myth (mith) n. 1.an invented story, fictitious person, etc. 2.a belief or set of beliefs, often unproven or false, that have accrued around a person, phenomena or institution. Illustration above: An Old World etching depicting the Werewolf mythology.
Aren’t Pit Bulls MEAN and VICIOUS?
No more vicious than golden retrievers, beagles or other popular dogs! In yearly tests of over 240 dog breeds by the American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), pit bulls consistently achieve a passing rate that’s as good or better than the other most popular breeds. How did your favorite breed do? Check here: ATTS.org
In the ATTS test, a dog is put through a series of confrontational situations. Any sign of panic or aggression leads to failure of the test. The achievement of pit bulls in this study disproves once and for all the old tired belief that pit bulls are inherently aggressive to people. Like any breed of dog, a healthy pit bull that is properly raised will reflect the good care his owners have invested in him. Photo credit:Carol Guzy, Washington Post.
Don’t Pit Bulls eventually TURN ON THEIR OWNERS?
No. Healthy pit bulls with stable temperaments are succeeding in countless homes across the continent. Dogs that bite people are typically troubled individuals, set up to fail by irresponsible and/or reckless owners who’ve ignored or disregarded the classic warning signs that come with nearly any dog bite. In general, biting dogs have been set up to fail by improper handling, abuse and/or damaged genetics. Profiling dog breeds works against the goal of reducing dog bites. Bite prevention education resources such as these offered by the AVMA can help build safe, humane communities without resorting to the kind of ineffective paranoia that comes from targeting select breeds. For a well researched source of information on canine aggression, visit The National Canine Research Council
Don’t Pit Bulls have LOCKING JAWS?
Don’t be silly. A pit bull’s ability to “lock on” with its jaws is one whopper of a myth that refuses to let go. There is no ‘enzyme,’ no special mechanism that would make a pitbull’s jaws ‘lock.’ They’re DOGS, not alligators. Need proof? After research, Dr. I. Lehr Brisbin, University of Georgia concluded, “We found that the American Pit Bull Terriers did not have any unique mechanism that would allow these dogs to lock their jaws. There were no mechanical or morphological differences…” The same silliness shows up with myths about bite pressure.
Don’t buy into media hype…it’ll steer you wrong every time. Bite pressure fact checking, reported by The National Canine Research Council (NCRC)
Above: Art credit C.S. Neal
Don’t Pit Bulls have to be TRAINED TO FIGHT?
NO! Pit bulls are terriers, and terriers tend to be scrappy with other animals if unsocialized, poorly managed or otherwise left to their own devices. Just as farmers have used Jack Russell Terriers to do battle with badgers, foxes and other animals, unscrupulous people have exploited the terrier drive in pit bulls against other dogs for ‘entertainment’ purposes. Like any breed of dog, pit bulls can run the gamut from very dog aggressive to exceptionally dog friendly and each dog shares some potential to fight other dogs if mismanaged. Avoiding dog fights involves understanding terrier traits and basic canine behavior in general. More info:
A properly socialized, well managed pit bull should never find himself in a dogfight because he’s accustomed to the presence of other dogs and - IMPORTANT! - he has a smart and responsible owner willing to keep him safe from situations that could invite the unhappy possibility of a scuffle.
Aren’t TREADMILLS for dog fighters?
Seriously? While it’s true that many convicted dog fighters have been found with treadmills on their properties, automatically connecting treadmill use with fight conditioning has unfairly profiled some of the most responsible owners out there. Many homes use mills to get their dogs in tip top shape, especially in places where extreme weather or dense urban neighborhoods prevent tiring, outdoor exercise. Apartment dwellers without yards love’em. Because pit bulls are high energy animals with hardy, athletic builds, the responsible use of a treadmill can make for healthier, happier dogs.
Right: BADRAP’s Star loves using her mill at the Rescue Barn.
See our VIDEO about using a carpet mill with your dog.
Will a Pit Bull that shows aggression towards other animals go after PEOPLE NEXT?
No. Just as hunters don’t fear their coonhounds, experienced dog people understand that aggression towards other animals and human-directed aggression are two totally different behaviors in canines. We’ve heard this frightened quote, “He went after a dog (or cat) and our kids might be next!”. This popular myth has generated a host of unnecessary and damaging anti-pit bull hysteria. Like any breed of dog that we see in family homes today, a properly raised, well socialized, responsibly owned pit bull should never be aggressive towards humans.
Don’t SCARS or CROPPED EARS indicate a dog’s been “fought” or used as “bait?”
A pit bull can have scars for lots of different reasons so it’s best to avoid assuming the worst. They’re bold, active creatures and can find themselves in many misadventures if not properly cared for. A scarred dog may have been a stray on the streets and scrapped with other strays over food or territory without any prompting from an irresponsible owner. He may have started those fights, or tried like hec to avoid them, or anything in between. He may be an active dog that ran through brambles on a hike with his owner, tumbled with a cat or other dogs in his home, nosed in too close to a wild urban animal such as a raccoon, or cut himself while trying to dig out of a poorly secured yard. He may also have developed a skin condition known as mange, which causes patches of missing fur.
Badly cropped ears typically reflect an uneducated dog owner’s attempt to mimic the professional crops that are popular with UKC and AKC show dogs.
Left: Candy’s face was badly scratched when we first met. Her story? She hated confinement and would hurt herself to get under fences. Her crop? Bad fashion. While we hate that there are people who would abuse animals, the term ‘bait dogs’ is very overused by the well intentioned but misinformed. Unless there are witnesses to the cause of injury, mysterious bite marks on a dog remain an unhappy mystery with an unknown perpetrator. To shout “bait dog!” whenever a dog with bites appears keeps a popular myth alive and may actually be encouraging copycat crimes by offering animal abusers ideas we would rather they didn’t have.
Should adopters look for puppies and avoid adults with UNKNOWN HISTORIES?
BAD RAP believes that all dogs including pit bulls should be judged by their current personality, not by their unknown past or lack of pedigree. Most adoption programs evaluate dogs before they go up for adoption, screening out those with unworkable behavior issues and promoting those that have desirable qualities. The most successful adoption matches come from taking each dog’s personality into account as well as the prospective adopters’ lifestyle and expectations. Puppies are fun, but are a LOT more work. It’s also much harder to know what kind of personality a pup is going to have as a mature adult. Really energetic or mellow? Dog aggressive or dog tolerant? Homes that have a very specific wish list for a pet are wise to find an adult dog whose known traits matches their criteria.
Is it better to get a PIT BULL MIX to “water down” the potential dog-dog aggression?
Not necessarily. Dogs are individuals with a wide range of dog tolerance levels. The amount of dog intolerance any dog displays is a result of a combination of factors including: genetics, upbringing, environment and management. Rescue groups and shelters that utilize play groups are good places to go to find dogs with known dog social skills.
Are pit bulls unpredictable around CHILDREN?
Pit bulls have enjoyed a long history as favorite children’s companions and family pets. When well socialized and properly raised, they’re the perfect breed to tolerate the rough and tumble play that kids can dish out. Pit bulls tend to be drawn to the joyful optimism of children and love to meet them with tails awaggin’! Some dogs may not be suitable with young children because they could knock them down in their exhuberance. Common sense dictates that children should be taught how to properly interact with dogs (of EVERY breed) and should never be left alone with a dog unsupervised.
Have you seen this wonderful site yet? Kids and Pit Bulls
Don’t all pit bulls want to chase CATS?
Self-respecting dogs of every breed will go after cats, and pit bulls are no exception. However, there are endless examples of pit bulls that exhibit a lower prey drive and co-exist quite peacefully with cats, birds and other pets. Within BAD RAP there are members whose dogs are great with their family kitties, birds, rabbits, and ferrets…And there are also some dogs who can never be trusted with smaller animals.
IMPORTANT: Understanding your individual dog’s realistic limits with small animals, training him to respect your expectations (i.e. Squirt Bottle!), supervising all interactions and separating the pets before you step out will make the difference between success and tragedy — And that goes for Poodles as well as Pit Bulls! Need more info on dog/cat relationships? Check out this informative weblink: Dogs & Cats