Are Pit Bulls Misunderstood?

Posted on Sep 29, 2018
Are Pit Bulls Misunderstood?

If you’ve never spent time with pit bulls, you may still have general assumptions about the breed. That they are dangerous. Mean. Shouldn’t be around children. And so many more stereotypes generally applied to all members of the breed. But where did those come from and are they fair?

 

October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month so Run Those Dogs is here to say we’ve met and cared for a whole lot of sweet, goofy, wonderful pit bulls that defy all the negative stereotypes.

 

As with any dog or animal you don’t know, use caution and avoid making them feel unsafe or uncomfortable. As with all breeds, socialization and training are of utmost importance to teach a dog how to safely interact with children and adults. Our hope is that by sharing this information about pits, you’ll do your best to keep an open mind about the breed.

 

Arin Greenwoods article about pit stereotypes points out that applying stereotypes to the entire breed has a real cost on the dogs themselves and their families. “Hundreds of jurisdictions across the country ban or otherwise restrict ownership of these dogs — which leads to dogs being taken away from their families for nothing more than their appearance, and families living in fear of losing their beloved pets.” She adds that even where ownership is legal, finding housing may be difficult. They are among the most common breeds in shelters with the longest stays and among the breeds most likely to be euthanized, perhaps more than 3000 per day in the U.S.

 

But where did Pit Bull’s bad rap come from?

As Roy Rivenberg wrote in his L.A. Times article, “Petey, the canine sidekick in the Little Rascals comedies, was a pit bull. So were the mascots for RCA Victor and Buster Brown shoes. Even the White House welcomed pit bull offshoots under Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.”

 

There are plenty of pit bull heroes as well who’ve saved people from fires, excelled as service animals for the disabled and in the military, and extended and brightened the lives of millions of pet parents. They just aren’t making headlines as often. So how did we come to present day where the breed is banned in some cities and counties?

 

Were they bred for violence? “Pit bull terriers are a cross between English bulldogs, which were bred in the 1800s to fight bulls and bears with tenacious bites to the snout, and terriers, known for speed and agility. The combination produced dogs that deliver a “crushing bite” and don’t let go,” explains Nicholas Dodman. He’s the director of the animal behavior clinic at Tufts University’s school of veterinary medicine and author of Dogs Behaving Badly in Rivenberg’s article.

 

In fact their rap has been made notorious by real, deadly attacks against toddlers and adults — including the fatal mauling of an Antelope Valley woman in 2013. But Rivenberg adds, “…numerous studies show pit bulls are no more likely to bite humans than other breeds.”

 

But just as we shouldn’t broadly believe stereotypes about humans, nor should we with pit bulls.

 

In fact members of the ‘pit bull’ label can encompass the Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier and American pit bull terrier, among other breeds. As you might have guessed, individual dogs within a breed can vary widely in personality, temperament and a host of other traits. Just as widely as within any other breed.

 

Defenders blame bad owners for the negative headlines. Pit bulls have risen to the top as the breed symbolizing rebellion and toughness and some owners choose it for that reason.

 

 

But in fact, pit bulls haven’t always held this top spot in our shifting culture. “In the 1800s, bloodhounds were reportedly the most feared breed. In the 1970s, German shepherds ranked as dog-bite kings,” says Rivenberg. So wouldn’t these facts imply that as our companions (and weapons), its not the breed that is dangerous but the behaviors that we as humans choose to teach them?

 

Is their bad rap truly deserved? Maybe not. And more importantly can it be overcome with time, education, positive training and socialization? We think so.

 

Meet Run Those Dogs Client Jesse the Pit

Jesse pit bulls run those dogs

Jesse.

Jessie is a pure-bred pit. Her humans Greg and Danniell knew the moment they saw her as a puppy in 2009 that she was the one. While her brothers and sister ran back over to their mother, Jessie came right over with her tail in rapid fire mode. Her pet parents remember her as the cutest and most inquisitive, a trait that still (for better or worse) remains today.

 

Since she was a puppy, Jessie still spends most nights sharing the bed with their son. “People often ask if she is OK to have around a family. My youngest was five, and my oldest was seven when we got her, and there has never been a single instant during which she was anything other than their best friend and protector. She loves to be hugged and petted, and she often returns the favor with a well-placed tongue to the face,” explains Greg.

Jesse Pit bulls

Jesse and his buddy Rowdy.

 

Jessie is full of personality. “Over the years, her exuberance has never waned, and her love for her humans has only grown. I cannot tell you how many rough days at work have been instantly washed away by this beautiful, little girl presenting me with her favorite bone as I entered the door,” adds Greg. “She has a knack for detecting sadness or depression in her humans, and never lets it go unacknowledged.”

 

Run Those Dogs loves that we can support this family when they need it, feeding and playing with Jessie and her lab buddy Rowdy when their pet parents travel. They are such sweet hearts!

 

Jessie is more than a dog to Greg and Danniell. “You may have noticed that I don’t refer to her as our dog. We are her humans. She is a part of our family, and will always hold a cherished spot in our hearts.”

 

We hope you won’t generalize the reputation of a breed to every dog within it. And go one better. Be sure to acknowledge and spread the word when you meet a kind and lovable pit. They are out there. We’ve met quite a few and they deserve their chance at happiness.

41 Comments

  1. Ronda Driskell
    November 5, 2019

    Thank you for this story. I own two rescue pits and they are great dogs. Keep these stories coming.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 5, 2019

      Thank you Ronda! I’ve owned a couple pitbulls as well. They’re the sweetest breed!! I appreciate your comment. 🙂

      Reply
    • Jake
      December 8, 2019

      Another pit bull propaganda story. These terrible dogs are estimated to be 6%of the dog population in the U.S. and are responsible for over 50% of bites and fatal maulings. A simple internet search reveals this. They need to be banned.

      Reply
      • Lorraine Wilde
        December 9, 2019

        Hi Jake,
        We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Internet searches aren’t evidence really. Because if you do a simple google search about how pitbulls are misunderstood, you’ll find just as much information debunking the idea. We need to have stiffer penalties for the humans who train them to be dangerous. Irresponsible owners are the problem, not the entire breed. Read the comments on this blog post to see how many members of the breed are sweet, loving dogs. The funny thing about propaganda is that there is propaganda on both sides. Please be sure your stats are coming from a reliable source and feel free to share the source.

        Reply
  2. Evlyn Naidoo
    November 6, 2019

    I have a staffie and 2 pits, they are the most sweetest dogs ever

    Reply
  3. Lorraine Wilde
    November 6, 2019

    I have a one-year-old half pit mix and she is a wonderful dog. The issues we’re working on with her are the same issues as other breeds: chewing my shoes, getting too excited about strange cats, being obsessed with tennis balls. But she is full of love, smart and a wonderful companion.

    Reply
  4. Mark Sevens
    November 7, 2019

    Pit Bulls are now killing upwards of two dozen Americans per year and that number is growing. They are sending thousands of Americans to surgeons for reconstructive surgery every year to repair severely damaged faces, hands, legs, arms and feet, from attacks. There is no misunderstanding. What is actually happening is an increasing understanding based on now overwhelming evidence that pit bulls are a threat to the public. That is what is …actually …going on.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 11, 2019

      We’ll have to agree to disagree Mark. Our team has met and interacted with over a hundred pit bulls over at least 20 years. Our first-hand experience shows that pit bulls aren’t born ready to hurt people, they are trained to do so by some irresponsible owners. We feel terrible about those that are harmed and advocate on many levels for responsible pet ownership. We hope that owners that train their dogs to behave that way are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Thank you for sharing your opinion.

      Reply
      • John
        November 18, 2019

        Thank you. Bless you.

        Reply
    • Charles Dastrup
      November 13, 2019

      Well Mark, you just might be the reason people are afraid of pitbulls. Have you ever met one or are you an armchair statistic spreader. Find someone who has a pitbull and get to know the breed before you judge them. Sorry you feel this way. By the way, all dogs have the potential to hurt people but must choose not to, to bad most people aren’t more like dogs.

      Reply
    • Jenifer
      November 16, 2019

      Mark I am curious where you get your facts from. Coming from someone who was an ER nurse for many years now working as a authorization nurse reviewer and I have cared for many dog bites victims and have authorized many treatments and procedures for after care and in my over 20 years expierience I have seen only 2. The most common has been Chihuahua and cocker spaniel. With small kids when crawling are eye level with these dogs and babies toddlers love to grab things and pull hair. Seniors seem to have small lap dogs more than big dogs and these pint size gorillas have attitudes and have no fear. Another reason why they are called ankle biters. Yes owners are the blame for the bad wrap of the different breeds over the years who get labeled Any dog has the potential to bite its how they are raised and trained. Oh have I mentioned that I have had pits my entire life not once have I had an issue. Currently have a handsome red nose named peanut who sleeps with my cat and loves all other animals, kids and adults. Twice he has been attacked by aggressive dogs un provoked that were not pits not on leashes and Peanut never even bit in defense…however he did pin one down and licked him until the owner came to get his dog. The other was a big dog and Peanut submitted and it was over. Peanut would rather play then anything else. Even with aggreasive dogs he will try to engage in play even give them a ball to play with. People need stop spreading urban legends tall tales and flat out lies it does no one any good just causes more problems for owners and the breed itself. Its like hating an entire race or culture because someone from that race or culture did something bad. Does not mean that everyone from the same group does bad things.

      Reply
      • Jennifer
        November 18, 2019

        Thank you for sharing your personal experience Jenifer. We agree that we must look at the causes of aggression in dogs, rather than assuming all members of a breed are the same.

        Reply
    • Al
      November 29, 2019

      You’re so wrong Mark.most of the dogs that attack people are not pitbulls.they are actually mixes,cross breeds,hybrids and bandogs..what you get out of that is an unstable dog that’s breed with no purpose..not socializing it and not proper training makes for a bad situation..Over half the dogs in shelters that are called pitbulls are not…its only 1 American pitbull terrier..and it’s not a staffie or American Staffordshire terrier, or a bully or an American bulldog..spend time with 1 for a week and youqillcjangetour mind..

      Reply
      • Jennifer
        December 2, 2019

        Thanks for pointing out that multiple breeds (and mixes) get lumped in together when we talk about pit bulls. You’re right that there are differences. We agree that socialization and positive reinforcement training help prevent these breeds from the behavior that gives them a bad reputation.

        Reply
    • John Timmins
      December 4, 2019

      Mark, you present numbers yet who kills more pit bulls or humans? In life it’s how they are raised. Before becoming a animal control officer I was guarded as I always heard they were killers. I knew I was very respectful approaching one. To my surprise they never attacked me and I have handled over 800 in my job field. To say the breed is bad is not at all fair to say. Humans are more of a danger then a dog. Some were trained by drug dealers some by thugs yet through it all. Some are therapy dogs police are using them your stats look at the one’s that are poorly trained is that fair no. Actually we train them to fight we train them to go at people then you come out with stats they are victims. What I would like to see is severe punishment go to humans that train them to attack people or dogs. It is so unfair not to go after humans for cruelty no then we act like the dog should be normal how sad. The four legged pits are kind have a heart and when raised with love are truly great dogs. As far as experience I am very credible on this topic.

      Reply
      • Jennifer
        December 4, 2019

        Thanks for sharing your experience John. Good to hear from folks that have experience with so many examples of the breed.

        Reply
  5. Janice Campbell
    November 11, 2019

    I had a pit for 10 years. She was very loving and precious to me. She got cancer and I had to have her put to sleep. I miss my big girl Harley. It tore my heart out when I had to have her put to sleep

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 11, 2019

      We’re so sorry you and your baby had to go through cancer. But so glad you and Harley had 10 loving years together. Thanks so much for commenting.

      Reply
  6. Justin G
    November 13, 2019

    The most loyal, loving, honorable, respectful, very smart, great baby sitters, but sadly, the most misunderstood breed. I have shirts printed and large window decals with a pic of one of my PITS in the middle that reads, “EDUCATE=DON’T DISCRIMINATE”

    Reply
  7. Cheryl
    November 14, 2019

    My granddaughter moved in with us. She had a puppy pit bull. We have a choc lab 10 years old
    Of course the puppy wanted to play but our dog wasn’t having it
    After about 2 months the pit grab our lab by the throat and would let go. My granddaughter and husband were trying to separate them. I had to grab a broom and hit the pit in the head several times before she would let go, my husband was chocking the pit. The dog left that night. I can get the crying of our lab out of my head

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 15, 2019

      We’re so saddened to hear about your negative experience Cheryl. Sending you and your family lots of compassion. However, we’ve heard these kinds of stories happening in dogs of other breeds as well. So many factors go in to these scary moments that its difficult to filter out which are associated with the breed and which are circumstances. For example, unneutered male dogs are more aggressive on average than neutered ones. Some dogs are more reactive where food or toys are involved. And behavior in all dog breeds differ depending on the amount of positive reinforcement training they’ve had. While its difficult to know exactly what happened in your situation, we’re so sorry you had that experience that has made you feel that it must be due solely to the dog’s breed. We hope you’ll have the opportunity to meet some of the sweet, loving adorable pit bulls that are out there, as we have. Thanks for sharing your experience.

      Reply
  8. Vickie
    November 20, 2019

    My sympathies to those that have had such bad experiences with pit bulls. All my breeding life I have had these beautiful dogs. They are loyal, sweet, gentle, lovable and they love from the heart. My grandchildren played with them when they were in pampers… they still are protected by them as adults. People who have adopted my babies are very happy with them.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 20, 2019

      Thanks for sharing Vickie! That has also been our experience.

      Reply
  9. tracy a williams
    November 23, 2019

    You should always research the history of a to be pet including its ancient history. You can’t raise a staffordshire the same way you raise a schitzu.

    Reply
  10. Spencer Cline
    November 24, 2019

    I have an american bully that we adopted from a shelter. And yes at first there were problems serious dog aggression always biting and nibbling to get what she wants. She’s 2 years old I’ve had her for 7 months. The biting and nibbling have stopped. So has the pushiness. However she is a bully and yes she has certain traits of that breed. All dogs have traits of their breed. As well as of their owners. These are all part of getting and having the rasponsibility of having a dog. Its a persons responsibility to understand the dog as its breed as well as its personality. With 7 kids in my life 4 of them being young still. I’ve never seen a dog any dog be more child aware then my pit bull or bully is. I’ll never own another kind of dog.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 25, 2019

      Thank you for sharing your story Spencer. We’re thankful you’ve mostly had positive experiences with this breed.

      Reply
  11. Pamela Sprosty
    November 24, 2019

    I also would like to ask Mark where he got his information and prove his findings. I adopted a stray pibble about 4 years ago. He had been waiting in a cage for about 6 months before I adopted him. I have no idea what his life was like before, but I know he was not treated well. He’s scared of garbage bags, a broom and therefore vacuums. However, he learned his new name in 1 day, lifted his leg once and when corrected, he’s never done it since. At his last vet appointment, the vet sat on the floor, he walked over and with his paw pulled her arm away and sat in her lap, rolled over and wanted his tummy rubbed. Hes now in training to become a therapy dog. I am now retired but have been a licensed vet nurse for 30 years in NYC and upstate NY. In those years, I have seen lots of pits brought in who were bait dogs, but never any we had to pit down for aggression ! Other breeds, but no pits. Corky has been one of the sweetest dogs I have ever had the honor to share my bed. My only problem with him is moving him a little so I can sleep in the same bed!! A 40lb. dog becomes a 240lb. pet to move!

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      November 25, 2019

      Thank you for sharing your experience Pamela. We’ve heard similar positive stories about pit bull experiences.

      Reply
  12. William
    November 27, 2019

    I love this story. We adopted a rescue that was having trouble finding a forever home. She’s a handful but so funny and loving. No aggression at all. Loves every

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2019

      Thanks William for sharing and for adopting a rescue. I’m sure your dog is so happy to have you.

      Reply
  13. Ann Green
    November 28, 2019

    I own a spoil , loving , male that i will beat the breaks of of anyone who mistreats him or trys to take him .I’ve had him sence he was a baby and i love him very much , n yes like every pit he gets mad cause im not home n chew up my shoes and pull all of the covers off my bed .

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2019

      Haha, chewing shoes and pulling the covers off sounds so familiar! Thanks for sharing Ann.

      Reply
  14. Jason Link
    November 29, 2019

    They are very stereotyped and get a bad rep. A dog of ANY breed can be aggressive/mean, if raised by bad people. Just a few months ago, my American Pit, Boog passed away. He was 10yrs old. And easily the most caring, loving, funny, and SMART dog I’ve ever had! He was a perfect addition to the family. And was always so friendly to all that came to our home. He was like a 2nd son to me. My family and I have actually heard and seen signs that his spirit remains @ our home. In my (younger) life, I was bit twice by dogs. One was an Akita. The other time a German Shepard. But I know there are plenty of great dogs of those breeds. Just as there are some raised poorly.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2019

      So sorry for your loss. Boog sounds like a wonderful dog. Sorry you were bitten before. That can be scary, but we’re glad you could see that it wasn’t the entire breed that has issues, but the individual dogs that needed support. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Reply
  15. Ann marie
    December 2, 2019

    I have two pit bulls one is a purple nose Staffordshire Terrier the other one is a Razor’s Edge Gotti and they both sleep in my king size bed along with two cats and my husband oh my gosh I get no room I end up sleeping in the front room my two pitbulls are the sweetest things you’d ever want to meet the razor’s Edge Gotti can be a little aggressive when he’s playing but he’s only two and I’m teach him how to be nicer he likes to try and fight it your face and that’s one thing we have to teach you not to do but other than that you can do anything you want to the dogs and they won’t care I love them and they love me they also like little dogs and all cats they have a Chihuahua friend that comes over that is so vicious and bites their face and their lips and tail and Maui and Fred that’s my dog they will just sit there and lift their heads up and flip them off when he’s biting and holding onto their lip it is so funny I wish I could send you a video of it

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2019

      That sounds funny Ann Marie. Must be a kick to see that. Thanks for sharing. Your dogs sound pretty wonderful.

      Reply
  16. Vikki Taylor
    December 2, 2019

    I have 2 rescue Bonnie and Clyde 2yrs old.Its all in how u raise them.Its just like kids it’s how u raise them what they grow up to be

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 2, 2019

      That’s a good analogy Vikki. Nurture plays a strong role. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  17. Robert L Crawford
    December 2, 2019

    Why take a chance with the life of yourself or your children when there are other breeds available that are not known to have the biting power to challenge wild boars and bears! It’s just not worth the risk when there are so many other breeds available who DONT have the physical prowess or the unsavory reputation???? It makes no sense to adopt one of these bruts just to call oneself a social justice warrior for dogs. They aren’t people. They are subject to their breeding. Humans have freedom of will. Animals do not.

    Reply
    • Jennifer
      December 3, 2019

      Thank you for commenting Robert but we’ll have to agree to disagree. To many of us, animals are just as important as people. We like your phrase, “social justice warrior for dogs.” I’m sure some adopters do feel that way. Your argument has some elements of logic however, if you applied it to people, it doesn’t hold water. For example, there are Chinese and Russian orphans that people in the U.S. adopt every year even though there are U.S. children available. But we adopt them because they also need loving homes and for a lot of other complex reasons. It’s not black and white.

      Similarly, you could apply this argument to any breed but it wouldn’t hold water there either. Why would anyone adopt a Great Dane when there are smaller dogs available? Or a tea cup chihuahua when there are bigger dogs available? With this logic, you could say, why would anyone adopt a dog at all? They chew things, they require effort, they cost money, they get hair on everything, they ruin the yard and on and on. We adopt them because we love them and they love us back. The positives outweigh the negatives including their “unsavory reputation.” They make us happy, they make us feel safe at home, they get us out for exercise, they are our companions, they make our lives richer, lower our blood pressure, improve our immune systems and help us live longer. There are clear reasons humans domesticated dogs thousands of years ago that are still clear today. Even when applied to pit bulls.

      We’re thankful we live in a free country where we can choose to be social justice warriors for dogs if we like. If that is our passion or desire. Our hope is that people will socialize and train all dogs to be good citizens, including these pit bulls who are bred and adopted not as hunters of boar and bear but instead as a symbol of status, toughness or rebellion. They deserve love just as much as any other rescue dog.

      We respect your right not to choose to adopt this breed because not everyone is equipped or willing to properly train and socialize them. That’s why there are so many in need of adoption. But our experience has been that most that are socialized and trained are sweet, smart, joyfully athletic and loving, as you can see from the other comments on this post.

      We do appreciate your comment as it helps us understand other points of view more clearly. Thank you!

      Reply

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