Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pooches: The Pit Bull 'Catch'

The other day when we were out with the pooches, we met some people who said they were interested in owning a pit bull. They said they had read so many positive things about the breed, and they loved how well-behaved our pooches were, but the also wanted to know if there was a "catch" or a downside to owning pit bulls. We hadn't really thought about it for awhile, but just as there are specific things you might need to know before owning any breed of dog: from Basset Hounds to Greyhounds to Great Danes--there are specific things you should be aware of before choosing to adopt a pit bull. Of course, every dog will be different, but these are some things we learned along the way:

Pit Bulls are Spokesdogs:
Because they have such a negative reputation, people judge the breed on each specific pitbull they see. So they are no longer just dogs: they are spokespeople. We have to work that much harder because we know if they misbehave in public it lets all pit bulls down. We have done a lot of training with our dogs, and we make sure to be consistent with our expectations.

Know Your Dog
 Because our dogs are judged so often, we have made sure to know their body language and habits so we can put them in situations where they will be successful. We have gotten to this point by going on so many daily walks.We know if we see a little dog Mr. B. will get scared, so we just move out of the way. We can read Miss M's body to see if she's too excited and will potentially jump to meet someone, so we just remove her from the situation.

Have a Thick Skin
 We actually don't notice it that much anymore, because it seems like we get so much more positive support, but I definitely noticed it in the beginning: people will cross the street when they see you coming, you get a lot of side glances, and even the occasional rude comments. We realized we can't change everyone's perception, but this is why we started our blog: to let people know what our everyday is like with the dogs.

These are just our experiences with our dogs. Pit bull people--did we leave anything out?
Other breed owners--what are some specific things people should know about your dogs' breeds that are often overlooked?

29 comments:

Hound Girl said...

I can see where you are coming from. I deal with alot of PR work when it comes to Fred (bloodhound). These are big, hyper, slobbery, high energy stubborn dogs. They are not for everyone. I spend alot of time educating people about them in hopes they make the right decision before getting one. I imagine you deal with this on a dily basis having pitties. you are so right about having thick skin. thats so important

Sam said...

I've always thought the owners make a dog. I would recommend anyone adopting any dog to attend lots of training classes, beyond basic - these give you the tools you need to handle situations.

You guys are great spokesdogs!

Sam

Traci said...

It's great that you guys take educating people about pit bulls so seriously. If only more people would really consider what breed of dog would be best for them, we'd have fewer dogs taken to shelters or simply abandoned.

When we had greyhounds, the most common belief people had was that greyhounds needed tons of space and room to run. Our first greyhound would only run if he was chasing (or running from) our other dog who was annoying him! We'd take him to large open areas and he'd just stand there! They really are couch potatoes and are completely happy with walks just like other dogs. And even though many of them are larger, they will curl up in a corner and you won't even know they are there - they tend to be very quiet (although ours weren't due to developing bad habits from our mixed breed - haha).

Corbin said...

Not sure what it's like in Chicago, but around here, a lot of apartments don't allow pit bulls... so anoter thing to concider before adopting one! But you got everything! And you really do need tough skin... it's hard to not let it get to you! Some people say awful things. I had an 8 year old ask me not to walk past her with Corbin and she told me that all pit bulls should die the other day at the park... I didn't even know how to respond, but another kid walked right up to Corbin and started petting him and I told her that she shouldn't think that way, all dogs are different and mine was very friendly. But, it was definitely hurtful to hear that come from a kids mouth!
-Corbin

Two Crazy Coaches said...

You're all such amazing spokespeople!

People always seem surprised at how strong Flash and Ollie can be. They might look kinda smallish, but if I'm not paying attention, it's easy to get pulled across the yard, especially when there is a bunny involved! And, maybe it's just my two, but they're pretty quiet all considering. I heard someone say the other day that they didn't want a basset because they're too loud. Don't get me wrong, my two can make quite the racket, but 90% of the time, they're so quiet we don't know they're there!

Keep up the great work

loveandaleash said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. You guys and your dogs are such great advocates. The bullies are lucky to have you :)

Kate@TwentySixToLife said...

I think these are definitely the high points. Having a thick skin is a must and setting your dog(s) up for success are musts!

Kim @ Yellow Brick Home said...

Jack loves EVERYONE. That might just be his personality, and while he's trained with most everything else, we still can't break his habit of greeting people the "doggie" way (on his back legs, front paws all over their... uh, chest). Do you have any tips on this? We've clicker trained him with everything, but this is his only "bad" habit (since he thinks he's just saying hello!).


We've also noticed people cross the street when they see us coming, however, the neighborhood kids love him!

Tucker The Crestie said...

Miss M. and Mr. B. are amazing spokesdogs!

Two Pugs in a Pod said...

I had kind of an opposite experience the other day, where a pit bull owner got very upset with me for crossing the street with my two pugs. He assumed that I was crossing out of fear, never taking into account the fact that perhaps my dogs weren't friendly. (One of them is not good with most big dogs, so I cross to avoid any negative interaction. If I only had the one pug with me, who is good with everyone, I certainly would have let her greet his dog.) There are also a few adults in my neighborhood who actually cross the street to avoid me and my pugs out of fear, which of course I think is ridiculous - but that's because I know my dogs. So it's important to remain objective when you see someone behaving that way, and not jump to conclusions about their actions. You never know if someone is afraid of bullies, or afraid of all dogs in general...or if maybe they just don't want to get their clean outfit dirty. I try to think the best about people, because you just never know. :)

goosie mama said...

Completely agree with everything you said here, especially that people are going to stereotype all pitties based on experiences they have. Do you have any advice for dealing with those rude comments? I live in NYC and do have a lot of positive comments made, but every once in a while someone makes incredibly ignorant, rude comments in a somewhat aggressive way. While I general ignore or try to laugh it off, it really ends up bothering me. Any thoughts?

Kari in WeHo said...

The thick skin is by far the hardest

Kari
http://dogisgodinreverse.com

Carolina Girl in the City said...

Here in Philly it's tough because many apartments do not allow pit bulls or any "bully" breeds. I think the negative stereotype is perpetuated in that some folks who might thoughtfully consider adopting a pit bull are unable to do so due to their housing restrictions. We're in that boat...

Benny and Lily said...

We think you guys are very lucky to have the pawrents you do. They take a lot of time to love and socialize you guys
Benny & Lily

Sarah said...

What do you think about the idea that you should never have two pitties of the same sex, or that pitties should never be left alone together, or that pitties may display dog aggression when they go through "doggie puberty" regardless of how they were raised? A LOT of pitbull rescue groups espouse these concepts, which I have a very hard time with. My opinion is that it's all dependent on how they are raised, just like any other dog. I know these rescue groups are trying to promote responsible ownership but when does that actually hurt the breed's image more than it helps?

Two Pitties in the City said...

Goosie Mama--That's a really good question. When I first had Miss M, I had a really hard time thinking how to deal with the comments. I guess my response has been a bit passive-aggressive because it was from these comments that we started the blog to educate people about the realities of pitbull ownership, and I worked really hard at training. So if anyone did make a really mean comment, I would just have Miss M do some kind of trick (wave, walk around me, lie on command) and especially if there are other people around to look on in awe, it makes them look like the dumb ones. Anyone else have any other recommendations?

Sarah--That's a really good point that I hadn't thought about. I know because we have the stigma we have to be that much more diligent, and though I think these may bring negative misconceptions, they also may help an owner be more responsible. We've actually been having a problem in our neighborhood where it seems like pitbulls have become a type of trendy breed and some of the owners are not fully understanding their own dogs. We actually had one guy the other day after forcing his pitbull on us when we tried to move away say that Mr. B was trying to attack his dog (when Mr. B jumped) and that his dog may "snap". So in a way, a wonder if it really helps owners be that much more diligent. Anyone else have thoughts?

goosie mama said...

Appreciate the response, I had never thought of actually taking the opportunity to 'teach' in those moments. Love the blog! :) - Doria

Brenda said...

I found Two Pugs in a Pod's (love that name!) comment very interesting, about the two little dogs crossing the street because one of them tends to be aggressive or over-excitable. I do that a lot with my German Shepherd, because she can be so "bark-y" when we pass other dogs. It never occurred to me that the owner of the dog we were getting ready to pass might think I was crossing because of them!

4-legged Wiums said...

very true. Where I (Helen) work we see a lot of breed prejudice, it's quite interesting to see... and whilst looking for a new dog, I know I have a fair bit of breed prejudice: Beardies are noisy, border collies and kelpies are hyperactive, foxies and jack russells are bouncy, spaniels are dopey, greyhounds are lazy... the list goes on!
With Snoopy being a fox terrier x english pointer, we can pinpoint certain traits but can't pin down 'catches', she suffers mild separation anxiety - but that could be just her, we don't know.
as for Arrow, the greyhound, he's lazy, but he's very loyal, unfortunately he is VERY VERY fragile and is lame more than he's not.

mayziegal said...

Okay, um, I think with us bullies, peoples should also be prepared to have their toes licked. I LUV to lick toes! Do Mr. B and Miss M luv to lick toes, too?

Mom says with Brudder Ranger, people lots of times think he's real hyper cuz he looks like a jack russell. So she's always having to tell people that rat terriers are some of the calmest terriers around. They're super happy doing whatever you want to do and most of 'em won't rearrange your furniture if left to their own devices - like some terriers will.

Wiggles & Wags,
Mayzie

Daisy Dog said...

All of what you said is true. I especially think that having a model pittie citizen is important. One thing is also house insurance. When I bought my home 4 years ago several insurance companies would not insure me with a pit bull. State Farm doesn't even ask and doesn't profile, so they got my money for both home and car insurance.

the booker man said...

all of the things you mentioned are very true. in a different category, i would just add that pitties tend to get cold easily and can have sensitive skin, so have a sweater/jacket ready and be careful what products you put on your pittie's skin!

the booker man and asa's mama

houndstooth said...

I really understand what you are saying. The parts about being a good representative of your breed really rings true for us, too!

One thing that sometimes turns people off having a Greyhound is that they always have to be on a leash if they're not in a fenced in area. They're not watch dogs at all. They're also a bit aloof, which can throw some people off, but I think the positive aspects of the breed far outweigh those things!

Two Grad Students and a Pittie said...

Having studied advocacy, I learned that there are three types of people. Those that agree with your point of view - and therefore do not need convincing. Those that disagree vehemently with your point of view and usually will not change their minds - with those I agree to disagree, make Havi do a really cute trick and walk away. Lastly, there are those that are in the middle. There are so many people "scared" of pit bulls, but they have never met one or dont know why theyre scared. I try to focus on those with all the great attributes of a pit that few other dogs have, like their loyalty, and willingness to please, and ability to switch from couch potato to crazy outdoor fun pup.

I think the hardest thing I encounter is when people tell me that my dog is dangerous, or cross the street when im coming, or even at lunch last week when the table next to us invited us to sit near them and then repeatedly told us how dangerous our dog is. The best defense is always a good offense - Havi can melt you with her "cute eyes" a la the Care Bear Stare. I have Havi sit like an angel, do a little trick, stare at her lovingly and note "well i guess we all have a little bully in us." Sometimes the other person is astute enough to note the pun, sometimes I appreciate my own wittiness and move on...

Wyatt said...

You 2 are the BEST spokesdogs for the breed. I'm sure it must be ruff at times...hopefully that is changing.

Wyatt and Stanzie

Alison said...

We actually had a house guest that sat on the couch and talked about how dangerous pitbulls are. Sharona snuck up on the couch while he talked and layed down next to him...she was so stealth he didn't even notice that a pitbull was snuggling with him until it was too late. I managed to convince him not to continue judging all pitties based on whatever bias he had developed from the media, etc. Sharona got an A+ in spokesdog that day.

735472c0-5bae-11e0-84a1-000bcdcb8a73 said...

@Sarah: you raise some good points, and as someone who's been involved with APBTs for more than 15 years or so, I have very mixed feelings! In the old days, before "pit bulls" were so commonly owned by just regular folks, we always said 'never trust your dog not to fight" and never allowed mature pit bulls to mix with dogs they didn't know and assumed our dogs would "turn on" (become less tolderant of other dogs) between 1.5-2 years old. So in some ways, in trying to avoid incidents for which our dogs/breed would be blamed, we played into the prejudice.

Now many of us see a bigger picture. We accept that 1) most people who own "pit bulls" don't in fact know the breed make up of their dogs so what they call a "pit bull" make actually have very little APBT component and 2) really, dogs are individuals and should be treated as such. Also 3) there's a ton of new evidence that pit bulls, properly supervised, can indeed play with other dogs, even dogs they don't know. and of course ANY dog can be trained to behave properly. And most importantly 4) Owners of ANY dog, and especially dogs with reputations, MUST train their dogs to behave in public, and especially around other dogs.

But still: breeds DO have breed tendencies. And the terrier breeds, including the APBT, DO have a tendency towards intolerance of other dogs, especially dogs that display "aggression" towards them (and it's the dogs, not us, that decide what an aggressive display is).

The APBT and the AST were always bred, not for "aggression", but for courage and their "never say die" attitude. In the old days, that temperament was exploited for heinous activities. Thankfully, today we see more and more "pit bulls" doing socially useful jobs (SAR, K9 etc) that take advantage of their character.

But in the end, you should expect and prepare for your "pit bull" to behave in instinctual ways that are counter to what you have "raised" or "trained" him to do.

I believe the current understanding of dog genetics finds that while behavior is environment-dependent ("it's how you raise them"), temperament is innate and genetically determined.

Kitty+Coco said...

We live in the deep South, and pit bulls are now everywhere here. We have three in our neighborhood, and they are all well behaved (kudos to their owners). I agree that every pup has particular qualities that maybe aren't so becoming..that is why you should choose a dog that will work for your lifestyle and not because they are "adorable". Anyway, Boston T. catch: hyperactive, will get bossy if you let them, and have finicky stomachs. Pug catch: a bit mischevious, will eat ANYTHING (such as poop), overheats easily.

T2 - My life with pit bulls said...

Thick skin is sometimes the most essential element to having a pit bull in the family. I try to assume during every negative encounter that the other people are ignorant and haven't done the research. I move into ultra-friendly, educational mode so that I can get a decent point across and move on before I give in to the temptation to say what's really on my mind.

I think secondly, pit bull families have to be better than average, given the current public sentiment against pit bulls. We have to know the rules of our apartments and condos before we move in. We have to stay on top of local legislation and be willing to speak up when someone tries to slide in BSL under the wire. We have to have dogs who are well behaved and well mannered, avoiding situations that will undermine those traits. Pit bulls themselves have to be twice as good just to make up for the negativity they start under - as their family, we're in the same boat.

Finally, I think as pit bull families we have to commit to putting in the work. We cannot slack with our dog's manners and obedience. We have to give them the exercise they need to burn off the energy that can be routed into bad behavior. We have to exercise their brains as well as their bodies - every day, not just weekends. We have to give them the tools and the settings to succeed, not just hope everything will be okay. We have to commit to them as if their lives depended on it, because in a lot of communities, it does.

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