Total commitment required by owners of pit bulls

Serious deliberation and research provoked the writing of this column, and I acknowledge the possibility of some extremely positive and negative responses.

My goal in writing these columns is typically to provide some education on matters pertaining to our beloved pets.

While my subject today is highly controversial, it is important to capture and relay both sides of the argument without prejudice.

Recent headlines in the media have read, “Infant Attacked by Pit Bull.” I was watching television the evening the animal was carefully removed from the home using a safety precaution device to prevent the dog from attacking the animal control officers.

The look in the dog’s eyes was not vicious as it was maneuvered into the caged vehicle, I saw fear and sadness.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family, and I hope the infant recovers quickly.

Exploring the topic of pit bulls on the Internet revealed a highly divisive array of comments from all over the world.

Advocates of the breed unequivocally express characteristics such as affectionate, sweet, loyal, trustworthy and friendly.

Conversely, many claim this breed is vicious, mean, unpredictable and dangerous.

Many declare it is not the particular breed that is a menace, rather an owner’s negligence in taking responsibility for his or her dog.

Additionally, media sensationalism overwhelmingly contributes to the hype surrounding the pit bull.

According to an article found at the American Society For The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website (aspca.org), the term “pit bull” actually refers to a variety of breeds. The American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier are the most common breeds in the category, however some people include the American Bull Terrier, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and the American Bulldog in the group.

The pit bull’s ancestors, originally brought to North America by English immigrants, were bred from the bulldog. They were used primarily as working dogs with large livestock.

They later became popular in the gruesome sport of “baiting” in which the dogs were pitted against bulls and other large animals. When animal baiting was banned in the early 1800s, the cruel “sport” of dog fighting was initiated. Bulldogs often were bred with terriers to provide smaller, more agile dog for the fighting ring.

Pit bull’s range in size, shape and color but most have short coats, strong jaws and muscular, stocky bodies. Some are short, little squatty dogs while others can be large and lean.

This strong, athletic breed was once considered a symbol of bravery showcased on recruiting posters during World War I.

Many pit bulls today work as therapy dogs or service dogs for search and rescue, police or customs.

But they also are No. 1 on the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s list of dog breeds that caused fatalities to humans during a 20-year study.

The controversy surrounding the pit bull is vast.

Can a pit bull bite? Yes! Can any dog bite? Yes!

Ask your veterinarian what breed they have been bitten by most often and they will probably tell you the cat!

The pit bull’s genetic breeding, however, has produced an animal that has the potential to inflict severe damage with its mouth. Quite often, their thick, wagging tail can also inflict damage to knickknacks on a coffee table. And many of them do wag uncontrollably.

I think there is a fear factor involved with the pit bull that can be seen quite often through zealous media coverage and unfortunate circumstances resulting in serious injury.

Contributing to the trepidation of the breed is often an owner’s attitude expressing a desire to have a protective dog. Witness the spiked collars.

Pit bull ownership can be a complicated commitment. As working dogs, their excitement at achieving a task is exorbitant. They are usually eager to please and highly intelligent.

In contrast, these bundles of muscle run fast, chew, dig, bark and can create chaos in less than one minute. They have tremendous energy. Early and continued socialization with supervision is recommended to encourage beneficial companionship. 

If you are privileged to share your life with one of these complex creatures, I encourage you to commit to working with your pit bull to make it a good ambassador of this unique breed.

The ASPCA website has a list of ways you can react with your dog to change the negative characteristics often associated with the pit bull.

If you have never obligated yourself to become acquainted with one of these wiggly canines, I invite you to spend an afternoon at one of the local animal shelters. They have a lot of pit bulls.   

Charlé Thibodeau has been passionate pet caregiver for more than 30 years. If you have a pets question you would like Thibodeau to answer in her column, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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