What's in a Name-Bully Breed and Pit Bull Myths

When it comes to perception, myths are a driving force that changes reality into fiction. Pit bulls were once held in high regard as the perfect dog for families, and they still are for owners who take the time to understand and properly care for their pet. Any dog, regardless of his breed or size, is dangerous in the wrong hands and with the wrong training. Condemning dogs won't solve the problem of irresponsible owners. Bad owners and people who misuse the power of a dog for their own entertainment and profit are the ones who gave pit bulls their reputation-not the dogs. The real image of a well balanced and stable pet has been mischaracterized for decades as critics continue to believe myths about the bully breeds, and pit bulls, in particular.

Myth: They are called bully breeds because they're mean and too aggressive.

Fact: Bully breeds are a group of dogs and not a dog breed. The common breeds in the bully breed group include the Pit bull, Staffordshire terrier, Boxer, Boston terrier, Bulldog, Bullmastiff, and the Staffordshire bull terrier. The term "bully breeds" is not describing a dog's characteristics or temperament. It describes the history and origin of the breed. Pit bulls and the other bully breeds belong to an ancient group of dog breeds called the Molosser dogs. They were bred to be guard dogs for homes and have been selectively bred over the centuries to be people friendly. Their job was to guard families against large predators. These dogs can be aggressive towards other dogs, but not with people. The American Temperament Test Society gives the pit bull temperament an 86.4% rating. The Labrador Retriever is the only dog breed that had a higher rating at 92.4%. The pit bull outscored 121 other dog breeds. The bad image given to the bully breeds comes from irresponsible owners who misuse these breeds and don't train them responsibly or socialize them. Dogs learn what we teach them. Don't blame a dog for having an irresponsible owner.

Myth: Pit Bulls and other bully breeds attack without warning.

Fact: All dogs, including bully breeds, always give a warning before they do anything. We may think a dog attacked for no reason at all, but they did have a reason and you just didn't see the warning signs. People are bit because they don't understand how to read a dog's body language. People are attacked because they don't understand what to do when meeting an unfamiliar dog and react in the wrong way. Children are bit because they do something that upsets the dog or they try to run from him. Running will activate a dog's prey drive no matter what his breed is. Children should be taught how to act around dogs and respect a dog's growl, which is a warning sign. Lack of exercise, a medical condition, lack of proper training, poorly socialized, or a pet that doesn't want to be bothered are reasons why a dog might bite. Problems can be averted if people would listen to what a dog is trying to tell them. When warnings are ignored or misread, the only choice a dog has to get his point across is by biting.

Myth: Breed specific laws that ban bully breeds reduce the chances of dog bites or attacks.

Fact: Before bully breeds, the so called dangerous dog breeds were the German Shepherd, then it was Doberman Pincher, and then the Rottweiler. Who knows which dog breed will become the new "dangerous dog" in the future. Breed specific laws (BSL) do not work and will not solve the problem of people who refuse to care for their dogs in a responsible way. These laws are difficult and costly to enforce and there's no proof they make communities safer. Innocent dogs are punished as are responsible owners who do take the time to train, socialize, register, control, and care for their pet. The best laws to help prevent bites are those that actually attack the problem of irresponsible owners and hold them accountable for the actions of their dogs. Laws that ban specific dog breeds are not passed to protect the public, they are passed to quiet critics of bully breeds.

Myth: Bully breeds can't get along with other pets, especially other dogs.

Fact: Regardless of a dog's breed, they have to be properly socialized with other pets in the home and Pit bulls and other bully breeds can and do get along fine with cats and other pets. Any medium to large dog should be supervised around small pets. Pit bulls can be aggressive with other dogs if they are not properly socialized, but so can any other dog breeds.

Fear distorts reason and facts are then turned into myths and unfounded rumors. All dogs can be dangerous and no dog, regardless of his breed, should ever be left unsupervised around a small child. It's our responsibility as dog owners to keep our dogs under control at all times. It's not dogs we need to be worried about, it's bad owners, and politicians who pass laws without considering the consequences of their legislation. Bully breed and Pit bull myths are killing innocent dogs by characterizing people friendly dogs as evil. They are not now, nor have they ever been bred to be aggressive with people.

Pit Bulls Were Once America's Babysitter

An Ancient Group of Dog Breeds-The Molosser Dog

Reading the Body Language of an Unfamiliar Dog

Published by Linda Cole

I ve always found pets and all animals to be amazing. I will not turn my back on stray or lost pets who need a home or a helping hand. As a contributing writer for the Responsible Pet Ownership blog, I try t...  View profile

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  • Sadie Heilemann 6/11/2012

    I lived down the street from a guy with a fearful Doberman back in the '80s, and my family came to visit me and cringed from the dog in fear. I tried to tell them the dog was more afraid of them, and that he would sooner run away than bite, but nothing I said could convince them, not even my easy behavior around the dog, who I was trying to reassure. It was the height of the Doberman scare, and all my family saw was "vicious Doberman," not a "nice but wimpy scaredy-dog" as I knew him to be. Hype and myth really work on people, even in the face of contrary evidence.