This Saturday, October 24, we’ll celebrate one of our favorite breeds on National Pit Bull Awareness Day. The annual event was started by Bless the Bullys in 2007 to bring positive media attention to these special, and misunderstood, dogs.
You can find events near you on the Bless the Bullys calendar and at NationalPitBullAwarenessDay.com (also check out Petfinder’s own event calendar). Want to do more? Here are some ways to help Pit Bulls, adapted from a previous blog post about Pits.
Here’s how you can help:
- Adopt a Pit Bull. Pit Bulls are
devoted, affectionate and joy-inducing pets with as great a range in
personality as any other breed. As with dogs of any breed, not every
Pit is perfect for every family. Read more about things to think about if you’re thinking of adopting a Pit Bull.
- Volunteer with Pit Bulls.
At many city shelters, Pits and Pit mixes make up the overwhelming
majority of the canine residents, and because Pits have been bred to
bond closely with humans, the isolation of shelter life is particularly
hard for them. You can visit the shelter to help exercise and socialize
the dogs; open your home to a foster dog; photograph and write bios for
local adoptable dogs’ Petfinder profiles; start a bedding drive at your
office to collect old blankets and towels to donate … the
possibilities are endless. For more ideas, read our article on volunteering or visit BAD RAP’s How You Can Help page.
- Educate others about Pit Bulls.
Once you’ve fallen in love with a Pit (and to know one is to love one),
you’ll start to notice how many offhand Pit Bull stereotypes people
throw around in everyday conversation.
Learn the facts about Pits and you’ll be able to shoot down the myths
(no, they do not have locking jaws). Some great resources include
Petfinder’s book The Adopted Dog Bible (you’ll find an excerpt, Pit Bulls: The Myths, the Legends, the Reality, after the jump), as well as BAD RAP’s Monster Myths page and Pit Bull Rescue Central’s breed info page. (All three sites are excellent, and we encourage you to click around on them.)
Here are some talking points from The Adopted Dog Bible by our own Kim Saunders to get you started. Learn more about this excellent book, including where to buy it, here.
Pit Bulls: The Myths, the Legends, the Reality
The general term “Pit Bull” refers to a number of breeds and mixes,
including American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers,
Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and any dogs
made up of or resembling these breeds. Pit Bulls are physically powerful,
strong, agile, and energetic dogs with an unrivaled joie de vivre.
also known for the determination they bring to any task. These traits
can sometimes combine to make the Pit Bull “too much dog” for an
pet parent or a family with small children, but that certainly
doesn’t mean that they can’t be loving, wonderful dogs in the right
Let’s take a look at some common Pit Bull myths and the corresponding
Myth: Pit Bulls have locking jaws and a higher biting power than other
Reality: There are no unique mechanisms in the jaws of Pit Bulls, and
these dogs cannot lock their jaws. Additionally, in a test of biting pressure
that included a German Shepherd Dog, a Rottweiler, and an American Pit
Bull Terrier, the American Pit Bull Terrier had the least amount of bite
Myth: Pit Bulls are vicious to people or more dangerous than other
Reality: There is no room for human aggression in a behaviorally
sound Pit Bull, and the reality is that most Pit Bulls are not aggressive
toward people; many are extremely sociable and adore children. A Pit
Bull who passes a behavioral evaluation poses no more of a threat to
people than any other large dog. The American Temperament Test (see
The American Temperament Society at www.atts.org) shows that Pit
Bulls consistently score above the average for all breeds tested over
the years. As of December 2007, American Pit Bull Terriers had a pass
rate of 84.3 percent compared to a pass rate for all breeds tested of
Myth: Adopting a Pit Bull is the same as adding any other type of dog to
Reality: While behaviorally sound Pit Bulls make excellent family companions,
the reality is that adopting a Pit Bull does require some special
- Dog-to-dog aggression can be an issue with these dogs, and
despite your best socialization efforts, a Pit Bull may become dog
aggressive upon reaching maturity (roughly two years old). This will
affect your ability to have other pets in your home as well as your
responsibility for ensuring that your dog never has the opportunity
to injure someone else’s beloved pet.
- Pit Bulls face misunderstanding and prejudice from many people
who do not know much about them, so adopting one requires a
willingness to consider your friends’ and neighbors’ concerns and
to educate them about Pit Bulls in general and your dog in particular.
Prejudice and discrimination can extend beyond individuals, and in
some places can include local legislation banning Pit Bulls from the community.
Be sure to check local laws before adopting and before moving
with your Pit Bull. Securing homeowners’ insurance can also be more of a
challenge if you live with a Pit Bull, but there are insurance companies that
do not discriminate based on the breed of dog.
The reality is that, as with all breeds, there are great Pit Bulls and Pit
Bulls who — due to poor breeding, handling, or socialization — are not suitable
as pets. While we urge shelters and rescue groups to perform a
behavioral assessment on all dogs who enter their programs, it is particularly
important to be sure that this has been done with the Pit Bull you are
going to adopt. While a mistake in judgment with even a small dog can
have serious consequences, a similar mistake with a large, strong breed
such as a Pit Bull (or Akita, Rottweiler, Mastiff, Labrador Retriever, etc.) can
If you are prepared, know your local laws, and have decided
that a Pit
Bull is a good fit for your family, do consider adopting one from a
rescue group who carefully evaluates their dogs. My adopted dog Mojo
possesses the characteristic Pit Bull enthusiasm, determination,
love of life, and smile that the breed is known for. His stubbornness
sometimes a challenge for my other dogs and me. At times they have
difficulty convincing him that they really don’t want to play tug
I often cannot convince him that having him sit on my lap and lick my
face is not my favorite thing in the whole world (but, truth be told,
far from it!).
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More Pit Bull resources: