Friday, February 15, 2013

The Problem With Pits

There is a lot of propaganda out there concerning Pit Bulldogs and the very first piece of it is that there is a breed of dog that is called a Pit Bulldog, or merely a Pit Bull, or just a Pit. What this all refers to is the American Staffordshire Terrier which general is a pure bred as most humans you’ll find. We are a species of mutts. We are a people mutted over several times over and honestly, we’re much better off for it. King George the Third is a pretty good example of what pure bred people can do and that scares me more than any breed of dog.

But you and I both know what I am speaking of when I talk to you about the Pit Bull. They’re usually short, stocky clunky-headed dogs with short muzzles and they are incredibly trainable. They are on the high end of dogs an owner has to spend time with. You cannot tie one of these dogs to a tree and just leave it there with a bucket of water in front of it and expect this breed of dog to turn out well. But that can be said for just about any dog of any breed, can’t it?

Mistakes made in raising a dog have consequences. This goes for any breed of dog, but you don’t want to make training mistakes with powerful dogs. Pit Bulls are powerful dogs, but then again so are Huskies, Chows, Dobermans,  GSD’s, and mutts that weigh in over fifty pounds. If you do not train a dog then the dog relies on instinct for judgment. You cannot allow a dog, any dog at all, to start make decisions for you. But let’s talk about the dog that everyone else is talking about. Let’s talk a little about the problem with Pits.

The reactionary news media reports nearly daily of someone being mauled by “Pit bulls” and you would be led to believe by the state of Maryland that these dogs are “inherently dangerous”.  What you will not hear is any of this nonsense coming from someone who is a responsible owner who loves and trains their dogs. Oh, and you will never hear of a well loved and well trained dog of nearly any breed acting aggressively without good cause.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about here. My dogs are trained to stop whatever it is they are doing when I yell “No!” I can toss Lucas, my largest dog a treat and he’ll catch it in midair. If I tell him, “put that down” right when he catches it, Lucas will drop the treat. If I reach into his mouth after a treat he’ll let it go without me saying a word to him. If I feed Sam, the oldest dog, right next to where Lucas is sitting then Lucas will watch, perhaps drool, but he won’t try to take Sam’s food away from him.
Lucas is part Pit. It’s very easy to tell that he is. Lucas is extremely easy to train. He’s loving and gentle. Lucas wants nothing more than for me to guide him through the day and nothing makes him happier than for me to be pleased with him.

Lillith, my youngest, is nearly pure Pit, in as much as any dog can be. Most of what she has learned, and pay close to attention to what I am about to say, she has learned from watching how Lucas and I interact. Lillith can do almost as much as Lucas because being around a well trained dog makes her easier to train. Training them both at the same time takes some doing but they are beginning to understand one command goes to one dog and another to the other. I never hit them or yell at them when I train them. There is no reason to do either. Repetitive voice commands and positive reinforcement is really all I have ever needed with these dogs.

Pits are different. They are easier to train. They are more willingly shaped into whatever who loves them wants them to be. But they are high energy dogs. They need to play hard. They need to zoomie. They need for someone to get down on the ground and wrestle with them. They need physical contact with their family. They need to feel loved. But that can be said of nearly every breed of dog, can it not?

Pits are different. They are exceptional. They are what everyone really wants in a dog when they get what they want from a dog. You will never miss a moment of sleep when a Pit on your pillow. They play hard, love hard, and inside those broad chest beats the hearts of dogs who will never allow harm to come to those they love. But that could be said of your own mother could it not? Are we to ascribe the defense of loved ones to motherhood as the unselfish behavior of a saint then condemn a breed of dog who wants no less than for the family to be safe and protected? Your Pit will share your values. Your Pit will share your judgment. Your Pit will reflect more of who you are than any child you will ever raise. These are hard loving dogs whose souls are tied to their owners with a bond only death can break.

The problem with Pits is people. Human beings bastardize the very essence of a Pit and turn it into some cheapened and ugly, much as those people who neglect and abuse children do to kids. The ruin and harm wreaked upon the Pits by irresponsible and downright evil human beings cannot be laid down at the paws of the Pits in blame. They are who and what we make them.

My life has been spent loving these dogs. It has not been wasted or idle time. I sleep with a Pit and a dog that is part Pit, on my bed at night and I have never felt safer. My confidence in how I have trained them is absolute. My trust in these dogs is total. Our love is unconditional.

Do not speak to me of these dogs unless you have lived with them. Do not speak to me of their nature unless you have made the attempt in training one. Pits are advanced dog ownership and they are not for everyone. You have to deserve a Pit. You have to be ready, willing, and able to give a Pit a home and a family.

But that can be said of nearly every breed of dog, can it not?

Take Care Of Them,


  1. First, I have to note one disagreement...

    the term "pit bull" generally has been used to refer to 4 different breeds. The Amstaff, as you mentioned, as well as the American Pit Bull Terrier, which is basically an offshoot of Amstff breeding, as they can and often are cross-registered as both APBT and Amstaff depending on which country/kennel registry that APBTs are recognized as a breed (the AKC does not recognize APBT as a breed, only Amstaffs and the other two I am about to list), but are now considered to be a separate breed line from Amstaffs, with a separate, but very similar, breed standard.

    The other two breeds referred to as "pit bulls" throughout history are Staffordshire Bull Terriers (basically, the shorter, stockier, ancestor to Amstaffs), and Bull Terriers. Yes, Spuds McKenzie and the Target mascot are 'pit bulls'.

    Unfortunately, nowadays just about any dog with a blocky head and a muscular body covered in short hair is referred to as a "pit bull". Even full-blooded Labradors. Seriously. *facepalm*

    Now then, the rest I agree with whole heartedly...and btw, have you seen THIS piece of trash that headlined on Yahoo news today? It was brought to my attention by my friend Adam on FB:

    1. That is the very heart of the problem, Annie. If you and I have to sit down and figure out what makes a Pit a Pit then imagine what reporters looking for a oh-my-god-there-goes-another-pitbull-attack are doing. Anything that isn't a teacup poodle in a purse is a pitbull to about half the people in the media.

  2. granted. but this isn't me trying to figure out what a pit is, that's just an explanation of what the term originally was used for. that's just historical fact.

    the reporter bit is them not bothering to read up on historical fact, or, for that matter, much fact at all. and it's not just reporters, shelter staff has no clue that that dog they just labeled "pit mix" is actually a hound mix, or a mastiff mix, or a bulldog mix, or a lab mix.

    I've read breed standard books for fun, ever since I was a kid. I just got super excited this past fall over finding a breed book that has over 1,000 different breeds in it rather than the usual 2 or 300 that most breed books have. I plan on starting to read it front to back. so I actually do have a pretty good idea of the breed standards for most popular breeds as well as some that you don't see so often.

    I'm a nut like that when it comes to dogs. I love looking at conformation and genetics and what it all does when you mix one with another. I love looking at a dog, anywhere, on the street, in a pic, at friends' houses, wherever, and trying to figure out what breed(s) they are. I'm pretty good at it, used to be part of my job when I worked at vets, in fact.

    unfortunately, to most people, there are 'pit bulls', german shepherds, labs, bulldogs, chihuahuas, and poodles. maybe an occasional husky or dachshund. and anything else must just be a mix of those breeds. people are lazy and uneducated. even many of those people who work with dogs.

    1. What gets me riled are these people who will look at a dog who is of a mixed breed and declare it more of one thing or another without any clue as to what might be in there.

      Lucas is primarily Weimaraner but clearly he has some other breed lurking about in that grey suit of his. Look just at his head and it's some breed of chunky headed dog and it might well be Pit.

      Of all the Pits I have loved, each and every one of them had a certain intensity about them. Lucas has that thing going on and he always has. Behavior, I'm thinking, is as good an indication of who a dog is rather than just looks.

      You may have to recommend a good breed book, Annie.


  3. The one I bought (it was half price at a used book store and in nearly new condition!) is Desmond Morris Dogs. the opening paragraph in the intro says, "This dictionary is the canine reference book I always wanted to have on my bookshelf. It was not there, so I had to write it myself. It has been a long journey through the byways of canine history, but it has been worth it because now, when any breed is mentioned, no matter how obscure, I should be able to turn up a brief account of it."

    fucking awesome. sounds good. hope it lives up to that.

  4. And it's broken down by country/area!!!

  5. And it even has recent "breeds", or rather mixes, that have become popular in the past decade. like "pit bullmastiffs" which are basically a pit/mastiff mix used for dog fighting recently. that's why you're seeing so many giant "pit bulls" that aren't pit bulls, they're mixed with mastiff blood.

    I'm so excited to start reading this!

  6. hhmmm, the only problem is that it's mostly a history book, now that I'm reading it more closely. which is fine. but it doesn't have any breed conformation standards in it. bummer, that.

  7. Mike you’re not the average American dog owner (AADO), I’m sure you’ll agree.
    The AADO buys a dog, unfortunately from pet stores, and trains it to not shit in the house. Maybe if they are really interested, they’ll try sit, stay, speak, shake, and roll over. Everything after that initial, new-dog-novelty wears off, which varies from a couple days to maybe weeks, is left to the kids. The AADO doesn’t live with their dog any more than they live with their lawnmower or other possession.
    But they love their dog, they have papers to prove it. *eyeroll*

    Breed standards bother me. I keep seeing pro breeders choosing mates in pursuit of that perfect judging standard, trying to eliminate any variation. I think they’re making the breeds weaker in that pursuit.

    1. I am certain they make weaker dogs.

      I also suspect that by breeding certain traits that people are supposed to want the real dog inside suffers from being a real dog inside.

    2. Say, do you suppose George Orwell, or at least someone in his family, was a dog breeder?