Dispelling the Myths

June 27, 2012

myth [mith] noun


1. a traditional or legendary story, usually concerning some being or hero or event, with or without a determinable basis of fact or a natural explanation, especially one that is concerned with deities or demigods and explains some practice, rite, or phenomenon of nature.

2. stories or matter of this kind.

3. any invented story, idea, or concept.

4. an imaginary or fictitious thing or person.

5. an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.

Aren’t pit bulls unpredictable around people, especially kids?

In a future article, I hope to be able to share the pit bull’s history as a “Nanny Dog.” However, for this particular article, a quick summary will have to do. If a pit bull is well socialized and raised properly, it is the perfect breed to have around children. While some can seem a little hyper, due to their exuberance, they are also the best-suited to handle the rough-and-tumble play a child can dish out and are the least likely to nip due to fear or pain. I should note that all children should be taught how to interact with dogs and should never be left unsupervised with any animal.

Won’t a pit bull that is animal-aggressive eventually turn on people?

No. Do coonhounds turn on coon hunters? Do squirrel dogs tree their owners? Aggression towards other animals and aggression towards humans are two different things. This particular myth has generated the most damaging anti-pit bull hysteria. Again, for any dog breed, a well-bred, properly-raised, well-socialized, responsibly owned dog should never show aggressiveness towards a human. Dogs that bite people are typically troubled - set up to fail by breeding, improper handling, abuse and/or reckless owners who ignore the warning signs that come with almost every dog bite.

Don’t you have to train a pit bull to fight?

No! All dogs fight. I think it was Richard Stratton that summed it up best: “All dogs fight. Wouldn’t you rather have the dog that didn’t get beat up?” The problem is that when it involves little dogs, or fluffy dogs, or pretty much any dog other than a pit bull, it is “cute.” Think about it - pit bulls are terriers. Terriers tend to be scrappy with other animals if un-socialized, poorly managed or otherwise left to their own devices. 

Aren’t all pit bulls vicious and mean?

Pit bulls, as a breed, are no more vicious or mean than beagles, Pomeranians or any other breed. The pit bull consistently achieves an annual passing rate that is good, or better, than any other popular breed by the American Temperament Testing Society. (In this particular test, dogs are put through a series of confrontational situations. Any signs of aggression or panic leads to failure.)

What about the pit bull’s ability to lock its jaws?

Really? This is one of the main pit bull myths that “locks on!” There is no special mechanism, extra bone, extra muscle or “enzyme” that makes a pit bull’s jaws lock. Pits bulls are dogs - not crocodiles or alligators. The same is true about bite pressure.

Would a pit bull-mix be a better option for me? Wouldn’t it decrease the aggression?

No! The problem with pit bull mixes is that, if they do show human aggressiveness, the pit bull side is blamed. The truth is just the opposite. The “other” breed involved is usually more likely to bite out of fear or pain, qualities that do not exist in most pit bulls. 

What about a dog with cropped ears and/or a docked tail? Isn’t that a sign of fighting?

I can't tell you the number of times I've heard that a pit bull has cropped ears so that when they are fighting the other dog can't grab their ear and tear it off; or that they crop the tails for fighting. But what about the flipside? If a fighting dog does have its ears cropped, then you run the risk of the other dog “fanging” your dog in the ear and damaging the ear drum. And how about the tails? Tails are for balance. So wouldn't you think a tail would benefit a fighting dog? See - the more you know, the more confusing it gets (ha-ha). When my husband and I first started breeding the dogs, we thought that pit bulls were supposed to have that "look" - cropped ears and docked tails. But that simply isn't true. Show dog owners, however, generally have their dogs’ ears cropped. 

What about a scarred-up dog, or a really thin dog?

Pit bulls are a hardy breed. They are very bold - sometimes too bold - and very athletic and nosey, so don't always assume the worst. One of our pit bulls would whine and cry as if you were torturing her, if you took away her food bowl. It was a steel bowl, and she would literally play with that bowl for hours and hours. She chewed it, threw it in the air, chased it, barked in it (this was really loud), pretty much anything she could do to play with that bowl - she did. But she also looked like she had been shot with buck shot. We would take it away and replace it with a different bowl, ball or rope, and she'd throw a fit until we got her another steel bowl. 

We also rescued a male pit bull that was so scarred up from fighting that his face looked like he had been through a meat grinder. He was so thin, you could pull up the hide on the back of his neck and it would take nearly five minutes for it to go back down. The whole way home from Jackson, with this scarred up, tiny little dog on the floorboard, all I could think was, "What the hell are we going do with this?" That dog was the best dog we could ever have asked for, once we fattened him up and gave him a little TLC. He was the sweetest, most loving, “talking” dog. Don't give up on them - they are worth saving.

Another of our “rescues” would look good about two months out of a year. He really enjoyed catching rats, and, unfortunately for him, most of the rats had ingested rat poison. So he would shrivel up and look like he was on death's door for a few months, and then he'd get his appetite back and look like a champ. Then it would start all over again. You'd never know it from his activity level alone, though. We had a huge rope that was about 12 feet long; we would give one end to him and the other end to Cajun, and they would play tug of war for HOURS. We would go inside, and they would both just lie down with the rope in their mouths, not tugging - just holding it. When we would come back out, they'd jump up, tugging like crazy and moaning and groaning like they'd been playing the whole time. They just thought they had us fooled!!

 

I'll end this particular article with another quote from Richard Stratton: "A pit bull will not always start a fight. But he most assuredly will finish it."  Keep that in mind the next time you hear of a pit bull beating up another dog.  He, most likely, didn't start that fight...

 

• The Real Story • June 27, 2012 •

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