Why do you think the Pit Bull reputation has become as tarnished as it is today? How did a dog that was once considered to be a decorated war hero and wonderful family pet suddenly turn into the vicious, unpredictable creature we see today on the nightly news? The answer is a simple one really, the dogs have not changed over the years, but the types of people seeking ownership of these dogs has.
Responsible owners of pet Pitbulls need to stand up and show the world the wonderful characteristics of this breed, but we must be careful how this is done. Not everyone wants to cuddle up with or pet your bully, so use common sense when determining when and how to show your dog off. I feel confident that if well all follow the tips below that we will begin to start a grassroots revival of the Pit Bull as an accepted family pet, instead of a dangerous dog which is best suited for breed specific bans.
Tips for Responsible Pit Bull/Bully Breed Ownership:
1. Never allow your Pitbull to roam free. Your dog should always be leashed when outside of your home or yard for their protection. Unlike a Golden Retriever, when a Pit Bull approaches a stranger unleashed, people will automatically assume that the dog is vicious and take quick action to remove the dog from their area. The public will not hesitate to call animal control, or even the cops, when they see a Pit Bull on the loose; bully breed dogs have been killed by police officers for no reason other than being in the street unleashed. This is an unfortunate truth.
2. Never take your Pit Bull to a dog park. Even if you think your Pit Bull is wonderful with other dogs, all it takes is one incident. If a Chihuahua starts a fight and your Pit Bull finishes it, whom will everyone blame? Let’s face it; the Pit Bull, or dog that “looks like” a Pitbull, is always at fault in the eyes of the public. Small playgroups are best for Pitbulls, check your local Craigslist or join a Meetup group to find other bully breed owners looking for a way for their dogs to socialize.
3. Take your Pit Bull to obedience classes. Ongoing obedience classes are best for bull breed dogs. This is an important one because it is a lot harder to look down upon your Pit Bull when he is well-trained and behaved. Show off your well-educated pitty every chance you get!
4. Socialize your Pit Bull as much as possible before and after they reach maturity. Pitbulls do not fully mature until about 3 years of age, and around this time some owners will notice a dramatic change in their dog’s tolerance of other pets. In order to keep the peace, and for your dog to be able to handle new situations with confidence and pleasure, ongoing socialization is a must. Socialization does not mean visiting your local off-leash park and allowing your dog to run wildly, an obedience class in which your dog is surrounded by, but not directly interacting with other dogs is still being social. Any time you can bring your dog out with you to a public place will help with their socialization and help them to deal with various situations.
5. Be a responsible parent! Do not allow your Pit Bull to be subjected to people who are belligerent or cruel, as your dog has a keen sense of knowing who likes them vs. who does not care for them so much. By forcing your dog to interact with these types of people, you are being an irresponsible owner. You would never force your human child to deal with an uncomfortable situation you placed him in, so do not expect the same from your dog.
6. Know where your dog is at all times. Do not leave your Pit Bull outside unattended; inside the house or enclosed within a large dog run is the only place your dog should be when you are not home. You have no idea what is going on in the yard when you are away – children could be teasing your dog or they could be practicing those bully escape techniques they perfect oh-so-quickly.
7. Pit Bulls need a job. Not all bullies are made for police work or able to be trained as a service animal, so think small. A job can be obedience classes, taking a walk with you everyday, sitting at your feet while you are on the computer in the evenings, or following you around the house while you do chores. Pit Bulls and bully breed dogs are highly intelligent animals with above-average problem solving skills; they need to feel important and needed.
8. Daily exercise is a must. Playing fetch, hiking, bike rides or whatever you love to do, your Pit Bull will be more than willing to participate.
9. Spay and neuter your dog. Altered pets live longer and generally healthier lives. Altered dogs are also easier to train and exhibit more stability than their unaltered peers, as they do not have the fluctuations in behavior attributed to hormones. To date, no fatal dog attack by an altered dog was ever reported.
10. Understand that your Pit Bull may be dog-aggressive. Take precautions and use common sense – do not allow your Pitbull to run up to unknown dogs, and never allow unknown dogs to run up to your Pit Bull. You are the pack leader, not your dog, and you should never expect your dog to be friends with unfamiliar dogs, especially without a proper introduction. Some Pit Bulls cannot be around any other dogs at all, and dog aggression is not something you will be able to train out of your pet Pit Bull. You can curb DA behavior and often control it, but not stop it altogether. The key to dealing with dog aggression is to understand your dog’s particular triggers and work on controlling the behavior, but most of all – love your dog for who he is!
11. Never trust a Pit Bull not to fight. Even though your dogs are the best of friends, it’s better to be safe than sorry. All it takes is one time for a fight to break out. This is especially true with multiple Pit Bulls in one household of the same sex. If you have no other option than to leave your dogs together, be sure to remove any causes for fights such as food, toys or other possession that may cause a conflict.
12. Do not breed or buy while shelter animals die. Thousands of Pit Bulls die in shelters each year, and bully rescues are often up to their ears with requests for dogs needing to be rehomed. There are many wonderful pets out there waiting for their forever homes, so instead of going to a breeder or breeding dogs for yourself, contact a rescue or shelter and save a pitty from certain death. Instead of being part of the problem, be part of the solution.