American Pit Bull Terrier - Menace or Class Clown?

I came across an animal shelter while I was cruising the internet the other day, and I was quite surprised to see how many terrier breeds they had. Most were mixes, but all looked very similar to the American Pit Bull Terrier or APBT(Pit Bull). I wondered why so I decided to do a little research, and these are my opinions about what I found. First of all, I am not going to bash the breed. In fact, I recently re-homed a client’s dog, Josie, and she is now living a posh life with my sister Barb. Why did Josie need to be re-homed? You guessed it – Josie had an “issue with the girlfriend’s dogs.” Now, I have not seen the girlfriend’s dogs, but we did train Josie and never saw a mean streak in her. My guess is the girlfriend’s dogs were the issue and not Josie. But anyway, my sister was the winner. See Josie’s photo below. Here is a little background on the breed. They were originally bred to bait bears and bulls, which was a blood sport in Europe during the 1700’s. During the civilized 1800’s, laws were enacted banning cruel animal activities. However, the barbaric act transitioned to dog fighting in the United States. The APBT is not a recognized breed with the American Kennel Club but is with the United Kennel Club and American Dog Breeders Association. They are typically strong, stubborn, high energy and short haired like Josie, who loves to play fetch. If the dogs are raised with love and structure they can be great companion dogs.  However, my background is in policing and I have also seen many dogs in the inner city chained outdoors, or that never got to go outdoors and the basement was their toilet. I have seen some disgusting things. If you want to make a dog unstable, tie him up and don’t socialize him. I have a colleague that works for a Humane Society and she estimated 50 – 60 percent of the dogs they have are pit bull mixes. Most of those end up in the shelter because they are picked up off the street and many of these dogs have heartworm. I believe this may be the case – A pet owner can’t afford to treat their dog so they drop them off in the streets to fend for themselves. If you cannot afford vet bills and heartworm medication, you should not own a dog. These dogs are probably not sterilized either so they are out on the street breeding with other homeless dogs. Then, you have the backyard breeders who are trying to make a quick buck. Failure to sterilize, irresponsible breeding, and inability to provide basic health requirements are the primary reasons there are so many terrier breeds at the shelters. The American Temperament Test Society rated the APBT as the second most tolerant dog. APBT’s are second only to Labrador Retrievers. The APBT’s we have seen at our training facility have been very loveable, happy dogs that just needed some training and structure. We don’t see any more APBT’s with reactive issues than any other breed so I am against any breed specific legislation. I feel we could better combat the issue of over-breeding by requiring breeders to have licenses. Now, I know this will make all of my breeder friends unhappy, but all you need to do is pass along the expense to your customers. This would give animal control another weapon in combating the backyard breeders. Enforcing current laws would also be effective, laws covering loose dogs, nuisance barking, unlicensed dogs, etc. Don’t give out warnings, just cite them. A study in Canada showed strict enforcement of their animal control laws had a direct effect on dog bites. Enforcement lowers dog bites. A more recent study (2013) published in the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association found that the breed was inaccurately reported in 40% of the cases (It was a Pit Bull). In addition, in fatal dog attack cases, they identified factors which contributed to the fatality such as –
  • The absence of an able-bodied person to intervene (child and dog left unsupervised)
  • No family relationship between the victim and the dog
  • Owner failure to neuter the dog
  • Victim acting inappropriately with the dog (mental illness/autism)
  • The dog was isolated (chained outdoors)
  • Prior owner mismanaged the dog
  • Owner history of abuse or neglect of the dog
Instead of breed specific legislation, I recommend the following;
  • Strict enforcement of current pet ordinances (no warning-immediate citation)
  • Require licensing for breeders (With fees)
  • Ban tethering any dogs outdoors
All dogs need love and structure. I guarantee that the horror stories you hear about involve dogs that were not been cared for or trained. Dogs behavior directly correlates how they are raised. Love, socializing, and training will go a long way to alleviate these issues no matter what breed of dog you have. If there are behavior or control issues that you would like to address, we are only a click or call away. Please contact the West Michigan training professionals at Adams K-9 and love your dog, love your dog’s behavior.

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