Pit bulls are misunderstood

By Phoebe Alwine | Reporter

Most dogs are considered sweet, loving, adorable companions. Why are pit bulls thought of as any different? There is a stereotype that all pit bulls are aggressive and bad-behaving dogs. However, society has them utterly misunderstood.

In the 1830s, the United Kingdom began breeding bulldogs with terriers in order to use them to hunt and kill rats. When society found their hunting amusing, they began putting the dogs in fights against each other. Soon after, dog fighting became one of the biggest forms of entertainment. By the 1970s, these dog fights became a well-known event in the media. These brutal battles caused people to correlate pit bull types with aggression and danger.

There are five different breeds of pit bulls: American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American-Bully and Pit Bull Type Mixed breed. The term “pit bull” is a generic term used to categorize dogs with similar physical traits resembling a “bull-type” dog which is misleading, because quite often, the dog is a mix of multiple breeds.

Due to the stereotype, pit bull-type dogs are mishandled by owners who do not take the time to properly train and socialize them. Dogs who bite people or are aggressive are normally troubled and stressed. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is that a dog will act the way it is trained to behave. Pit bull-types, like any dog, can be aggressive if poorly handled, unloved or unsocialized.

No dog is born aggressive. Aggression is a behavior that can be taught to any breed of dog. The Animals Rescue League of Boston argues that pit bull-type dogs are like any dog; they follow learned behavior that has been taught to them by an owner.

Pitbullinfo.org is published by a nonprofit research group dedicated to responsible ownership, promoting breed-neutral policies for dog bite prevention and information based on scientific studies. According to the group, proper training and ownership is required for any large breed. The most critical factors of responsible ownership are plenty of food and water, adequate exercise, training basic commands, socializing the dog at a young age, using a leash and microchipping. Any dog can be an aggressive dog if it is not taken care of properly.

The American Temperament Testing Society tests over 240 dog breeds every year. In the ATTS test, dogs are put through a uniform testing program involving confrontational situations. If the dog shows any sign of panic or unprovoked aggression during the test, it automatically fails. Each year, pit bull type dogs achieve a passing rate higher than most popular breeds, such as golden retrievers and chihuahuas. The ATTS test proves that pit bull types are no more of a risk than other dogs and are not inherently aggressive.

By spending a few minutes with a pit bull type dog, one will be able to see through the misconceptions of these dogs. With proper training and patience, pit bull type dogs are just like any other breed of dog; they are loyal companions.