"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Saturday, April 6, 2013

“Pit Bull” Dog Advocates: Is the Info You Share Hurting or Helping?

Here’s a riddle for anyone who communicates on behalf of “pit bull” dogs:
What happens when you promote “pit bull” dogs for adoption and advocate for their fair treatment while ALSO communicating outdated, fear-inducing information about the very same dogs?

Answer: You wind up hurting the dogs you’re supposed to be helping.
We’re betting the public are left scratching their heads when organizations that are seemingly FOR “pit bull” dogs, are simultaneously putting out information that makes the dogs they’re advocating for look like highly deviant, potentially even deadly, dogs.

Think we’re exaggerating? A quick look around the Internet and various “pit bull” advocacy pages and the average person – who may have no prior information about “pit bull” dogs – will discover subtitles such as “Pit Bulls: Never Trust Them Not To Fight,” among other inflammatory and subjective pieces.

If our mission is to promote the adoption of “pit bull” dogs from shelters and to advocate for breed neutral laws that do not discriminate, then what purpose does it serve to scare the public sideways, with articles that perpetuate fear and have little to do with the individual dogs themselves?

Pit Bull Dogs: Playing and Tired
                        We trust that these two “pit bull” dogs are simply playing. To set them up
                        for success we get to know the dogs as individuals and we supervise the dogs
                                    during play groups.  No breed-specific warnings necessary.

That kind of tired, negative information promotes fear not fact, and hardly supports our collective work to end canine discrimination and save lives.

Could it be that some advocates and organizations don’t consider “pit bull” dogs to be normal dogs? That’s the only conclusion we can come to based on the inflammatory information we find on various “pit bull” advocacy websites, such as “because of their strength and fighting ability, Pit Bulls can easily do a lot of damage in a short period of time.” After reading breed-specific hype like that all over the web, how can we expect anyone to adopt a dog labeled “pit bull” or not be afraid of them?

The very people who are supposed to be advocating on behalf of the dogs are making them look like deviant monsters, set apart from all other canines.

Dogs are more alike one another than they are different. There is NO behavior that is unique to one dog breed.
                                     Dogs are more alike one another than they are different. There
                                     is NO behavior that is unique to one dog breed. You can get to
                                         know “pit bull” dogs by learning more about DOG behavior.

If our goals are to save lives, help the public to better evaluate the right pet dog for their families, to properly care for the “pit bulls” they already own and love, and to end discriminatory polices, then animal welfare organizations and advocates need to promote accurate information, not hysteria-inducing sound bites that further marginalize dogs labeled “pit bull.”

In short: Scare tactics are not resources.

And further: our opinions are not facts, even when they’re based on our personal experiences.

“Pit Bulls” are dogs. The behaviors they exhibit are DOG behaviors. And not a single one of these canine behaviors are unique to “pit bull” dogs alone. But just looking at the websites with “pit bull” dog resources would make anyone think that “pit bull” dogs are in need of highly specialized, vigilant, and skilled handling…or disaster will strike.

If advocates use fear in order to get the public to be responsible (like some sort of canine “Scared Straight!” for dog owners), they’re missing the point. ALL dogs need responsible owners. We don’t need to make “pit bull” dog owners afraid of their own dogs in order to discuss responsible dog ownership or give them excellent resources to help them set their dogs up for success. Fear-based generalizations aren’t helping the dogs.

                                     All dogs need responsible owners who manage them properly
                                and care for them based on their individual needs. Don’t single out
                               “pit bull” dogs as different than any other dog or burden them with 
                                 breed-based generalizations that may cause more harm than good.

It is our responsibility as advocates to constantly re-examine our language, the information we’re sharing, and the research that we’re promoting. Rather than weeding out old content published back in the ‘00s, many sites have kept outdated, inflammatory posts and information on their websites and in their resources. This information, published years ago, might have been the best information and advice available at the time, but in the progressive world of animal sheltering and canine research, five to ten years is a lifetime ago. Our work has changed, as the information and research we’re privy to changes.

The dogs are depending on us to stop adding to their problems by recycling old content and tired warnings. Stereotypes, myths, generalizations, and opinions that are floating around the internet are promoted and perceived as fact. We owe it to the dogs to be vigilant in the information we provide to the public, even when that means admitting we were wrong in the past or that new information has come to light. We must also be aware that what we say might be misunderstood in and outside of the animal welfare world, resulting in serious, real life consequences for the dogs and their people. And we need to stop using fear and warnings in place of solid, fact-based information and resources.

The dogs need us, the experts, to revamp the outdated information that perpetuates the misperception that “pit bull” dogs are uniquely different than all other dogs and further marginalizes them in shelters, in the law books, and even in the homes of the people who love them. Fear isn’t Fact.

Article from: http://animalfarmfoundation.wordpress.com/


  1. I have been around Pit Bulls a lot and other breeds as well.I know that Pit Bulls have a higher energy level than most in their size group. They need a lot of exercise and time spent so that makes them not for everyone. They do have separation anxiety and if not properly trained and exercise that can be an expensive habit. Most of all exercise is the key. They can get high strung which can look like aggression for most people. I see it as anxiety and can be resolved with plenty of exercise then they become very loyal and loving dogs.

    1. There are many medium sized dogs who have high energy levels. Border Collies, Australian shepherds, Springer Spaniels, and others. Plenty of somewhat larger than the average pit bull are also high energy, including Labs. I know many pit bulls who don't have separation anxiety so I'm not sure where saying they have it is coming from.

      I think the goal of this article is to say "consider the dog" (not the "breed of dog"). Every dog is an individual. YES there will be some traits they may very well have...Pit bulls are muscular, tend to have a lot of energy, they tend to be smart. Border Collies are likely to show herding behavior. But not every dog will. And so considering each dog as an individual is a much better way to go about it than simply saying "All XYZ breed dogs are the same."

  2. "They do have separation anxiety" - This is the exact statement this article is trying to address, you can't make a generalization like that.

    I have a pit bull and he doesnt have seperation anxiety, my friend has one too and guess what? no seperation anxiety there either.

  3. This is so true. When I was considering adopting a pit bull 2 years ago I got on the internet and what I read almost scared me out of it. Thank goodness I didn't believe the hype and adopted her anyway.

  4. It's not what you say, but how you say it. While I can understand not saying 'never trust them not to fight', potential owners still need to be warned about certain possible breed traits of ANY breed. I more often, when talking about APBTs and their cousins say 'This breed can be animal aggressive like some terriers, and dog aggressive like Akitas'. It puts them on the same level, while showing that every breed, every dog, can have it's pros and cons, and I fully believe that people really don't talk enough about cons of most breeds(like how Labs can be slow to mature and really rambunctious when young, many hounds are escape artists and recalls are never 100% on them). You don't want to so much as discourage people as to make them consider what they, themselves can handle. Because otherwise, you're setting the dog and owner up to fail. People shouldn't adopt dogs just to save them, they should adopt dogs that are a good fit and that they can handle.

    Furthermore, buttering up APBTs without being logically honest, is one reason that so many people who are anti-pit bull are attacking 'pit bull advocates'. I've had it happen to myself, even though I have said 'yes, these are some of the traits that can occur, but it can also happen in _______'. The person thought simply that I thought 'pit bulls' were the 'bestest thing ever and could do no wrong ever', when I firmly believe dogs are dogs and dogs are their breeds and breeds have quirks, pros and cons, traits that shouldn't be ignored for all the positives in the world. By only speaking positives, we set ourselves up to be attacked by the anti-pit bull crowd, we will be seen as ignorant, no matter what evidence to the contrary we provide. By being honest and truthful and logical, we may end up opening the world's eyes by showing them once and for all 'No one breed is perfect'.

  5. Thank you for sharing, please check out my new blog. I just rescued a pitbull girl and will be sharing my adventures :)

    1. My blog address is: http://mypitbullandme.blogspot.ca/

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  7. Great post - thanks for sharing. Just recently our animal control passed a law stating that pit bulls will now be available to the public for adoption...FINALLY. It's these actions that still label pit bull type dogs as 'different' somehow, or 'a risk' to the public. Hopefully with due time, the perception will continue to change.

  8. We should be ashamed at all remaining aspects of permitted animal cruelty in our mainly civilized countries. Historically, however, things do gradually change for the better. One tiny local example of this was when, in 2004, the law in Britain was changed so that people were no longer permitted to set dogs onto deer, hares and foxes etc so that these animals could be literally torn apart. Those activities were in a similar league to cock fighting and dog fighting and no one would seek to justify bringing those back – or wouldn’t they in a world where people still go to cheer watching bulls being tortured to death. Looking for large dog breeds for families Wondering what large dog breeds are good with kids or would be good for apartments Find out here A complete list of large dog breeds