Aggressive, frightening, threatening– these are a few stereotypes that some people have of Pit Bulls. However, Pit Bulls have not always had the reputation they do now. Throughout the centuries the Pit Bull has changed, as has the culture surrounding them.
Fashion has dictated that Pit Bulls have different builds, and The American Kennel Club does not recognize the breed so there is not an official standard for appearance, said Lindsey Lieberman, Certified Professional Dog Trainer- Knowledge Assessed.
Although the AKC does not recognize the Pit Bull as an official breed, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers and Staffordshire Bull Terriers are recognized, according to Pit Bull Rescue Central. Pit Bulls is a generic term used by the public to describe these dogs.
As a result of selective breeding, the temperament of Pits Bulls has also changed.
Responsible people are breeding aggression out of Pit Bulls, while dog fighters and other individuals who do not have the best interest of the dog at heart are breeding aggression and other guarding tendencies into the dogs, Lieberman said.
“That, along with huge differences in upbringing and training, is why there are great Pit Bulls and less fortunate Pit Bulls out there – but it’s worth noting that the qualities brought out in a dog – be it Pit Bull, Chihuahua, or Golden Retriever – are owed entirely to humans,” she said. “Dogs are what we make them.”
There are many things that contribute to the negative stereotypes that surround Pit Bulls. One myth is that Pit Bulls have permanently locked jaws, but aside from normal variation in skull shape among dogs, Pit bulls have essentially the same skull structure as other dogs, Lieberman said.
Pit Bulls do have a high drive and good tugging abilities which allow them to hold on when biting, however this does not mean that all Pit Bulls are aggressive by nature.
Aggression in dogs can be learned or inherited, and historically there has always been a dog stereotyped as being aggressive. In the 1970s German Shepherds had a reputation of being aggressive and in the 80s and 90s Rottweilers did. Currently Pit Bulls do, as some owners are breeding them for the wrong things, such as guarding or illegal dog fighting, Lieberman said.
According to Karen Delise, author of The Pit Bull Placebo, The media also contributes to many of the stereotypes surrounding Pit Bulls. Often times newspapers will misreport dog attacks. For example, a woman in San Francisco was attacked by a dog and media outlets initially said she was attacked by Pit Bulls and Bullmastiffs, however it was later identified that she was actually attacked by a Presa Canario.
The truth is that Pit Bulls are people-soft and can make great family dogs and wonderful companions. Helen Keller’s companion dog was a Pit Bull. There have also been famous Pit Bulls in pop culture. Pete, the lovable and loyal companion of the Little Rascals, was a Pit Bull. Pete was gentle, loving and a great friend to the Rascals. He serves as a more accurate depiction of the Pit Bull.
The need to dispel myths and stereotypes about Pit Bulls is the reason why Butte Humane Society holds Luv-a-Bull. It is an educational event that gives community members an opportunity to learn more about Pit Bulls. They are also given an opportunity to meet BHS’ breed ambassadors. These stately dogs are friendly, well-behaved, have good genetic make-up and are not expected to be aggressive. Butte Humane Society can help match these dogs to homes that will be appropriate for the Pit Bull and the adoptive family.
The ultimate goal of Luv-a-Bull is to give people factual information about Pit Bulls so the cultural ideas about Pit Bulls can again be changed, but in a way that is positive, fact-based and that shows that Pit Bulls, like any other dog, are deserving of love and appreciation.
Date and Time:
Saturday, March 26
12:00 p.m.- 4:00 p.m.
Butte Humane Society
2579 Fair Street
Admission is FREE!
***Cancelled if raining***
-Monica Hitchcock, Public Relations Intern