Advocacy As I See It

31 03 2013

I want to talk (write) today about what being a pit bull advocate means to me.  It wasn’t in my plans to write about this today (it’s Easter and I have things to do) but I was accused of being a bad advocate/supporting BSL and it really bothered me.  Somebody I know, and his friends that I don’t know, gleefully wrote some very cruel things about me because I had the temerity to disagree with them.  Normally I can brush off people, but this blatant malice really bothered me.  I was up way too late, and up way too early, just thinking about it.  I almost lashed out in return.  I wanted to tell them exactly what I thought.  But I didn’t, as I’m trying to be more peaceful in my life, and quite frankly, it wouldn’t have changed anything.  So instead I’m going to write a blog about what I think our jobs as pit bull advocates are.

Before I begin, I have a disclaimer.  Shouldn’t be necessary, but apparently it is – I think pit bulls are the best dogs are out there.  For me. I love them.  Period. 

I guess perhaps I should start by defining what dogs I’m talking about.  I’m talking about any dog that looks like it could be a pit bull or pit bull mix.  That’s right, I don’t care if it’s not been DNA tested and found to be 100% APBT or AmStaff.  Nothing divides pit bull people more than the definition of a pit bull.  It’s insane.  Do Lab people argue about whether dogs called Lab mixes really have Lab in them?  Do GSD people get angry when people call a dog a GSD mix?  Not that I’ve heard.  It’s reserved for pit bull people to argue about.

Our number one job is to realistic about these dogs.  Period.  Blowing smoke up people’s behinds to make them sound like magical little bunny-hugging unicorns in a compact, muscular body doesn’t do anybody any good.  Especially the dog.  Pit bulls are strong, athletic dogs that need something to do.  If you don’t provide the stimulation for them, they’ll figure it out on their own and it probably won’t be something you approve of!  Pit bulls weren’t the nanny dog – Staffy Bulls were.  Were pit bulls historically known for being great family dogs?  Absolutely, but they weren’t the dog referred to as the nanny dog.  People need to stop saying that.  These dogs are phenomenal – it’s not necessary to lie about them to make them sound better.

Nothing gets pit bull people more riled up than the talk of dog-dog issues within the breed.  AS WITH EVERYTHING, there are exceptions to the rule.  But pit bulls were bred for how many years to fight other dogs?  Granted, 99% of them are NOT bred for that anymore.  However, just because it isn’t being bred for, doesn’t mean it’s being actively bred against.  So you know, why not err on the side of caution and assume that your pit bull may not love all other dogs?  I firmly believe that pit bulls don’t belong in doggy daycares or dog parks.  No, your dog may never start anything, and that’s awesome!  But your dog may not back down if another dog tries to start something.  And you know what – your dog will be the one ending up in the news.  And it will make it harder for responsible pit bull owners to live in peace with their dogs.

Pit bulls are terriers/bulldogs and thus, they are more likely than the Poodle down the street to aggress at another dog and not back down.  This doesn’t make them bad!  It makes them terriers/bulldogs!

“But Liz, my dogs love each other and snuggle together and have never even looked sideways at each other.”  Rock on!  That is fantastic and I hope it stays that way forever.  I’d still separate them when you’re gone though.  Can’t tell you how many people I know/stories I’ve heard of people whose pit bulls loved each other for years, until the day they didn’t and e-vets were required and crate/rotate had to become a way of life forever after.

Dog aggression doesn’t mean that your dog will hate every dog on sight.  Most pit bulls are selective – they are okay with some dogs, heck, maybe even lots of dogs!  But some other dogs just torque them and get their panties in a bunch.  Sometimes we don’t know which dogs are going to do that, which is why it behooves us to act as if ANY dog could get our dog riled, AKA, err on the side of caution.

Are there pit bulls that love every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are there pit bulls that hate every other dog on the planet?  Sure.  Are the majority somewhere in between?  Yep.  So why risk it?  Why set your dog up for failure?  I’m a big fan of better safe than sorry.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Knowledge is power.  Knowing is half the battle.  All those good things.

Fair warning that here comes the other part of my pit bull advocacy that really angers people: Pit bulls aren’t the right dog for everybody. There, I said it.  Let the stoning begin.  But you know what?  Labs aren’t right for everybody.  GSD’s aren’t right for everybody.  Border Collies aren’t right for everybody.  Malinois?  Holy cripes you couldn’t PAY me to have one!  (Had to throw that one in for my Mal-owning friends!)  I can’t think of one breed of dog that IS right for everybody.  So why do some pit bull people feel that they need to convince every Joe Schmoe down the street that they need a pit bull?

Pit bulls require an owner that is going to be willing to invest some time and money.  They need training.  They need owners who won’t set them up to fail.  They don’t need owners who want a dog that they don’t have to interact with.  They aren’t for people who think dogs come fully trained out of the womb.  They aren’t for people who aren’t ready to educate themselves about possible breed tendencies, or who think “oh, I can love them into being good.”  No, you can TRAIN them into being good, but love isn’t everything when it comes to dogs.

This doesn’t mean that you need to keep your dog cloistered in your house behind closed blinds, never to see the light of day.  This means you don’t take your pit bull to dog parks.  You don’t take your pit bull to doggy daycares.  You keep your pit bull on leash when out in public.  You attend training classes with your pit bull.  You make sure your pit bull is an ambassador, out in public meeting people.  You don’t let your pit bull interact with strange dogs – instead, you set up playdates with one or two other dogs at a time that you know your dog is okay with.  And you SUPERVISE those play dates.  You separate your dogs when you’re out.

“But Liz, doesn’t this apply to all dogs?”  It absolutely should.  We should never set our dogs up to fail, especially if a failure on your behalf impacts other owners of that breed.  But I feel that as pit bull owners, we have a higher responsibility to keep our dogs safe from themselves and others.  

Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.

Inara, poster child for dog issues, being a breed ambassador.


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11 responses

31 03 2013
Dee Goings

Perfectly said!! I’ve had that horrible experience in the last 24 hours where my dog who is dog selective lashed out at random dog. Is it the dog’s fault? Nope! Totally my fault for not thinking of how he would react.

31 03 2013
Grimm's Furry Tail

Everyone who has a “pit bull” type dog or plans to get one should read this post! Excellent information and totally realistic. I always hear, oh it’s how they are raised or the dog was never loved. People forget about or deny their dog’s genetics. One can’t love the herding instinct out of collies, can’t love retrieving out of retrievers, so why would one think you could love prey drive out of terriers?

I don’t do dog parks or day care, either. Here is what I have said in the past in reply to comments on my blog about off-leash interactions:

“For me, because I have pit bulls, even if they don’t start something, I can’t let ANYTHING happen. That’s a responsibility I have to take in owning this breed. In the 15 years I have owned pit bulls and pit bull mixes, I have NEVER had one of my dogs scuffle or fight with other dogs (knock on wood). This is not because my dogs have been perfect, but because I don’t let them or put them in situations where they may fail. If they do, because of their breed, they could lose their life. This is not a risk I am ever willing to take.”

With the above being said, my dogs have dog friends outside of my pack, I take them in public, they even go to work with me. But I am realistic with people when they see my dogs and say, “Oh, I love pit bulls and want one!”. When I relate my trials and tribulations with them, explain all the socializing, training, money spent and things I am careful about, their eyes glaze over. On the other hand, a lot of assumptions are made about me and my dogs just because of their breed. I have to have a thick skin about my dogs at times. People want to run and pet my friends aggressive dachshund (who is snarling and lunging at them) but totally ignore my big, black, polite pit bull whose whole rear-end assemblage is wiggling in anticipation of a pat or kind word. This is the life of a pit bull owner.

Sorry for such a long reply, but like you, nothing gets me up on my soap box more than irresponsible pit bull ownership. We have to be more than perfect with these dogs, which is hard and not fair, but our dog’s lives and the ability to be able to keep them depends upon it. They aren’t the right dog for everybody. People need to be realistic with their own lifestyle and expectations. If a different breed suits you better, go with that dog. Everyone will win in the end!

1 04 2013
Morgan

I think you have made excellent points and I especially agree with you that pit bulls aren’t for everyone…just like there is NO breed that is right for everyone. I 100% agree with setting them up for success rather than failure too and I go into every single situation with the question, “How do we succeed?” in mind. The one teeny tiny point I don’t agree with you on is the doggie daycare. There are MANY bad daycare out there, and you certainly should not take your pit bull (or any dog for that matter) there BUT there are some great ones out there too. I take my foster (pit bull) to one that is amazing and spends a lot of time organizing specific play groups with only a couple of dogs at a time and they are very closely supervised. BUT I know this isn’t the norm and before taking any dog to any daycare, I think you should research the crap out of it. Anyways, kudos to you for saying the things most people don’t want to hear! You make excellent points and I’m sorry people bashed you for them. Keep it up!!!

4 04 2013
Kathy

THANK YOU – THANK YOU – THANK YOU!!!
I agree with everything you said, 10000% This needs to be posted everywhere and read by everyone-the voice of reason and truth.

4 04 2013
Our Dogs Do Stuff » Breed Advocacy and the American Pit Bull Terrier

[...] the history and temperament on this breed.  My friend Liz recently wrote an article titled “Advocacy As I See It” on her blog after having another breed advocate accuse her of supporting breed specific [...]

4 04 2013
Frankie Joiris

Well said!

5 04 2013
Kris

I too agree owning a Pit Bull is not for just anyone. One must first know the breed…..educate yourself. I tell people all the time that I am not keeping them safe from my pibble, I am keeping my pibble safe from uneducated people. I can not count the times I get the angry look or someone crosses the street when they see my girl. To me my family and our close other humans and pups Freyja is an absolute sweet heart. She is slective as to enters her world as am I. She needs a chance to get to know you from a distance to see if she likes you or not.. She is my 5th pibble and not my last. JUST LOVE THE BREED! Thanks for you blog,will be sharing.

5 04 2013
Maryann

Well said! I find myself discussing these points all the time. When people meet my Pittie for the first time, they are visibly relieved at how friendly she is. I find myself warning them-look, she’s a tough cookie. You are going to see her bark her head off at the smallest sound and growl when she hears something she doesn’t like. If she’s provoked, she will not back down, she’s up for the fight. So, please, just know this.

We had to teach her that it’s not acceptable to lose her temper with our other dog, that’s not the kind of ‘pack’ we run and we’re happy to say she hasn’t displayed this behavior to our other dog in well over a year. However, as you point out above, as far as other dogs? She doesn’t like them all. She probably will not start a fight, but she will not back down either. I might get flack for this, but it’s what I love about her. We can manage her, our eyes are open about her, so we do not allow her to fight other dogs, but at the same time? I am never in fear for myself or anyone in my family. I know my strong, courageous little girl has our back.

You are on point when you say this breed is not for everyone. But, if you are up for it, they are more than willing to learn what you are teaching them. You get more than what you put in with their big hearts!

5 04 2013
Lori

I have a pit and made the mistake of bringing him to a dog park way before I knew him or anything about dogs in general. I set him up for failure very early on. Now that we have been through a training class and I educated myself more on the breed, we are good..I watch him like a hawk and he does nothing without checking with me first. and if he does make any move that I don’t like the looks of he knows it and we pack up our tents and we are gone way before his actions can be judged..He is a strog dog and with that comes responsibility on my part as owner and handler..These dogs are not for everyone and I wish more people would realize that when I say we need to go or I reprimand my dogs actions, I am not being mean, I am not being over reactive. I am keeping my dog and the breed from getting a bad rap and keeping all dogs out of any harms way…I am going to get my dog Canine Good Citizen Certified and in doing so he will be an ambassador to the breed which means I need to keep him in line and need to be ultra responsible for him..He loves training, It occupies him, gives us alot of one on one interaction and keeps him fully in touch with who is boss and who calls the shots..I recommend training for all dogs, it is great for handler/dog relationship building and owner understanding of your dogs reactions to and about things..When at a doggy park I always have my eyes on him and introduce other dogs through the fence any sign of not getting along, we just don’t go in…period!!! The CGC is a great program, every pit that passes this test gives the MSPCA 150.00 towards sheltering surrendered pits and getting much needed training for families in need that cannot afford so they don’t have to surrender their pits…great program educating dogs and owners is where it is at!! Great article, The only thing I don’t agree on is doggy day care and parks, The handlers and owners should be aware at a park of their dogs actions(most are not) and the owners and employees at the care centers should always treat every dog with caution as any dog can cause harm if they want to..but they should be breed aware that a pit or german will do alot more harm if let to get out of control..

5 04 2013
Rosemary

I have been doing pit bull rescue for 10 years and have been telling prospective adopters all of these things for that long. Some people don’t want to hear it, some don’t believe it when, some ignore it. I have to be as selective as the dogs when it comes to who I will trust with one of my rescued pit bulls. I agree with everything you are saying!!

7 04 2013
Wendy

I love your post and so right on point about dog breeds and lack what breed “is perfect” for humans. People are so ignorant not with dogs other things in their lives too. You have explained many dog points that everyone should be aware of no matter what breed they are thinging of attaining. Awesome blog!!!!!!!!

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