Walk down any street in any neighborhood with a pit bull and you will most likely experience a feeling similar to Moses when he parted the Red Sea. Almost everyone will cross the street or get out of the way. However, walk down the same street with a 100 pound golden retriever and people would smile and ask to pet the dog.
The American Temperament Test Society, a national not-for-profit organization for the promotion of uniform temperament evaluation of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs, evaluates dogs on a yearly basis. In 2008, they evaluated 665 pit bulls, and over 85% passed their temperament test. How did one of America’s favorite dogs, the golden retriever do? Ironically, 720 golden retrievers were tested and 84% passed the temperament test. Both breeds have the same temperament, yet the pit bull is so persecuted and feared.
Unfortunately, many pit bulls are abused, exploited and unfairly judged. They are used for entertainment and gambling in the form of dog fighting. How would you feel if you were chained up all day in the hot sun, forced to run on the treadmill for hours, had gun powder shoved up your nose, were forced to eat hot sauce, starved or used for fighting? I don’t care if you are a dog, human or Martian, you would hate whoever was doing this to you and fight back.
The media has done a great job at over-reporting, misreporting and greatly exaggerating bite incidents involving pits. We only get to hear about the awful things pit bulls do and never hear about the thousands that are cherished family pets who are fabulous with children, amazing companions and wiggly, loyal goof balls.
So, what are some of the major misconceptions about pit bulls?
PIT BULLS HAVE LOCKING JAWS
This is a very common myth, but it is nothing more than an urban legend. Pit bulls are another member of the canine species and have the same jaw structure as any other dog. If they had a special enzyme or other physical mechanism that allowed them to lock their jaws, then we would have to reclassify them as a different species. Along these lines, another myth is that pit bulls have an exceptionally high “bite pressure” and can do more damage when they bite. There is no evidence to substantiate this claim. In 2005, Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic found that pit bulls’ bite pressure is no higher than other dog breeds and lower than German Shepherds and Rottweilers. None of these dogs had a bite pressure even close to the level erroneously ascribed to Pit Bulls. If you encounter a creature with a bite pressure exceeding 1000 psi., you have encountered a hyena, a snapping turtle, a crocodile, or some other wild animal—not a dog. “Special” behaviors typically attributed to pit bulls—such as determination, prey drive, grabbing and shaking, or tenacity—are, more accurately, terrier behavior. Physiologically, pit bulls are no different from other dogs.
PIT BULLS MAKE GREAT GUARD DOGS
OK, I’ll admit it, if I didn’t have any personal experience (or interactions) with pit bulls and came up to a front door and saw a pit barking and jumping, I may be a bit intimidated. However, pits were not created to perform the task of guard dog because they are just too friendly. As soon as an intruder smiles or talks baby talk to them, pit bulls often think they have a new friend. For this reason, pit bulls are very much at risk for being stolen and are often led right out of their owner’s yard. PIT BULLS SHOULD NEVER BE LEFT OUTDOORS UNATTENDED. If your pit can get outside, put a lock on your gate.
PIT BULLS ARE TERRIBLE WITH CHILDREN
Pits are generally quite patient and have a high tolerance for pain; they can endure the roughness children unintentionally may dish out. Children’s interactions should be supervised with ANY DOG, regardless of breed, size, age, history or initial appearance. Keep in mind, pit bulls can be hyper in their youth and easily knock down a toddler by bumping into them or with their wagging tails. With younger children, it may be best to adopt an older dog that isn’t as physically excitable.
Each dog should be evaluated on its own merits, not by its breed. The owner is responsible for their dog and plays a huge role in shaping their dog’s behavior. This includes proper training, socialization and a dog liability insurance policy that covers the actions of your dog. Most insurance companies exclude (do not cover) the actions of the identified “dangerous breeds” (see sample list below). Make you’re your policy includes this liability coverage.
Owning a society labeled “dangerous dog” requires thick skin because of the media’s portrayal of these breeds and the general public’s ignorance. Rather than generalizing and stereotyping, join me in educating others about this wonderful breed!
“Dangerous” Dog Breeds (according to most insurance companies):
Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Staffordshire Terriers, Chows, Akitas, Presa Canarios, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, Wolf-Hybrids or any mix of breeds.