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Pitbulls: Are they just misunderstood?
I have a special place in my heart for Pit Bulls. After years of working in a shelter environment, I understand the dilemma surrounding a very unique breed of dog. Pits are certainly not for everyone and unfortunately a small percentage of bad owners have helped to create a breed bias that is not totally unfounded.
As with most breeds, there are good representations of the breed and bad ones. Not all Pits are good dogs who have just had a “rough go of it.” Some of them are temperamentally unsafe, just like some Golden Retrievers are temperamentally unsafe. For the purposes of this discussion, we will assume we are talking about a typically nice Pit Bull. Here are a few things that owners need to be aware of:
Need Leadership: Pit Bulls are smart and strong willed. They need structure, guidance and obedience training. The more leadership they have, the happier and calmer they will be.
High Prey Drive: Pit Bulls are Terriers and as with all terriers, they are bred to be very predatory. High prey drive is not something you can “train out of dog.” You can cover it up with training, but it will always be there. Many Pits are very safe around their own small animals, cats, etc. But are not safe around other small animals.
Social: Pit Bulls are very social dogs. Contrary to what many people think, Pits usually love people! These dogs were bred for fighting other animals AND bred to be very friendly with people. Most Pits are very dog social and friendly when they are young but then some of them can become more aggressive as they get older. It’s really an arousal issue for Pits. Owners need to know how to recognize this spike in arousal during play and have enough control of it to redirect the dog. This comes back to leadership and training.
The bottom line with understanding and owning a Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix is recognizing the breed specific characteristics and it’s possible limitations. Be realistic about setting the dog (and you) up for success. If you are a Pit Bull owner, it’s your responsibility to create an ambassador for the breed in order to educate and change the public’s perception.
What do you think? Have you personally had experience with this breed? If you are not a Pit Bull owner, what do you think of the breed?