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.