Do Pit Bulls Deserve Their Bad Rap?

A slang term for the American Pit Bull, American Staffordshire or Staffordshire Bull Terrier breeds, “pit bull” is now used as a catch-all name for any stocky, large-headed dog. Pit bull behavior, like that of any other breed, is a product of training and socialization. The primary reason why pit bulls have received such a bad reputation is that improper training and socialization coupled with the sheer strength of this beautiful breed have led to serious incidents and even death. But are they more dangerous than other dogs, or is this just a myth? Let’s take a look at the facts.

The Bad

Pit bulls have been involved in many severe bite incidents, and the more gruesome occurrences have received lots of media coverage. Calls for bans on the breed often increase around these attacks which is understandable, but questionable. It needs to be pointed out here that most reported attacks have involved unaltered pits. In a recent court case, two pit bulls attacked a passing woman when the gate was accidentally left open. To be sure, that was a terrifying situation. Yet, this begs the question, if any unsocialized, untrained dog became loose, would they be just as likely to charge and bite? The answer is maybe or maybe not for any untamed dog.

The Good

The good news about pit bulls is that they routinely score as one of the most stable breeds in terms of temperament, better than beagles and golden retrievers. The biggest misconception about pit bulls is that they will randomly attack at some point even if trained. A well-trained dog will most likely revert to well-trained behavior. Pit bulls are extremely bright and are people pleasers. If they are trained carefully and bonded appropriately, they become loyal, loving companions and family pets. Pit bulls even lived in the White House with Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Should They Be Banned as Pets?

The top reason for banning is also the biggest con: it is a quick fix but a simplistic solution that is difficult if not impossible to enforce. Also, because any breed of dog can be dangerous and can bite, do we then begin banning breeds whenever a dog bite occurs? Breed banning has been imposed upon breeds as diverse as Dalmatians and Rottweilers. Many mixed-breed dogs are unfairly targeted because they simply look like a certain banned breed. The recommendation from dog professionals, such as veterinarians, is to increase education around responsible dog ownership while dealing individually with dangerous dogs.

Though pit bulls might seem scary, you shouldn’t be scared of them more than any other dog. Well-trained, properly socialized pit bulls are just as likely (some would argue, more likely) to be as wonderful and goofy a furry companion as a beagle. Would anyone suggest banning Snoopy?

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