Pittie Myths

Muzzled Pittie wikicommonsI don’t often agree with Peter Worthington, but I did with what he wrote (March 14, 2012) about Pit Bulls and Ontario’s Breed Specific Legislation.  He calls BSL a “Ku Klux Klan law”, “akin to deciding guilt based on appearance, not behaviour.”  Like him, I applaud Cons. Randy Hillier, NDP Cheri DiNova and Lib. Kim Craitor for bringing forward a private members’ bill to rescind it.  No law should apply to a specific breed and dogs who look “substantially similar” to that breed.

Fashions of fear and image-making

A lot of dogs have been in fashion as “feared” dogs.  German Shepherds had their time.  Someone I know found his beautiful Shepherd poisoned, most likely by a neighbour who disliked “that German police dog”.  Then came Doberman Pinschers as the “feared” breed.  There is reason to be fearful of them and most dogs– if you’re not on the side of the fence you belong on, as I heard the owner of an auto wrecker business once say.

But I don’t remember Shepherds or Dobes being the fashion Pit Bulls on album cover Alexis & Fido The Pitbulls 2005accessory for young men that Rottweilers and Pitties became in the past two decades.  Now, it seems to me, Mastiffs and Cane Corsos have supplanted them.

These are all very powerful breeds used for herding and protecting.  They are intelligent and strong-willed.  You have to be their match in order for the relationship to work out well, and just wanting to be isn’t enough.  I would never have a Rottie or Pit Bull.  Dog trainers have told me that I don’t make myself the dog’s boss.  “You’re more a litter mate than alpha dog,” one said.

These powerful breeds of fashion can scare me.  But it’s not the dogs, it’s the owners.  I don’t mean huge, tattooed drug dealers or nasty pimps.  I mean teenagers who cannot have had much experience handling any dog except the family pet because they are just not old enough.  The caution the Westminster dog show announcer gives about some breeds, “not for first-time dog owners”?  Shep, who let you pull his ears when you were two, does not qualify you as an experienced dog owner.

Happy young Pit Bull sitting WikicommonsI also have concerns for these dogs of youthful fashion:  are they being fed right, exercised enough, socialized and trained properly?  You might well be concerned about the same things for their owners.  However, if either of them wig out, the owner won’t be sentenced to death but the dog will.

Myth-making and Pit Bulls

A well looked after, happy Pit Bull is a joy.  A neglected or abused, frightened or aggressive one is not.   Just like any other dog.  The reality is that there have been vicious attacks by Pit Bulls that have killed and seriously maimed people and animals.  But presuming therefore that Pit Bulls are all crazed killers is itself, well, crazy.

ca 1900 photo of child with Nanny dog Pit BullLovers of the breed have tried to counteract the “fighting dog” label by pointing out the breed’s protector instincts.  However, the “Nanny dog” image may be equally damaging to the poor Pittie. The photo at left has circulated the internet, and it’s lovely.  And maybe back then, the Pit Bull was your first choice of baby minder.  But there’s been a hundred years of selective breeding, good and bad, since then and that has an effect on all aspects of a creature.

Gross generalizations on either side are neither accurate nor fair to Pit Bulls.  They deserve to be treated like other dogs without bearing the burden of vilification or sainthood.  To paraphrase Tammy Wynette “after all, he’s just a dog.”  So stand by him and be proud of him for what he is, not the angel or ogre you want him to be.

From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Mar. 22, 2012. 4 comments below.

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0 thoughts on “Pittie Myths”

  1. Everyone is entitled to their own opions,not only about pitties,but other breeds as well.I have a 13yr old pitty,that I rescued 11yrs ago..I couldn’t ask for a better dog..we’ve been through so much together,that we’d be lost without one another.

    1. Hi Rhonda, thanks for writing and I’m so glad you and your dog found each other. Hope you have lots more time together. You are right that everyone is entitled to their opinion about dog breeds they like or don’t like. But opinion, fear-mongering and sweeping generalizations have no place in making legislation. In my opinion, too many Ontario dogs have been stigmatized and have suffered, even to death, from Breed Specific Legislation.

  2. Thank you for acknowledging that one aspect of the pro pit bull argument…………. However there is so much more within that argument that needs the same acknowledgement. Dog prejudice for example…… !!! ask yourself if the topic of racism can be applied to an animal that was selectively bred for purpose? then ask yourself is it really wrong to blame a breed of dog for partaking in the act of that selected purpose. Nobody gets a lab and expects it not to swim…….. yet that same argument for the pit bull is “prejudice” ???????? The answer is no it is not. prejudice and the topic of such things are not applicable to dogs, it is not prejudice to say that 90 % of police dogs are shepherds and Malinios, Its not prejudice to say that all labs swim, or that all pointers point, What it is…? is a generalization that provides an accurate assessment of the dogs abilities, of which it was selectively bred for !!!!!!!.
    A dog for just anyone….? as this is what the result of Hershey’s bill 16 is, giving people free license to have one again, will serve the needs of the pit bull owner, rather than the needs of the pit bull. They are not and have never been a dog for just anyone and to promote such nonsense will be detrimental for the dog. Pit bull owners NEED to curb what they personally want…….. The dog is the one in need. Selfishness is all Hershey’s law is promoting. And it will hurt the dog in the long run.
    What the pit bull needs and what pit bull owners want, have never been the same thing, Changing the image of a dog without changing the dog itself and educating others on myths perpetuated by the change the image campaign, has created a mass populous of misinformed people that think this dog isn’t the killer it was designed to be. Instead promoting the dog as family dogs, or using terminology that would define the dog as a baby sitter.
    Universal rules to the Study of animal behavior include 4 basic principals : Function (adaptation) how the animal behavior has adapted to evolution, Causation how the animal has evolved and why, Phylogeny (taxonomic values) attached by species, family and genus, Environment (nurturing the development). The Pro pit bull standpoint acknowledges the environment principal and yet contradicts the other 3. If the contradictions of the pro pit bull party persist, It too is from the same level of ignorance that they claim and direct at those who oppose them.

    Write a reply…

    1. Hi Scott. That’s a very good point – Labs swim (and retrieve with a soft mouth), Pointers point, etc. Dogs have been bred to have certain characteristics and skills accentuated. I have a small terrier mix and he lives to kill small creatures! Apparently that’s a trait of terriers, not one I much like but can’t do much about. And independent minded! But he’s small enough I can pick him up and move him if he won’t pay any attention to me. I agree what’s important is the dog’s welfare not the person’s image of what they want him or her to be – whether that is ferocious or ‘family pet’. It’s like when all the people got Dalmatians for their kids because of the movie then found out that Dalmatians aren’t overly fond of being mauled by little kids. A lot of Dalmatians ended up in pounds and shelters or killed. Thanks for pointing out the basics of breeding as being directed and speeded-up evolution.

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