Understanding Pit Bull Dogs
Anyone interested in getting a new dog should always research the breed they consider welcoming in their life before getting the dog. Buying or adopting a dog just because you like the way it looks is not a good idea if you don't understand the distinctive traits of the breed.
Special breed characteristics are not suited for everyone's lifestyle. We see too many dogs being relinquished by their owners simply because they did not understand what they were getting into.
MPR would like to minimize the risks of this happening by making sure people who adopt a Pit Bull have a good understanding of the breed "prior" to adding a new companion in their life.
Hershey had several homes in his life because the owners were not prepared for a dog of his caliber.
He now lives with experienced owners and has not only proven to be a wonderful family companion, but he is also a great ambassador for the breed with an excellent disposition.
Is A Pit Bull The Right Dog For You?
Although many people think Basset Hounds are cute, not everyone has the personality to handle a dog that becomes blind and deaf to his surrounding when it picks up a scent. In the same line of thought, if animal-aggression is a trait you are not willing to deal with, "Terrier" type dogs are not be the best choice for you. All Terriers were created to eliminate their prey. From the tinny Yorkshire Terrier, originally bred to hunt and kill rats, to the ultimate canine gladiator, the "American Pit Bull Terrier", bred to defeat a canine opponent in the ring.
Dogs should not be blamed for the way they were bred. It's not their fault. Many breeds were engineered by men for specific work via selective breeding. In the case of Terriers, the original goal was to produce dogs capable of destroying vermin. Other hunting dogs will retrieve, track or flush the game, but most Terriers eliminate their prey. Those Terriers had to be courageous, strong, and very driven, as well as compact and agile enough to fit in small spaces and tenacious enough to face off ferocious critters, sometimes larger than them.
The "Sad" Work Of The American Pit Bull Terrier
Sadly, some heartless individuals who thrive on blood sport started developing some of these breeds for entertainment and greed. The American Pit Bull Terrier is the victim of this sick need for violence, blood, and money.
These dogs certainly don't deserve the bad press and harassment from the public and the media. They have it hard enough at the hands of their abusers. The ones that make it out of that hell need understanding, compassionate, and responsible owners willing to take the necessary precautions to keep them safe and happy.
Click on the link below for a glimpse at the very sad reality Pit Bulls are facing everyday, and you will know why many of us deeply believe these dogs need help and more good people willing to open their hearts to them: Sad Reality
||This poor guy was almost starved to death by an owner deemed unfit to own a dog. He has blossomed into a great dog in his foster home
Selective Breeding and Inherited Breed Characteristics
The American Pit Bull Terrier was developed to recognize other dogs as adversaries, and selectively bred for specific and superior fighting abilities. They were also bred to have a stable disposition and be very friendly with people so they could be manageable in the pit. These characteristics are genetic and contrary to what people think, have little to do with how you raise the dog. While they naturally love people, Pit Bulls don't need to be trained to fight other dogs and cannot be trained not to fight.
So how do we handle them? One thing is sure dog-fighting is useless, barbaric and very cruel. Pit Bull owners certainly don't need to have pit contests and allow their dogs to fight in order to maintain the breed's original purpose. However, to be in denial and live in a bliss of ignorance is not a good idea either.
There are ways to deal with the breed's potential for dog-aggression and keep the dogs under control. One of the best Pit Bull trait, along with their loving and affectionate nature, is how responsive and eager to please they are. Remember that training and socialization will not change the dog's genetic but it will definitely help the owner establish leadership. Good leadership will allow better control on the dog, which may prevent behavior problems and minimize the risks for fights. It will not magically erase hundreds of years of selective breeding but it will make Pit Bull ownership much more pleasant and successful.
In order to perform in the pit, Pit Bulls were bred for their endurance, heart, and never ending tenacity despite pain and exhaustion. Specific fighting abilities such as a good mouth, strength, agility, structure, ect, were also implemented in the breeding program.
ABPT fanciers call the combination of those characteristics "gameness" and for many, gameness is the essential quality of the breed. Sadly, the APBT's gameness is the result of hundreds of years of a cruel practice called "gametesting". A gametest is when the breeding stock is tested via a nasty dog fight and only the dogs that don't quit are bred (if they survive).
This terrible practice has produced dogs with unmatched determination and stamina, but also unfortunately, with an important predisposition for dog-aggression. In many cases, these dogs will not recognize normal submission signals that another dog may give to end the hostilities. Some may have also lost their natural survival instinct and will not know when to stop before it's too late.
Not all Pit Bulls are closely gamebred, but all APBTs have gamebred ancestors at one point or an other in their background.
One would think that such dogs can no longer live a normal life in our society but this could not be further from the truth. Indeed, Pit Bulls can be wonderful companions if well understood and handled correctly.
Rudolph, came to rescue covered with fighting
wounds and scars.
He is now a spoiled couch
pet, living the great life with a
In that aspect, they are no different than many other breeds out there and should not be penalize because of their breeding. It's not their fault!
We are hoping that the cruel practice of gamebreeding will be abolished one day, but in the meantime many of us believe that Pit Bull dogs are very deserving of the precautions they require around other dogs. Their great eagerness to please, love of people, and good response to positive leadership make up for the inconvenience of dog-aggression.
Dealing With Dog-Aggression
For many people the best way to deal with the potential of the breed is to have a Pit Bull as the only pet and to keep him or her away from unfamiliar dogs, especially after puberty. Remember that socialization can help teach a dog social manners, but it will not eliminate inherited characteristics.
Not all Pit Bulls are only pets. Some people end up having Pit Bulls with other dogs before researching the breed, or others willingly live with multiple Pit Bulls because they know what to expect and are well prepared for the challenge. Either way, if you have Pit Bulls and other dogs in your home, they need to be supervised and separate when home alone. The biggest mistake Pit Bull owners can make is to take their dog for granted. Dog-aggression may not appear until the dog reaches maturity. If the dogs are left unattended and a fight strikes in your absence it could have regrettable results.
That said, many people live with a Pit Bull and another dog and everything if fine. In fact, most Pit Bulls enjoy the presence of another dog and love to have a 4 legged play buddy. It's just a matter of common sense, compatibility, supervision, and leadership.
Something that must be kept in mind when you have Pit Bulls around other dogs is that we cannot let a fighting breed work out pecking order on their own like we would some other breeds. This might work when the dogs are young but if you have not taken control of your household when the dogs mature, tension could increase and things may become difficult.
The Leader Of The Pack
|These dogs get along great when supervised. They are in a home with experienced owners and always separate when home alone..
||You are the leader of the pack. For all canines the leader's role is to assure the survival of the pack - It is the member in charge. The leader provides food, shelter, security, nurturing, and comfort. It is the leader's responsibility to assure that the members of the pack/family don't get hurt and hurt each other. The dogs should be able to count on their leader to step in quickly if there is tension between them and to resolve conflicts before they cause serious hostilities. The dogs will establish a rank among themselves and the leader should be able to respect this while reinforcing the pack's structure. The dogs will appreciate your interventions - It will prevent stress and will contribute to a harmonious hierarchy in your home.
Same Sex Aggression
There is a higher incidence of tension and conflicts between dogs of the same sex. This is true for every breed but can have devastating consequences when the dogs involved were created for the purpose of dog-fighting. Same sex dogs might not need a trigger to start a fight. Some will fight only for the soul purpose of eliminating a rival. In this case the warning signs can be very subtle and hard to interpret by an inexperienced owner. The intensity of the fight might also be more serious. The occurrence of problems between same sex Pit Bulls is so important that MPR has a firm "no same-sex placement" policy.
A male and a female may fight too but "usually" need a trigger. Many triggers can be easily identified and removed or controlled. Common source of tension are: Bones, treats, food, toys, attention, roughhousing, etc. Pit Bulls should always be supervised when they have access to those triggers and it may be necessary to separate them. The dogs should never have free reach to bones, food, and favorite toys. Controlling access to those items will reinforce your leadership and prevent unpleasant incidents.
Terrier type dogs are also prone to "redirect animal aggression". This happens when they get aroused by an external stimulus, such as a squirrel in a tree for example. Their excitement can transgress into a sudden display of aggression towards the dog next to them, regardless of sex and how well they normally get along. It is important to know that while this may be a problem when you have more than one Pit Bull in your home, it is extremely rare that a Pit Bull will redirect aggression towards humans. Those dogs were bred to be easily handled by people in the heat of a fight - Aggression towards the referee or handlers was (still is) not well viewed in the dog fighting circle and dogs that reacted aggressively were normally removed from the gene pool and eliminated. This is the reason why most Pit Bulls have a high degree of tolerance towards people and very rarely show inappropriate human-aggression.
Dog-Aggression Versus People-Aggression
Pit Bulls can be challenging to own with other pets, but again, this behavior should not be confused with people-aggression. It's not because a Pit Bull is aggressive towards other dogs that he will be dangerous around people. Pit Bulls that cant be trusted with humans are not good representatives of the breed. A human-aggressive Pit Bull is a defective Pit Bull and should be euthanised unless he/she can be rehabilitated by a professional. Pit Bulls were bred to be friendly with people and just like their fighting abilities, their good disposition is a genetic treat.
Pit Bulls and Kids
Normal Pit Bulls love kids - Those dogs are young at heart and truly enjoy the presence of children. They are also solid and pain tolerant enough to endure a certain degree of brutal hugs from the little ones. In fact, Pit Bulls make much better family companions than many so called "toy breeds".
Supervision is "ALWAYS" a must however, with any dog and kids. Animals can't tell with words when they are irritated - they can only talk dog (bark, growl and bite). It is up to the "leaders" to establish structure for both the dogs and the kids. Certain Pit Bulls can be rambunctious if not trained well and may knock over small kids. Young dogs can be mouthy and need to learn to control their bite. If you have everyone under control, Pit Bulls and kids will have a wonderful time with each other. Remember "Pete the Pup"?
The Importance Of Spaying And Neutering
There is at least a dozen good reasons why every responsible owner should spay or neuter their dog. One of them is simply because dogs are much easier to handle if they are not constantly stimulated by their reproductive hormones. Those hormones produce aggression and the instinct to compete. Remove them and you increase the chances of a peaceful relationship between the dogs and all members of the pack/family. If you have a male and a female, both of them should be altered. Leaving one intact could cause conflicts between the dogs.
Spaying and neutering can also prevent serious and expensive health problems that could kill your dog way before his/her time. In addition, it is unfair to let domesticated dogs suffer a life of frustration caused by sexual tension with nothing they can do about it but spend their life trying to escape in order to find relief.
Why Do We Love Pit Bulls?
So why do we love dogs that are so challenging with other pets? Too many reasons to count.... Many Pit Bull fanciers fell in love with the breed by accident and quickly discovered how affectionate, adaptable, eager to please, enthusiastic, comical, and fun-loving Pit Bulls are. Most agree that they will never have another breed.
Indeed, you will rarely meet more loving and dedicated dogs. Pit Bulls are very people-oriented and they truly enjoy attention and affection - In fact, they seem to never get enough of it. If you are looking for an independent dog that can live outside, a Pit Bull is NOT the dog for you. These dogs crave human interaction and are true lap dogs at heart. It may be because they don't always get along with other dogs that Pit bulls are so devoted to humans - We don't know for sure, but they are definitely remarkably people-loving. Pit Bull owners will tell you that nothing beats cuddling with a warm Pit Bull on the couch.
Pit Bulls also have an incomparable eagerness to please. Positive training does wonders with this breed and allows owners to train their dog in all kind of sport and activities. Pit Bulls are smart, alert, and thrive on making their loved-ones happy. Show them great enthusiasm when they do something good and they will repeat it just to see that look in your face again and again.
Another pleasant trait of the breed is their great sense of humor. Pit Bulls can remain silly clowns very late in life. In fact, they don't seem to ever loose that spark for life. A happy Pit Bull will wag his whole body and the joyful expression in it eyes is impossible to miss. Even dogs that are rescued from very difficult situations usually keep a very positive and uplifting spirit.
Nothing is better than a Pit Bull's smile to cheer you up after a hard day at work. They are great moral boosters and constant source of inspiration and laughs.
As if this was not enough, Pit Bulls are simply gorgeous. They have a perfectly proportioned and athletic body, built for performance. While they are always ready for action, they also enjoy being couch potatoes. They are the perfect size for every lifestyle and still fit on your lap, they require very little grooming, and they come in every coat color and pattern possible. They truly are beautiful inside out.
Why Adopting a Pit Bull?
It should now be clear. Adopting a Pit Bull will not only save a life, but it will also bring a ton of love, joy and happiness into your home.
Another very good reason to adopt a Pit Bull is simply because those dogs need the compassion of caring owners more than any other breed. Too many people seem to forget that Pit Bulls are man's best friends too. The dogs are too often blamed for the irresponsibility of their owners and labeled vicious when they are in fact victims of abusive ownership. People need to remember that dogs are not responsible for the way they are bred, raised, and trained, but are indeed captive of the environment humans choose for them.
Adopting Versus Buying
|Precious was a breeding machine before her rescue. She had 3 litters before the age of 2 - 15 puppies in her last litter alone. Almost all her puppies ended up in rescue as the "breeder" was not able to find homes for them.
Some people are nervous about adopting a dog of unknown background and prefer obtaining their dog from a breeder. This is understandable and we can't force people to rescue a dog if they are uncomfortable with this option. It is very important however, to understand the difference between a reputable breeder and what we call a "backyard breeder".
MPR group has yet to meet a reputable breeder in Missouri, but we have a long list of "backyard breeders" that have been keeping us very busy with countless homeless dogs born every week in the state.
Buying a dog under $300.00 from an ad in the paper is the same as getting a dog from the shelter. Those animals are most likely the product of backyard breeders and by buying one, you encourage this deplorable activity. For each new Pit Bull born, one dies at the shelter.
That said, most of those backyard bred dogs are great and will make wonderful companions. Some however, may carry genetic defects and will require medical care, and some might have serious behavior problems beyond repair. There is simply no guarantee.
||Adorable Toffee was on "deathrow" at the Shelter. He would have been euthanized if MPR didn't bail him out. Two of his siblings were also rescued.
If you want guarantees that the dog you buy is a perfect representative of the breed inside out, you will need to find one of those very rare breeders that have an impeccable reputation and perfect record. There is only a hand full of them in the US. Click here for more info.
If you adopt from a serious rescue organization however, you will be saving the life of a dog that really needs your help instead of encouraging the production of more homeless dogs doomed to die at the shelter or in the streets. The dog will come fully vaccinated, heartworm tested, and spayed or neutered, saving you hundreds of dollars. The dog will also have been evaluated and spent time in a foster home. In many cases, the dog will already be housebroken, crate trained, and have some basic obedience. In addition, the rescuer will work with you to chose a dog that will fit well with your lifestyle, and will give you training tips and breed-education. While rescuers can't provide guarantees either, we will take the dog back if things don't work out. Rescuers don't do this for the money, but for the sake of the dogs. Backyard breeders will take your money and go.
You now have plenty of food for thought to help you asses your important decision. You have learned that Pit Bulls have special characteristics that can be challenging if not understood well, but that they can be wonderful companions in the right hands. You understand the importance of responsible ownership, supervision, leadership, and spaying and neutering. You also know that those dogs will show you their gratitude by a lifelong commitment of love and affection. You are now aware that this breed desperately needs caring owners willing to overlook the negative stigma and bad press, and why backyard breeding should never be encouraged.
The ball is in your court and a homeless Pit Bull is holding his breath, with eyes full of hope and a heart full of love....
Copyright © 2003 Veronique Chesser edited 2008
Document may be reproduced as long as MPRGROUP.NET is credited