombarded with almost all bad press about these dogs. It is evident that the media fuels misconceptions about Pits and stirs up the public. And the statistics behind the fury are less than accurate. Even the Center for Disease Control, which puts out many of the stats, states that dog bite and dog attack data cannot be gathered accurately. But, still, the section of society that does not feel safe with Pit Bulls has a right to be heard. And, considering the bull they are fed about Pits, it’s no wonder they don’t believe the Pit Bull supporters.

Below are 10 common misconceptions about Pit Bulls which both support and contradict the general views of either “Pit Bulls are dangerous” or “Pit Bulls are just like Golden Retrievers.” Just as it’s tough to be unemotional about these dogs, it’s also tough to be unbiased (especially when the author of this article owns three of them) but a valiant effort has been made.

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10 Misconceptions About Pit Bulls

1. All Pit Bulls Are Bad – Dogs do not have a conscience; they cannot be “bad.” Pit Bulls react to their world based on their breeding and training. You can’t breed a dog to fight other dogs for almost 200 years and expect those instincts to vanish.

2. All Pit Bulls Are Good – No dog is not innately “good.” They simply act as their instincts and owners tell them to. To try to sell the Pit Bull to the public as a fluffy bunny does a disservice to the public, to potential Pit Bull owners and to Pits themselves.

3. Pit Bulls Are Human Aggressive – Since Pits were bred to fight dogs in a ring, the owners had to make certain they would not turn on them when they went in to stop the fight. Imagine a dog, so riled up from fighting and very aggressive, who was able to then turn it off when his human appeared in the pit. When a Pit Bull attacks a person, there are always other factors involved, such as protection of food. Any dog may bite if provoked.

4. Pit Bulls Can Cause More Damage Than Other Dogs – Sorry, Pit Bull lovers but this is sometimes sadly true. Myths such as the locked jaw have been disproved but a Pit Bull’s traits make him naturally more driven. Consider these: tenacity (they often fought til death in rings), gameness, prey drive, a compact, strong, muscular body (pits can pull up to 7,000 pounds) and centuries of fighting instinct. But, there are too many factors involved in dog bites, such as the size of the animal and where the bite occurred, to make a blanket statement. In their favor, a Pit Bull will likely listen and obey better than other dogs if properly trained.

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5. An Aggressive Pit Bull Cannot Be Rehabilitated – This was disproved by the Michael Vick case where some 50 pit bulls were rescued from a fighting ring. Of those, 49 dogs were rehabilitated. Some went to shelters such as Best Friends and many are well-loved family members today. The testing used to determine these dogs’ ability to fit into society was exhaustive and excellent and successful.

6. Anyone Can Own a Pit Bull – Pit Bulls are different from other dogs and their owners need to be told the facts before rescuing or purchasing one. A dog lover who has had Bichons all her life will be sorely surprised unless she does her homework and understands the bully breeds. Pits need a lot of structure, a very pronounced human alpha, training, exercise and lots of attention. The owner needs consistency, time, energy and maybe some muscle.

7. Pit Bulls Will Always Fight Other Dogs – Some Pits are so dog aggressive that they should be the only dog in the house. They also should not go to dog parks or areas where dogs run off-leash. Any Pit Bull could get into a fight with another dog. Any dog could. But breaking up a Pit Bull fight is much harder than a tiff between aShiba Inu and a Sharpei Inu. If you have a Pit Bull, learn about hisbody language and the signs that he is getting ready to fight. This will prevent many incidents.

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8. Pit Bulls Are Lovers Not Fighters – Since it’s been established that they can be fighters, what about lovers? Absolutely! Pit Bulls give more kisses than any other type of dog (it’s proven!). They love humans and human interactions. They feed off positive attention. These dogs are loving, friendly creatures. And they are the kings of clowning.

9. Pit Bulls Are Badly Behaved – Any dog who has this much energy and motivation coded into his DNA can cause problems if he doesn’t get enough attention and exercise. Pit Bulls put their whole hearts into destruction – of couches, beds, pillows, or your $200 boots. But all they need is to have that energy redirected. Pit Bulls are highly trainable but they do need to be trained. Their intelligence, focus, gameness, loyalty and desire to please makes them one of the most teachable dogs.

10. Compromise is Unthinkable – Unfortunately, both sides of the Pit Bull debate are often stubborn about their views and solutions. For those who think BSL is wrong, they need to be realistic about how to end it. For those that think Pit Bulls are dangerous, they need to recognize that banning Pits tears loved pets away from their families and what they propose will not stop all dangerous dogs. Giving in a bit on both sides, such as allowing muzzling of Pit Bulls in public places in exchange for no BSL, may prove the only hope.

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Pitbulls are like other dogs yet they’re also unique. Their gameness, focus, desire to please and boundless energy can be seen as either productive or unproductive traits. The trick is to utilize these characteristics in focused play and work, such as agility, weight pulling, rescue work or nose work.

10 Ways to Be a Powerful Pitbull Ambassador

Every pit bull on the street who’s greeted with a smile instead of a flinch marks progress. When pits are adopted into new homes, or legislation is passed in their favor, lives are saved. Here are tips on helping your community say no to stereotypes and yes to action.

1. Say It Ain’t So

You know all the myths – pit bulls are vicious, trained to fight, dangerous around children… Need help setting the record straight? Bad Rap, an organization devoted to improving the breed’s reputation, provides excellent in-depth responses to these major myths and more on their website: http://www.badrap.org/monster-myths.

2. Tell, and Show

Since pits are often misunderstood as unsafe to have in the home, use visuals to promote pits as the wonderful family companions they are. Start by sharing Bad Rap’s slideshow of vintage photos — one powerful image after another displaying a history of families with their beloved pit bull pets.

 

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3. On Their Best Behavior

Well-trained, well-socialized dogs make the best pit bull ambassadors, as they show even the most skeptical adopters how well-behaved the breed can be! Learn valuable training skills from this Canine Communications webinar series presented by ASPCA behavior experts Trish McMillan Loehr and Heather Mohan-Gibbons.

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4. Network, Network, Network! Want to give your pits an extra push? Take a page from one agency’s book — they created a Facebook page just for their bully breeds: Pit Bull Ambassadors of Hillsborough County Animal Services. The photo and caption below are an example of successful storytelling that educates. The image is oh so sweet, the story is engaging, and HCAS emphasizes the positive relationship that pits can have with other dogs.

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“This pair is something else… they didn’t come in together, and are in no way related, but to watch the two of them together is like watching Forrest and Jenny, Peas and Carrots, Lucy and Desi, and all those other famous couples or things that go together like one.” -HCAS.

5. Seize the Day— National Pit Bull Awareness Day that is, coming up on October 27. A few ideas on building a bully buzz:

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Whatever you plan, don’t forget to alert the media!

6. Put On Your Creative Marketing Hat Nothing is too out-of-the-box when trying to capture the public’s attention. For inspiration, take a look at the pit bull promotions we gathered here on Shelters’ Edge. Pick-a-PITunia campaign from Seattle Humane Society — Never underestimate the power of a pun.”

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7. Get Them in Therapy What better way to promote the breed’s lovebug potential than certifying them as therapy dogs? Staff or volunteers can show off your pits’ TLC skills in places like schools, hospitals and nursing homes.

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8. Enlist Your Lobbyists Have you rallied supporters who want to end breed-specific legislation in all forms? Awesome – next step is to give them specific action to take. CheckStopBSL.org to find out  if legislation is pending in your state.  The good news – a number of states have already prohibited BSL!

9. Hold an Event in Their Honor Invite your community to say “we love bullies” loud and proud by putting on an awareness event. It can be an adoption event, a fundraiser – anything goes, as long as your pits are the stars of the show!

 

10. Grab Your Virtual Megaphone 2-4-6-8, get online and educate! Here are some great resources devoted to improving the pit’s rep and spreading the word:

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P.S. #11 – Want to get the ball rolling on promoting your pits? Share this blog post! Do you have pit bull ambassadors at your agency? Let us know what they’re up to in the comment box.

10 Surprising And Secret Ways Your Dog Says ‘I Love You’

I have always fantasized about having the same powers as Doctor Dolittle — mostly because knowing exactly what animals are thinking and feeling would be some really valuable information to have.

For instance, why does my dog bark at the vacuum cleaner or hide in a corner whenever the lightest bit of rain starts to fall?

I don’t think I’ll ever know the answers to those questions, but thanks to new developments in the science of dog communication, I now know whether or not my dog loves me.

Much like studies that have found that dogs have certain “powers” or enhanced physical senses, scientists have also uncovered that because dogs and humans have been so deeply intertwined through history, dogs have developed unique ways to expressing their love for humans.

The signs are very subtle and they’re not always obvious, but as we break down in this exclusive, all you need to know are the tiny signs that prove your dog’s love for you…
1. Staring directly into your eyes.

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On a 60 Minutes segment, Anderson Cooper met with Brian Hare, a well-known dog expert, to discuss how dogs express love. According to Hare, when your dog looks you in the eye, he is “hugging you with his eyes.”

When a dog looks at you while the two of you are playing with one another or just cuddling, oxytocin is released. It’s the same hormone that helps new mothers bond with their babies. If you want to test this out with your dog, don’t go home and a have a staring contest with your pooch. He will sense something is off, and look away because he feels awkward.

Instead, try to naturally maintain eye contact with him during your normal routines and see how he responds.
2. Yawning when you yawn.

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Yawning is contagious. But did you know this impulse isn’t limited to just humans?

Dogs, because they’ve been bred to read humans, also yawn when someone they love yawns.

A study found that when humans echo another’s yawn, it’s because they’re empathetic, like sympathy pains. It’s impossible to measure if dogs are empathetic, but it’s possible that a dog yawning the same time as a human happens because the dog has bonded with that person.

The study also found that dogs were more likely to yawn when their owners yawned, as opposed to a stranger.
3. Leaning on you.

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The song “Lean on Me” is all about offering support and dogs crave that same kind of security.

Sometimes a dog will lean on a human because he is anxious, wants you to do something, or take him somewhere. But leaning is also a symbol of affection.

Even if your dog is leaning on you out of pure nervousness, he is still doing it because he thinks of you as someone who can protect him and keep him safe.
4. Cuddling with you after a meal.

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In his book, How Dogs Love Us, Gregory Berns, if your dog cuddles with your after eating, it’s a strong sign that they do indeed love you.

Most dogs lovers (or even people who don’t like dogs) know that pups are motivated by food. But according to Berns, once a dog eats all its food, his next action can signify what’s most important to him besides eating.

Sometimes your dog may have to do his “business” right after a meal, but watch how he reacts in the morning and at night. If he’s snuggling up with you after one of these meals, then there’s some definite puppy love on his end.
5. Lifting and wiggling eyebrows.

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We think we can read a dog by its tail, but its facial expressions are a way more powerful indicator.
In a recent study in Japan, dogs were introduced to their parent, a stranger, a dog toy, and an item they didn’t like.

When seeing their parent, the dogs immediately lifted their eyebrows (especially their left), and when they saw a stranger there was a lot less facial movement, except for movement of the right brow.

Yet, when they saw an item they knew and had bonded with, the dogs shifted their left ear back. But if it was an item they didn’t like, their right ear shifted. According to the study, this suggests the dog is more reserved when they are engaging someone they don’t know or something they disapprove of.
6. Watching you leave calmly.

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Some people think that if a dog panics when they leave that it’s a sign that they love them.

That’s not necessarily true, according to Gregory Berns.

If your dog panics when you leave, it’s more of a sign that they have separation anxiety than that they love you.

If a dog goes into his crate or is accepting of you leaving, i.e. they’re calm when you leave, it means your dog loves and trusts you and is confident that you will return.
7. Freaking out when you return.

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We all feel special when we come home and we’re greeted by our dog with his tail wagging, a favorite toy in tow, and he’s jumping all over the place like a crazy kangaroo.

And it’s a good thing we like it, because it’s a very distinctive way a dog shows you his love for you — and it’s love in its truest form.
8. Sleeping in your room.

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Another way to figure out whether your dog loves you is observing where he likes to sleep.

It’s part of a big controversy, but if your dog wants to sleep in your bed — even if you don’t allow it — he definitely loves you.

According to Gregory Berns, if a dog wants to sleep on your bed, it’s a good test of his loyalty because he doesn’t want to be separated from the pack.
9. Bringing you his favorite toy.

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If your pup brings you his favorite, most coveted toy, it doesn’t just mean your dog wants to play.

Although wanting to play with you is a sign of affection in itself, when your dog brings you his favorite ball, it may also mean he thinks of you as his pack leader.

Because of this, he wants to please you by offering you his finest possession, be it a squeaky toy or well-worn Frisbee. He thinks you’ll like it as much as he does, and as they say: “sharing is caring!”

10. Enjoying your love.

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Do you love your dog? According to Gregory Berns, dogs can actually innately sense whether or not you love them.

So if you don’t love them, you’re not getting it back in return!

How does your beloved pup most often show you their love? Let us know in the comments below!

Please SHARE if you believe dogs truly are man’s best friend!

6 Unintended Consequences of Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL)

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When people think of Breed-Specific Legislation they think of pit bulls. However, many BSLs have included American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, American Bulldogs,Mastiffs, Dalmatians, Chow Chows, German Shepherds,Doberman Pinschers and any other mix or dogs who look similar to these breeds. In some instances breed bans have also prohibited dogs of a certain weight or stature. 

Although BSL may appear, on the outside, to be protecting public safety, many BSL opponents including: The American Medical Veterinary Association(AVMA), The American Kennel Club, The Westminster Kennel ClubThe National Centers for Disease Controlamong othersargue that BSL is not effective for many reasons. Below are 6 reasons, backed by research, why Breed Specific Legislation does more harm than good:

Along with this, the American Veterinary Medical Association has noted that there has been no evidence collected to date which clearly shows that one particular breed is more likely to harm someone than another. It is because of this they argue, that when it comes to identifying dogs which could potentially pose a threat to others, clues should be drawn from the dogs individual behavior as opposed to appearance.

1. Accurately identifying breeds is extremely difficult

In case study after case study, people inaccurately identify breeds. In fact, in a recent report from Dr. Victoria Boith in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Scienceshowed that adoption agencies 87.5% of the time inaccurately identify breeds who pass through their organization. With statistics like this and the rise of mixed breeds, many professional organizations and researchers have deemed visual identification of dogs as ineffective. They argue that if a person is unable to accurately identify a breed, how are they able to label them as dangerous? 

It is also important to note that the term ‘pit-bull’ does not classify a particular breed, but rather a group of dogs that the media or society considers to be a pit bull. This means that it can change from place to place and person to person, making it an ineffective way to categorize potentially dangerous dogs. In fact most kennel clubs around the world do not recognize pit-bulls as a specific breed.

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2. Humans are to blame for dangerous dogs
A study by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC)found that 84% of dogs that harmed individuals were the result of negligent ownership. These dogs were mistreated, were tethered or confined, or were allowed to play with children without adult supervision. The report also stated that 78% of the dogs in these instances were trained to guard, fight, make their human handler appear more ‘tough’, or were subjected to inhumane breeding. In this case it is not fair, they argue, to compare these dogs those owned by responsible people. The study found that most dogs which are kept in a loving, residential environment were not likely to be harmful to others. Breed-Specific Legislation in this case punishes even those who have properly trained and take good care of their dogs.

3. Dogs go into hiding to avoid detection
Since loving owners do not want to give away pets that may be identified under the breed-ban, they ‘hide’ them. Although this may seem like an effective method to avoid detection, it often leads to the dogs being subjected to less than ideal circumstances. Some of these harmful consequences include: restricted outdoor exercise, limited veterinarian care and not being properly licensed or microchipped. In this case BSL is deemed as ineffective as the health consequences experienced by these dogs, far outweigh the likelihood that they will be a threat or harmful towards an individual.

4. Rebels will just switch to another non-outlawed breed
People who are committed to owning dogs for dangerous purposes, like dog-fighting and other criminal activities, will work around the breed-ban by just switching to a non-outlawed breed. After all, it’s not the breed, it’s the provided environment and training (or lack thereof) that makes any dog potentially dangerous. Bull-Terriers are considered part of the BSL in some states.

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5. Some of these dogs play an important role in the community
Many dogs who fall under the BSL have both throughout history and in current times played an important role in their community. These dogs have acted as therapy dogs, assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, police dogs, or drug detection dogs. In this case, removing these dogs from their beneficial community roles, poses far more consequences than benefits. Along with this it will also create difficulties for those with disabilities, who want to travel with their ‘breed-banned’ service dog, as since each state has their own regulations, service dog teams may restricted from certain areas all together.

6. BSL creates a shift away from proper enforcement and is extremely costly
Enforcing dog license and leash laws, animal-fighting laws, promoting spaying and neutering and other similar regulations, is important to public safety, regardless of the breed. When BSL is in place, limited resources are used to focus only on banned breeds, as opposed to regulating all pets and animals as a whole. BSL is also extremely costly and requires a large portion of tax payers dollars.

It is clear to see that BSL is not only difficult to implement, but is also ineffective in increasing public safety. Those concerned about the potential threat of dogs to humans, should focus on community education as a way of reducing these concerns. Like we have learned countless times throughout history with humans, appearance should not be used as a prerequisite of determining behavior, but rather be judged on a case to case basis.

To learn more, check out these links:

Whatever your opinion of “pit bulls” no one can deny their image has been tarnished, especially in recent years. From unscrupulous owners, to poorly researched media, the dogs that we call pit bulls have received less than fair treatment. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL) is an attempt to ban specific breeds deemed likely to be dangerous or harmful. However, time and time again it’s been proven to be less than accurate, expensive to enforce and unfair to responsible owners.